Yoko Ono claims she was misquoted over McCartney outburst

Three days after declaring the limit of Sir Paul McCartney's musical talent to be his ability to rhyme the word 'spoon' with 'June', John Lennon's widow blamed others for her indiscretion yesterday and claimed her husband's one-time soulmate was not so bad after all.

"I was saying about how humble John was and how human John was and that was all I was saying," Ono declared as she unveiled a sculpture at Coventry Cathedral, which she and Lennon had started to construct in 1968.

Despite the clarity of her original statement, at the Q Awards, Ono claimed to have been misquoted. "It's amusing at best and it's the kind of thing that I've witnessed the press to do many times," she said. "I think Paul's a great songwriter."

Ono's words have gone down like a lead balloon in Liverpool, where many still blame her for permanently removing Lennon from the city.

She recalled how her husband's angst about his talent would lead to him to complain that "they always cover Paul's songs and never mine, and I don't know why". She said she would reply: "You're a good songwriter; it's not June with spoon that you write. You're a good singer, too, and most musicians are probably a little bit nervous about covering your songs."

Her mixed feelings for McCartney were also apparent in an interview with the Liverpool Echo this week in which she said: "Paul was the one who knew how to deal with the world and John was the poet. But when John was doing his individual work, I know he felt that people were not so much into his songs."

Yesterday's ceremony at Coventry did much for Ono's efforts to move things on at a time when Lennon would have been celebrating his 65th birthday. Ono, 72, had arrived in the city to dedicate two Japanese oak trees in celebration of her life and work with Lennon. The gesture was inspired by the couple's 1968 trip to Coventry to submit a piece to a British sculpture exhibition.

Consisting of two acorns planted in white pots in an east-west axis beneath a white wrought-iron bench, the work was subsequently targeted by souvenir hunters who dug up the nuts, leaving the work unfinished.

Primary school children joined the ceremony, reading words from Grow Old With Me, a song written by Lennon expressing his love for Yoko, and Let Me Count the Ways, written by Ono after Lennon was killed.

Ono's words about McCartney have served to revive one of Liverpool's oldest debates. The city seems to have concluded that McCartney deserves more respect, since he was the dominant creative force from the time of Sgt Pepper onwards. Lennon, it has been pointed out, wrote his fair share of sugary songs, too.

Ono limited herself to the subject of harmony, yesterday. "I hope that this ceremony will help the healing process of the world and that these trees standing next to each other will symbolise something that was intrinsic to the work that John and I did," she said. "We both had a desire for harmony, integration and peace."