When John Lennon was killed in December 1980, tributes poured in from all around the world in remembrance of the beloved Beatle. “It was difficult for everyone in the world cause he was such a loved character and such a crazy guy, you know, that he was so special,” Paul McCartney recalled during a recent interview with SiriusXM’s The Beatles Channel. “And so it had hit me so much so that I couldn’t really talk about it.”
More than four decades later, he remembers feeling as though he couldn’t participate in the type of forward-facing grieving other people expressed because it simply didn’t feel right to him.
“I remember getting home from the studio on the day that we’d heard the news he died and turning the TV on and seeing people say, ‘Well, John Lennon was this,’ and ‘What he was, was this,’ and ‘I remember meeting him,’” the musician shared. “And it was like, I don’t know, I can’t be one of those people. I can’t just go on TV and say 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 settle before sitting down to process Lennon’s death through songwriting. “I was in a building that would become my recording studio, and there were just a couple of little empty rooms upstairs,” he explained. “So I found a room and just sat on the wooden floor in a corner with my guitar and just started to play the opening chords to ‘Here Today.’”
The song, which appeared on his third solo studio album, Tug of War, in 1982, found McCartney posing questions to Lennon and imagining what his response would be. “And if I said I really knew you well/What would your answer be/If you were here today?” he asks in the opening verse, continuing: “Well, knowing you/You’d probably laugh and say that we were worlds apart.”
Later in the song, he asks about the time he and Lennon met and another time that they cried together. “The night we cried, that was to do with a time when we were in Key West down in Florida,” McCartney explained. “And for some reason, I think it was like a hurricane, something had been delayed, and we couldn’t play for a couple of days. So we held up in a little motel. So what would we do? Well, we’d have a drink, and we would get drunk. We didn’t have to play. So we did that night.”
He continued: “We got drunk and started to get kind of emotional, you know, ‘Oh, you were great when you, I love that.’ You know, we started, it all came out, you know, but on the way to that, there was a lot of soul searching. You know, we told each other a few truths, you know, ‘Well, I love you. I love you, man. I love that you said that. I love you. And we opened up. So, that was kind of special to me. I think that was really one of the only times that ever happened.”