Too Many People

Photo credit: Linda McCartney, 1970

As the second preview from the new remastered edition of “Ram”, Paul McCartney (or his marketing division) has released “Too Many People“. The first was “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey“, as you might remember.

It’s an interesting choice, because “Too Many People” is the very song that started the “Lennon McCartney controversy”, and which sparked Lennon to include a parody of the “Ram” cover as a photo which was included with his “Imagine” album and also manifested itself in the song “How Do You Sleep?” on that same, beloved Lennon album. Lennon’s digs at Paul were very self-explainatory, whereas the “Too Many People” lyrics which Lennon took to heart  were more vague and could have been directed to anyone.

Paul himself admitted that some of the song’s lyrics were about former bandmate John Lennon. The line “Too many people preaching practices” referred to Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono’s orchestrated anti-war publicity stunts, whereas “You took your lucky break and broke it in two” calls him out as the member of the group who broke up the Beatles. Still, others allege that much more of the song, as well as the Ram album itself, was a calculated slam at Lennon.

Lennon’s “Ram” parody involved a pig.

The song is one of several instances of “musical sniping” among the four Beatles after the band broke up, the target in this case presumed to be McCartney’s former bandmate and songwriting partner John Lennon. “[John had] been doing a lot of preaching, and it got up my nose a little bit,” said McCartney in a 1984 interview with Playboy. “I wrote, ‘Too many people preaching practices,’ I think is the line. I mean, that was a little dig at John and Yoko…there was ‘You took your lucky break and broke it in two.’

This song alludes to John Lennon’s “lucky break” – meaning The Beatles, and how he subsequently “broke it in two.” It also takes barbs at John and Yoko’s self-images as important political figures. Lennon retorted with a fiery condemnation of Paul on the album “Imagine” in a track called “How Do You Sleep?” in which Lennon says, “The only thing you’ve done was yesterday, and since you’ve gone you’re just another day.” This references the song “Yesterday,” and a post-Beatles McCartney piece titled “Another Day.”

In the early post-Beatles days, it was very much a case between the three of them against Paul. The reason for this was manyfold, but here’s three:

  1. Paul made the announcement of the break-up of the Beatles as part of his promotion for the “McCartney” album. This made the others furious, especially John, who later said that he wished that he had thought of it himself.
  2. Paul had never really quit the Beatles, so it was a shock for them when he announced it. Ringo had left the band in 1968 but was coaxed back, George left in January 1969 during the making of “Get Back” and was brought back into the fold and then John had announced his departure (“I want a divorce”) during an Apple business meeting, but continued to show up for sessions.So in my opinion, the Beatles could have reconvened after a few solo projects and continued their career, if it hadn’t been for Paul’s public announcement. Perhaps that was what the other three thought as well?
  3. Paul took the other three to court to dissolve the Beatles partnership. They had signed a contract back in 1967 which terminated in 1977. Paul wanted to disband the group and had no other option than to sue his three bandmates. He really wanted to sue Allen Klein but couldn’t, because he wasn’t a legal part of the partnership.

So what happened was that all the other three maintained a relationship which for the public was mainly visible due to the fact that they played on each others records, while Paul was the odd man out.

What many people don’t understand, is that this situation, the quarrel between Paul and the others, didn’t last very long. As early as 1973, Paul started playing with Ringo again, giving him a song for his hugely successful 1973 album, “Ringo”. In 1974, Paul and John got back together and jammed a bit in Los Angeles. Paul and George showed up and signed the dissolving of the partnership that same year (as shown at the beginning of the Martin Scorsece documentary “Living In The Material World”) and Paul and Linda attended George’s concert at the Madison Square Garden the same night. George then visited Paul at the wrap-up party for the recordings for the “Venus and Mars” album in New Orleans in 1975 and John would have been there too, if it hadn’t been for the fact that he had gotten back together with Yoko again, after a year and a half of separation.

“Too Many People” was resurrected by McCartney in 2005 for his “Rock with US” tour, but was only featured live that year. Time he played it again? It’s available on the “Space Within Us” concert DVD from the tour.

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