Paul McCartney says John Lennon was responsible for the Beatles’ break-up: "I am not the one who instigated the split"

Paul McCartney and John Lennon
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Since the Beatles split up in 1970 – following the public revelation that Paul McCartney was leaving the band – the Fab Four’s frontman and bass guitar player has mostly assumed responsibility for the break-up.

However, thanks to a preview from a soon-to-be-aired interview from BBC Radio 4’s This Cultural Life, McCartney has now addressed the band’s infamous separation, and set the record straight, revealing it was actually John Lennon who initially instigated the split.

When quizzed about his assumed decision to go solo by interviewer John Wilson, McCartney posited (via The Guardian), “Stop right there. I am not the person who instigated the split.

“Oh no, no, no,” he continued. “John walked into a room one day and said, ‘I am leaving the Beatles.’ Is that instigating the split, or not?”

If not for Lennon’s desire to “break loose from society” and start “a new life with Yoko”, according to McCartney, the band would have prolonged their tenure, with the bassist further distancing himself from the split by saying, “This was my band, this was my job, this was my life, so I wanted to continue.”

“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,” mused the Hofner-wielding bass icon, who described the era as “the most difficult period of my life”.

McCartney then went on to share the difficulties he faced from shouldering the aforementioned burden of “breaking up the Beatles” – a myth that was born out of an interview question in 1970 that saw Macca question whether the Beatles still existed.

“I had to live with that because that is what people saw,” McCartney continued when addressing the issue. “All I could do is say, ‘No.’”

Such confusion concerning who caused the break-up arose after the band’s new manager, Allen Klein, instructed the quartet to keep tight-lipped over the split while he concluded some business deals.

“It was weird because we all knew it was the end of the Beatles but we couldn’t just walk away,” reflected McCartney, who said he “let the cat out of the bag” because he 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.”

The messy period of which McCartney speaks culminated in him suing his fellow Beatles, who were siding with Klein and his “dodgy influence”. 

“I had to fight and the only way I could fight was in suing the other Beatles, because they were going with Klein,” he continued. “And they thanked me for it years later. But I didn’t instigate the split. That was our Johnny coming in one day and saying, ‘I’m leaving the group.’”

Paul McCartney's This Cultural Life interview is set to go live on October 23 via the BBC.

The interview comes ahead of the Peter Jackson’s The Beatles: Get Back documentary – set to explore the band’s last few months together – which will no doubt put the Fab Four’s break-up under the microscope even further.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.