Why John Lennon called recording The Beatles’ albums “torture”

A battle of egos and an excess of talent was never going to be a good mix. Throw in some Beatlemania mayhem and international stardom, and it’s easy to see why The Beatles could feel a bit tense. The rocky atmosphere that reared its head throughout their time together crept into their recording sessions, which as it stood, were often plagued by an artistic battle of wills.

Their less-than-harmonious in-studio experience shaped their impression of Let It Be, their final album, in a way that far differed from the fan’s persepective. Whilst a hit with their listeners, being their last offering as a united four-piece, John Lennon was said to have hated the album so much, it became the catalyst that forced him into solo work.

Paul McCartney’s track, ‘Let It Be’ was a particular tension point. Said to be written about an elaborate dream where McCartney had seen his dead mother, Lennon felt it didn’t sound like a quintessentially Beatles track. In Anthology, McCartney seemed acutely aware of tensions it caused, saying things were so bad at this point, the original idea to go and rehearse the album on an ocean liner together was quickly dismissed.

“We ended up in Twickenham,” he comically admitted. “I think it was a safer situation for the director and everybody. Nobody was that keen on going on an ocean liner anyway. It was getting a bit fraught between us at that point, because we’d been together a long time and cracks were beginning to appear.”

Those cracks were compounded when, in what became his last ever interview before his 1980 murder, Lennon rubbished the song to David Sheff, taking to wondering aloud what McCartney was thinking when he wrote it. “That’s Paul,” he said dismissively. “What can you say? Nothing to do with the Beatles. It could’ve been Wings.”

But in an interview recorded just after Let It Be was finished – which wasn’t unearthed until 2013 – Lennon had taken to Village Voice to say: “We were going through hell. We often do. It’s torture every time we produce anything.” The sense that creative tensions had gotten the best of them was extremely evident. Constant battles over which songs featured on the album meant every time the red recording light came on, all four would brace themselves for some kind of issue.

”The Beatles haven’t got any magic you haven’t got,” Lennon continued. “We suffer like hell anytime we make anything, and we got each other to contend with. Imagine working with The Beatles, it’s tough.” It

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