Paul McCartney reveals how John Lennon instigated the Beatles break-up

Sir Paul McCartney has set the record straight on the reasons behind The Beatles splitting up in 1970

The Beatles pictured in 1964 (Photo by J. Wilds/Keystone/Getty Images)

For five decades, fans of the Beatles had assumed that it was Sir Paul McCartney who was responsible for the break-up of the world’s most iconic band.

This belief stemmed from a press release to announce his 1970 solo album McCartney, in which Sir Paul interviewed himself about the reasons for the band going their separate ways.

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In answer to his own question about the split, he wrote at the time: “Personal differences, business differences, musical differences, but most of all because I have a better time with my family. Temporary or permanent? I don’t really know.”

He followed this up by asking himself if he could foresee a future for the Lennon-McCartney songwriting partnership, to which he answered, “No.”

What has Paul McCartney said now?

However, in a new interview with the BBC, Sir Paul has claimed that it was John Lennon who was the catalyst.

"I didn’t instigate the split. That was our Johnny," he said. "I am not the person who instigated the split.

"Oh no, no, no. John walked into a room one day and said I am leaving the Beatles. And he said, ‘It’s quite thrilling, it’s rather like a divorce.’ And then we were left to pick up the pieces."

Allen Klein with John Lennon and Yoko Ono in 1969 (Photo by C. Maher/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

When asked if the Beatles could have continued if Lennon hadn’t quit, Sir Paul replied, “It could have.”

He continued: "The point of it really was that John was making a new life with Yoko and he wanted... to lie in bed for a week in Amsterdam for peace. You couldn’t argue with that. It was the most difficult period of my life."

"This was my band, this was my job, this was my life. I wanted it to continue. I thought we were doing some pretty good stuff - Abbey Road, Let It Be, not bad - and I thought we could continue."

The end of the Beatles was a bitter, drawn-out affair, and Sir Paul has revealed that this was due to their unscrupulous new manager Allen Klein - who he refused to work with - taking time to tie up the loose ends.

"So for a few months we had to pretend," Sir Paul said. "It was weird because we all knew it was the end of the Beatles but we couldn’t just walk away."

A messy end to the Beatles story

By 1970 Sir Paul was so desperate to be free from the Beatles that he ended up taking the rest of the band to the high court, to seek the dissolution of their contractual relationship in order to keep their music out of Klein’s hands.

"I had to fight and the only way I could fight was in suing the other Beatles, because they were going with Klein," he said.

"And they thanked me for it years later. But I didn’t instigate the split."

The Beatles, who comprised McCartney and Lennon alongside George Harrison and Ringo Starr in their classic line-up, are the best-selling music act of all time, with estimated sales of 600 million units worldwide.

After forming in Liverpool in the late 1950s, they shot to popularity in 1963 with their debut album Please Please Me, which instigated ‘Beatlemania’ across the world.

They would go on to radically evolve their sound throughout the Sixties, releasing classic and influential records like Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Abbey Road.

The Beatles performing their last live public concert on the rooftop of the Apple Organization in London in 1969 (Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

But relations between the band members deteriorated when they were at the height of their fame, and the business interests interfered with their artistic direction.

Their early manager Brian Epstein died in 1967 and was never replaced, and so the lack of managerial leadership has been cited as the main factor behind the break-up.

Sir Paul’s interview will be broadcast on the new BBC Radio 4 series This Cultural Life on 23 October.