McLennon: A Beginner’s Guide

first published in The Teatles Book, Book 12 (2021)

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I should begin by clarifying that McLennon is not the same as ‘John and Paul’ or ‘Lennon/McCartney’. It is often interchangeably used with ‘John/Paul’, which does come pretty close to capturing it; but not quite. For where ‘John and Paul’ is used to refer to the personal relationship between John and Paul; and ‘Lennon/McCartney’ is used to refer to the professional relationship between John and Paul; and ‘John/Paul’ is used to refer to the potentially romantic relationship—McLennon is the referent for both: (1) the John/Paul relationship, and (2) the fandom community surrounding the John/Paul relationship. These lines definitely often blur into each other; but I think it’s still useful to begin this conversation by delineating McLennon. 

Despite popular belief, the fandom community McLennon did not spring up out of the blue in 2013 with the advent of Tumblr and “fanatic” “teenage” “fangirls.” According to Fanlore (a wiki about fanworks and fan communities), the McLennon fandom has been around for almost as long as the Beatles themselves. Just like other fandoms, McLennon fans also used to indulge in writing stories (fanfiction), creating fan art, and publishing their creative and critical pieces in fanzines. Today, you can find pockets of this community on pretty much every social media blogging platform like Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. The fan practices of this community often slightly vary on each platform: while people on Twitter lean more towards curating sources, facts, and photographs; people on Tumblr are slightly more interested in critically (analysis pieces) and creatively (fanfiction) interpreting the original source material (John/Paul photographs, interviews, songs, letters, stories, books, etc.). This variation is nothing more than an indirect effect of the different features each platform offers; and even then, all these practices can often extend across platforms. 

Like all fandom communities, McLennon has a particular object of fascination; and that’s the John/Paul relationship. Fans in this community are particularly interested in reading and analysing the not-quite platonic aspects of this relationship. These readings can range across locating a certain eroticism in their photographs, discovering hidden emotional layers in their songs, plotting similar points of emphasis and diversion over multiple interviews, to digging up sources to further nuance their understanding of this relationship. This fascination often works against the orthodox narrative about the John/Paul relationship, which usually posits that even though Paul might have been “in love” (in awe, devoted, dependent) with John, John was just too cool for him. There are other groups within Beatledom who are also interested in this relationship. However, what separates McLennon from these groups is: (1) the visible non-platonic slant in their critical interpretations, and (2) the creative endeavours like fanfiction, fanart, and fanvideos which this community regularly undertakes. 

Two of Us

When I write ‘non-platonic’, I do not necessarily mean sexual or romantic. That is a part of it, yes, but it’s not the whole meaning. Non-platonic within the McLennon community usually means erotic; and that is a popular interpretation heavily backed by comments like making music with each other turned us on, and admiring each other’s physical attributes, and often John and Paul comparing their relationship to a marriage themselves. Hence, the non-platonic slant in the community’s critical interpretations is a minor concession to the various nuances and facets of John and Paul’s relationship; a quality of passion which does fascinate everyone within Beatledom alike. 

However, yes, the rumours are true: a section of the community does prop up and heavily endorse the idea that John and Paul were romantically involved with each other. And this, folks, is what we call a conspiracy. This slice of the McLennon fandom believes that John and Paul really, truly had a romantic relationship in the ‘60s (which might have extended into the ‘70s); but had to hide their love away because of period-typical concerns like homophobia, a female-dominated fanbase, and John and Paul’s images as straight, masculine, virile sex fiends. This conclusion is based upon a reading of the same shared source material; only, the process of interpretation and meaning-making is influenced more by certain source materials than others, like claims of John being bisexual, stories of people at Apple HQ referring to Paul as “John’s Princess,” Paul’s bizarre inability to give a straight answer to the question was John in love with you, the sheer ambiguity of the happenings of the Rishikesh trip, etc. Again, it’s not a completely incorrect method of interpretation; it only—like we all are prone to do, to a certain extent—privileges certain source materials over others and arrives at a far-fetched conclusion. 

The Lovers That Never Were 

I love fan works; and the McLennon community is particularly good at them. Creative works like fanfiction, fanart, and fan videos offer fans the chance to imagine and reinterpret the John/Paul relationship in their own unique ways—which is an absolute treat. I am aware that fan works often get a bad rep for “sullying the sanctity of the holy John and Paul relationship” (whatever that means!) but I think they are quite cool. Fan creators are (almost always) very careful about adding disclaimers, clarifying the completely fictional nature of their works; and beyond that, I think it becomes the responsibility of the reader to be discerning enough. 

However, there is always the potential tendency within every fan community for stereotypes and rumours to be perpetuated through fan works. Creators can sometimes fail to add clear disclaimers; or audiences’ memories can fail and they can create similar associations with both verified stories and fanfiction, and both can then get afforded a similar level of veracity. It happens. Especially within a fandom as large and old as the Beatles; the tendency for the lines between apocryphal stories, fanfiction, and verified tales to blur into each other is even higher.

With that said, I still think fan works are really awesome and, if consumed with a keen eye, can be a source for great pleasure. Here are some of my favourite fanfics:

  • “Stand by Me” by Penny Lane and Jenny Wren | Summary: John survives.
  • “Widow” by abromeds | Summary: If Paul had died in 1980 instead of John; and how John deals with that. 
  • “I said something wrong” by frogchorus [work in progress] | Summary: In 1965, The Beatles performed on the ‘Blackpool Night Out’. It’s fairly well recorded that John and Paul had an argument pre-show, and this fic explores that. 
  • “new york woman” by peculiar_mademoiselle [work in progress] | Summary: A series of loosely related one shots about Yoko Ono.

I think that brings us to a close of this guide. For further reading, you should definitely check out:

Put It There

hi. i wrote an essay about family, last summer, & The Beatles. It’s called “Put It There” & it’s been published in issue-9 of the fantastic The Teatles Book. you can get yourself a copy through @Teatlemania on twitter.

hope u like this. cheers. 

p.s. the title is inspired by the song “put it there” by paul mccartney. it’s lovely, & it pairs really well with this essay. you might want to check it out. have fun!


I was in a restaurant with my parents when I learned that my university was indefinitely sending us all back home due to the pandemic. It was the middle of March. I was home for the weekend. I read the email out to my parents over plates of spaghetti & chilled beer; & they were ecstatic. My mother ordered another plate of rice, & my father started calculating how many games of chess we could fit alongside my daily classes. 

March through June, I spent my days lolling about at home. Classes came to an end at the beginning of May. My hours were now filled with mangoes, ice-cream sundaes, cooking pizzas at home, & playing Ludo every evening (my mother had grown tired of watching me & my father play chess). I watched too many period dramas & didn’t listen to a single song. 

In July, I took a class called “Trauma and Event”. For one of our lectures, we were assigned Hideo Furukawa’s book Horses, Horses, in the End the Light Remains Pure. In the beginning passage of his book, Furukawa writes, “What if there were this extraterrestrial, and they are in their UFO, and you could pick just one Beatles song for them to listen to, what would you pick? Younger brother answers immediately: “Strawberry Fields Forever”; the answer suggests no other possibility”. Strawberry Fields Forever — that was the first song I listened to in three months. I liked it.

I liked it enough that I decided that the most optimum use of my time would be to listen to the Beatles’ entire catalogue. & so, I spent the summer of 2020 writing poems about loss, re-reading Harry Potter, & sobbing to The Long and Winding Road. The speaker in my room would emit sounds of John & Paul harmonising all day long. My father loved my new-found obsession. He would repeatedly tell me stories of how when he was a kid, he & his cousins used to listen to classic rock, despite not understanding half the words. It was the cool thing to do. 

It’s easier now than it was then to imagine him as a teenager, gorging upon crime thrillers & his father’s collection of cassettes. When my grandfather died, my father & I divided all of his stuff amongst ourselves. I kept his iPod, he kept the pictures. My father could always read the stories written in the objects we choose to surround ourselves with. The first time I heard McCartney sing Junk, I was standing again besides my father emptying his drawers every eleventh Sunday, & still struggling to decide what to throw out. I opened his cupboard the other day & found two broken phones & faded pictures of my mum. 

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He turned 53 last November. My mother fried potato bonda for breakfast & I burned my upper lip on my first bite. That month, I was working on a terrible short story titled The Walrus, whose main plot was an anxiety attack in an aeroplane & whose sub-plot was a sufficient sprinkling of Beatle references. I’ve never been very good at writing stories about others; therefore, I decided to create a character who was stuck, feeling anxious all the time, & constantly humming A Day in the Life. For the past month, I had been constantly feeling on-edge. I attributed my nerves to turning 20 next January; pinned beneath time, running head-first, & getting nowhere. On his birthday, we watched a film, ate cheesecake & drove back home.

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It had not rained for a few days. The chill was seeping into the walls, & we were doubling up our blankets at night. Every morning, I would wake up & curl into my hoodies. My parents had just gifted me a new sweatshirt with Robin Scherbatsky’s face. I can’t remember the occasion. It does not matter. It never mattered. I grew up within a home where it was never uncommon for me to wake up to baked cookies or presents hidden in dusty nooks. I have been loved. I knew every night going to sleep that if I did not wake up, it would not be okay — because I’m loved. 

It was the first Sunday of December & I was gearing up to submit my class assignments. We had a delicious breakfast at home & my father flipped the channel to Aap ki Adalat. Muting the TV, he took my right hand in his palm & traced the calluses on my fingertips: “They still haven’t healed?” — “No, I keep typing & forget to bandage it”. He talked of Switzerland. & Italy. & New York & Vietnam & France & every place he had never seen but longed to. We made plans that morning of flying to Europe in the summer of 2023. He grinned at me, & turned up the volume. 

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That night, I went to sleep envying Derek Shepherd his perfect hair. Next morning, I woke up. He didn’t.

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The first time I heard McCartney sing, it was 4:00 a.m. on a cool August night. It was the first week of my college & a group of us were sitting around a tiny speaker playing our favourite songs. I played A. R. Rahman’s Luka Chuppi. Someone else played Hey Jude. I sang along. Of course, I sang along. It’s surreal to remember that I knew the lyrics to that song, for I can’t remember ever having heard it before. There’s a picture on my Instagram of my parents & my mamu on a beach in Goa from October of 2019. The caption reads, “Hey Jude, don’t be afraid” but before that August night, I cannot remember ever having heard the song. It’s terrifying to look at my skin in the mirror and see faded outlines of leaves & scratches from trees when I have never been to a forest since I was four. It’s terrifying to think of all the conversations I don’t remember having & all the carnival posters I don’t remember seeing & waking up on a Wednesday to find one clinging to the back of my knee. 

When morning dawned on that cool August night, it did not matter that I could not remember listening to Hey Jude. We were drunk on the music & the conversations & the yawning blue sky. I heard “Hey Jude, don’t be afraid” — & I did not look back.

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In If You Knew, poet Ellen Bass poses a question: “What if you knew you’d be the last / to touch someone?” I measure that December Sunday in his touches. His fingertips caressing mine, our hands stumbling into each other over a bowl of carrot halwa, our elbows knocking together as we sang & danced circles around my mum. Me touching his black & white Sherlock Holmes cufflinks as he dressed up to meet a friend. Him hugging me as we crossed paths in the kitchen at 12 a.m. Some mornings, I expect to wake up & find violets blooming everywhere his skin has touched mine. If I knew I would be the last person to touch him, I would have hugged him longer. If I knew this was the last time I was touching him, I would not have stopped.

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The only Beatles album I was familiar with before last summer was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band — & by familiarity I mean knowing its name. My favourite song has always been She’s Leaving Home. I could empathise. I yearned to run head-first & get nowhere; I never ran far enough in my mind to realise that I always ended back home. Yesterday, I was rummaging through my cupboards when I came across my father’s stamp collection. I spent the afternoon flipping through its yellowed pages.

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In the streets of Switzerland in 2023, I feel the snow whisper across my socks. I hold my hand out. An old stamp falls into my palm.