We’re taking a look back at one of the most inspired, ingrained and engaging songwriting partnerships of all time — Lennon-McCartney — and the songs of Paul McCartney’s that John Lennon actually liked. It may seem like a trivial piece, but considering the iconic duo shared a tempestuous and tremendous relationship, and that Sir Paul claims that Lennon only ever professed to truly like one of the songwriter’s tracks (at least in front of him), we can imagine this list was a welcomed relief for the bassist.
When in a songwriting partnership as fruitful as The Beatles’ Lennon-McCartney bond, the rivalry between the two is bound to crop up from time to time. Whether that was who could get the most songs on an album, who would be given the a-side of a single release or who clocked up more number ones, the duo certainly shared a fraternal competitive nature. As well as being friends and bandmates, Paul McCartney and John Lennon were adversaries when it came to songwriting. Determined to make it competitive, as any two lads from Liverpool would, their partnership soon grew into a working relationship then into a championship.
Each Beatle would go on to forge their own path following the band’s landmark split in 1970, with Lennon, McCartney and George Harrison all pursuing scintillating solo careers in the aftermath of the Fab Four’s breakup with a renewed vigour, Ringo Starr also tried his hand at a few songs but seemed to prefer acting for a spell. It meant that relations between the four were more unlikely to reform than ever, as they competed in the charts and the critic’s columns for post-Beatle glory. But what were Lennon’s favourite McCartney-penned songs for The Beatles?
The creative tensions that were brewing by the end of the band’s final record, Abbey Road, would’ve been too much to bear for many bands or artists. The group were bubbling with focused songwriters keen to enact their vision which meant that often the other members of the band were playing to somebody else’s figurative drum — beating away without much care or attention. Being directed around the studio is always unwanted when you yourself know your route.
It caused distrust and disdain to rise among the members of the world’s biggest band—but that didn’t stop them from loving each other’s more personally created music too. Even George Harrison’s. It was a curious connection that the entire group shared, they would happily hate on each other’s personalities but the music was, largely, sacred.
While George Harrison’s contribution to the band’s catalogue is undoubtedly highly valued, it was the partnership between Lennon and McCartney that shot the band to fame and that partnership also produced some of their best work as a unit. Despite all the press rumours and quotes from the bespectacled man himself, Lennon was a big fan of McCartney’s work and often praised his songs, if only behind the singer’s back.
Below is a selection of McCartney-written songs that John Lennon admired most. First up is the iconic, ‘Hey Jude’, a track written for Lennon’s son, Julian. The ‘Imagine’ singer often labelled the song as McCartney’s best and highlighted the dual lineage of the tune.
In a 1972 interview with Hit Parader, Lennon said: “That’s his best song. It started off as a song about my son Julian because Paul was going to see him. Then he turned it into ‘Hey Jude’. I always thought it was about me and Yoko but he said it was about him and his.” During his famous 1980 Playboy interview, Lennon also offered another theory to the song’s inception, discounting what many people think is the nugget of truth at the centre of the tune: “He said it was written about Julian. He knew I was splitting with Cyn and leaving Julian then. He was driving to see Julian to say hello. He had been like an uncle. And he came up with ‘Hey Jude.’ But I always heard it as a song to me.”
“Now I’m sounding like one of those fans reading things into it… Think about it: Yoko had just come into the picture. He is saying. ‘Hey, Jude’—’Hey, John.’ Subconsciously, he was saying, ‘Go ahead, leave me.’ On a conscious level, he didn’t want me to go ahead. The angel in him was saying, ‘Bless you.’ The devil in him didn’t like it at all, because he didn’t want to lose his partner.”
Another track to make Lennon’s list was the Revolver anthem; ‘Here There and Everywhere’. Lennon said of the song: “This was a great one of his,” before adding: “That’s Paul’s song completely, I believe. And one of my favourite songs of the Beatles.” McCartney himself later remarked that it “was the only song that John ever complimented me on.” It also so happened to be one of the songs that McCartney labels as his own favourite.
Also on the list are 1963’s classic ‘All My Loving’ which Lennon said was “a damn good piece of work” and ‘Let It Be’ which also ranks highly with Lennon commenting that it was McCartney’s last burst of creativity before the band split. It’s a classic track which has always gathered up fans from whoever has heard it.
The final track on the list is Abbey Road’s ‘Oh! Darling’ which Lennon singled out for the highest praise. After suggesting Paul didn’t sing the song so well, he said: “I should have written that song; it sounds like a song I’d write.” You don’t get much higher praise than that from John Lennon.
Though it is literally impossible to ascertain the exact ranking of John Lennon’s favourite Paul McCartney songs, it’s fair to say that these five would feature highly on a list of his best hits. It’s true that John Lennon and Paul McCartney were songwriting rivals—how could they not be?
But one thing is often overlooked, as well as rivals; they were musical aficionados who knew a good tune when they saw one.
John Lennon’s five favourite Paul McCartney songs
- ‘Hey Jude’
- ‘Here, There and Everywhere’
- ‘All My Loving’
- ‘Oh! Darling’
- ‘Let It Be’