Then John Lennon was murdered in December 1980, tributes poured in from around the world in memory of the beloved Beatle. “It was hard for everyone in the world because he was such a beloved character and such a crazy guy, you know, he was so special,” Paul McCartney recalled during a recent interview with SiriusXM’s The Beatles Channel. “And so it had affected me so much that I couldn’t really talk about it.”
More than four decades later, he recalls feeling like he couldn’t participate in the kind of forward-looking grieving other people expressed because it just didn’t feel right to him.
“I remember coming home from the studio the day we heard the news that he died and turning on the TV and seeing people say, ‘Well, John Lennon was this’ and ‘What he was was this’, and ‘ I remember meeting him,” the musician said. “And it was like, I don’t know, I can’t be one of those people. I can’t just say on TV what John meant to me. It was just too deep. It’s just too much. I couldn’t put it into words.”
Instead, McCartney let his emotions sink in before sitting down to process Lennon’s death through songwriting. “I was in a building that was going to be my recording studio, and there were just a few little empty rooms upstairs,” he explained. “So I found a room and just sat down on the wood floor in a corner with my guitar and just started playing the opening chords of ‘Here Today’.”
The song, which appeared on his third solo studio album, Tug of war, in 1982, found McCartney asking questions of Lennon and imagining what his answer would be. “And if I said I really know you well/What would your answer be/If you were here today?” he asks in the opening verse and continues, “Well, knowing you you’d probably laugh and say we were worlds apart.”
Later in the song he asks about the time he and Lennon met and another time they cried together. “The night we cried had to do with the time we were in Florida’s Key West,” McCartney explained. “And for some reason, I think it was like a hurricane, something was delayed and we couldn’t play for a few days. So we held out in a small motel. So what would we do? Well, we’d have a drink, and we’d get drunk. We didn’t have to play. So that’s what we did that night.”
He continued, “We got drunk and started to get a little emotional, you know, ‘Oh, you were great when you, I love that.’ You know we started it all worked out you know but on the way there was a lot of soul searching You know we told each other some truths you know Well I love you I love from your husband. I love that you say that. I love you. And we opened up. So that was kind of special for me. I think that was really one of the few times that ever happened.