Why Quincy Jones Said The Beatles Were "The Worst Musicians in the World"
The producer also called Paul McCartney "the worst bass player [he] ever heard."
In early 2018, Quincy Jones sat down with Vulture's David Marchese for a romp of an interview that would soon set the internet ablaze. In less than 1400 words, the then-84-year-old legendary producer claimed that a "greedy" Michael Jackson had stolen songs and that he knew who killed John F. Kennedy and called modern pop nothing more than "loops, beats, rhymes and hooks." He also shared some choice words about the Beatles, calling them "the worst musicians in the world." Read on for details on his assessment of Paul McCartney's bass playing, the embarrassing Ringo Starr story he shared, and what he said when he called McCartney after the interview went live.
He called McCartney "the worst bass player."
Jones and the Beatles go way back—all to 1964, according to an essay he wrote for Time on his late friend and Beatles producer George Martin. Jones helped Martin on works including Ringo Starr's 1970 album, Sentimental Journey, and even step in to accept the Beatles's Best Original Song Oscar in 1971 for "Let It Be."
More awkwardly, Jones also went go on to marry McCartney's former flame, actor Peggy Lipton, according to Q: The Autobiography of Quincy Jones (2002). That didn't come between them however. The Beatle even brought his kids to stay with Jones' family while the two recorded his part on "That Girl is Mine," his duet with Michael Jackson, according to a Mr. Porter interview (via ExtraTV) with Jones and Lipton's daughter, Rashida Jones.
But despite their long friendship, when asked by Vulture to recount what he thought about the group way back when he first met them, Jones didn't mince words. "That they were the worst musicians in the world," he said. "They were no-playing [expletives]. Paul was the worst bass player I ever heard."
He told an embarrassing story about Ringo's drumming.
As for Ringo? "Don't even talk about it," Jones said to Vulture. But he went on to recount how the drummer had struggled with a cover of "Love Is a Many Splendored Thing" for hours while recording with Jones and Martin. According to Jones, he and Martin ultimately tricked Starr into stepping out of the studio so they could sneak in jazz drummer Ronnie Verrell to get it right.
"We said: 'Mate, why don't you get some lager and lime, some shepherd's pie, and take an hour-and-a-half and relax a little bit?'" Jones recalled. "Ronnie came in for 15 minutes and tore it up. Ringo comes back and says, 'George, can you play it back for me one more time?' So George did, and Ringo says, 'That didn't sound so bad.' And I said, 'Yeah, [expletive] because it ain't you.' Great guy, though."
The interview spurred an intervention with his daughters.
That Vulture interview came on the heels of a likewise interesting and candid GQ profile, and the two pieces combined apparently led Jones' family to sit him down for a hard conversation about oversharing with the press. In a February 2018 social media post, Jones wrote that all six of his daughters staged what he called "a surprise 'family intervention' because of some silly things I've said in two recent interviews."
Expressing regret that the "wordvomit" may have detracted from some important messages about racism, inequality, poverty and homophobia he had also imparted, he further wrote, "I HAVE LEARNED MY LESSON" and apologized to his friends, both alive and dead.
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He called McCartney to apologize.
That October, Jones spoke highly of the Fab Four, telling the Press Association (as quoted by The Independent): "They're the greatest songwriters that ever lived. McCartney is like my brother, Ringo too." By then, the producer had already personally contacted at least one of the surviving Beatles to make amends.
In a September 2018 interview with GQ, McCartney shared what happened shortly after Jones's interviews were published. "He's totally out of his tree," the musician said. "But the great thing was, he rang me after this." According to McCartney, Jones claimed he never actually spoke ill of the Beatles and soon the two were sharing declarations of love.
"I said, 'Hey, Quince!' 'Paul, how you doing, man?' 'I'm doing great—how are you, you [expletive]!' I'm just jiving with him," the Beatle told the magazine. "'Paul, I didn't really say that thing—I don't know what happened, man. I never said that. You know I love you guys!' I said, 'If you had said that, you know what I would have said? [Expletive] you, Quincy Jones!' And he laughed…And he was like, 'Oh, Paul, you know I love you so much.' 'Yeah, I know you do, Quince.'"
No word on whether Starr got a call, too.