PLAYBOY: Paul, it's been nearly four years since John Lennon died and you haven't really talked about your partnership and what his death meant to you. Can you talk about it now?
PAUL: It's . . . it's just too difficult . . . very feel that if I said anything about John, I would have to sit here for five days and say it all. Or I don't want to say anything.
LINDA: I'm like that.
PAUL: I know George and Ringo can't really talk about it.
PLAYBOY: How did you hear of John's death? What was your first reaction?
PAUL: My manager rang me early in the morning. Linda was taking the kids to school.
LINDA: I had driven the kids to school and I'd just come back in. Paul's face, ugh, it was horrible--even now, when I think of it. . . .
PAUL: A bit grotty.
LINDA: I knew something had happened. . . .
PAUL: It was just too crazy. We just said what everyone said; it was all blurred. It was the same as the Kennedy thing. The same horrific moment, you know. You couldn't take it in. I Can't.
LINDA: It put everybody in a daze for the rest of their life. It'll never make sense.
PAUL: I still haven't taken it in. I don't want to.
PLAYBOY: Yet the only thing you were quoted as saying after John's assassination was, "Well, it's a drag."
PAUL: What happened was we heard the news that morning and, strangely enough, all of us--the three Beatles, friends of John's--all of us reacted in the same way. Separately. Everyone just went to work that day. All of us. Nobody could stay home with that news. We all had to go to work and be with people we knew. Couldn't bear it. We just had to keep going. So I went in and did a day's work in a kind of shock. And as I was coming out of the studio later, there was a reporter, and as we were driving away, he just stuck the microphone in the window and shouted, "What do you think about John's death?" I had just finished a whole day in shock and I said, "It's a drag." I meant drag in the heaviest sense of the word, you know: "It's a--drag." But, you know, when you look at that in print, it says, "Yes, it's a drag." Matter of fact.
PLAYBOY: You tend to give a lot of flip answers to questions, don't you?
PAUL: I know what you mean. When my mum died, I said, "What are we going to do for money?"
LINDA: She brought in extra money for the family.
PAUL: And I've never forgiven myself for that. Really, deep down, you know, I never have quite forgiven myself for that. But that's all I could say then. It's like a lot of kids; when you tell them someone's died, they laugh.
PLAYBOY: Because they can't cope with the emotion?
PAUL: Yes. Exactly.
LINDA: With John's thing, what could you say?
PAUL: What could you say?
LINDA: The pain is beyond words. You can never describe it, I don't care how articulate you are.
PAUL: We just went home, we just looked at all the news on the telly, and we sat there with all the kids, just crying all evening. Just couldn't handle it, really.
LINDA: To this day, we just cry on hearing John's songs; you can't help it. You just cry. There aren't words. . . . I'm going to cry now.
PLAYBOY: Do you remember your last conversation with John?
PAUL: Yes. That is a nice thing, a consoling factor for me, because I do feel it was sad that we never actually sat down and straightened our differences out. But fortunately for me, the last phone conversation I ever had with him was really great, and we didn't have any kind of blowup. It could have easily been one of the other phone calls, when we blew up at each other and slammed the phone down.
PLAYBOY: Do you remember what you talked about?
PAUL: It was just a very happy conversation about his family, my family. Enjoying his life very much; Sean was a very big part of it. And thining about getting on with his career. I remember he said, "Oh, God, I'm like Aunt Mimi, padding round here in me dressing gown"--robe, as he called it, 'cause he was picking up the American vernacular--"feeding the cats in me robe and cooking and putting a cup of tea on. This housewife wants a career!" It was that time for him. He was about to launch Double Fantasy.
PLAYBOY: But getting back to you and your flipness over John's death, isn't that characteristic of you--to show little emotion on the outside, to keep it all internalized?
LINDA: You're right. That's true.
PAUL: True. My mum died when I was 14. That is a kind of strange age to lose a mother. "Cause, you know, you're dealing with puberty--
LINDA: Gosh, we've got a 14-year-old right now!
PAUL: Yes, and for a boy to lose a mother--
LINDA: To have been through so many other growing pains, how can a body take all that and still continue?
PAUL: It's not easy. You're starting to be a man, to be macho. Actually, that was one of the things that brought John and me very close together: He lost his mum when he was 17. Our way of facing it at that age was to laugh at it--not in our hearts but on the surface. It was sort of a wink thing between us. When someone would say, "And how's your mother?" John would say, "She died." We'd know that that person would become incredibly embarrassed and we'd almost have a joke with it. After a few years, the pain subsided a bit. It was a bond between us, actually; quite a big one, as I recall. We came together professionally afterward. And as we became a writing team, I think it helped our intimacy and our trust in each other. Eventually, we were pretty good mates--until the Beatles started to split up and Yoko came into it.
PLAYBOY: And that's when all the feuding and name-calling began. What started it? Did you feel hurt by John?
PAUL: You conldn't think of it as hurt. it was more like old army buddies' splitting up on account of wedding bells. You know sings , "These wedding bells are breaking up that old gang of mine." He'd fallen in love, and none of us was stupid enough to say, Oh, you shouldn't love her." We could recognize that, but that didn't diminish the hurt we were feeling by being pushed aside. Later on, I remember saying, "Clear the decks, give him his time with Yoko." I wanted him to have his child and more to New York, to do all the things he'd wantedis child and more to New York, to do all the things he'd wanted to do, to learn Japanese, to expand himself.
PLAYBOY: But you didn't understand it at the time?
PAUL: No, at the time, we tried to understand. but what should happen was, if we were the least bit bitchy, that would be very hurtful to them in this--wild thing they were in. I was looking at my second solo album, Ram, the other day and I remember there was one tiny little reference to John in the whole thing. He'd been doing a lot of preaching, and it got up my nose a little bit. In one song, I wrote, "Too many people preaching practices," I think is the line. I mean, that was a little dig at John and Yoko. There wasn't anything else on it that was about them. Oh, there was "You took your lucky break and broke it in two."
LINDA: Same song. They got the message.
PAUL: But I think they took it further--
LINDA: They thought the whole album was about them. And then they got very upset.
PAUL: Yeah, that was the kind of thing that would happen. They'd take one small dig out of proportion and then come back at us in their next album. Then we'd say, "Hey, we only did two percent. they did 200 percent"--and we'd go through all of that insanity.
PLAYBOY: In most of his interviews, John said he never missed the Beatles. Did you believe him?PAUL: I don't know. My theory is that he didn't. Someone like John would want to end the Beatle period and start the Yoko period. And he wouldn't like either to interfere with the other. As he was with Yoko, anything about the Beatles tended inevitably to be an intrusion. So I think he was interested enough in his new life to genuinely not miss us.
PLAYBOY: Did you ever try to find out how he felt about it, about you?
PAUL: I knew there was the kind of support that I'd though he felt for me. But obviously, when you're getting slagged off in public, it shakes that faith. Nah, it's just John mouthing off. I know him. But, well, the name-calling coupled with the hurt--it became a bit of a number, you know?PLAYBOY: Was the way you two went at each other good for the music?
PAUL: Yeah. This was one of the best things about Lennon and McCartney, the competitive element within the team. It was great. But hard to live with. It was hard to live with. It was probably one of the reasons why teams almost have to burn out. And, of course, in finding a strong woman like Yoko, John changed.
LINDA: But that way, you lose yourself.
PAUL: Yeah, I think that probably is the biggest criticism, that John stopped being himself. I used to bitch at him for that. On the phone with me in the later years, he'd get very New York if we were arguing. New York accnt "Awright, goddamn it!" I called him Kojak once, because he was really laying New York street hip on me. Oh, come off it! But, through all of that, I do think he was always a man for fresh horizons. When he wanted to learn Japanese for Yoko, he went to the Biarritz.
LINDA: I like that! Biarritz! You mean Berlitz.
PAUL: Yeah, he wanted fresh challenges all the time. So it was nice of Yoko to fulfill that role. She gave him a direction.Paul leaves to take a telephone call.
LINDA: I was just going to say that I think if John had lived, he might still be saying, "OH, I'm much happier now. . . ."
PLAYBOY: And you don't believe it?
LINDA: The sad thing is that John and Paul both had problems and they loved each other and, boy, could they have helped each other! If they had only communicated! It frustrates me no end, because I was just some chick from New York when I walked into all of that. God, if I'd known what I know now. . . . All I could do was sit there watching them play these games. . . .
PLAYBOY: But wasn't it clear that John wanted only to work with Yoko?
LINDA: No. I know that Paul was desperate to write with John again. And I know John was desperate to write . . . desperate. People thought, Well, he's taking care of Sean, he's a househusband and all that, but he wasn't happy. He couldn't write and it drove him crazy. And Paul could have helped him--easily.