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Black-and-white image of two men in their mid-twenties seated side-by-side. The man on the right wears a white T-shirt, and is writing something with his left hand. The man on the left is bespectacled, wearing a dark-colored shirt and pants, and looks at what is being written.
John Lennon and Paul McCartney in 1968.

The songwriting partnership of John Lennon and Paul McCartney is one of the best-known and most successful musical and cultural collaborations in history. Between 1962 and 1969, they wrote and published approximately 180 jointly credited songs, of which the vast majority were recorded by The Beatles and form the bulk of their catalogue. Unlike many songwriting partnerships which comprise separate lyricist and composer, both Lennon and McCartney wrote words and music; often however, their songs were principally the work of one of the two credited authors.

Lennon–McCartney compositions have been the subject of numerous cover versions. According to Guinness World Records, "Yesterday" has been recorded by more artists than any other song.[1]

Contents

Working partnership

Lennon's and McCartney's first musical idols were the Everly Brothers, Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly and they learned many of their songs and imitated their sound.[2] Their first compositions were written at McCartney's home (20 Forthlin Road), at Lennon's aunt Mimi's house at 251 Menlove Avenue, or at the Liverpool Institute.[3] They often invited friends such as George Harrison, Nigel Whalley, Barbara Baker, and Lennon's art school colleagues to listen to performances of their new songs.[4]

Although Lennon and McCartney often wrote independently — and many Beatles songs are primarily the work of one or the other — it was rare that a song would be completed without some input from both writers. In many instances, one writer would sketch an idea or a song fragment and take it to the other to finish or improve; in some cases, two incomplete songs or song ideas that each had worked on individually would be combined into a complete song. Often one of the pair would add a so-called middle eight or bridge section to the other's verse and chorus.[5] Lennon called it "Writing eyeball-to-eyeball",[5] and "Playing into each other's noses".[6] This approach of the Lennon/McCartney songwriting team — with elements of competitiveness and mutual inspiration as well as straightforward collaboration and creative merging of musical ideas — is often cited as a key reason for the Beatles' innovation and popular success.

The two wrote songs together from 1958 until 1969. As time went on, the songs increasingly became the work of one writer or the other, often with the partner offering up only a few words or an alternate chord. "A Day in the Life" is a notable and well-known example of a later Beatles song that includes substantial contributions by both Lennon and McCartney, where a separate song fragment by McCartney ("Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head...") was used to flesh out the middle of Lennon's composition ("I read the news today, oh boy..."). "Hey Jude" is another example of a later Paul McCartney song that had input from Lennon: while auditioning the song for Lennon, when McCartney came to the lyric "the movement you need is on your shoulder," McCartney assured Lennon that he would change the line — which McCartney felt was nonsensical — as soon as he could come up with a better lyric. Lennon advised McCartney to leave that line alone, saying it was one of the strongest in the song.[7]

In his 1980 Playboy interview, Lennon said of the partnership, "you could say that he provided a lightness, an optimism, while I would always go for the sadness, the discords, a certain bluesy edge. There was a period when I thought I didn't write melodies, that Paul wrote those and I just wrote straight, shouting rock 'n' roll. But, of course, when I think of some of my own songs — "In My Life" — or some of the early stuff — "This Boy" — I was writing melody with the best of them....Then again, I'd be the one to figure out where to go with a song — a story that Paul would start. In a lot of the songs, my stuff is the 'middle eight,' the bridge."[8]

However, Lennon said the main intention of the Beatles music was to communicate, and that, to this effect, he and McCartney had a shared purpose. The book Help! 50 Songwriting, Recording and Career Tips Used by The Beatles, points out that at least half of all Lennon/McCartney lyrics have the words "you" or "your" in the first line.[9]

The Lennon/McCartney songwriting partnership makes up the majority of the Beatles' catalogue. The first two UK studio albums included twelve cover tunes out of twenty-eight total songs,[10][11] with one Beatles original ("Don't Bother Me") credited to George Harrison[11] and the rest to Lennon/McCartney. Their third UK album, A Hard Day's Night is the only Beatles album made up entirely of Lennon/McCartney compositions.[12] The next album released, Beatles For Sale included six covers.[13] The subsequent release Help! had two covers and two Harrison compositions along with ten Lennon/McCartney tracks. Beginning with Rubber Soul, The Beatles released only original material on their studio albums,[14] with George Harrison contributing between one and three songs on each record, Ringo writing two songs ("Don't Pass Me By" and "Octopus's Garden"), and the rest of the catalogue coming from Lennon and McCartney.

Joint credit

Before they formed the Beatles, McCartney and Lennon had been writing songs together as teens.[15] Both agreed at that time that all songs written by either one of the pair (whether written individually or in a collaborative effort) should be credited to both of them.[15] The earliest song credited to Lennon/McCartney to be officially released is "You'll Be Mine", recorded at home in 1960 and included on Anthology 1 35 years later.[16] From the time of The Beatles’ first A&R audition in January 1962, until Lennon's announcement in September 1969 that he was leaving the band, virtually all songs by McCartney or Lennon were published jointly credited; the only exceptions were a handful of McCartney compositions released by other artists (viz. "Woman" by Peter and Gordon in 1966, "Cat Call" by Chris Barber in 1967, and "Penina" by Carlos Mendes in 1969).

Only in three known cases is there a substantial difference between the recollections of Lennon and McCartney over their individual contributions to Lennon/McCartney songs. Although Lennon said that McCartney helped only with "the middle eight" (implying a short section) of "In My Life",[17] McCartney has said that he wrote the (entire) melody, taking inspiration from Smokey Robinson songs.[18] McCartney said that he wrote "Eleanor Rigby" on an upright piano in the Ashers' music room in Wimpole Street,[19] and later played it to Donovan before it was finished — a claim which Donovan confirmed.[20] Lennon said, in 1972, that he wrote 70 percent of the "Eleanor Rigby" lyrics,[21] but Pete Shotton, Lennon's childhood friend, remembered Lennon's contribution as being "absolutely nil".[22] Whilst Lennon said that McCartney's contribution to "Ticket to Ride" was limited to "the way Ringo played the drums,"[23] McCartney said "we sat down and wrote it together... give him 60 percent of it."[24]

Credit changes

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Lennon/McCartney vs. McCartney/Lennon

On 5 October 1962, The Beatles released their first single in the UK, "Love Me Do"/"P.S. I Love You", credited to "Lennon/McCartney". For the follow-up single released on 11 January 1963, "Please Please Me"/"Ask Me Why", the credit was reversed to "McCartney/Lennon". On 22 March 1963, the Please Please Me LP was released in the UK, and "McCartney/Lennon" was listed for all original compositions. "From Me To You"/"Thank You Girl" was issued as a single on 11 April 1963, the last pair of issued songs credited to "McCartney/Lennon".[25]

On 23 August 1963, "She Loves You"/"I'll Get You" was released as a single, and the songwriting credit was reverted to "Lennon/McCartney". All official subsequent Beatles singles and albums list "Lennon/McCartney" (UK) or "J.Lennon/P.McCartney" (US) as the author of songs written by the two.

When McCartney released his live album Wings over America in 1976, the songwriting credits for five Beatles songs included on the album were reversed to place McCartney's name first. Neither Lennon nor Yoko Ono publicly “voiced a word of disapproval about it”.[15]

In the late 1990s, McCartney and Ono were in a dispute over the writing credits for a number of Beatles songs.[26] McCartney had wanted to change the credits from the traditional Lennon/McCartney to 'Paul McCartney and John Lennon' for the song "Yesterday". McCartney claimed that he and Lennon had agreed in the past that the credits could be reversed, if either of them wanted to, on any future releases, but he later withdrew his request.[26] In 2002, the Paul McCartney live album Back in the U.S. gave the writing credit to "Paul McCartney and John Lennon" on all of the Beatles songs.[27] In a February 2005 statement, McCartney said, "It's something that I don't have a problem with anymore."[28]

An in-depth analysis of the legal issues surrounding this dispute is the subject of a sixty-six page Pepperdine Law Review Article from 2006.[29]

Give Peace a Chance

When Lennon's 1997 posthumous compilation of solo hits, Lennon Legend: The Very Best of John Lennon, was released, "Give Peace a Chance", a song that had originally been credited to Lennon/McCartney, was listed as being composed solely by Lennon. Lennon said that he alone had written the song, his first solo release, but had shared the credit with McCartney "out of guilt".[30] However, it has also been said that he did it as a way of thanks to McCartney for helping him record "The Ballad of John and Yoko" at short notice.[31]

Other credits

A number of songs written primarily by the duo and recorded by the Beatles were credited to people in addition to Lennon and McCartney. "What Goes On" was credited to Lennon/McCartney/Starkey, while "Dig It" and the Beatles' version of "Free as a Bird", was credited to Lennon/McCartney/Harrison/Starkey. "Flying" was credited to Lennon/McCartney/Harrison/Starr. The German-language versions of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "She Loves You" were also credited to additional songwriters for assisting with the translation: "Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand" was credited to Lennon/McCartney/Nicholas/Heller and "Sie Liebt Dich" was credited to Lennon/McCartney/Nicholas/Montague.

Non-Beatles songs

Several songs credited to Lennon/McCartney were originally released not by the Beatles but by other artists, especially those managed by Brian Epstein. Recording a Lennon/McCartney song helped launch new artists' careers. Many of the recordings below were included on the 1979 compilation album The Songs Lennon and McCartney Gave Away.[32] Beatles versions of some of these were recorded; some were not released until after their split, on compilations such as Live at the BBC (1993) and The Beatles Anthology (1995-6).

Year Artist Song Peak Chart
Position
Notes
1963 The Rolling Stones "I Wanna Be Your Man" UK #12 Beatles version released later in 1963 on With The Beatles
1963 Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas "I'll Be on My Way" (b-side) Beatles version released on Live at the BBC
1963 Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas "Bad to Me" UK #1
1963 Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas "I'll Keep You Satisfied" UK #4
1964 Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas "From a Window" UK #10
1963 Tommy Quickly "Tip of My Tongue"
1963 The Fourmost "Hello Little Girl" UK #9 Beatles version released on Anthology 1
1963 The Fourmost "I'm in Love" UK #17
1963 Cilla Black "Love of the Loved" UK #35
1964 Cilla Black "It's for You" UK #7
1968 Cilla Black "Step Inside Love" UK #8 Beatles version released on Anthology 3
1964 The Strangers with Mike Shannon "One and One Is Two"
1964 Peter & Gordon "A World Without Love" UK #1
1964 Peter & Gordon "Nobody I Know" UK #10
1964 Peter & Gordon "I Don't Want to See You Again"
1964 The Applejacks "Like Dreamers Do" UK #20 Beatles version released on Anthology 1
1965 P.J. Proby "That Means a Lot" UK #30 Beatles version released on Anthology 2
1968 Black Dyke Mills Band "Thingumybob"
1969 Mary Hopkin "Goodbye" UK #2

See also

Notes

  1. ^ "Most Recorded Song". Guinness World Records. http://web.archive.org/web/20060910071729/http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/content_pages/record.asp?recordid=50867. Retrieved 2009-05-12. 
  2. ^ Spitz (2005), p. 131-132.
  3. ^ Miles (1997), p. 34.
  4. ^ Spitz (2005), p. 135.
  5. ^ a b Miles (1997), p. 107.
  6. ^ Spitz (2005), p. 133.
  7. ^ The Beatles Anthology documentary
  8. ^ Sheff, David (January 1981). "1980 Playboy Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono". John-Lennon.com. http://www.john-lennon.com/playboyinterviewwithjohnlennonandyokoono.htm. 
  9. ^ Rowley (2008), p. 3.
  10. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Overview of Please Please Me". Allmusic. http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:fifpxql5ldae~T0. Retrieved 14 December 2009. 
  11. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Review of With the Beatles". Allmusic. http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:gifpxql5ldae~T1. Retrieved 14 December 2009. 
  12. ^ "Overview of A Hard Day’s Night". Allmusic. http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:kifpxql5ldae. 
  13. ^ "Overview of Beatles for Sale". Allmusic. http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:aifpxql5ldae. 
  14. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "Review of Rubber Soul". Allmusic. http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:jifqxql5ldae. Retrieved 14 December 2009. 
  15. ^ a b c Garcia, Gilbert (27 January 2003). "The ballad of Paul and Yoko". salon.com. http://dir.salon.com/story/ent/music/feature/2003/01/27/paul_yoko/index.html. Retrieved 13 December 2009. 
  16. ^ Unterberger, Richie. The unreleased Beatles: music & film. Hal Leonard Corp., 2006, ISBN 9780879308926, p. 5-6
  17. ^ Miles (1997), p. 278.
  18. ^ Miles (1997), p. 277.
  19. ^ Miles (1997), p. 281.
  20. ^ Miles (1997), p. 282.
  21. ^ Miles (1997), p. 283.
  22. ^ Miles (1997), p. 284.
  23. ^ Sheff (2000), p. 196.
  24. ^ Miles (1997), p. 193.
  25. ^ Lewisohn (1988), pp. 23, 32
  26. ^ a b "McCartney makes up with Ono". BBC News. 1 June 2003. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/music/2953620.stm. 
  27. ^ Lister, David (28 December 2002). "Let it be, Sir Paul (as someone or other once said)". The Independent. http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/columnists/david-lister/let-it-be-sir-paul-as-someone-or-other-once-said-612138.html. 
  28. ^ "No problem any more". Archived from the original on 17 February 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20080217043221/http://www.heathermillsmccartney.com/notep.php. Retrieved 19 December 2009. 
  29. ^ Landes, Ezra D. (2006). "I Am the Walrus - No. I Am!: Can Paul McCartney Transpose the Ubiquitous 'Lennon/McCartney' Songwriting Credit to Read 'McCartney/Lennon?" An Exploration of the Surviving Beatle's Attempt to Re-Write Music Lore, as it Pertains to the Bundle of Intellectual Property Rights". Pepperdine Law Review 34: p. 185. 
  30. ^ Sheff (2000), p214-215.
  31. ^ MacDonald (2005), p. 358.
  32. ^ Calkin, Graham. "The Songs Lennon and McCartney Gave Away". JPGR. http://www.jpgr.co.uk/col_nut18.html. Retrieved 14 December 2009. 

References

  • Miles, Barry (1997). Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now. New York: Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 0-8050-5249-6. 
  • Sheff, David (2000). All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-25464-4. 
  • MacDonald, Ian (2005). Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties (Second Revised ed.). London: Pimlico (Rand). ISBN 1-844-13828-3. 
  • Spitz, Bob (2005). The Beatles: The Biography. Boston: Little, Brown. ISBN 0-316-80352-9. 
  • Rowley, David (2008). Help! 50 Songwriting, Recording and Career Tips used by the Beatles. Matador. ISBN 978-1906221-379. 

External links


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