John Lennon and Paul McCartney have shared the writing credits on countless songs for The Beatles. But, in truth, the pair rarely worked so strictly together than in their early moments together. It was during the first steps of The Beatles, with demand and pressure skyrocketing, that the duo wrote songs “eyeball to eyeball”. But, soon after that flurry of creativity, as the touring stopped and the demands slowed down, the partnership, as they kne wit, largely ended.
Instead, the songwriters of the group would arrive at the studio and get advice on near-finished pieces rather than work together on the foundations. It meant that the duo rarely wrote songs for one another. In fact, they never did. Such a clear difference must’ve helped towards the group’s eventual split as their rivalry intensified and the quantifiable differences between a Lennon or McCartney song began to arise.
The songwriting partnerhsip weren’t afraid to write songs for the other members of the group, however. Lennon penned ‘Do You Want To Know A Secret’ for Harrison’s vocal range while John and Paul’s ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’ was always destined for Ringo’s affable tone. But the duo never wrote a song for one another.
In 1980 though, as John Lennon and Yoko Ono were readying themselves to release Double Fantasy, the bespectacled Beatle sat down with the Playboy journalist David Sheff in what is a now-iconic interview. In the conversation, among many other moments, Lennon takes pointed aim at paul McCartney and the rest of The Beatles, highlighting a plethora of tracks he didn’t like — largely Paul’s creations — as well as a list of songs of Macca’s he loved.
However, there was one song which Lennon believed was not only a great track but was so good, that he wished he had sung on. It’s not necessarily considered a classic of the Fab Four but Lennon suggested during the interview that he would’ve done a better job of the vocal on Abbey Road’s ‘Oh! Darling’. He told Sheff: “‘Oh! Darling’ was a great one of Paul’s that he didn’t sing too well,” he said. “I always thought that I could’ve done it better.”
Acknowledging that the duo didn’t operate in that way and that the reality of him singing McCartney’s song was far off, Lennon continued: “He wrote it, so what the hell, he’s going to sing it,” Lennon said, he also suggested it was more in his style. He recalled to Sheff, “If he’d had any sense, he should have let me sing it.” Though it’s remarkable to read it was just one of many salacious comments.
It’s hard to imagine anyone else taking on the vocal of ‘Oh! Darling’, McCartney’s performance is a pure one but one heavily engineered — a testament of the singer’s perfectionism, perhaps. Such was the ferocity of the performance, that McCartney actually began to damage his vocal cords as he continued to provide takes for the hair-raising song, then opting to sing the track at the beginning of every nose-to-the-grind session.
“Every day we’d be treated to a hell of a performance as McCartney put his all into singing the song all the way through once and once only, nearly ripping his vocal cords to shreds in the process,” engineer Geoff Emerick recalled in Here, There and Everywhere. “Paul’s ego prevented him from ever giving John a stab at singing the lead on ‘Oh! Darling,’ despite the fact it was probably better suited to Lennon’s voice,” Emerick wrote.
Of course, unless you’re John Lennon, you probably think the song turned out great. But we can’t help but wonder what Lennon on the vocal of ‘Oh! Darling’ would’ve sounded like and how he would have taken the track to a different space. Sadly, we’ll never know.