‘Dear Friend’ is the penultimate song on Wings’ debut album Wild Life.
Often I would think of John, and what a pity it was that we’d argued so publicly and so viciously at times. At the time of writing this song, in early 1971, he’d called the McCartney album ‘rubbish’ in Rolling Stone magazine. It was a really difficult time. 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’?
I was sort of answering him here, asking, ‘Does it need to be this hurtful?’ I think this is a good line: ‘Are you afraid, or is it true?’ – meaning, ‘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 Fuck, Man?’ but I’m not sure we could have gotten away with that then.
Lennon and McCartney’s public feud intensified after Lennon heard Ram, and took exception to the lyrics he felt were aimed at him and Yoko Ono. It culminated with the song ‘How Do You Sleep?’ on Imagine.
Although written prior to the release of Imagine, ‘Dear Friend’ was released after Lennon’s album.
I would imagine he heard it. I think he listened to my records when they came out, but he never responded directly to me. That was not his way. We were guys; it wasn’t like a boy and girl. In those days you didn’t release much emotion with each other.
‘Dear Friend’ was recorded in a single take on 24 July 1971 at Abbey Road. The track then had just McCartney’s piano and vocals, Denny Laine’s vibraphone, and Denny Seiwell’s drums.
Richard Hewson arranged the orchestral score. He visited McCartney’s London home on 6 September to formulate the plans. The orchestra was recorded at Abbey Road’s Studio Two on 16 October 1971.