ROCK ‘N ROLL MUSIC
(1959 - 1960)
For the year of my tenure at the art college, I frequently persuaded Paul to go “over the wall” at the Inny and meet up with me at the quad of the art college to put together songs and discuss band business during school hours. He would do it, but was constantly worried that his father would find out. I was beginning to get very tired of Paul’s dad, Jim. Jim was a very hyper-involved parent, and monitored everything Paul did. He cut Paul’s hair when he decided it was too long, although Paul would leave the house with his hair all flattened to make it look short, and then plump it all up in the restroom at school. And he chose Paul’s clothes, although Paul would turn all his pants into drainies after his Dad picked them, and then claim, “I must be growing” when his Dad didn’t understand why they were so tight. In short, from my point of view, he was extremely controlling. Now, as a man who has two sons, I have some empathy for Jim McCartney, but I know I did not stifle my sons’ creativity and sense of wonder the way Jim tried to stifle Paul’s. As good a dad as Jim basically was, he had some serious shortcomings in my teenaged opinion.
In his credit column is the fact that he addressed himself devotedly to being a parent when his wife, Mary, died. Many a man has given up and handed over the reins to a female relative. But Jim did not do this. On top of that, he had to work two shifts in order to make sufficient money to cover the household’s expenses, although he counted on Paul’s odd job income to make up the shortfall.
However, as a young man who had grown up without a father, I resented Jim’s insistence that Paul – even though a teenager – be responsible for his younger brother (who, after all, was only 18 months younger), and for the house when Jim was not around. I remember vividly Jim dropping off the meat for the dinner at the club, and Paul bicycling off between shows at the clubs to go put meat in the oven, and then bicycling madly back to the clubs to do the next show. Why couldn’t Michael make the dinner? On Paul’s behalf, I felt indignation.
Paul’s relative youth (he was still a grammar school kid for heaven’s sake!), and his dependence on his father, started to irritate me now, in comparison to Stu’s living in a loft and being a full adult. It was as if Paul could do no right. Looking back, I realize I was lucky that Paul was so heavily focused on the band. From my perspective, he didn’t seem to notice that we hardly spent time together any longer, and that Cyn and I now double-dated with Stu and his girlfriend instead. One night Stu and his girlfriend, and Cyn and I, ran into Paul and a girl at a pub. We joined them at their table. Amazingly, Paul and Stu got along great. I have to give the credit to Paul, though. He drew Stu out that night like no one else ever did; so effortlessly. He was so gentle and empathetic with Stu, immediately sensing his shyness, and drawing him out, and I was dumbfounded when Stu started to blossom in front of all of us. He even made a few sarcastic jokes, and engaged very actively in the conversation. Stu had never looked so happy and engaged in a social situation in the time that I had known him.
So the old green monster paid me another unwelcome visit. I felt the rage and rejection rising up in my throat. As I sit here today, I don’t know what made me more jealous – Stu charming Paul, and getting so much of Paul’s attention, or Paul charming Stu, and getting so much of Stu’s attention. Probably both! All I know is that I was starting to see red. Cynthia sensed it, and started squeezing my hand. I looked at her, and she later told me she saw naked pain in my eyes. She smiled at me, and drew me out to the dance floor. While we danced, my eyes were on the table, and I watched Paul and Stu at the table, leaning eagerly towards each other and locked deep in conversation. I had to get out of there.
I marched over to the table and announced, “Stu – it’s time to go!” I turned to Paul and said, “We have to go now!” It was shockingly rude and the girls were all embarrassed. Cynthia was whispering ‘John, stop’. But Paul was not about to make a scene. He smiled easily at my announcement, and slid out of the booth, allowing Stu and his date to get out.
“It was really a pleasure to meet you Stu,” Paul said warmly. “John says such great things about you. I hope to see you again soon.”
I thought to myself, “Not if I have anything to say about it.” I extracted Stu from what I was thinking of as Paul’s clutches, and I dragged him out of there.
“Where are we going?” Stu asked me as we left, confused about our abrupt departure.
“Anywhere but here,” I growled and stalked off. Stu ran to catch up with me.
“What’s wrong? Paul is a really cool bloke. I was enjoying my conversation with him,” Stu said.
“Oh yeah? Well, maybe you want to go back and spend the evening with him then?” I shouted. I’d had three beers, and I could never hold liquor well. But still, I think I would have been just as ridiculous if I hadn’t been under the influence – the pain was that intense.
Stu looked confused and hurt. “John, I’m only saying I liked your friend. But of course I want to go with you.”
My green monster was still in charge. “That’s fine,” I said in a threatening voice, “but he’s my friend, not yours. Got it?” Stu still looked hurt, but obviously didn’t want to argue with me. He urged me to keep walking, and slowly I found myself coming back down to earth. That night I didn’t want sex with Cynthia, and I didn’t want to sit up all night smoking and talking philosophy with Stu. What I did do was go home to Mimi’s, climb in bed, throw the covers over my head, and sob like a baby until I finally fell asleep.
Much has been written about the night in the early spring of 1959 when Stu and I went to a club and got into a fight with some teddy boys who were there, so I won’t bore you with a long exposition. I mention it only because it was an important event in the Beatles timeline. During the fight Stu was kicked in the head by one of the teddies, who had steel-toed boots on, and it was later theorized that this may have caused the brain clot, which in turn later caused the stroke that killed him. The coroner did record that it appeared as though Stu had a pre-existing brain injury caused by a blunt object. At the time it happened, though, neither of us thought this was anything but one of those unfortunate ends to a night spent clubbing.
Stu and I often went to clubs at night in 1959. It was my first year out of grammar school, and I was feeling my oats. Apparently, we were on a non-articulated mission to visit all the seedy bars and clubs in Liverpool. The depiction in some biographies and films of the two of us behaving like reckless marauders on these club crawls is complete baloney though. And, in any case, neither of us was crazy enough to pick a fight with teddy boys. Those guys carried knives and brass knuckles. Stu and I were both physical cowards. No, the fight started because Stu and I showed up in a club that was meant for teddies. It was a completely inadvertent mistake on our part; we were just trying the club out on a lark. The usual patrons took one look at us with our college duds and pompadours and that was it.
The relatively innocent purpose of the fight from the teddies’ point of view was to remove us from the club and to strongly encourage us never to return. We did not require much encouragement in that regard. At the first sign of trouble, we both ran like hell, and I don’t think either one of us even threw a punch. I got away because I was faster than Stu, but they caught Stu going over a fence, kicked him in the stomach, and then one of them kicked him in the head while he was down on the ground. I doubt very much that the kick to the head was meant to be fatal. They had knives if they wanted to kill Stu. To my everlasting shame, I hid in a doorwell in the alley until the teddies ran away, and only then went to help Stu. Not exactly a glorious memory for my scrapbook, which explains why I never liked to talk about that night, even before Stu died. Stu told me not to worry about it: “I wouldn’t have gone in there after you, either, John, it would have been suicide,” he pointed out each time I apologized to him about it. (A few years later another friend would go in after me when I was in dire trouble; he, at least, would risk his life for me.)
For the band, 1959 was one of those years that sports teams refer to as a “building” year. There was me, there was Paul, there was George – we all played guitar - and there was no steady drummer, unless Pete Best was willing to sit in. Even for gigs where he had promised to play, he might back out at the last minute. Pete had divided loyalties, and the loyalties that won out all the time were those for his family. While this probably means that he was a really admirable person, from the band’s perspective, it felt as though we were often left hanging, even when we had important gigs. We never counted on him. We always had to do “the contingency plan”, as Paul called it. He would send out letters and burn up the phone lines trying to find substitute drummers as “back ups” in case Pete didn’t show up. This was distracting and frustrating for him.
Although our personal friendship was virtually on hold in 1959, Paul’s and my mutual devotion to the band and music was back on full throttle, after several months of me moping over my mother’s death. And - to me - Paul did not appear to be upset about the fact that I preferred Stu’s company to his. I asked Paul some questions about that time period. From the tape recording:
John: Now, this is a touchy one. I want you to be completely honest, and don’t worry about my feelings.
Paul: Well, this doesn’t sound very promising…
John: I’m focusing on late 1958 right now. My first year at art college. I met Cyn and then I met Stu. Remember?
Paul: Yeah, I do.
John: You seemed to like Cyn right from the start.
Paul: I did, yes. She really cared about you John, you know. Not the big mouth John with all the flash. She liked the quiet you, the insecure one, the real you.
John: You could tell all that just by meeting her?
Paul: Yes. She had endless patience for your stunts, you know. You’d be wildly flirting with the waitress right in front of her. I’d shoot my eyes over, you know, worried about her feelings, and she would smile at me and wink. It made me laugh. She saw straight through you, you know. And I really liked her for it.
John: Well, Crikey! You never said that before!
Paul: You never asked!
John: You can be very tiresome, you know that? [Paul laughs and makes a ‘so sue me’ face.] OK. So this is harder. Do you remember the night you met Stu?
Paul: [Concentrating intensely.] Not specifically, no.
John: In that pub we sometimes hung out near our bus stop? What was it called?
John: Yeah, Rooney’s. Do you remember me and Stu and our girls walking in and joining you and your date at Rooney’s?
Paul: [It’s like a light bulb went on over his head.] Oh, yeah, that night! The night you were more than normally rude to me. Yes, I remember that. How could I forget? [I love the ‘more than normally rude’ bit.]
John: Did you know why I was rude to you?
Paul: You were jealous; you didn’t want Stu to be my friend, too.
John: What happened after we left?
Paul: I don’t remember. I was quite traumatized.
John: You weren’t!
Paul: I was.
Paul: Because you embarrassed me in front of my girl. That was really uncalled for, you know. I was just trying to be polite to your friend. It wasn’t like I was going to steal him off you, you oaf.
John: That’s exactly what Stu said.
Paul: You really could be a piece of work back then; you know that, don’t you? So much unnecessary drama.
John: I was so fucking jealous I was seeing red. I didn’t know what hurt worst – you liking Stu, or Stu liking you.
Paul: Only you could turn two blokes having a pleasant pub chat into a tragedy, John. Honestly.
John: I went home and cried myself to sleep.
Paul: Hmm. Serves you right! [Long pause.] You know, I just thought of something.
John: What? [Looking forward to another new insight.]
Paul: You know it was my second cousin who owned Rooney’s pub? Archie Rooney. He was a grand old mick, if ever there was one.
After my outburst at Rooney’s, I harbored a grudge against Paul. Why Paul, and not Stu, I can’t tell you. The best I can come up with is that Paul made everything look so fucking easy. I had to stage a huge scene, showing off and flashing my guitar, to get Stu to talk to me. Paul just turned to him with those big soulful eyes of his, and in a quiet, soft voice, soon had him eating out of his hand. That really pissed me off!
So I barely talked to him at band practice for at least a week. Unfortunately, Paul didn’t realize I was mad at him. “Are you sick or something, John?” he finally asked me near the end of the week. “You’ve hardly said a word all week.” I was furious that he didn’t realize that he was the subject of a John Lennon Freeze Out. I never before had trouble getting my message across to my victims, when I gave them the notorious John Lennon Freeze Out. The problem with the John Lennon Freeze Out, I soon concluded, was if your intended victim didn’t even notice it, then it was a completely ineffective weapon. You could hardly yell at him and say, “you idiot! Can’t you see I’m freezing you out! You’re supposed to be hurt by this!”
“No, Paul, I’m not sick.” I glared at him.
He met my eyes with a questioning eyebrow for a few moments, and when I didn’t elaborate, he shrugged his shoulder and went back to the song we were working on. That was it. That was his big reaction to my Freeze Out. The fucker.
So, I got over it. No point in pouting if no one’s paying any attention.
Of course, this was before I asked Stu to join the band.
In the summer of 1959, Stu and I hatched a plan to rent a studio flat together, along with another friend of ours from the art college. Aunt Mimi was dubious about this, but agreed to front me my third of the rent so long as I did my work at school. Stu came from a slightly wealthier family in a nicer part of Liverpool, and they gave him masses and masses of money (from my point of view in that day’s standard) to live on. He spent most of it on me, and I had no qualms about taking it, either. Life was good.
The studio flat was only a few blocks from the art college, and not too far from all of our favorite clubs. The place was well furnished because of Stu’s family. They gave him bits and pieces from their storage locker, and some of the pieces were rather nice. I recall a beautiful sideboard with a full-length mirror right near the front door, where we used to dump our coins and letters and other pocket detritus. It had little hooks on either side for our coats, and a built in umbrella stand. I think it was an antique, because I saw one quite like it on the Antiques Roadshow one night, and it was worth upwards of $15,000. Stu also had a carved headboard for his bed. Meanwhile, I made do with a mattress from a single bed sitting bare on the floor.
The walls were covered with Stu’s artwork. As I think about it today, I realize that I had allowed myself to be sucked up into Stu’s life, the way I would later do with Yoko Ono. It was as if I surrendered my individuality when I plugged into that relationship. I was sexually attracted to him, and was aware of it, having already been down that road with my reactions to Paul. This time my rationalization was that Stu’s artwork and his whole lifestyle was the cause of the arousal. Although Stu was slight (he was just 5’4”, if that, and weighed maybe 120 pounds), and although there was a certain fragility to his physical presence and movements, Stu was not gay and he was not interested in men sexually. I got that vibe off him right away. It was the same vibe I got off Paul, although somehow, with Stu, I felt he would have empathy for my feelings if he found out about them, whereas I wasn’t at all sure that Paul would have, given his conservative Catholic working class family values.
Stuart had a strange family dynamic. His father hardly spoke to him, although his mum did, mainly through writing letters, and he rarely mentioned his parents to me at all. They sent him a generous allowance each month, but he wasn’t to ask them for anything else, and he didn’t. He had a relatively good relationship with his sister, Pauline. I met her a few times. She had “married well”, as Stu put it, in a sarcastic tone of voice. Stu, like me, seemed to be attached to the earth by tethers, not by roots.
My favorite thing to do during this period was just to sit in the flat – when I reminisce it is always dusk, just before you have to turn the lights on – and watch Stu paint. He was oblivious to me, and went after the canvass like a lioness attacks prey. I would have one ciggie after another, and try to make interesting smoke patterns in the air. I liked to watch the dust particles dance with the smoke. I studied Stu the physical person. He was so small and thin as to be called diminutive. He had tiny feet and hands. But he was wiry and lithe. I think of him always as some kind of wild small feline, like an ocelot. He was quiet and shy like that, too, lurking in the shadows, and hiding behind his friends.
There were still the sexual longings, too. These were turning out to be different from the ones I still would experience for Paul. The Stu longings were less physical, and more spiritual. I do believe it had to do with my wanting to be him – to inhabit his life. I think now that there was something incredibly creepy about this: it was like I was a pod person from ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ or something. After living a lot of years and trying out enough different therapy theories to satisfy even Freud himself, I have come to believe that my obsession with Stu had almost nothing to do with Stu, himself.
In mid-1959 I was almost 19 years old. Grammar school was over, and I was in art college – and not doing well there, so my future was entirely in doubt. I had one foot in the art world, and one foot in the music world, and I didn’t know which one to choose. For several months I had barely participated in the band, choosing to spend my time writing songs and practicing with Paul, instead. In each world – through some gift of luck or alchemy – I had attached myself to a hauntingly beautiful male partner, and each of these possessed that magic elixir of creative genius allied with the diligence and dedication to follow that genius as far as he could take it. They each had what I didn’t have - a true vocation, and the natural talent and work habits to make it a reality. Was I living through these two men? Was I fighting an internal war within myself for who I was, and who I wanted to be? I’m not sure, but I find the pattern interesting.
While consciously I was not aware of the underlying pull of my sexual desire for men, I believe that sub-consciously I was fully aware. If I have a particular genius, it is that I have a direct connection with my sub-conscious mind. Sometimes I can see everything in it with such clarity. The only times I can’t, is when I don’t want to. I believe that my sub-conscious mind was deliberately choosing these men with strong heterosexual identities to be my love objects because I was “safe” with them. This way, I would be prevented from acting out these sub-conscious desires, which I believe are linked entirely to my being abused by a man as a child. To this day, I have never been sexually attracted to a gay man, although of course gay men can be, in my opinion, among the world’s funnest friends. When I explained this once to a particularly funny gay friend of mine, who also happens to be Jewish, he laughed and said, “Ah, you’re a self-hating homo!” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
My fantasies about Stu were unrequited, and although I would later learn that Stu suspected them, it wasn’t something that he was interested in participating in. He was so wrapped up in his own inner world.
Not so unlike another beautiful bloke I knew….
When the second year of college started up in September 1959, Stu and I were already spending the kind of time together that I used to spend with Paul. It was all the time, and it was like an obsession for me. It was literally as if I had forgotten Paul’s existence beyond his presence in the band. During this time, Paul’s and my relationship changed into one of partners – creative partners. We would occasionally double date with our respective girlfriends, but only if Stu was not available. Sometimes I would call Paul to hang out when Stu was not available only to be told that he had other plans.
The band kept slowly progressing, however, and we were doing regular gigs at the Casbah Coffee Club, run by Mona Best, Pete Best’s mother, which was located in the basement of her home.
As 1959 drew to a close, I so enjoyed Stu’s company that I began insisting that he join the band, so that I could spend all my time with him – school, home, band. He was very reluctant, and turned me down 3 or 4 times over the course of the last few months of 1959. He seemed to think that having absolutely no musical talent or ability at all was a deterrent. Silly him. Then he won a prize for one of his paintings, and received 50 pounds as an award. I had a plan in my head, and I decided to put it in motion.
First, I had to get Paul on board. At a band practice, I pointed out that we had no bass player, and we needed one. None of us – not Paul, George nor I – would agree to play the bass. At the time (that is, pre-Macca) it was considered a non-glamor, know-nothing, and simpleton instrument. Paul agreed in principle with the band’s need for a bass player. I told him that Stu had just won a prize of 50 pounds, and had enough money to buy a bass guitar. Paul’s eyes lit up:
“Brilliant, John!” He was right on board. We didn’t bother to tell George. We never did. We just did what we wanted, and told him later. So his lyrics in “I Me Mine” were spot on about us. (Did he really think that Paul and I didn’t immediately know what he was on about with that song? I wasn’t there when George first sang it for the others. Paul was, and put his usual hard work into the session. Later that night, we saw each other for a drink, and the first thing out of Paul’s mouth was: “George has written a snotty song about us, but don’t tell him we figured it out – here it is, for your listening pleasure,” and he handed me my copy of the demo.)
So, strangely, it was with Paul as my ally that we converged on Stu, loading on the charm and bonhomie. Stuck between the two of us as we deluged him with our double-team charm offensive, the guy had no chance. Before he knew it, he was walking out of the music store with a brand new bass guitar. Stu kept saying, “but I’m not musical, I don’t know how to play,” and Paul would say, “You have to start somewhere. I’ll show you how! I taught John, now, didn’t I John?”
“Yes, Stu, he did. It was bloody easy to learn, it was!” And on and on we went.
That is how Stu Sutcliffe came to be in the band. I wanted to be around him and have him close to me. Paul wanted a bass player, so he wouldn’t have to break down and play it. (It was like that thing with dirty dishes. The one who minds them the most, ultimately ends up cleaning them, because he can’t stand it. The lack of the bass was Paul’s perfectionism working against him again.)
It might have worked out, if it weren’t for the fact that only one of us got what he wanted. It soon became clear that Stu was not taking the band seriously. He only showed up for one guitar lesson with Paul and me. He always had excuses for why he couldn’t come to more lessons. He was late or a no-show at most of the rehearsals, as well, and we were never sure if he was going to show up for a gig. If he did show up, he usually was late, strapping on the guitar and joining us on stage halfway through the first rotation. Paul began to grumble.
“It’s like Pete with the drums, except Pete at least can play the bloody drums when he shows up!” He announced to me after a particularly gruesome gig where Stu stood with his back to the audience through the whole show so they couldn’t see he wasn’t really playing the bass at all. (This was Paul’s idea; he was afraid the audience would notice that Stu wasn’t actually playing.) I decided to have a heart to heart with Stu, because – although I told Paul to shurrup – I did see his point. At a coffee house between breaks in class at college, I broached the subject with Stu.
“You know, the blokes are upset that you aren’t showing up for the practices, and you haven’t made any progress on the bass.”
Stu let out a huge, lazy plume of cigarette smoke, and then said, “You mean Paul is upset, don’t you? He’s always on my case at rehearsal, pointing out the chords, and making faces when I get it wrong.”
“Paul can be irritating that way, sure,” I agreed, “but it wouldn’t be so bad if you would at least try to learn the instrument.”
“I told you from the start I’m no musician. I’m not interested in music, I’m not good at it, and I think it was a mistake me agreeing to be in the band. You can borrow the bass guitar, because I certainly don’t need it…” He didn’t get any further. I cut him off, and wouldn’t hear of him leaving the band.
“Look, just make a gesture. At least come to the practices, learn 1 or 2 chords. You are an asset to the band, because you’re so bloody cool. You bring in the art crowd. I’ll handle Paul.” In the end, he doubtfully agreed to stick with it, and to try to meet Paul part way.
This worked for a little while. I persuaded Stu to face the crowd more often, and I did teach him 2 chords that he could hold on the frets, while he strummed, so it would look like he was playing. The arty crowd loved it. For a while, I would catch Paul watching him, and then he’d turn to me and smile. I thought I was home free.
Then Stu started showing up for all the gigs wearing sunglasses.
“Who the fuck does he think he is?” Paul asked me, incensed by the dark glasses. “Elvis fooking Presley?”
“He’s just shy, is all. It helps him deal with the stage fright.”
Paul started finding fault again when Stu showed no more progress. He had quickly sussed to the fact that Stu was only holding his fingers on one chord and then the other throughout every song, and that he wasn’t really learning anything, or practicing. He realized he’d been had, and that didn’t help matters one tiny bit.
“He makes us look unprofessional,” he complained to me. “You ought to show up on time, you don’t wear dark glasses on stage unless you’re blind, and you really ought to learn three or four honest to god chords! I’m not asking for much!”
“We’re just a little clubs band, Paul. We’re not the bloody Crickets. You take this all too seriously.” That was a mistake. I admit it. Knew it then, too, but too late to take it back.
Paul’s eyes bulged out of his head, and it was as if I’d hit a button and launched him to the moon. “You what?” he screeched. His voice went up one octave, I swear. Everyone in the pub turned to look at us. I was embarrassed.
“Ssshh, Paul, you’re making a scene,” I whispered, trying to calm him down.
“I’m making a scene! I’m making a scene!” He was really fit to be tied. “Well, maybe now you’ll know how it feels! What the hell do you mean that the band isn’t important, that we shouldn’t take it seriously! What does that mean, John?” The way he said my name sounded very sarcastic. I wasn’t used to this behavior, coming from Paul. Meanwhile, the whole pub was quiet and was watching us.
“Calm down, Paul, calm down. I didn’t mean it that way.”
“You didn’t mean it? You didn’t mean it?” He was sputtering now.
“Stop repeating everything I say twice,” I urged him in a desperate whisper. “Everyone is watching us.”
“Well, we can’t have that, can we? No, we certainly can’t!” To my horror he stood up and addressed the entire pub. “My friend John here thinks that I’m making a spectacle of myself, and this is embarrassing to him!” They all looked curiously at me as Paul pointed at me. “He isn’t used to it because it’s always HIM making the scene, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, I know what you mean,” some guy shouted from the back of the room. “I’ve seen him do it before.” People started laughing.
“Apparently, the only person in the world who isn’t supposed to be embarrassed by anyone is my friend John here!” By now the pub was on Paul’s side, and they were cheering for him.
“You tell ‘im gorgeous!” A woman shouted out. “And then come over ‘ere and give us a kiss!” Laughter all around. I felt like I was stuck in some Fellini movie and I couldn’t get out.
Paul was still angry, and he rooted through his pockets impatiently, dumping a bunch of coins on the table. “Here’s for the fooking drinks, John!” and he slammed out of there. How like him to think of paying the bill before storming out in a rage, I thought. Everyone in the pub was quiet for a moment, and they all were looking at me until the woman said very loudly,
“I ‘ope he’s coming back later; ‘e’s a right peach, ‘e is.” Everyone laughed and applauded, and mercifully, they turned their collective attention elsewhere. I slid out the door as unobtrusively as I could.
I thought about searching him out, and trying to calm him down, but paled at the thought of him erupting again like that in public – or, worse – in front of his father. That would really be humiliating. So, I figured I’d let it ride until the next day and see how things were at practice. We had a gig the next night, so I knew we’d be meeting after school to run through our repertoire beforehand. It never occurred to me for a moment that he wouldn’t show up.
Paul put the book down for a moment and willed himself to breath deeply. For a moment there he’d been sucked back into the vortex of angst, jealousy and frustration he’d been stuck in the whole time Stu was in the band. John’s and my band, he emphasized. John being diverted by Stu as a friend and classmate was one thing; it had been difficult to be cut off so suddenly, as if he were yesterday’s leftover mashed potatoes, to be sloughed off into the trash bin once they’d gone cold. Paul could just about manage dealing with that. After all, he had plenty of distractions, between school, chores at home, family obligations, girlfriends, band practice, gigs, and of course his songwriting attempts. He also had other friends, not just his cousins, but friends from the Inny.
He had been a popular guy there, although his teachers had stopped liking him by then - too much slagging off school and falling asleep in class had caused them to be frustrated with him. He had been told he would have to revise another year because of all of this - Paul’s heart had been with the siren call of music and the band, and he had spent less and less time on his schoolwork. He’d been a kind of whiz at schoolwork, and had always done enough work to get good marks. But by 1959 he wasn’t getting the good marks anymore, because he had been so invested in the band. And how did John thank him for this? By bringing his no-talent artsy fartsy friend into the band, and spoiling the vibe that the three of them - John, George and he - had shared.
But Paul, looking back at his younger 16 and 17 year-old self, knew that the distractions he allowed himself to be swept up in were just that: distractions. They served to distract him from the coldness of being excluded from John’s universe. Paul had loved being close to John as a friend and partner. He had reveled in their us-against-them relationship, and had felt fully alive for the first time since his mother’s death while in John’s company. Now, just as suddenly as he had lost his mother, Paul had lost John. He had no idea what he’d done to cause John to so completely drop him. It wasn’t as if John was mad at him; it was just that John now treated Paul the way he’d treated other boys when Paul was the center of John’s universe. In other words - he’d been made redundant. Whatever it was in him that had attracted John in the first place no longer appealed to John. John had used it up, gotten accustomed to it, become bored by it, and then rejected it, having found someone new who was more interesting and exciting. In truth, the young Paul had been mourning the fact that he was no longer the interesting and exciting person in John’s life.
Shaking his head, Paul forced himself back into the present. He realized his eyes were wet, and he brought his hands up to his eyes to wipe them dry. He supposed what hurt him about this passage in John’s book was that John skipped through it as if it was no big deal. John just never appreciated how deeply Paul had been hurt by this period in their relationship. But then, to be fair, Paul reminded himself that he often camouflaged his feelings from people when he was hurt or angry. Could it be that he did such a great job of it that no one noticed how gutted he was about it? And it was also true, that when John interviewed him about the fight in the pub over Stu, Paul had been light-hearted and glib in his responses. He just couldn’t expose his deepest pain to the whole fucking world, so he had held back the truth.