THIS IS ALL FICTION. I MADE IT UP.
I hope you enjoy it anyway. :)
An Apartment in the Dakota
“I hate to admit this,” Gerry said to Jason over dinner, “but I’m living vicariously through John’s memoir. It is very interesting to read, after all these years of knowing them, and not knowing any real detail about their background.”
Jason chuckled. “I went through this when I was reading the gallows and doing some edits, but it is a whole different experience reading the book when it is all done, with photos and all. It is very entertaining and interesting. And wrenching at times.”
In late November, John had sent them two autographed copies so they were able to read them simultaneously. Jason had read his copy immediately, and Gerry had caught him laughing, giggling and exclaiming as he read it. After a week or two, Gerry broke down and started to read the book too. He felt a bit like a voyeur. But once he picked it up, he could not put it down. Knowing how the story ended made the beginning of the story easier to read. Had he not known the happy ending, he might not have been able to stand the suspense.
“I hadn’t really understood how bad it was for Paul when his mother died,” Jason said. “He lost his childhood overnight.”
“It explains his super-developed sense of responsibility,” Gerry agreed.
“Everyone always went on about how much John suffered when his mother died, but I’d never read any detail about what Paul went through before. Imagine doing all the family bills, and feeling responsible economically at the age of 14!” Jason stated.
Gerry added, “The reason why no one considered Paul’s story was that he didn’t tell it. He keeps his troubles to himself, and it appears that he inherited that from his mother, and had been doing it long before he became famous.”
“Where are you now in the book?” Jason asked curiously.
“I’ve got to the beginning of the second chapter, right after John had spent an evening at Paul’s house for the first time.”
Jason smiled. “Ah, there’s good stuff coming, Ger. You’re going to enjoy it.”
The next day, I stopped by Julia’s house on the way home from seeing friends. We sat in her kitchen, and we each had a beer. I told her all about the boy Paul, and she said, “He sounds dreamy, darling.” Then I told her about his mother dying. This elicited real concern from Julia. “You have to bring him ‘round, and we can play banjo together!” I promised her I would. But I asked her, “He doesn’t seem to be sad or upset at all, maybe he didn’t love his mother?”
Julia looked at me thoughtfully before saying, “Everyone grieves in their own way, Johnny. I’ve always found the most interesting people are the ones you have to work hard at getting to know. To me, it is like a scavenger hunt or a giant jigsaw puzzle. I’m fairly sure that you have found yourself a deep one, so don’t assume he isn’t very broken up inside. I’m sure he is.”
Walking home from Julia’s that evening, I stopped by Ivan Vaughan’s house. Ivan was sitting on the porch with his girlfriend, saying their goodbyes. After she left, I pounced on him.
“Why didn’t you tell me Paul’s mother was dead? I made a right fool of myself asking him where she was.”
Ivan looked at me in a funny way. “His mother’s not dead. Her name is Mary, she’s got a bit of an Irish brogue, and she’s a midwife and a nurse. I’ve met her many times at the Church. She sings in the choir – she has a beautiful singing voice. Like a female Paul.” (Ivan, like Mary McCartney and her two sons, was a Roman Catholic.) “I’m sure I would have heard about it if she died.”
“When did you last see her?” I asked, now quite confused. Why would Paul lie to me about something like that? Was it some kind of sick joke?
“Oh, let me see. I don’t know.”
“Was it before Christmas of last year?”
Ivan thought, “It might have been, why?”
“Because Paul fookin’ told me himself that she died in November of last year.”
Ivan was dumbfounded. “I had no idea. Now why didn’t he say anything to me about it? He never said a word!”
As Alice in Wonderland says, “curiouser and curiouser.”
“Hey!” Ivan shouted. “Do you suppose that is why he missed those two Quarrymen rehearsals? He did say it was ‘family business’.”
Of course! Now how weird was that. One of Paul’s best friends didn’t even know his mother had died, and Paul had turned down the perfect opportunity to tell Ivan about it when he missed the rehearsals.
Ivan continued to muse, the shock slowly wearing off, “I’m sure none of our mates at school know, because we would have talked about it. I don’t think any of our friends have the slightest idea.”
I went home even more confused about this mysterious – but admittedly alluring - boy than I was when I started out. But one thought kept percolating. He didn’t tell any of his long-time friends when his mother died, but he told me quite promptly as soon as I asked where she was. Why?
I didn’t see Paul for two whole weeks because he was at Boy Scout camp. I had phoned him up to set up a meeting to get some guitar lessons, and he told me he’d be gone for 2 weeks.
“Well, before you go, are you going to join the band or not? You never gave me an answer.”
“You never asked me the question,” he pointed out in a reasonable tone of voice. (I soon came to despise that tone of voice; it was his weapon of choice when wanting to one-up me.)
[Irritated] “Well, I’m asking it now.”
“Well, in that case John, I would very much like to join the band.”
I hung up both elated and irritated. Elated because he was going to join the band. Irritated because – again – he had somehow got the last word. I was going to have to set him straight about just who was the leader of this band.
Paul’s recollection of this event has a different spin altogether.
“I was very excited you invited me to join the band. It’s just that my Dad had kept me waiting for a few weeks, while he decided whether I could be in a band at my age. I was only just 15, and the rest of you were all closing in on 17. He finally gave me permission to be in the band for a trial period, and he would reconsider the question if it got in the way of my schoolwork. But the one condition was that I had to go to Boy Scout camp. I wheedled and whined a bit, but was unsuccessful in dissuading him from making me go.” At this moment in the transcript, I hear a pause. And then Paul began to talk again.
“You were very sarcastic about my Dad, you know. When I told you I had to go to Boy Scout camp, you reacted as though I had just announced that I was joining The Hitler Youth. You lectured me about being my own man - something like, ‘you don’t need your dad ordering you about. You have a mind of your own.’ When you said that, I asked you, ‘Do you have a father?’ What prompted me to ask was that any one with a father would never have said such a ridiculously impractical thing. You told me that your father was dead ‘like your mother.’ So I just dropped it. But I can assure you that there was no telling Jim McCartney that I was my own man, and would make my own decisions. He would have taken his belt to me for sure.”
When Paul made that last remark during the interview I stopped dead in my tracks. “Paul, did your father hit you with his belt?”
“Occasionally. When I did something to deserve it. He never did it when mum was alive, because she wouldn’t have it.”
“How come you never told me that your father beat you?” I asked angrily. “All these years, and you never once said!”
“He didn’t ‘beat’ me, John. It was what the Americans call ‘a whooping’. There’s a difference. And the subject must never have come up. I wasn’t consciously keeping it from you.”
“You didn’t hit your kids, did you?”
“Hell no! I knew how humiliating it is, and I wouldn’t want to make my kids feel that way.”
“Do you hear yourself Paul? Your father was beating you!”
“It wasn’t that unusual a thing for his generation, John. Things have changed so much since then. We understand better now about how stuff like that can damage a kid emotionally.”
“So your dad damaged you emotionally?”
Paul can be heard laughing cheerfully on the recording. “All parents damage their children emotionally. We can’t help ourselves. Didn’t you know? Anyway, I can’t talk about this any more today. I need to go do something else.”
“Well, okay, but we will be talking more on this subject later, I promise you.”
[Paul muttered as he left the room; the words are just barely audible on the tape recorder although I hadn’t heard them at the time:] “I was afraid of that.”
While Paul was at Boy Scout camp in late July 1957, the Quarrymen had another gig, this time at a teen dance in a suburb of Liverpool. I waited until the gig was over to announce to the other members that Paul was joining the band. We’d had a short-term member who wasn’t working out, and I used the occasion to tell him he was out. Years later he confessed to me that he had been relieved when I replaced him because he hated being in the band. “I only did it because you scared the crap out of me, and I didn’t want to make you mad.”
Paul’s first rehearsal with the band was a big day for me. I was like a nervous bride on her wedding day. I was running around arranging and rearranging the stools and equipment and instruments in the backyard bomb shelter at Pete Shotton’s house, where we sometimes practiced. I thought Paul would arrive late because that is what I would have done if our positions were reversed. That would have been my way of flouting my superiority. But instead, he was the first one there, immediately unpacking his guitar and chatting with Pete.
His early arrival gave me false courage. I assumed this meant that he wasn’t going to be as tough a cookie as I’d feared. I wrote out our dialog in my journal in long hand that night. I obviously lavished time and attention on this entry:
“So why don’t you sit the first few songs out,” I said to Paul, “until you get the feel of the band.”
“If you think that’s necessary.” He said.
“You don’t think it’s necessary?” I asked. What cheek!
“I have heard you play before, remember?” He responded.
“Only just the once!”
“Once was enough.” He was looking at me straight with an absolutely bland expression on his face. It was like running flat into a brick wall, if a brick wall could be formally polite.
I didn’t have time to respond, I wrote, because the other band members started arriving – late of course. While everyone was setting up and shouting out greetings to each other, I re-examined my earlier assumption about Paul’s early arrival. It would not be long before I came to understand Paul’s consummate professionalism. He was the only one of us throughout the life of the band who was almost always on time, always sober when it was time to work, and who came prepared, having practiced hours on his own before rehearsals. I did not know that then, so his early arrival – which I took for over-eagerness – was just another false flag I followed in the rocky early days of my relationship with Paul.
In that direction lies ruin. I welcomed Paul to the band, and he received a generous amount of Liverpudlian insults that he accepted with just the right mix of humor and sangfroid. We did our first number.
[I didn’t remember what it was, and neither could anyone else in the original Quarrymen until (of course) - I thought to ask Paul.
“Searchin’.” He said definitively.
“Really? Are you sure?”
“I’ll never forget the way you pronounced ‘searchin’, John. You were trying to copy the American accent, but it came out weird, like ‘seer-chin’. It was hard not to crack up.”
“Well, aren’t you full of surprises!” (I was wounded to the core.)]
So, we did Searchin’ during which Paul sat quietly listening, and nodding his head in time to the music, which was hard for him, because we kept inadvertently changing our tempo. I could see him starting and stopping with his head nodding, as we struggled with the tempo.
“Do you think you have it?” I asked him, after we finished.
“I think so.” He responded.
“Okay, so let’s hit it again boys!”
I heard a long, aching twang as Paul played a throbbing progression of chords, and then he settled into an extremely sophisticated guitar line and he was off to the races, leaving the rest of us all sucking wind behind. We flew through the song, and I was out of breath at the end. I didn’t know whether to throttle him or kiss him. Something like adrenalin was running through my body, and as I sang and played I kept total eye contact with Paul, while he played the lead guitar part. It was the first time ever that I made it through a whole song in the same tempo. To put it in context for the non-musician, it was like being allowed to take a spin in a Maserati on a racetrack, after years of driving around busy city traffic in a Mini. We finished, and there was a dead silence for about 15 seconds.
The silence was finally broken by Len Garry, who simply said: “Damn!”
A moment later, one of the other blokes said, “Hey, this could get to be fun.”
I, meanwhile, was stunned into silence. I was staring at Paul, who was staring right back at me. He didn’t blink. It was like he was throwing down a gauntlet, but I’m the only one who saw it. All of my worst insecurities began to rise up in my throat. I had to regain my rightful place as the one and only star in the band.
“Well, that was interesting, Paul,” I said. “But no one here tries anything different without clearing it through me, first. I’m in charge here, and don’t you forget it.” According to what I wrote in my journal, I was barely maintaining my temper. The look I was shooting Paul was the same one that sent the others into panic mode, and I could feel they at least were extremely nervous about my mood. Not so much Paul, though.
Paul stood up, very slowly, and unbuckled his shoulder strap, and started packing up his guitar. “I’m sorry to hear that John,” he said, with his back to me. “Because I don’t want to be in a band where a bloke can’t have an idea of his own.” He turned around, and his guitar case swung forward. “It was nice meeting you blokes. Good luck with your band!” And he walked straight out of the shelter. The other boys all turned and glared at me in unanimous accusation.
He was at the end of Pete’s mews before I caught up with him. I had run after him yelling, “Wait, Paul!” – all pride forgotten in the horror of losing him. I grabbed his arm and spun him around. His face looked like thunder. I had never seen any kind of emotion on his face before, and the dark brooding anger surprised me to the point where I couldn’t think of what to say.
“What, John. What do you want?” He asked, his voice a low and almost menacing sound.
“I think you took it wrong,” I said, attempting to keep some semblance of dignity. Paul’s response, as I recorded it in my journal, was classic Paul. I wrote that he said:
“’I don’t. I think you just told me that if I want to be in ‘your band’ I have to sit down and shut up. That just doesn’t appeal to me.’ Paul was staring at me, and I still couldn’t speak. ‘So, then, I guess that’s it then. I’m off!’ He started to turn and I grabbed his arm, and spun him around again. He was really angry now. I knew I had to tell him the truth, or I would lose him for good.
“’You’re better than I am. I’m afraid of losing the band to you.’”
I remember this bit very well. I had said it: my greatest fear about Paul - that he could so easily eclipse me. I remember watching his face as he digested what I had said. Gradually I could see that the storm cloud was clearing. The eyes turned back from black to their usual beautiful and deep brown-green color. And within a few more seconds, he had regained complete control of himself again.
“You’re daft, John,” I remember he told me (and my journal bears me up). “Everyone likes you best, and they always will. I don’t want to be the leader of the band. But I won’t be a follower. You can say whatever you want to me, but don’t order me about. I don’t like being ordered about.”
“I promise. I didn’t realize…”
I recorded in my journal that Paul said, “No, I’m sure you didn’t realize, the way you bully people and boss them about. For the life of me, I don’t know why they take it!”
“Friends, then?” I asked hopefully.
Paul regarded me with his hooded eyes for a few moments, and then his face lit in a breath-taking smile. I had never seen a full-on, balls-to-the-wall McCartney smile before. I was weak at my knees in its aftermath. “Yeah, John, friends.” In a moment of elation, I threw my arm around his shoulder, and we walked back up the mews and into the shelter where the band was waiting.
“Okay, wankers,” I announced to the band, “we’re starting the rehearsal over, and we’re going to do that smashing version of ‘Searchin’ again!”
Thus ended my first lesson in McCartney 101. You could call him names, make fun of him, play practical jokes on him, but heaven forefend if you ordered him about! I made a mental note to self: “whatever you do, Lennon, remember never to do that again!”
As if I could keep a promise like that.
Paul’s first appearance with the band was after his return from Boy Scout camp. He didn’t get a lot of time to practice with us before the gig. I decided on a whim – in fact, it occurred to me on the bus on our way to the gig in central Liverpool – that Paul should do a ripping guitar solo in the middle of ‘Midnight Special’, which he had been working on for a few days. Paul objected immediately: “I’m not ready, John. I’ve only just started learning it. It’s my very first real gig. I’m too nervous.” Operating on a strong dose of my usual magical thinking, (and such was my belief in Paul’s talent as a musician), I brushed all of his concerns away. I insisted he do it, assuring him that it would all “just come to him” when he needed it. He looked at me with worried eyes. Those eyes haunted me later after he totally blew the solo. He was waiting for me to savage him, but I knew it was my fault, so I didn’t razz him very much about it. In any case, all the blokes had heard Paul protesting against doing it, so they didn’t hold it against him either, although we did the usual round of Liverpudlian taking the piss.
But this was John Lennon’s Lesson No. 2 in McCartney 101. This is when I began to learn of Paul’s extreme perfectionism. He is a perfectionist to a fault. And I mean that. It frequently used to get to the point when his perfectionism held him back and pushed people away from him. His band mates throughout the years always endured his relentless pushing, prodding, and polishing because we all knew it was going to improve the end product, and even if it didn’t his presence in the band was essential to its success, so we had to put up with it. (He has worked very hard on this in the last 30 years, and he is still a perfectionist, but he is rational about it now. In the early days, though, it was an irritant at almost every rehearsal and gig.)
After he blew the solo, Paul convinced himself he was not a lead guitarist, and he refused to do another live guitar solo EVER. For decades afterwards, while he would do solos in the studio all the time (as he did in the Beatles) he would not perform the solo live, instead assigning it to another musician. (Nowadays he can be persuaded to add a solo or two to each performance.) This is, of course, insane, because everyone who ever heard him play lead – from the EMI sound engineers to other guitarists – would tell you he was the best technical guitarist in the Beatles. A lot of the solos on Beatles songs that people think were done by George were actually done by Paul - even on some of George’s own songs, “Taxman” and “Within You, Without You”, for example. George could not play fast (and didn’t like to play fast, either) – so when a solo called for a fast guitar or intricate quick fretwork, Paul was our go-to guy until George heartlessly replaced him with Eric Clapton.
So, by pushing Paul into this solo before he felt ready to do it, I apparently scarred him for life. If you ask him today about his guitar skills, he will tell you (I’m not kidding): “I’m pretty good on bass, but I’m no lead guitarist.” I learned a valuable lesson from that. Paul takes his music dead seriously, and he has to come to it at his own pace. I am a very impatient person, and I hate mucking about with several takes. I’d rather have a record with mistakes on it, then to spend hours and hours on getting it just right.
This is partially because I never in my life played a truly skilled instrument on a stage, and rarely in the studio. Rhythm guitar is the easiest of all parts to play in a rock band. I wouldn’t need to practice very long to get it down right. Paul and George had the skilled instruments. Geoff Emerick – the esteemed sound engineer who worked with us in the Beatles, with Paul in Wings, and later on L & M recordings – wrote in his book about recording the Beatles, “The sound engineers soon figured out that Paul was the only pure musician in the Beatles.” So, I guess it was easy for me to say – “we’ve practiced enough!”
As the summer of 1957 faded into the new school year my band members either began to lose interest, or their parents were not approving of the time away from schoolwork that band practice required. Girls were also a distraction. It became harder and harder to put enough players together to handle a gig. Fortunately, I had an ace in the hole: one Paul McCartney. He could play almost any instrument, and he always showed up. Of course, one time he showed up without his guitar. (Paul, on bus, age 15: “You’re never going to let me forget this, are you Lennon?” Paul, age 60, at dinner party when I repeat story to guests for 1000th time: “You never let me forget this, do you Lennon?”)
Well, you can’t blame me. Imagine going all that way on the bus to the gig only to arrive and realize you’ve forgotten your instrument? I thought to myself, ‘Fat lot of good he’ll do us tonight!’ Instead, I said to him in my usual snarky tone, “You’re still a valuable asset Paul. I’ll stick you in the middle at the front and you can just stand there and look beautiful.” Of course, seeing as how this is Paul we’re talking about, he actually managed to sweet talk a member of another band into lending him a guitar; he then played the whole gig with the guitar upside down and backwards – since he played left-handed and the other bloke played right-handed – and you couldn’t tell the difference!
There were a few times when only Paul and I were up for a gig. On such occasions, I decreed that we would call ourselves “The Nerk Twins” instead of “The Quarrymen.” As Paul pointed out, “You can’t call yourself a band, and then just 2 blokes are up there. The audience will feel cheated.” We soon developed our own repertoire for the Nerk Twins, separate and apart from the Quarrymen list. I recently asked Paul if he could remember the songs we did, and between us we remembered a good number of them. We were heavy on acoustic songs from Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers, with a few Elvis ballads. We did “Wake Up Little Susy”, “Words of Love”, “Let It Be Me”, “Love Me Tender”, and Paul’s absolute stab-you-in-your-heart version of ‘’Til There Was You’, and a few others, the titles of which are lost in the mists of time. What was especially endearing was that we both would sing these songs with our version of the accent of the American south. We probably did a terrible job of it, but the Liverpool audiences didn’t notice it!
As an aside - although I used to take the mickey out of him when he sang the song in clubs in our early days - when I was at my sickest during the cancer treatments in 1993-4, I used to beg Paul to sit by my bed and sing “‘Til There Was You” to me over and over, because I could lose myself in the beauty of his voice and the guitar solo every single time. He just fucking NAILS that song! No one else should be allowed to sing it ever again, in my opinion. The nurses and patients and guests from other rooms would all start trailing in from down the various halls, and they’d squeal and applaud when he finished.
My 17th birthday on October 9, 1957, should have been a watershed day in my life. Instead, because of the craziness going on between me, Julia and Aunt Mimi, I was unable to enjoy it. Mum had allowed her common law husband to kick me out of their house; she had rejected me yet again. My head was swimming with the things that Aunt Mimi had told me about my mother – the affairs, the one night stands, the daughter she’d had out of wedlock and given away for adoption, the sexual addiction, the mental breakdowns leading to hospitalizations – and so when Julia offered to throw me a party for my 17th birthday, I had very mixed emotions. This was aggravated by the fact that while spying on Julia with her and Bobby, I had witnessed her giving him a blowjob. That really threw me for a loop. In fact, for the few weeks prior to my birthday, I had been out of sorts at gigs when Julia showed up. The only one who noticed it was Paul. I made some nasty remarks to her in front of the lads, and Paul – ever empathetic and concerned about others’ feelings – took me aside and then took me to task. “If you don’t want her hanging ‘round the band, just tell her. It isn’t kind the way you’re doing it.” I really hadn’t known him that long at this point, and I was completely taken aback by the strength of his objection. “She doesn’t deserve kindness!” I shot back. I will never – as long as I live – forget his response: “Everyone does,” he said softly.
On another occasion, Paul was over at Julia’s with me, and we were sitting around the kitchen table. Julia asked Paul to play ‘Love Me Tender’ for her, which he did. She was incredibly flirtatious; to my eyes it looked as though she was coming on to him! Armed with the information from Mimi about Julia’s inability to recognize sexual boundaries, I became incensed. When Paul finished singing, she said to him, “You’re singing that for your mother, aren’t you?” This was highly doubtful. Paul never needed a motivation for singing a good song. But ever polite, Paul nodded in a non-committal way. “It must be so hard for you to go on without your mother,” Julia added. I was quietly outraged by that remark. After all, Paul’s mother had died - she had left involuntarily. Julia had chosen to leave me. I made a number of nasty remarks to her in the next few minutes in a kind of hidden revenge, and she ran crying out of the room. Paul looked at me in a disapproving way, shaking his head. He didn’t need to say a word. He was very disappointed in me.
So the 17th birthday party at Julia’s was a mixed bag for me. She had all my friends there, and she was letting them all drink beer. The other parents never let us drink beer; this was the real secret of her popularity amongst my friends, although I think she believed we all considered her to be “one of us”. We didn’t. She was just a grown up who acted inappropriately youthful around us. I didn’t really understand this was what I was feeling at the time; I just felt confused and uncomfortable whenever she was around my friends. I was also afraid that she would seduce them.
To make matters worse, a few days earlier my oldest friend, Pete Shotton, who at the time I still considered my ‘best’ friend, informed me that his mother had given him an ultimatum. Either he join the police force or the navy. He pointed out that he couldn’t be a policeman because, “at some point or other I’ll have to nick you, John, given your track record, and I just can’t see meself doing that.” Therefore, he would be leaving for the navy in a few weeks, and he was going to have to leave the band at that point. To make matters worse, Rod Davis also quit. As I always had, and would always in the future do, I received this information as if it were an intentional rejection and desertion. (Decades later Rod Davis would claim that he was pushed out of the band because Paul wanted him out. My journal, written on the day, says that Rod quit voluntarily, claiming schoolwork and girls as the reason.) I was extremely upset and angry, but there was nothing I could do about it. Unusual for me at the time, I swallowed the anger and fear the news aroused in me, and Pete later told me he was surprised but relieved at my rational handling of the news. But his relief was premature.
The birthday party was wrong from the beginning. Julia was bouncy and flirtatious and giggly – all the things that made me upset. I was in a terrible mood. I drank too much. When they all were yelling ‘speech, speech, speech!’ I reluctantly got up on a footstool and announced to everyone that Pete Shotton was leaving the band, and everyone groaned. Pete played the washboard in the band, and he ceremoniously handed it over to me as a kind of joke about his resignation. Out of nowhere this rage flew into my chest, and I took the washboard and broke it over his head. The whole room went dead silent. I stormed out, grabbing yet another beer on the way out, and headed back to Mimi’s house.
I interviewed Pete Shotton for the book, and I asked him what he remembered happening after I left. This is what he said: “Everyone rushed over to me, and helped me get the bloody thing off my neck, and Julia was rushing about worrying about my scratches. All the blokes started making excuses for you, and acting as though it was only a joke. I was stung and deeply hurt by what you’d done. I was also hurt by the fact that no one was holding you accountable. Then I felt an arm go gently around my shoulder, and Paul was there. ‘That was inexcusable Pete,’ he said. I tried to smile and say, ‘He’s all stressed out…’ and Paul cut me off. ‘It was inexcusable, and I’m going to tell him so!’ I urged him to leave it be. ‘It’ll only make things worse’, I said. But Paul was adamant. He said ‘He doesn’t get to go through life trampling all over people without having to answer for it. There aren’t special rules that apply only to him.’ I was extremely touched by his loyalty to me, to his sensitivity in understanding how hurt I was, and his wanting to comfort me, but I was mostly impressed by his intention to stand up to you, since nobody else ever did.”
Pete then turned to me and asked, “Did he ever say anything to you?”
“Yeah, he came right over the next day and read me the riot act. A fuckin’ fifteen year old! I was completely chastened by it, though. That’s why I went ‘round and apologized to you. You might remember he was with me when I came by – he practically dragged me there. He was all over my case.” Then I smiled as I had another memory. “He also said if I ever tried that on him, he would impale me with my own guitar. And I believed him.”
Not long after the disastrous birthday party, and after having a few long talks with Paul who gave me some wonderful advice, I calmly told Aunt Mimi that I wanted her to make it up with Julia, so that the three of us could be a real family. She was at first angry at the suggestion, but she could see that I had decided I would no longer be “placed in the middle between them“ - (by the way, those were the exact words Paul coached me to use) - so she said she would “think about” making an effort. I had written down the advice Paul had given me in my journal: “whatever you do, John, don’t get all snarky. You have to be calm and respectful, or grown ups won’t hear what you say. They only ever really hear your tone of voice, not the words.” I remember falling back on this advice many times in the next few years, when I could control my impulses sufficiently, that is. As a result of this heart-to-heart, Mimi approached Julia, and invited her back in our lives. It was so beautiful and simple after that. I would come home and find them sunbathing in the garden together. They would share me – ‘you take him for dinner tonight, Julia, I’m just exhausted’ – and as my mother rebuilt her relationship with her sister, she was becoming less and less flirtatious with my friends and me. When I mentioned this to Paul, he laughed and said with his usual seemingly fluky (but not) insight, “She finally has a friend her own age.”
Throughout late 1957 and into late 1958, when we weren’t practicing our instruments or playing gigs or at school or fulfilling our family obligations or sleeping, Paul and I were together. We even went on dates together. We’d end up in some pub, the girls standing together at the record machine, while Paul and I would be back in the booth lost in conversation about music and band plans. We must have been real bores! But we would usually get to make up for it later. We’d take the girls to Strawberry Fields, which was well located halfway between his house and mine, and we’d have what they now call ‘safe’ sex (meaning very little penetration went on) with the girls side-by-side. The first time we did it there, I can’t remember whose idea it was, but I do know that Paul had done it with girls outside before. “Where else are we going to do it?” he would ask the girls on our joint behalf, his eyes all wide and innocent. “It isn’t like we can do it at our homes.” This piercing logic nearly always won the day.
Why do it side-by-side? In addition to the murkier (and unexamined) reasons, Paul and I soon figured out that the girls would be much quicker to agree to fool around if they were in twos. Must be the female equivalent of moral support. (Immoral support?) Anyway, after a few months of this, like everything else between us, having sex with girls became a competition. We had quiet side bets going on between us that the girls didn’t know about: Who could make the girl come first? Who could make her come the loudest? Who could hold off coming longer than the other one? You name it; we found a way to compete over it. I’m afraid we were quite boorish about it, and never viewed this activity from the girls’ point of view.
Lesson No. 3 in McCartney 101: The guy is incredibly competitive. He doesn’t seem like it on the surface. He is so polite and amenable. But he is intensely competitive. He once told a reporter (this would have been in 1966 or so), “I vaguely mind anyone knowing something I don’t know.” I would agree with that sentence except for the word “vaguely”. Now, don’t get me wrong. Paul is not a know-it-all, except in a recording studio. Everywhere else his competitiveness simmers in constant readiness just beneath the surface. Most people never notice it unless they find themselves in some kind of race with him. Then they notice it real quick! In fact, it’s a horrible surprise: almost as if a sweet fluffy bunny suddenly morphed into a fierce bird of prey before your very eyes.
Unfortunately, I am also incredibly competitive. I was at least as competitive as Paul was, and probably more so. Our creative partnership in the Beatles was literally driven by this factor, and while it ended up being a great thing for the Beatles, it also ended up being really hard on our friendship. During this first year of our friendship, when Paul and I were trying to get to know each other, the competitiveness between us erupted into full flower. The most extreme example of this that I can remember was the day when Paul and I were sitting among the groves in Strawberry Fields trying to write a song, and we were a little bored. We found a couple of snails in the grass. Paul said, “I know! Let’s race them! I bet mine is faster than yours!” And I actually thought this was a brilliant idea. Too bad the snails weren’t cooperating. They both just sort of wandered around in figures of eight, sliming up everything in their paths. We watched for a while, urging them on, and then – as they started their meanderings – we were soon hopelessly lost in spasms of laughter because we both finally realized how ridiculous it was.
“Curious that Paul didn’t tell his friends about his mother’s death,” Gerry mentioned to Jason over the dinner table. It was an informal meal, in the kitchen.
“I found that to be odd, as well. It seems like he was always very secretive, even before he was famous,” Jason added. “For some reason I never really thought of either one of them as anything but famous and successful. I guess I thought that Paul became secretive when he became famous, to protect himself. Imagine being that private of a person and having to deal with international fame, too.”
“John is just an open book, isn’t he?” Gerry asked. “I mean, it seems that every feeling and opinion he ever had just shows on his face and comes out of his mouth.”
“Yes, and again - he was like that before he was famous, too,” Jason responded. “I guess fame really didn’t change them that much. It seems like they were very much the same when they were teenagers as they are now. You’d kind of expect more of an impact from the fame.”
After reflection, Gerry said, “I guess as we’re talking about it now it is occurring to me that this is why they became so successful and beloved - they are just remarkably unusual people, and were that way from day one. In other words, they didn’t change for the world - the world changed for them.”
Jason looked fondly at Gerry. He often forgot that Gerry could be very eloquent when he made an effort. All those years of doing wills and trusts had curtailed his creative side, but every once in a while Jason glimpsed a side of Gerry that might have been if he had chosen a different profession. Jason finally responded to Gerry’s comment by saying, “We’re very lucky to have been a part of their life.”