John Lennon: Days after his death heartbroken McCartney’s plea ‘Did John still love me?’

Paul McCartney discusses John Lennon and new documentary

Lennon was murdered in cold blood by Mark Chapman outside his New York home. Just two day earlier, UK journalist Andy Peebles had interviewed him and they had hit it off so much the interview had overrun by hours and they had gone out for a boisterous dinner – Peebles would also remain in close contact with Lennon’s widow for several years afterward. He was the last person to speak to the Beatles legend in depth and found himself comforting a grieving McCartney just a few days later.

In a new book, Who Killed John Lennon? The Lives, Loves And Deaths Of The Greatest Rock Star by Lesley-Ann Jones, the build-up and aftermath of those terrible final days is explored. 

In the book, Peebles talks about that final interview and how Lennon spoke of his “lifelong ‘sibling rivalry’” with McCartney.

After the acrimonious ending to the Beatles in 1970 and the worsening of their relationship in the next few years, the two stars had struggled to restore their friendship throughout the decade. However, they had restored contact and met a few times in New York. Their bond was so much stronger that Lennon even happily recalled a humorous time when he refused to allow McCartney into his building.

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Peebles said: “He explained how he loved living in New York, and how much he missed England. He told me about McCartney turning up at the Dakota and ringing the doorbell, and John not letting him up, yelling down, ‘I’m baking bread and looking after the baby! If you think I’m coming out clubbing, you’ve gone mad!’”

Peebles flew back to London two days after the interview and when he landed he learned the terrible news that Lennon was dead. Still at the airport, he was taken to the BBC’s studio there to do a live broadcast for Radio 4’s Today programme.

From there, he went straight into central London to the main BBC buildings just above Oxford Circus and broadcast another live tribute to Lennon with the radio DJ John Peel. Later that day he appeared on the Old Grey Whistle Test special along with Paul Gambaccini and Annie Nightingale. 

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Peebles describes an extraordinary moment while he was still live on air but the video of Imagine was playing. The red desk light started flashing and Peebles was told he had a call.

He said: “It was Paul McCartney. ‘Thank you for doing a wonderful job,’ he said. ‘Linda and I are watching.’”

Everybody was reeling, trying to make sense of such a senseless death. Chapman only confessed this year why he killed Lennon.

A few days later, a grieving McCartney reached out to Peebles for information and comfort.

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Later that week, Peebles was called by the former Beatles producer George Martin: “He asked me to walk down to his studio on Oxford Circus. I knew exactly who would be waiting for me. Paul McCartney and I had a private conversation. He needed me to reassure him that John still loved him, despite all the post-Beatles fallings-out. ‘John talked about you in the interview,’ I told Paul. ‘He was sarcastic, funny and irreverent but there was no doubting his fondness for you.’

“We both became very emotional. I knew Paul well enough… I felt awful for making him cry.”

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