How Do You Sleep: The Story

At 9:00am on 29th December 1974, The Beatles officially broke up. It’s quite strange, Paul McCartney officially filed to end The Beatles‘ contractual deal four years earlier but that was the date the greatest band in the world officially ended. The Fab Four‘s final record came in May 1970 with Let It Be, one of the only Beatles album to feature consistent negative reviews from critics would be the end.

The end of The Beatles wasn’t exactly the nicest, it left the songwriting partners of Lennon-McCartney in hate-filled shambles, but we’ll start from an important riff. In May 1969, just a few months before the album in-retrospect we wish was their last, Abbey Road, Paul proposed a great idea to the rest of the band. Paul wanted The Beatles to play live again, he proposed playing small London clubs with a few European dates sprinkled while Ringo was engrossed in the idea,  George was reserved and John gave an even worse answer to the idea, John announced to the band he wanted a divorce, he was leaving The Beatles.

It was shocking, it’s believed the thing Paul was originally shocked with was that he wanted to be the one who ended but reserved the idea to play some gigs to “bring it all back”. It wasn’t as daft as John said it was, imagine The Beatles playing a series of small clubs. In 1969, they’d lost their screaming-crazy fans to their mature musical sensibilities. Imagine The Beatles headlining Isle of Wright in 1969, it was never to be even though they were there.

John and Paul fought, George threw his hat of distaste in about his songs never being chosen. John claimed all his songs were b-sides and that Paul wrote “granny music” (noting songs on Abbey Road‘s medley second side like “Mean Mr. Mustard” and main songs like “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”). That was it. Paul began erratically acting egotistical as the “best Beatle” with his desperate need for his solo record to be released in April 1970, meanwhile everyone else had an issue as Ringo Starr‘s Sentimental Journey was due out around the same time with Let It Be, the last Beatles album. Paul wouldn’t listen forcing Ringo to push his album forward, rushing it and leading horrendous reviews (Ringo blamed Paul, but to be fair, Ringo couldn’t sing and the album was horrible).

John made it clear that he was the one to announce the split, but Paul did it. John never forgave his former songwriting partner, John and Paul only ever played together once again.

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“…the only thing you’ve done was yesterday…”

New York courts were full with Beatles animosity, it was real. In August 1971, it became far too real when Paul released “Too Many People”, a single off his album Ram that was partially aimed at John. He struck a chord and John, as usual, bite back. John wrote his best non-Beatles song, an indefensible, angry and passionate number on his Imagine album. It was shocking, the difference between John’s “How Do You Sleep?” and “Too Many People” was the subtlety. Paul was subtle, John was not.

During the session, as seen in the Imagine documentary, John notably says “how do you sleep ya cunt”, showing his aggressive context. Notably, the song features a great slide guitar solo oddly preformed by George Harrison, who seemingly took John‘s side. Ringo stopped by, who was still against Paul from the whole Sentimental Journey debacle, and famously claimed “that’s enough John!” during the recordings and left.

John took everyone by surprise, it was a nasty attack on his former best friend. If they never spoke again, it’d be natural and obvious but that wasn’t the end. John‘s “How Do You Sleep” was a kick to a Beatle who was down.

In 1974, after three years of a bitter feud and no-speaking something magical happened. During the first night of recordings for Harry Nilsson‘s Pussy Cats album to which John was producing, Paul dropped by. Paul and John were once again in the same room, joined by Stevie Wonder, Nilsson himself and more, instead of a fight or anything similar, a hazy-drug-fulled jam session took place, now famously bootlegged as A Toot and A Snore ’74. They had no animosity, apparently best friends again, especially playing.

It proved to be the final time Lennon-McCartney played together again, Lennon was murdered in December 1980.

Going back to that studio day in May 1969. Paul McCartney asked John to go and play some club gigs as The Beatles and John called him daft and announced his leaving of The Beatles. In 1974, they play again in a jam session as best friends. If John said yes and they would play live once again, would it have stopped time?

Words by Jack Cinnamond.

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