Paul McCartney’s Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Speech For John Lennon

Words by Riley Fitzgerald
Graphic by Press

On January 19, 1994, John Lennon was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame.

While he had been notably absent for the Beatles‘ own induction in 1988, Paul McCartney was present to pay tribute his former bandmate.

His speech took the form of a letter, in which McCartney, perhaps for the first time since Lennon was shot dead in 1980, laid bare his feelings for his friend.

This is what he said:

“Dear John,

I remember when we first met, at Woolton, at the village fête. It was a beautiful summer day and I walked in there and I saw you on the stage. And you were singing ‘Come Go With Me‘ by the Dell Vikings, but you didn’t know the words so you made them up. “Come go with me to the penitentiary.” It’s not in the lyrics.

I remember writing our first songs together. We used to go to my house, my dad’s house, and we used to smoke Typhoo Tea with this pipe my dad kept in a drawer. It didn’t do much for us but it got us on the road.

We wanted to be famous.

I remember the visits to your mum’s house. Julia was a very handsome woman, very beautiful woman. She had long red hair and she played a ukulele. I’d never seen a woman that could do that. And I remember having to tell you the guitar chords because you used to play the ukulele chords.

And then on your 21st birthday you got £100 off one of your rich relatives up in Edinburgh, so we decided we’d go to Spain. So we hitch-hiked out of Liverpool. And we got as far as Paris, and decided to stop there for a week. And eventually got our haircut, by a fellow named Jürgen, and that ended up being the ‘Beatle haircut’.

I remember introducing you to my mate George, my schoolmate, and him getting into the band by playing ‘Raunchy‘ on the top deck of a bus. You were impressed. And we met Ringo, who’d been working the whole season at Butlin’s Camp – he was a seasoned professional – but the beard had to go, and it did.

Later on we got a gig at the Cavern Club in Liverpool, which was officially a blues club. We didn’t really know any blues numbers. We loved the blues, but we didn’t know any blues numbers. So we had announcements like “Ladies and gentlemen, this is a great Big Bill Broonzy number called ‘Wake Up Little Susie’.” They kept passing up little notes: ‘This is not the blues, this is not the blues. This is pop.’ But we kept going.

And then we ended up touring. And it was a bloke called Larry Parnes who gave us our first tour. Thank you Larry. I remember we all changed names for that tour. I changed mine to Paul Ramon, George became Carl Harrison and, although people think John didn’t really change his name, I seem to remember he was Long John Silver for the duration of that tour. Bang goes another myth.

We’d be on the van touring later, and we’d have the kind of night where the windscreen would break. We would be on the motorway going back up to Liverpool. It was freezing. So we had to lie on top of each other in the back of the van creating a Beatle sandwich. We got to know each other. These were the ways we got to know each other.

We got to Hamburg and met the likes of Little Richard, Gene Vincent. I remember Little Richard inviting us back to his hotel. He was looking at Ringo’s ring and said, “I love that ring.” He said, “I’ve got a ring like that. I could give you a ring like that.” So we all went back to the hotel with him. We never got a ring.

We went back with Gene Vincent to his hotel once. It was all going fine until he reached in his bedside drawer and he pulled out a gun. We said, “Er, we’ve got to go, Gene, we’ve got to go…” We got out quick!

And then came the USA – New York City – where we met up with Phil Spector, The Ronettes, The Supremes, our heroes, our heroines. And then later in LA, we met up with Elvis Presley for one great evening. We saw the boy, you know, we saw him on his home territory. And he was the first person I ever saw with a remote control on a TV. Boy! He was a hero, man.

And then later, Ed Sullivan. By now – we’d wanted to be famous, now we were getting really famous. I mean imagine meeting Mitzi Gaynor in Miami!

Later, after that, recording at Abbey Road. I still remember doing ‘Love Me Do’, ’cause John officially had the vocal “love me do”. But because he played the harmonica, George Martin in the middle of the session suddenly said, “Will you sing the line “love me do?”, the crucial line. I said OK. And I can still hear it to this day – John would go “Whaaa whaa,” and I’d go “love me doo-oo.” Nerves, man.

I remember doing the vocal to ‘Kansas City‘ – well I couldn’t quite get it, because it’s hard to do all that stuff, you know, screaming out the top of your head. John came down from the control room and took me to one side and said, “You can do it, you know, you’ve just got to scream, you can do it.” So, thank you. Thank you for that. I did it.

I remember writing ‘A Day In The Life‘ with him, and the little look we gave each other as we wrote the line “I’d love to turn you on.” We kinda knew what we were doing, you know. A sneaky little look. Ah boy.

After that there was this girl called Yoko. Yoko Ono, who showed up at my house one day. It was John Cage’s birthday and she said she wanted to get hold of a manuscript to give to John Cage of various composers, and she wanted one from me and John. So I said,” Well it’s OK by me. but you’ll have to go to John.”

And she did.

After that I set up a couple of machines. We used to have these Brenell recording machines, and I set up a couple of them. And they stayed up all night and recorded Two Virgins on that. But you took the cover yourselves – nothing to do with me.

And then, after that there were the phone calls to you. The joy for me of, after all our business sh*t that we’d gone through, actually getting back together and communicating once again. And the joy as you told me about how you were baking bread now. And how you were playing with your little baby, Sean. That was great for me because it gave me something to hold on to.

So now, years on, here we are. All these people. Here we are, assembled, to thank you for everything that you mean to all of us.

This letter comes with love, from your friend Paul.

John Lennon, you’ve made it. Tonight you are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

God bless you.

Paul McCartney

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