By Pete Hamill / June 5, 1975
What's your life like right now?
Well . . . Life: It's '75 now, isn't it? Well, I've just settled the Beatles settlement. It must've happened it the last month, took three years. [pause] And on this day that you've come here, I seem to have moved back in here. In the last three days. By the time this goes out, I don't know . . . That's a big change. Maybe that's why I'm sleeping funny. As a friend says, I went out for coffee and some papers and I didn't come back [chuckles]. Or vice versa: It's always written that way, y'know. All of us. You know, the guy walked. It's never that simple.
What did happen with you and Yoko? Who broke it up and how did you end up back together again?
Well, it's not a matter of who broke it up. It broke up. And why did we end up back together? [pompous voice] We ended up together again because it was diplomatically viable . . . come on. We got back together because we love each other.
I loved your line: "The separation didn't work out."
That's it. It didn't work out. And the reaction to the breakup was all that madness. I was like a chicken without a head.
What was the final Beatles settlement?
In a nutshell, what was arranged was that everybody gets their own individual monies. Even up till this year - till the settlement was signed - all the monies were going into one pot. All individual records, mine, Ringo's, Paul's - all into one big pot. It had to go through this big machinery and then come out to us, eventually. So now, even the old Beatle royalties, everything goes into four separate accounts instead of one big pot all the time. That's that. The rest of it was ground rules. Everybody said the Beatles've signed this paper, that means they're no longer tied in any way.
That's bullshit. We still own this thing called Apple. Which, you can explain, is a bank. A bank the money goes into. But there's still the entity itself known as the Beatles. The product, the name, the likeness, the Apple thing itself, which still exists, and we still have to communicate on it and make decisions on it and decide who's to run Apple and who's to do what. It's not as cut and dried as the papers said.
Do the old Beatles records still go in a pot?
No one of us can say to EMI, "Here's a new package of Beatle material." We still have to okay everything together, you know, 'cause that's the way we want it anyway.
There's still a good feeling among the guys?
Yeah, yeah. I talked to Ringo and George yesterday. I didn't talk to Paul 'cause he was asleep. George and Paul are talkin' to each other in L.A. now. There's nothin' going down between us. It's all in people's heads.
You went to one of George's concerts; what are your thoughts on his tour?
It wasn't the greatest thing in history. The guy went through some kind of mill. It was probably his turn to get smacked. When we were all together there was periods when the Beatles were in, the Beatles were out, no matter what we were doing. Now it's always the Beatles were great or the Beatles weren't great, whatever opinion people hold. There's a sort of illusion about it. But the actual fact was the Beatles were in for eight months, the Beatles were out for eight months. The public, including the media, are sometimes a bit sheeplike and if the ball starts rolling, well, it's just that somebody's in, somebody's out. George is out for the moment. And I think it didn't matter what he did on tour.
George told Rolling Stone that if you wanted the Beatles, go listen to Wings. It seemed a bit of a putdown.
I didn't see what George said, so I really don't have any comment. [pause] Band on the Run is a great album. Wings is almost as conceptual a group as Plastic Ono Band. Plastic Ono was a conceptual group, meaning whoever was playing was the band. And Wings keeps changing all the time. It's conceptual. I mean, they're backup men for Paul. It doesn't matter who's playing. You can call them Wings, but it's Paul McCartney music. And it's good stuff. It's good Paul music and I don't really see the connection.
What do you think of Richard Perry's work with Ringo?
I think it's great. Perry's great, Ringo's great, I think the combination was great and look how well they did together. There's no complaints if you're Number One.
George said at his press conference that he could play with you again but not with Paul. How do you feel?
I could play with all of them. George is entitled to say that, and he'll probably change his mind by Friday. You know, we're all human. We can all change our minds. So I don't take any of my statements or any of their statements as the last word on whether we will. And if we do, the newspapers will learn about it after the fact. If we're gonna play, we're just gonna play.
In retrospect, what do you think of the whole "Lennon Remembers" episode?
Well, the other guys, their reaction was public. Ringo made some sort of comment that was funny, which I can't remember, something like, "You've gone too far this time, Johnny." Paul said [stuffy voice], "Well, that's his problem." I can't remember what George said. I mean, they don't care, they've been with me for fifteen or twenty years, they know damn well what I'm like. It just so happens it was in the press. I mean, they know what I'm like. I'm not ashamed of it at all. I don't really like hurting people, but Jann Wenner questioned me when I was almost still in therapy and you can't play games. You're opened up. It was like he got me on an acid trip. Things come out. I got both reactions from that article. A lot of people thought it was right on. My only upset was Jann insisted on making a book out of it.