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Lennon wrote this at the height of his feud with Paul McCartney after The Beatles broke up. Each line of the song is an attack on some aspect of McCartney's life or music at the time. For instance, the line "Everything you done was yesterday. Since you gone you're just another day" refers to Paul's song "Yesterday
" with the Beatles and his first solo single "Another Day." John felt that Paul's greatest work was behind him.
When the Imagine album was originally released, it contained a postcard of John holding the ears of a large pig. This was making fun of Paul's 1971 album cover for Ram, released before Imagine, where Paul is pictured holding the horns of a ram. On the back of the Ram album, Paul included a picture of two beetles 'screwing,' or saying to John 'screw' you from one Beatle to another.
The feud between Lennon and McCartney originated after The Beatles manager Brian Epstein passed away. Paul wanted his new father-in-law to manage the group while the other Beatles wanted the notorious Allen Klein. Lennon and McCartney maintained a frosty relationship after the band broke up. By most accounts, McCartney contacted Lennon periodically, but was often rebuffed. The last time they saw each other was two years before Lennon's death when they shared dinner in New York. In a 2008 interview with The Times of London, McCartney said: "The answer to John was well - I was sleeping very well at the time. Before John died I got back a good relationship with him. That was very special. The arguments we had didn't matter. We were able to just take the piss about all those songs; they weren't that harsh. In fact, I have been thanked by Yoko and everyone else for saving the Beatles from Allen Klein. Everything comes round in the end."
This appears in John and Yoko's film Imagine. (thanks, Mike - Little Falls, NJ, for above 4)
Some of Lennon's lyrics refer to McCartney's "Too Many People" from his album Ram (Hence the pig postcard). The lyrics from "Too Many People" that referred to Lennon: "Too many people preaching practices" and "You took your lucky break and broke it in two." (thanks, John - Watertown, WI)
Nicky Hopkins, an Apple records protégé who Paul McCartney produced on his song "Those Are The Days My Friend," played piano on this.
George Harrison played lead guitar on this track, and Klaus Voorrman played the bass. Voorman, an old friend from The Beatles Hamburg days, did the cover collage for The Beatles album Revolver. The fact that others who were close to McCartney also played on this track made it even more painful for the former Beatle. (thanks, chet - saratoga springs, NY, for above 2)
Lennon discussed this song in an interview with BBC Radio 1 DJ Andy Peebles on December 6, 1980, four days before his death. He recalled: "I used my resentment against Paul, that I have as a kind of sibling rivalry resentment from youth, to write a song. It was a creative rivalry… It was not a vicious vendetta… but I felt resentment, so I used that situation the same as I used withdrawing from heroin to write Cold Turkey
; I used my resentment and withdrawing from Paul and the Beatles to write How Do You Sleep?" (Source Q
magazine November 2010)
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