Yoko Ono didn't break up the Beatles? What?
Next, will they be trying to convince us that David St. Hubbins' girlfriend, Janine, didn't break up Spinal Tap?
Yet here is Paul McCartney, in conversation with David Frost, telling fans they need to leave Yoko alone. "She certainly didn't break the group up; the group was breaking up," he told Frost in a conversation set to air Nov. 9 on Al Jazeera's English channel. ""I don't think you can blame her for anything... When Yoko came along, part of her attraction was her avant-garde side, her view of things, so she showed him another way to be, which was very attractive to him. So it was time for John to leave; he was definitely going to leave..."
For a second there, it kind of sounded like McCartney was saying Ono broke up the band—but just by attracting Lennon to a different aesthetic model, not by sitting around on the floor during the Let It Be sessions.
Yoko, John, and PaulEither way, few Beatlemaniacs would dispute the general truth of what McCartney is saying: that it doesn't take an interfering wife or girlfriend to bust up a group when pretty much anyone who ever joined a rock band has a healthy ego that is a ticking time bomb all by itself.
If blame is going to be assigned, Macca would much rather pin it on a businessman, Allen Klein. "I was fighting against the other three guys who'd been my lifelong soul buddies. I said I wanted to fight Klein," McCartney tells Frost, even throwing a mock-jab at the late Klein with his fist.
He further takes the high road with Ono in the interview by saying that without her influence, he doubts Lennon could have written "Imagine," one of the highlights of his post-Beatles career.
Needless to say, this contention of McCartney's will have little effect on the eternally polarized views Beatlemaniacs have about Ono... nor will it do much to diminish the use of terms like "Yoko effect" and "Yoko syndrome" among young musicians who need a handy symbol for outside relationships affecting intra-band alliances.
On the Urban Dictionary website, you can see "Yoko syndrome" described as "scapegoating of the latest party to become involved with an object of popularity that is now in decline." More directly, "Yoko Onoing" is defined as "the action of one's significant other who tears apart the group of friends."
McCartney and Yoko (Getty Images)Of course the Fabs had proved perfectly fractious without outside influences. Ringo Starr was first to quit the band, during the White Album sessions, though he was quickly lured back from his impromptu vacation. George had his own walkout during the Get Back/Let It Be sessions, which were tense enough even before disputes over Phil Spector's remix. It's often been noted with some irony that when McCartney announced the dissolution of the Beatles at the time his McCartney solo album came out in 1970, he was the only member of the group who'd never left at some point, prior to that.
Whatever McCartney says, it will be hard for many fans to erase the mental image of Ono setting up a mattress under the piano in the Beatles' recording studio—still No. 1 on the list of Rock Band Significant Other no-nos, just ahead of No. 2, which involves letting Janine St. Hubbins manage the band.
Ultimately, fans may care less about McCartney urging them to call the dogs off Ono after 42 years than about another statement in the Frost interview, which may count as burying the lead:
"I'd like to retire soon, and the way things are going I might be able to."
Who can fans blame for that? Maybe Heather Mills—for not soaking Paul for even more in the divorce, thereby allowing him to continue living comfortably enough that he won't be forced to entertain us till his dying day. Better enjoy those three-hour live shows while you can, Macca-holics.