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Paul McCartney blames John Lennon for Beatles split: ‘We all knew it was the end’

Four men posing in colorful outfits
Paul McCartney, left, Ringo Starr, John Lennon and George Harrison of the Beatles.
(Apple Corps. Ltd. / ABC)

Beatles legend Paul McCartney is opening up about the end of the long and winding road for the rock band.

In a forthcoming episode of BBC Radio 4’s “This Cultural Life,” the veteran singer-songwriter reflected on the group’s Earth-shattering breakup, which has largely been pinned on McCartney in the past.

But according to a preview of the episode released Sunday by the Guardian, McCartney remembers what he called “the most difficult period of my life” a little differently.

“I didn’t instigate the split,” the British musician told BBC.

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“That was [John Lennon] coming in one day and saying, ‘I’m leaving the group.’”

Paul McCartney says he dreaded giving interviews after the Beatles broke up 20 years ago.

After 10 years, 14 studio albums, countless sold-out shows and dozens of now-classic hits, McCartney, Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr went their separate ways in April 1970, following McCartney’s public departure from the group.

“I had to live with that because that was what people saw,” McCartney, now 79, recalled. “All I could do is say no.”

But when prompted recently about his decision to leave the Beatles, McCartney ordered BBC Radio 4’s John Wilson to “stop right there” before setting the record straight.

“John walked into a room one day and said, ‘I am leaving the Beatles,’” McCartney said. “Is that instigating the split, or not?”

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After Lennon’s internal declaration, McCartney claims, the remaining members of the group were “left to pick up the pieces” and advised by their new manager, Allen Klein, to keep their impending disbandment a secret while he tied up some loose ends.

"[F]or a few months we had to pretend,” McCartney told Wilson, according to the Guardian. “It was weird because we all knew it was the end of the Beatles but we couldn’t just walk away.”

Ultimately, McCartney was the first to “let the cat out of the bag” by going solo — “because I was fed up of hiding it” — and therefore incurred the majority of the blame.

McCartney speculated that Lennon — who had “always wanted to sort of break loose from society” — was ready to move past his rock star days and settle down with his wife, Japanese artist Yoko Ono.

At the tender age of 8, I knew the Beatles were extraordinary.

“About that time we were having little meetings and it was horrible,” McCartney continued.

“It was the opposite of what we were. We were musicians, not meeting people.”

While McCartney maintains Lennon and Ono “were a great couple” and doesn’t blame the latter for the fallout, he believes the band “could have” continued making music together for a while longer had his late songwriting partner decided to stay.

“This was my band, this was my job, this was my life, so I wanted it to continue,” he said.

McCartney’s full appearance on “This Cultural Life” premieres Oct. 23 on BBC Radio 4.


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