Author: Ben Nussbaum
A short video interview passed into Beatles and pop culture lore: When asked about John Lennon’s death, Paul McCartney, chewing some gum, pronounced it a “drag.”
Paul would tell a later interviewer that all three of the Beatles reacted the same way–they went to work, creating music, on the day they heard the news. “I had just finished a whole day in shock,” he told Playboy Magazine in 1984.
The two men created a business partnership worth billions and an artistic legend that has continued to grow. They met in 1957 when Paul saw John performing with his skiffle group, the Quarrymen. John was 16 and Paul 15. They chatted about music and a few weeks later Paul was invited to join the band. (Both lost their mothers around the time they met–Paul’s mom died in 1956, John’s in 1958.)
Six years after they met, Beatlemania hit the U.K. and then the rest of the world; just six years after that, the band was breaking up, with John and Paul’s friendship having turned into a rivalry and then finally dissolving into a bitter feud.
Still, in the period slightly more than a decade between the Beatles’ break-up and Lennon’s death, the two men did occasionally allow the clouds of acrimony to part. It’s unclear how often they saw each other, but they did communicate. They jammed in 1974, with the resulting music recorded on a bootleg known to fans as “A Toot and a Snore.” Paul told Playboy that their last phone call was pleasant with the two men sharing updates about their family life.
Paul has had to defend his “drag” remarks often. In 1985, Paul admitted, “I’m not very good at public grief.” In 1997, he said, “Somebody stuck a microphone…I couldn’t think of what to say. It was that evening I just went home and wept.”