Shortly after The Beatles split up in 1970, the members of the band were not on great terms. Despite the fact Paul McCartney and John Lennon had been friends since they were just children, they were the ones that bickered the most. Things got even worse when Lennon called out McCartney’s solo album, McCartney, in a Rolling Stone magazine, calling it “rubbish”. After replying with a song of his own, McCartney decided enough was enough.
By 1971 McCartney had started another band with his wife, Linda McCartney, called Paul McCartney and Wings. On the band’s debut record, Wild Life, McCartney included a touching and sombre song titled Dear Friend. The song’s title alone evokes an olive branch being extended, but the lyrics are a blatant ask for a ceasefire. In the track, McCartney croons: “Dear friend, what’s the time? / Is this really the borderline? / Does it really mean so much to you? / Are you afraid, or is it true?”
Decades later McCartney looked back on the song and recalled feeling extremely “emotional” about it.
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McCartney first explained how he “worked on his attitude” and wrote the track. He said: “Saying, in effect, let’s lay the guns down, let’s hang up our boxing gloves.”
He then revealed in his new book, The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present: “I find it very emotional when I listen to it now. I have to sort of choke it back. I just felt sad about the breakdown in our friendship, and this song kind of came flowing out. ‘Dear friend, what’s the time? / Is this really the borderline?’ Are we splitting up? Is this ‘you go your way; I’ll go mine?”
McCartney also looked back with regret on how the pair treated one another.
McCartney explained: “Often I would think of John, and what a pity it was that we’d argued so publicly and so viciously at times.” He also noted how the song posed a question to Lennon. It asked him what he was really annoyed at in their decades-long relationship.
He continued: “Why is this argument going on? Is it because you’re afraid of something? Are you afraid of the split-up? Are you afraid of my doing something without you? Are you afraid of the consequences of your actions? And the little rhyme, ‘Or is it true?’ Are all these hurtful allegations true? This song came out in that kind of mood. It could have been called ‘What the F**k, Man?’ but I’m not sure we could have gotten away with that then.”
McCartney also gave an insight into the band’s strained relationships after they split.
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McCartney recalled: “At first, after the breakup of the Beatles, we had no contact, but there were various things we needed to talk about. Our relationship was a bit fraught sometimes because we were discussing business, and we would sometimes insult each other on the phone.”
Not every argument lasts forever, though. And McCartney added that they “gradually” got past their troubles. He revealed: “If I was in New York I would ring up and say: ‘Do you fancy a cup of tea?'”
Things changed even further the following year.
Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, had their son Sean Lennon on October 9, 1975. McCartney said this life event provoked a “shift” in Lennon’s persona.
He intoned: “We had even more in common, and we’d often talk about being parents.”