“I didn’t instigate the split. That was our Johnny,” McCartney, 79, is quoted as saying in an upcoming episode of the new BBC Radio 4 interview series This Cultural Life, the Observer reports.
Declaring that the period was the “most difficult period of my life,” McCartney felt the group was still producing “pretty good stuff" — "Abbey Road, Let It Be, not bad" — at the time of the split. Though he reportedly acknowledges tensions within the group, his thinking was "this was my band, this was my job, this was my life, so I wanted it to continue.”
But Lennon, who was murdered in 1980 at age 40 by Mark David Chapman, was no longer interested in staying with the band, according to the report.
“The point of it really was that John was making a new life with Yoko [Ono, his wife]. John had always wanted to sort of break loose from society because, you know, he was brought up by his Aunt Mimi, who was quite repressive, so he was always looking to break loose," McCartney reportedly says in the series, adding that Lennon found the idea of leaving the band to be "quite thrilling."
McCartney himself ended up on the receiving end of much of the blame for the band's demise, and he and fellow members Ringo Starr and George Harrison were “left to pick up the pieces.” The idea that he was responsible for the breakup is something he still refutes.
“Stop right there. I am not the person who instigated the split," McCartney reportedly says in the series. "Oh no, no, no. John walked into a room one day and said 'I am leaving the Beatles.' Is that instigating the split, or not?”
After the breakup, McCartney was constantly asked if it was his decision that ended the group.
“I had to live with that because that was what people saw," he shared. "All I could do is say, no.”
Under new management, the bandmates had to "pretend" for a few months that they were still a cohesive unit. “It was weird because we all knew it was the end of the Beatles but we couldn’t just walk away," he says in the upcoming episode. Soon, he was so frustrated that he “let the cat out of the bag” because “I was fed up of hiding it.”
“Around about that time we were having little meetings and it was horrible. It was the opposite of what we were. We were musicians not meeting people,” McCartney said, adding that Lennon “wanted to go in a bag and lie in bed for a week in Amsterdam for peace. And you couldn’t argue with that.” Still, McCartney doesn't hold Ono responsible, because “they were a great couple. There was huge strength there.”
News of his remarks comes a day after McCartney shared an intimate photo of himself and Lennon in honor of what would have been Lennon's 81st birthday.