Legendary music producer Quincy Jones dished on what he really thinks of some of his most famous collaborators, from The Beatles to Michael Jackson, in a wide-ranging interview with Vulture.
Though they’re widely regarded as one of the greatest bands to ever play, Jones’ first impression of The Beatles was hardly complimentary.
In fact, his initial reaction to the mop-top Liverpudlians was that “they were the worst musicians in the world. They were no-playing mother—–rs.”
He took particular issue with Paul McCartney’s bass-playing skills (“Paul was the worst bass player I ever heard”) and Ringo’s drumming (“Don’t even talk about it”).
Jones recalled a particular studio session in 1970 in which he was working on a version of “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing” for Starr’s debut studio album.
The producer said Starr was trying — and failing — for hours to master “a four-bar thing” and couldn’t perfect it, so Jones suggested he “get some lager and lime, some shepherd’s pie” and take a time out.
While Starr was gone, Jones said he called up jazz drummer Ronnie Verrell to master the bit in 15 minutes — and when Starr heard it, he was impressed.
“I said, ‘Yeah, mother—–r because it ain’t you,'” Jones recalled.
Meanwhile, Jones had plenty more to say on Michael Jackson, who bought The Beatles catalogue in 1985 as part of a multimillion dollar deal for Sony/ATV.
Jones — who famously produced many of Jackson’s albums, including 1982’s record-shattering “Thriller” — described his late pal as a “Machiavellian” and “greedy” man who swiped tracks from other artists without credit.
Jones, 84, cited “Billie Jean” as an example, and said the riff came straight from the 1982 Donna Summer track “State of Independence,” which Jones had produced and on which Jackson sang backup.
“I hate to get into this publicly, but Michael stole a lot of stuff. He stole a lot of songs,” Jones said. “The notes don’t lie, man. He was as Machiavellian as they come.”
The producer also referenced a similar situation with the song “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” saying keyboardist Greg Phillanganes wrote the song’s c section and deserved royalties.
“Greedy, man. Greedy. Michael should’ve given him 10% of the song. Wouldn’t do it,” Jones said.
Jackson died in 2009 at age 50 of an “acute propofol intoxication,” putting an end to a life Jones says was marred with pain stemming from abuse as a child.
“I used to kill him about the plastic surgery, man. He’d always justify it and say it was because of some disease he had. Bulls–t,” Jones said. “He had a problem with his looks because his father told him he was ugly and abused him. What do you expect?”
Jackson and Starr weren’t the only singers Jones took issue with: he also relayed a story about Cyndi Lauper’s participation in the famous charity single “We Are the World,” saying she whined about the song and ruined every take with her rattling jewelry.
Jones did have some positive things to say about the state of music today, despite gripes that most modern artists don’t have enough musical knowledge to create decent work.
He praised Bruno Mars, Chance the Rapper, Kendrick Lamar, Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith, among others.
“I like where Kendrick’s mind is. He’s grounded. Chance, too,” Jones said. “And the Ed Sheeran record is great. Sam Smith — he’s so open about being gay. I love it. Mark Ronson is someone who knows how to produce.”