Can you imagine The Beatles without Paul McCartney? It could have happened. John Lennon almost kicked Paul out of The Beatles after giving him an ultimatum about staying in the band. That would have meant no songwriting sessions with John. No tunes changing the course of popular music. And probably no Beatles as we know them.
John Lennon considered kicking Paul McCartney out of The Beatles: ‘F****** turn up today or you’re not in the band’
The Beatles weren’t even close to being The Beatles when they returned from their first Hamburg, West Germany, residency in December 1960. The underage George Harrison got deported. Paul and drummer Pete Best got arrested on arson charges and then deported. John had his work permit revoked. The group returned to Liverpool without much to show for weeks of hard work.
With his father urging him to find steady and well-paying work, Paul took odd jobs to earn a paycheck. He still performed with The Beatles but made more time for his regular work. Macca debated not playing a February 1961 gig in Liverpool because it interfered with his work schedule. John considered kicking Paul out of The Beatles since he was tired of the bassist’s half-efforts with the group. That’s when John gave Paul a stern Beatles ultimatum — commit to the group full-time, or get lost (per 150 Glimpses of The Beatles author Craig Brown):
“Either f****** turn up today or you’re not in the band anymore.”
Opinionated and free-speaking John must have realized Paul’s importance to the band’s potential success. That show up or leave mandate wasn’t the only time John pushed for Paul to stick with the band, according to Brown:
“I was always saying, ‘Face up to your dad, tell him to f*** off. He can’t hit you. He’s an old man.’ But Paul would always give in. His dad told him to get a job, he dropped the group and started working on the lorries, saying, ‘I need a steady career.’ We couldn’t believe it. I told him on the phone, ‘Either come or you’re out.’ So he had to make a decision between me and his dad.”
John’s future wife, Cynthia, was the person who kept him from going off the rails while he played in Hamburg. You could argue that Paul’s outsized songwriting talent and musicianship kept The Beatles on track for future stardom.
John needed Paul in The Beatles for the band to be successful
The earliest Beatles lineup needed a second strong personality and songwriter next to John. That was Paul.
Out of necessity, covers comprised the band’s live catalog in the early years. Sutcliffe and the young George didn’t write songs. Neither did Best. Paul and John began honing their craft soon after they met. It took several years for them to grow into expert songwriters, but they took the journey together. John understood Paul’s potential as well as anyone. Even though he threatened to boot him from the band, John knew he needed Paul in The Beatles.
Another musician, Kenny Lynch, called John and Paul idiots as songwriters, but they soon proved him wrong. He covered one of their tunes, “Misery,” before the duo propelled The Beatles to international stardom. Their hit songs (plus dozens more) remain classic tunes decades later.
The friendly yet competitive songwriting challenge never prevented them from working together. (At least until the headstrong Paul caused friction by trying to mold The Beatles in his vision in the late 1960s). The back-and-forth between them produced a cadre of all-time great songs. The Fab Four’s most successful No. 1 hit, “Hey Jude,” was essentially a Paul song chalked up to both musicians when John convinced his friend not to fix a placeholder line in the lyrics.
Their relationship eventually devolved into bickering and in-song pot-shots at the other. Paul angered John with his solo song “Too Many People.” His former bandmate responded with “How Do You Sleep?”
But that was post-Beatles work. In the Fab Four, they made beautiful music together. In an alternate timeline, John Lennon doesn’t threaten to kick Paul McCartney out of The Beatles, Macca spends his life working a factory job, and Liverpool’s most famous band are nothing more than an interesting footnote in Merseybeat history.
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Source: Cheat Sheet
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