Linda mentioned Lew Grade's claim that she couldn't write.
That was an old one. Around that time we had millions of suits flying here, flying there, George wrote the "Sue Me, Sue You Blues" about it. I'd kicked it all off originally, having to sue the other three Beatles in the High Court, and that opened Pandora's box. After that everybody just seemed to be suing everybody.
Meanwhile Lew Grade suddenly saw his songwriting concessions, which he'd just paid an awful lot of money for, virtually to get hold of John and I, he suddenly saw that I was now claiming that I was writing half my stuff with Linda, and that if I was writing half of it she was entitled to a pure half of it, no matter whether she was a recognized songwriter or not. I didn't think that was important, I thought that whoever I worked with, no matter what the method of collaboration was, that person, if they did help me on the song, should have a portion of the song for helping me. I think at the time their big organization suddenly thought, "Hello, they're pulling a fast one, they're trying to get some of the money back," whereas in fact, it was the truth. So they slapped vast amounts on us, I can't remember what.
I wrote Sir Lew Grade a long letter saying, "Don't you think I ought to be able to do this and do that and don't you think I've done enough and don't you think I'm OK, and – Hey, man, why have you gotta sue me?" He wrote me back a very rational letter. I can't remember exactly what it said, but it was a very nice letter. He's actually OK, Lew, he's all right.
You did a TV show for him.
After it, yeah, that's right. All the suits were dropped by then. Bit me tongue ...
When was the last time you saw George?
George? It's been a little while.
Had George invited you to the Bangla Desh benefit?
George invited me, and I must say it was more than just visa problems. At the time there was the whole Apple thing. When the Beatles broke up, at first I thought, "Right, broken up, no more messing with any of that." George came up and asked if I wanted to play Bangla Desh and I thought, blimey, what's the point? We're just broken up and we're joining up again? It just seemed a bit crazy.
There were a lot of things that went down then, most of which I've forgotten now. I really felt annoyed – "I'm not going to do that if he won't bloody let me out of my contract." Something like that. For years there had been problems as to why the other three felt they couldn't just rip up our partnership agreement. I thought it was crazy if we had split up as a band to have this piece of paper still going on. We were all tied into it and I wanted to break it up and they said, "Tax, you can't." Klein was saying, "You can't do it, lads, you've got to stay together," and I think I know why he was saying it. He was telling the others it was tax and it was impossible and stuff.
There was an awful lot of that, and a lot of what I did around about then was just out of bitterness at all that. I thought, "This is crazy, no one likes me enough to just let me go, give me my little bit of the proceeds and let me split off." It was a little tit-for-tat, if you're not going to do this for me, I'm not going to do that for you. I tend to see the others now just for business. It's a bit daft, actually. That's why I'm so hot to get these business things over with.
You were hoping to do it today, I gather.
Yeah, there was a little thing ... you see, each time one of us will get hot for a meeting. Say me, I just got me visa and I got all hot for a meeting. I rang John up, and John was keen to do it. He was going to fly in today from L.A. to New York. Great! I was going to be here; John was going to be here. Then I rang Ringo, and Ringo couldn't figure out what we were going to actually say, outside of "Hi, there." And he didn't want to come all the way to New York from England, he was just getting settled for Christmas. So he was a bit down on it, that kind of blew it out. Then I called John and he said he was talking to George and George was having some kind of visa problems. So it's a bit difficult to get the four of us together. But it will happen soon.
Lee said that the show you'll do for Phoenix House as part of the arrangement for your visa will be part of a tour.
The only thing now, obviously, is that it's dependent on getting a band together. If we can get something together in the early months of 1974, then we're hoping to come to the States, do a nice tour here. The Phoenix House people helped to get me in. It's a good cause. We just went down to see one of their branches in East Harlem, just now. It's fantastic. I wasn't thinking it would be much, I thought it would be a bit depressing. But it's a beautiful place. There's a lot of love in that place. And it's not the kind of a state thing. There's discipline, too, but the discipline comes out of love. That way no one minds the discipline. If you just start off with discipline and nothing else, a lot of the kids find it hard to do it. But they're all very self-supporting now. It's a great place, I must say. Anyone who's in trouble with drugs, pills, junk or whatever, should take a look in the Phoenix House.
What was the reaction of the kids when you went in there?
Great. We just shook hands. Their choir sang some songs and we went on a little tour of the house. There was a guy telling us about encounter meetings, how he was putting the bathroom in, doing all the plumbing himself – they're all very proud, because they're all people who almost messed up. They just made it, and most of them look like they can really go on to great strength because of it.
Would you like this to be a big proper tour or small, like your university tour?
A big proper tour. I think if you're coming to the States, you can't do it funky. I don't think I could, anyway. I think now I'll be ready to do a big concert tour, although I find it hard to imagine at the moment.
Now that you're in New York, I suppose the rumors will start again. There'll be a Beatles reunion of some sort?
Well, I must say, like as far as getting together as we were, as the Beatles were, I don't think that'll ever happen again. I think now everyone's kind of interested in their little personal things. I kind of like the way we did Band on the Run, the way we did it. Something we've never done before, and it's very interesting. But I do think that I for one am very proud – although I don't like the word proud, it tends to be – ex-servicemen have used the word ... if you know what I mean ... "proud of my country" ... but I will use the word – I am proud of the Beatle thing. It was great and I can go along with all the people you meet on the street who say you gave so much happiness to many people. I don't think that's corny. At the time obviously it just passes over; you don't really think they mean it. Oh, yeah, sure, and you shake their hand or whatever.
But I dig all that like mad now, and I believe that we did bring a real lot of happiness to the times. So I'm very proud of that kind of stuff and consequently I wouldn't like to see my past slagged off. So I would like to see more cooperation.... if things go right, if things keep cool, I'd like to maybe do some work with them; I've got a lot of ideas in my head what I'd like, but I wouldn't like to tell you before I tell them. We couldn't be the Beatles-back-together again, but there might be things, little good ventures we could get together on, mutually helpful to all of us and things people would like to see, anyway.
I wouldn't rule everything out, it's one of those questions I really have to hedge on. But, I mean, I'm ready. Once we settle our business crap – there was an awfully lot of money made, of course, and none of it came to us, really, in the end. Virtually, that's the story. So I'd kind of like to salvage some of that and see that not everything's ripped off.
Through all that kind of bitterness I tended to think like John a bit, "Oh, the Beatles ... naww ... Crap." But it really wasn't. I think it was great. So I'd like to see that cooled out and restored to its kind of former greatness, agree that it was a good thing and continue in some kind of way. I don't see gettin' the Beatles back together – there's certain things we could do quite quietly and still produce some kind of ongoing thing. I don't think you'll ever get anyone to give up all their individual stuff now; everyone's got it going too well now.
Would you consider the Ringo album an example of that type of cooperation?
Yeah, but I think more than that ... I think that's a beginning; that shows what someone can do just if he asks. That's all he did. He just asked us all. So that's what I like, that no one says, "Naw, you go on and make your own album." So if it's that easy then lots of things could be done in the future. And I'd like to see some great things done.
This story is from the January 31st, 1974 issue of Rolling Stone.
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