Paul McCartney’s eagerness to get the album to the public was a bullishness attempt at re-asserting himself, in the light of his dismay at the appointment of Allen Klein as The Beatles’ business manager. The other three Beatles and Klein attempted to delay the release of McCartney, worried that it would affect sales of Let It Be and Ringo Starr’s solo debut Sentimental Journey.
Apple’s Neil Aspinall initially asked McCartney if the album could be delayed for a week, to allow Starr’s debut more time in the spotlight. McCartney agreed to this, but was dismayed to find on 25 March that Klein had already postponed his album’s release. A furious McCartney telephoned George Harrison to reinstate the original release date of 17 April, and sent a confirmation telegram to the other Beatles, Klein and Aspinall.
It felt to McCartney as though he was losing control of Apple, the company he co-founded to allow creative freedom. The other Beatles felt that having three high-profile Apple releases in short succession was commercial madness.
We weren’t against him puttin’ an album out. I mean I’d done it. And I didn’t think it was any different, except for Paul sang, and mine happened to be Toronto because that happened to happen…
There was nothing against Paul having an album out. There was an atmosphere about [Lee] Eastman and Klein, but it’s all right. It’s business, we all profit from it. But we didn’t want to put it out against Let It Be, it would have killed the sales.
Lennon Remembers, Jann S Wenner
Phil Spector had recently completed work on the Let It Be tapes, and the album and film were scheduled for release on 31 March 1970. John Lennon informed EMI of Apple’s decision to delay the McCartney album, writing that “We have arrived at the conclusion that it would not be in the best interests of this company for the record to be released on that date.”
Harrison then wrote to McCartney, marking the envelope ‘From us, to you’ and leaving it at Apple for a messenger to deliver. However, Ringo Starr offered to take it to Cavendish Avenue, McCartney’s north London home. Harrison’s letter read:
Dear Paul, We thought a lot about yours and the Beatles LPs – and decided it’s stupid for Apple to put out two big albums within 7 days of each other (also there’s Ringo’s and Hey Jude) – so we sent a letter to EMI telling them to hold your release til June 4th (there’s a big Apple-Capitol convention in Hawaii then). We thought you’d come round when you realized that the Beatles album was coming out on April 24th. We’re sorry it turned out like this – it’s nothing personal. Love John George. Hare Krishna. A Mantra a Day Keeps MAYA! Away.
Starkey handed over the letter, telling McCartney that he agreed with its contents. Although he can scarcely have expected a warm reception, the usually amenable Starkey was shocked by McCartney’s extreme reaction.
They didn’t send me round. They, as directors of the company, wrote a letter to him, and I didn’t think it was fair that some office lad should take something like that round. I was talking to the office, and they were telling me what was going on, and I said, ‘Send it up, I’ll take it round.’ I couldn’t fear him then. But he got angry, because we were asking him to hold his album back and the album was very important to him. He shouted and pointed at me. He told me to get out of his house. He was crazy; he went crazy. He was out of control, prodding his finger towards my face. He told me to put my coat on and get out. I couldn’t believe it was happening. I had just brought the letter. I said, ‘I agree with everything that’s in the letter,’ because we tried to work it like a company, not as individuals. I put my album out two weeks before, which makes me seem like such a good guy, but it wasn’t really, because I needed to put it out before Paul’s album, else it would have slayed me.
McCartney was acting out of desperation, frustrated at the cumulative obstacles he felt were being put in his way. The clash was indicative of the factional, highly partisan nature of The Beatles’ business dealings in the group’s final months.
Ringo visited me, bringing two letters signed by George and John with which, he said he agreed. These letters confirmed that my record had been stopped. I really got angry when Ringo told me that Klein had told him that my record was not ready and that he had a release date for the Let It Be album. I knew that both of these alleged statements were untrue and I said, in effect, this was the last straw, and, ‘If you drag me down, I’ll drag you down.’ What I meant was, ‘Anything you do to me, I will do to you.’
I had to do something like that in order to assert myself because I was just sinking. Linda was very helpful, she was saying, ‘Look, you don’t have to take this crap, you’re a grown man, you have every bit as much right…’ I was getting pummelled about the head, in my mind anyway.
McCartney emerged victorious after the decision was made to continue the album’s release as planned. The clash with Starkey, however, strained relations between the two men for a number of years.
I was going through a bad time, what I suspect was almost a nervous breakdown. I remember lying awake at nights shaking, which has not happened to me since. One night I’d been asleep and awoke and I couldn’t lift my head off the pillow. My head was down in the pillow, I thought, Jesus, if I don’t do this I’ll suffocate. I remember hardly having the energy to pull myself up, but with a great struggle I pulled my head up and lay on my back and thought, That was a bit near! I just couldn’t do anything. I had so much in me that I couldn’t express and it was just very nervy times, very very difficult. So I eventually went and said, ‘I want to leave. You can all get on with Klein and everything, just let me out.’ And they said, ‘No, we’re not going to let you go.’ Because Klein had said, ‘Look, he produced Those Were the Days and stuff.’ Like James Taylor, same idea, ‘Why let him go?’ I remember having one classic conversation with George Harrison, I said, ‘Look, George, I want to get off the label,’ and George ended the conversation, and as I say it now I almost feel like I’m lying with the devil’s tongue, but I swear George said to me, ‘You’ll stay on the fucking label. Hare Krishna.’ That’s how it was, that’s how the times were.
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
Keen to assert his independence from the group that had come to stifle him, McCartney announced the formation of his own company, McCartney Productions Ltd on 7 April 1970. Its first projects would be the McCartney album and an animation based on the character Rupert Bear.