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Lennon/McCartney

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Photo by David Bailey © 1968
One of us might think of a song completely, and the other might just add a bit. Or we might write alternate lines. We never argue. If one of us says he doesn't like a bit, the other agrees. It just doesn't matter that much. I care about being a song writer, but I don't care passionately about each song.

—Paul McCartney, 1966

[Paul] provided a lightness, an optimism, while I would always go for the sadness, the discords, the bluesy notes. 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.

—John Lennon, Playboy Interviews, 1980

We knew we were good. People used to say to us, 'Do you think John and you are good songwriters?' and I'd say— "Yeah it may sound conceited but it would be stupid of me to say 'No, I don't,' or 'Well, we're not bad' because we are good." Let's face it. If you were in my position, which was working with John Lennon, who was a great, great man — It's like that film 'Little Big Man.' He says, 'We wasn't just playing Indians, we was LIVIN' Indians.' And that's what it was. I wasn't just talking about it, I was living it. I was actually working with the great John Lennon, and he with me. It was very exciting.

—Paul McCartney, 1988

The way that Lennon and McCartney worked together wasn't the Rodgers-and-Hart kind of collaboration. It was more a question of one of them trying to write a song, getting stuck, and asking the other: 'I need a middle eight. What have you got?' They were both tunesmiths in their own right, and would help each other out as the need arose. ... But as they developed their art, each moved on to writing songs entirely on his own. Collaboration became rare, apart from the odd word or line; it was either a John Lennon song or a Paul McCartney song.

—George Martin, All You Need Is Ears, 1979

When did your songwriting partnership with Paul end?

That ended... I don't know, around 1962, or something, I don't know. If you give me the albums I can tell you exactly who wrote what, and which line. We sometimes wrote together. All our best work — apart from the early days, like "I Want to Hold Your Hand" we wrote together and things like that — we wrote apart always. The "One After 909," on the "Let It Be" LP, I wrote when I was 17 or 18. We always wrote separately, but we wrote together because we enjoyed it a lot sometimes, and also because they would say well, you're going to make an album get together and knock off a few songs, just like a job.

—John Lennon, "The Rolling Stone Interview", 1971

Jann Wenner: What songs really stick in your mind as being Lennon-McCartney songs?

"I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “From Me To You,” “She Loves You” – I’d have to have the list, there’s so many, trillions of ‘em. Those are the ones. In a rock band you have to make singles, you have to keep writing them. Plenty more. We both had our fingers in each others pies.

—John Lennon, Rolling Stone Interviews, Dec 8, 1970

I said that [playing down how much he and McCartney collaborated], but I was lying.... We wrote a lot of stuff together, one on one, eyeball to eyeball.... In those days we absolutely used to write like that — both playing into each other's noses.

—John Lennon, Playboy Interview

John & Paul, circa 1967
It's too easy to put it off if we just meet without any plan and say, 'Shall we write something today?' If you do that then you feel as though you're losing a free day. What we're going to do is make dates beforehand and sort of say, 'Right, Wednesday and Friday of this week are for songwriting. And Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of next week.' Then we'll know it's something we've to keep to.

—John Lennon, 1966

With John and me on a song, if I come up with some lines which I know aren't really very good and I'm just hoping to fool him, I know I won't. 'I Saw Her Standing There' was the best example of it. I thought of the idea driving home from a concert in Southport. I had 'She was just seventeen,' and then, 'Beauty queen.' I knew this was rubbish, and that I'd put it down just because it rhymed. When I showed it to John, he screamed with laughter, and said 'You're joking about that line, aren't you?' And I realised that, in fact, I was, and we changed it.

—Paul McCartney, 19__

We would normally be rung a couple of weeks before the recording session and they'd say, 'We're recording in a month's time and you've got a week off before the recordings to write some stuff.' ... So I'd go out to John's every day for the week, and the rest of the time was just time off. We always wrote a song a day, whatever happened we always wrote a song a day... Mostly it was me getting out of London, to John's rather nice, comfortable Weybridge house near the golf course... So John and I would sit down, and by then it might be one or two o'clock, and by four or five o'clock we'd be done.

—Paul McCartney, 1994

Songs, these days, are no problem for The Beatles. It just seems to get easier every month. Of course, they have more time now. Back in '63 and '64, they had to write numbers late at night in hotel rooms. They would work into the early hours of the morning and, in the dead of night, you would hear Paul yell across the room, something like, 'Hey, John. What rhymes with girl?' Nowadays, they get together at John's house and there are no interruptions, no guitars tuning in their ears and no bangs on the door for autographs. They have complete peace and quiet and this has been one big reason why they got half of the songs for [Rubber Soul] written in one week, which is very good going!

—Neil Aspinall, 1965

Sometimes they say, 'Now you must write,' and now we write. But it doesn't come some days. We sit there for days just talking to each other, messing 'round not doing anything.

—John Lennon, 1966

John and Paul's standard of writing has bettered over the years, so it's very hard for me to come straight to the top, on par with them. They gave me an awful lot of encouragement. Their reaction has been very good. If it hadn't, I think I would have just crawled away.

—George Harrison, 1966

You can't say that Paul and I are writing separately these days. We do both. When it comes to nweeding 500 songs for Friday, you've gotta get together. I definitely find I work better when I've got a deadline to meet. It really frightens you, and you've got to churn them out. All the time, I'm sort of arranging things in my mind.

—John Lennon, 1969

"Two of Us" from Let It Be:

 

Brokeback Beatles: A John & Paul Love Story
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