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The songwriting partnership of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, usually referred to as Lennon/McCartney (Credited as McCartney/Lennon on the early releases ending with the "Please Please Me" LP), is one of the best-known and most successful musical collaborations of all time. In an agreement reached early in their partnership, the pair agreed to use the shared credit Lennon/McCartney on all songs written alone or in tandem, for The Beatles. Their output constitutes the bulk of The Beatles' catalogue.
Lennon, with his cynical edge and knack for introspection, and McCartney, with his storytelling optimism and gift for melody, complemented each other. Lennon and McCartney formed a critically acclaimed and commercially successful partnership writing songs for The Beatles and other artists.
The working partnership[edit | edit source]
Lennon's and McCartney's first musical idols were the Drifters, Elvis Presley, and Buddy Holly, and they learned many of their songs and imitated their sound. 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. 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.
A common misconception of Lennon and McCartney is that each of the duo composed his own songs alone and simply credited them to the partnership. While each of them did often write 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. 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. Lennon called it "Writing eyeball-to-eyeball", and "Playing into each other's noses". 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' innovativeness and popular success.
The pair 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 was improved by relatively minor, but significant, 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.
A joint credit[edit | edit source]
Even before they formed the Beatles, McCartney and Lennon began writing songs together. Lennon suggested 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, in an effort to emulate the familiarity of the Leiber–Stoller partnership. Between 1962 and 1970 all songs either of them published with the exception of Lennon's 1969 solo single "Cold Turkey" were jointly credited. On The Beatles' first album, Please Please Me, as well as the "From Me to You" single, the credit appeared as "McCartney−Lennon"; on all later albums and singles Lennon's name appeared first. As a result of this mutual agreement, songwriting royalties for the bulk of The Beatles' catalogue were shared equally between the two.
There was known to be substantial disagreement between Lennon and McCartney over the authorship of only two songs: "In My Life" and "Eleanor Rigby". Although Lennon said that McCartney helped only with the middle eight of "In My Life", McCartney claims that he wrote the whole melody by taking inspiration from two Smokey Robinson songs: "You Really Got a Hold on Me" and "Tears of a Clown". McCartney said that he wrote "Eleanor Rigby" on an upright piano in the Ashers' music room in Wimpole Street, and later played it to Donovan before it was finished — a claim which Donovan confirmed. Lennon claimed, in 1972, that he wrote 70% of the "Eleanor Rigby" lyrics, but Pete Shotton, Lennon's childhood friend, remembered Lennon's contribution as being "absolutely nil". Beatle experts assign credit to "In My Life" mainly to Lennon, and credit "Eleanor Rigby" mainly to McCartney, although it is generally agreed that neither song was a solo effort.
Controversy[edit | edit source]
The nature and billing order of the dual credit were an occasional source of controversy. When McCartney released his solo 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; Lennon's wife Yoko Ono publicly objected to the change, though Lennon himself made no public statement.
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 previously been credited to Lennon/McCartney, was listed as being composed solely by Lennon. The song was written by Lennon, who originally chose to share the credit with McCartney "out of guilt."
In the late 1990s, McCartney and Yoko Ono were in a dispute over the writing credits for a number of Beatles songs. 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. In a February 2005 statement, McCartney said, "It's something that I don't have a problem with anymore."
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.
Other credits[edit | edit source]
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 "Flying" and "Dig It", as well as the Beatles version of "Free as a Bird", were credited to Lennon/McCartney/Harrison/Starkey. 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[edit | edit source]
In the 1960s, many songs credited to Lennon/McCartney were originally released not by the Beatles but by other artistes, especially those managed by Brian Epstein. Recording a Lennon/McCartney song helped launch new artistes' careers. Beatles' versions of some of these were recorded; some were not released until after their split, on compilations such as Live at the BBC and The Beatles Anthology.
- The Rolling Stones — "I Wanna Be Your Man" (1963). Released first by the Stones as a single; appeared on the Beatles' With The Beatles album shortly after
- Billy J. Kramer with the Dakotas — "I'll Keep You Satisfied" (1963), "From a Window" (1964), "Bad To Me" (1964)
- Tommy Quickly — "Tip of My Tongue" (1963)
- The Fourmost — "Hello Little Girl" (1963), "I'm In Love" (1963)
- Cilla Black — "Love of the Loved" (1963), "It's For You" (1964), "Step Inside Love" (1968)
- The Strangers with Mike Shannon — "One And One Is Two" (1964)
- Peter & Gordon — "A World Without Love" (1964), "Nobody I Know" (1964), "I Don't Want To See You Again" (1964), "Woman" (1966)
- The Applejacks — "Like Dreamers Do" (1964)
- P.J. Proby — "That Means a Lot" (1965)
- John Foster & Sons Ltd Black Dyke Mills Band — "Thingummybob" (1968)
- Mary Hopkin — "Goodbye" (1969)
- Badfinger — "Come And Get It" (1970)
[edit | edit source]
- Songs the Beatles Didn't Do compiled by Joseph Brennan; includes Lennon/McCartney songs and others
- A list of the songs John Lennon and Paul McCartney gave to other artistes during the Beatle years