Paul McCartney and Sean Lennon were joined by Elton John and Sean’s half-brother Julian to celebrate the life of Beatles legend John on what would have been his 80th birthday, on October 9. The extraordinary conversations will be broadcast this weekend on BBC Radio 2 and include remarkable intimate insights into John’s personal life and his relationship with his fellow Beatles, right up to his murder forty years ago. Paul also opened up about his own songwriting, then and now, and how his bandmate remains part of the process.
John was murdered on December 8, 1980 by Mark David Chapman, outside the star’s New York hotel. The Beatles were long over by that point, but they were all back on good speaking terms, but releasing music separately.
John and Paul are two of the most prolific and successful songwriters in history, but even in their Beatles heyday usually composed indepently of each other.
Paul said in the new interview: “The reason we originally wrote separately was because we were living separately.”
Yet even at the band’s height, working and travelling constantly together, the four members would return home from touring and work on their own music alone before putting the finishing touches to each track in the studio.
Paul said: “Once the touring is off, and we might have one tour a year or something, there would be plenty of time to be at home.
“And so you’d pick up a guitar or something. And let’s say I wrote ‘Yesterday’ or something like that, John would write ‘Strawberry Fields’, so you were writing separately.
“Then you’d bring it together for the record, but you would then get some collaboration to finish up the song and to bring it into the studio, and then you collaborate in the studio.”
Despite this incredibly successful writing process, they all had to adapt once the band split up.
Paul said: “But the interesting thing is that, ever since The Beatles broke up and we didn’t write together or even record together, I think each one of us referenced the others.
“When we’re writing stuff – I often do it, you know. I’m writing something and I go: ‘Oh, god, this is b****y awful.’”
Even after all of these years, Paul admitted he never stopped wondering what John thought about his work.
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Paul went on: “And I think: ‘What would John say?’ And [John] goes: ‘Yeah, you’re right. It’s bloody awful. You’ve got to change it.’
“And so I’ll change it, and I know from reports that he did similar things to that.
“If I’d have a record out, he’d go: ‘Bloody hell… got to go in the studio. Got to try and do better than Paul.’”
As well as this commemorative interview, John’s birthday is being remembered by the release of a free tribute concert.
The star’s birthday will be commemorated by performances from an array of iconic artists who say they have been influenced by Lennon’s work over the years.
The line up includes KT Tunstall, John Illsley of Dire Straits, Richard Curtis, Laura Jean Anderson, Blurred Vision, and many more.
The concert will be streamed live from the Hard Rock Hotel in London, and will be collecting donations for War Child UK.
John Lennon at 80 from 9-10pm, Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th October on BBC Radio 2 and BBC Sounds.
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