Skip to main content

Over 40 years after John Lennon’s death, his legacy still casts a long shadow. He made noteworthy music in his solo career and wrote many of The Beatles’ most enduring songs. He believed that part of the reason that people so adored The Beatles was because they broke up at the right time. Had they stayed together, their reputation likely would have been tarnished in some way. According to Lennon, this was why bands like The Rolling Stones could never catch up with The Beatles.

John Lennon didn’t think The Rolling Stones had the same legacy as The Beatles

The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were two of the most successful bands of the 1960s. For years, people speculated about a rivalry between the two bands. While they denied this, Lennon did accuse the Stones of stealing from The Beatles. 

Amid this supposed rivalry, The Beatles broke up. Though the news devastated fans, Lennon believed that their split couldn’t have come at a better time. He thought that their pristine image was a result of the timing of their breakup. 

“I don’t know, it would have probably gone down the tubes and then been resurrected like everything else [if we stayed together],” Lennon told the LA Times in 1980. “I always thought it was best to go out when you’re flying high. The popularity was always ebbing and flowing. That’s what people forget. It was only during the initial rush where everything we did was right. After that, it was up or down depending on the single or the movie or whatever.”

After The Beatles broke up, The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger reportedly made a comment about finally being on top. Lennon thought he was wrong, though. In his mind, the Stones would never catch up to The Beatles.

“We could split in 1970 because we were on top,” he said. “In fact, it was probably the best thing that ever happened to the Beatles myth. I read this book about Mick Jagger where he said after the breakup, ‘At last, we’re No. 1.’ What he didn’t realize was that when we split, we created a bigger thing than if we had stayed. He could never catch up with that.”

John Lennon said he grew more comfortable with The Beatles’ legacy as he aged

In the immediate aftermath of the breakup, Lennon did all he could to tarnish “the Beatles myth.” He spoke negatively about the group’s music and his bandmates. As time passed, though, he grew more comfortable with his legacy.

“If anything, I’m arrogant about The Beatles and what happened in The Beatles,” he explained. “That’s another good thing about the last five years. It has enabled me to look back on that period without being tense about it. I can see a lot of things more clearly now.”

This attitude also allowed him to repair his relationships with his former bandmates, particularly Paul McCartney.

He could empathize with people who wanted The Beatles to get back together

Despite Lennon’s altered opinion of The Beatles’ legacy, he still didn’t think they should get back together.

“All these Beatles rumors are silly,” he said. “I mean, do we really want to go out there and try to re-create something that happened 15 years ago? There’s no way we could live up to their dreams. The only time I think about it is when someone asks me.”

George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr lean against a white wall. McCartney and Starr smile.
George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr | Bettmann/Contributor via Getty

Mick Jagger Said The Rolling Stones Wouldn’t Be as ‘B****y’ as The Beatles if They Broke Up

Still, he learned to empathize with the fans who wanted a reunion. Previously, he’d completely written them off.

“But I do know how people feel,” he said. “When I was a kid in Liverpool, we used to always get these rumors about Elvis [Presley] coming to London. We’d save our money and try to figure out how to get a ticket. Then, nothing would happen. It went on for years, but he never played in England. I guess the Beatles rumors will go on, too.”