Paul McCartney Addresses Most Scandalous John Lennon Rumors Including Acid Use, Orgies and His Jesus Complex
By Antoinette Bueno
Collier Schorr exclusively for GQ
Paul McCartney is setting the facts straight when it comes to the biggest rumors about The Beatles.
The 76-year-old musician opens up in an extremely candid interview with GQ to promote his new album, Egypt Station, and talks about the legendary stories told about the band, particularly, about the late John Lennon. McCartney recalls Lennon being much more daring than him, and game to try nearly anything. For example, McCartney says he was much more cautious about drug use.
"Yeah. I heard it changes you and you'll never be the same again," he says of taking acid in particular. "I thought: 'Well, that could be a double-edged sword.' You know, we could be ending up in a loony bin, and 'Sorry, Paul -- I didn't mean to give you so much' or 'It was the wrong batch' or something. I'm very practical, and my father was very sensible and raised me to be a sensible cat."
"But it wasn't as bad as I'd imagined, it wasn't a sort of horrific thing," he continues. "But you certainly weren't the same again. You certainly had insights into what life might be. This is the good thing about John and I -- I'd say no. And he knew me well enough that if I said no, I meant no, and I'm not frightened of being uncool to say no."
Aside from acid, McCartney addresses the more scandalous rumors surrounding the band, including Lennon once saying Beatles tours were like orgies. McCartney says he's not a fan of orgies, but does acknowledge he once had a threesome.
"There weren't really orgies, to my knowledge," McCartney recalls. "There were sexual encounters of the celestial kind, and there were groupies. The nearest it got… .... There was once when we were in Vegas where the tour guy, a fixer, said, 'You're going to Vegas, guys -- you want a hooker?' We were all, 'Yeah!' And I requested two. And I had them, and it was a wonderful experience. But that's the closest I ever came to an orgy."
"See, the thing is, in the next room I think the guys might have ordered something else off the menu," he adds. "I think John was a little more that way, because thinking back, I remember there was someone in a club that he'd met, and they'd gone back to the house because the wife fancied John, wanted to have sex with him, so that happened, and John discovered the husband was watching. That was called 'kinky' in those days."
McCartney also admits to group masturbation with Lennon and three of his friends.
"What it was, was over at John's house, and it was just a group of us. And instead of just getting roaring drunk and partying -- I don't even know if we were staying over or anything -- we were all just in these chairs, and the lights were out, and somebody started masturbating, so we all did," he explains.
He then gives insight into Lennon's sense of humor. McCartney says that members in the group were encouraged to shout out a name that would offer inspiration, and unsurprisingly, Lennon ended up shocking them all.
"We were just, 'Brigitte Bardot!' 'Whoo!' and then everyone would thrash a bit more," he says. "I think it was John sort of said, 'Winston Churchill!'"
"I think it was a one-off," McCartney adds of their antics. "Or maybe it was like a two-off. It wasn't a big thing. But, you know, it was just the kind of thing you didn't think much of. It was just a group. Yeah, it's quite raunchy when you think about it. There's so many things like that from when you're a kid that you look back on and you're, 'Did we do that?' But it was good harmless fun. It didn't hurt anyone. Not even Brigitte Bardot."'
As for another late Beatles member, McCartney cautiously calls the rumor of the band cheering on the late George Harrison after he lost his virginity at 17 true -- but later clarifies.
"The thing is, these stories, particularly Beatles stories, they get to be legendary, and I do have to check: Wait a minute. I know we had one bed and two sets of bunks, and if one of the guys brought a girl back, they could just be in the bed with a blanket over them, and you wouldn't really notice much except a little bit of movement," he says. "I don't know whether that was George losing his virginity -- it might have been. I mean, I think in the end this was one of the strengths of the Beatles, this enforced closeness which I always liken to army buddies. Because you're all in the same barracks. We were always very close and on top of each other, which meant you could totally read each other."
McCartney goes on to comment on Lennon's more outrageous behavior, but says the iconic musician didn't actually say he was Jesus Christ.
"I don't remember that. I think I would have remembered that," he shares. "He was the kind of guy that could do that. I don't remember him actually ever doing it. I mean, on the Sgt. Pepper cover he wanted Jesus Christ and Hitler on there. That was, 'OK, that's John.' You'd have to talk him down a bit -- 'No, probably not Hitler…' I could say to him, 'No, we're not doing that.' He was a good enough guy to know when he was being told."
On a similar note, McCartney says Lennon didn't actually try trepanning -- drilling through the skull to the brain.
"John was a kooky cat. We'd all read about it -- you know, this is the '60s," he explains. "The 'ancient art of trepanning,' which lent a little bit of validity to it, because ancient must be good. I don't think he was really serious. He did say it, but he said all sorts of sh**."
McCartney muses that Lennon not having a father figure was a big cause for his outlook at life.
"John always wanted to jump over the cliff," he shares. "He once said that to me. 'Have you ever thought of jumping?' I said, 'F**k off. You jump, and tell me how it is.' That's basically the difference in our personalities. ... I'm more careful in everything. My dad is a very strong factor in this. He was an ordinary working-class guy, very intelligent, very good with words, but his whole philosophy was to think it out a bit. So that, that turned out to be my sort of way. Whereas John, you've got to remember, didn't have a father. John didn't even have an uncle. He went to live with the uncle -- the uncle died. His dad had run away. So John felt like he was a jinx on the male line, he told me. I had a father. He was always spouting to be tolerant. Moderation. These were words he used a lot, and I think I listened."
Later, McCartney talks about The Beatles breaking up, and the drama surrounding the split.
"One of the sadnesses for me when the Beatles broke up, the only way to save the business side of it was me suing the Beatles, so that was like a total heartache," he acknowledges. "And the residue was that I was to blame. I was 'the one who broke the Beatles up.' And so I spent quite a bit of time -- you know, still doing it -- to sort of say: 'No, I didn't. John wanted Yoko, so he said we're leaving the Beatles.…' But because of that suing incident, the word got out that I was the baddie. And the worst thing was: I kind of bought into it. My psyche sort of said, 'No, no, no, no, no, no… Yes!... No, you weren't.…You were!' I really wasn't, but if everyone thinks you were, then maybe you were."
However, McCartney says he was able to patch things up with Lennon before he was tragically killed in 1980 -- though he does seemingly have one regret.
"I was very lucky because before he died we had a good relationship, so I think it would have just got better and better as we matured," he muses. "I probably would have been able to tell him what a fan of his I was now. These days, I can tell everyone else, and I think I would have been able to tell him now. Whereas I implied it when we were together, I never said, 'Oh, you're f**king great, man, I'm such a fan of yours.' We just hinted at it with each other. We were Liverpool guys, and you don't do that -- you don't compliment each other. It's just how you're brought up."
"I think that I've certainly loosened up a hell of a lot, and I think John would have loosened up a hell of a lot," he continues. "If Ringo's anything to go by, we're great: 'I love you, man,' 'I love you, man,' and we hug and everything. And we're very complimentary to each other. We were at dinner the other night in London with some friends, and instead of saying something sort of clever, it just suddenly struck me, I said, 'Me and this guy go back a long way, you know.' What I meant wasn't that factually we go back a long way, it's like, I was suddenly astounded to be sitting across from this guy who I had come all this way with and done all this stuff."