Released: 21 May 1971 (UK), 17 May 1971 (US)
Paul McCartney: vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar
Linda McCartney: backing vocals
Hugh McCracken: acoustic guitar, electric guitar
Denny Seiwell: drums, shaker, cowbell, percussion
There were all the bits at the beginning of Ram like ‘Too many people going underground’. Well that was us, Yoko Ono and me. And ‘You took your lucky break’, that was considering we had a lucky break to be with him.
For many years McCartney refused to admit the extend of the Lennon-goading contained within Ram.
I was looking at my second solo album, Ram, the other day and I remember there was one tiny little reference to John in the whole thing. He’d been doing a lot of preaching, and it got up my nose a little bit. In one song, I wrote, “Too many people preaching practices,” I think is the line. I mean, that was a little dig at John and Yoko. There wasn’t anything else on it that was about them. Oh, there was “Yoko took your lucky break and broke it in two.”
Far from containing “one tiny little reference”, Too Many People was McCartney at his most vitriolic, a laser-guided attack intended to cause maximum offence to his former bandmate. He removed the pointed reference to Ono before recording the song, but the intention was clear.
Too Many People opens with the words “Piss off,” which McCartney eventually admitted was aimed at Lennon.
Piss off, cake. Like, a piece of cake becomes piss off cake, And it’s nothing, it’s so harmless really, just little digs. But the first line is about “too many people preaching practices.” I felt John and Yoko were telling everyone what to do. And I felt we didn’t need to be told what to do. The whole tenor of the Beatles thing had been, like, each to his own. Freedom. Suddenly it was “You should do this.” It was just a bit the wagging finger, and I was pissed off with it. So that one got to be a thing about them.
Lennon’s response was the equally vitriolic How Do You Sleep? on the Imagine. Mutually-aimed barbs were launched by the two men in the press throughout much of 1971, although the antagonism waned in subsequent years.
The song was first recorded in Columbia Studios in New York City on 10 November 1970. Overdubs were added in January the following year at A&R Studios in NYC, including some brass during the early part of the song. More overdubs were recorded at Sound Recorders Studios in Los Angeles in March/April 1971.
Too Many People was the b-side of the US-only single Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey, released in the US only on 2 August 1971.