The John Lennon lyrics that offended Ringo Starr: “That’s enough”

Ringo Starr has always been known as the most simpatico personality of the four Beatles. Whereas all of them could find common ground when they wanted to, Starr was the one along for the ride and happy to play with his friends, even if he knew that he wasn’t going to be getting as many songwriting nods as his fellow bandmates.

There was a certain line that Starr wouldn’t cross, and when working with John Lennon on Imagine, that line was tested on ‘How Do You Sleep’.

While the band had split up by the start of the 1970s, Starr never held any bad blood for any of the former members. Sure, there were some betrayals that probably stung a fair bit over the years, but if one of his mates asked him to come by and play drums on a track, he would have been down there in a heartbeat.

Starr had even helped Lennon get back up on his feet when making Plastic Ono Band. Lennon was already in the aftermath of tearing himself apart emotionally, and having that rock-steady percussion behind him was just what he needed to keep himself grounded when going through tracks like ‘God’.

Once the dust had settled, Lennon wasn’t ready to leave the serious topics alone. Now he was angry, and all the pent-up feelings about the breakup were about to be directed at Paul McCartney on ‘How Do You Sleep’.

McCartney had already been known for taking a swipe at Lennon on songs like ‘Too Many People’ from RAM, but if that was intended to be a few jabs, Lennon was aiming to make a deep wound on this track, writing every single line as another intentional dig towards his writing partner, even claiming that the only half-way decent thing that he ever made was ‘Yesterday’.

No one’s really obligated to have warm feelings about their ex-bandmates by any stretch of the imagination, but Starr had to step in when things got ugly. As Felix Dennis recalled in Many Years From Now, “As these lyrics emerged, I remember Ringo getting more and more upset by this. He was really not very happy about this, and at one point, I have a clear memory of his saying, ‘That’s enough, John.’ There were two magnificent studio musicians, and they too were not very happy about it, but as usual, Lennon ploughed his own furrow, and he just didn’t give a shit whether people liked it or not.”

Then again, how should one feel if they’re McCartney in this scenario? Here is one of your best friends whom you’ve known for a decade, and now he’s writing a song about how everything you did was worthless with the help of your former drummer and guitar player in tow.

If anything, Starr may have probably wanted to make nice with McCartney at least a little bit, since he had been working on the song ‘Back Off Boogaloo’ about him and even got kicked out of his home when he had to tell him that the rest of the group were suing him towards the end. It’s hard enough to see the greatest band in the world fighting amongst each other. Still, looking at how Starr handled it, it just comes off like a concerned child watching their divorced parents fight.

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