Paul McCartney and John Lennon shared a brotherly relationship and went through more than their fair share of fallouts during The Beatles and beyond, as they struggled to match their wild success during their solo careers. Following the split of The Fab Four, their friendship first splintered and then healed itself over time and transformed into a new entity, one that was completely different from the inseparable teenagers they were when they first became friends. They were older, but they still had this unbreakable bond that survived throughout.
After The Beatles came to an end, they both went their own ways and released a wealth of stellar solo material as they stepped into different musical lanes. There are some similarities in the early material of both men, who were dealing with the exact same issues following the death of The Beatles, which hit them both hard even if it was in different ways. They had been thrown back into civilian life after being in the trenches of Beatlemania for almost a decade. They were trying to find their feet in normal life, a factor which meant that even though they weren’t speaking, they were still somehow connected.
This connection provided Paul with an ability to understand the music of John Lennon like nobody else; he could map through his old bandmate’s new songs by remembering his creative process. When you work with someone day-in-day-out for close to a decade in how Lennon and McCartney did, it becomes almost impossible to shake this level of understanding of one another away. This meant that when it was Macca listening, some of John’s songs just meant that extra something — knowing exactly where every last note has come from.
“You know if you know someone that long,” Paul said whilst in conversation with Sean Lennon, celebrating John’s recent 80th birthday celebration on BBC Radio 2.
“From your early teenage years to your late twenties, that’s an awful long time to be collaborating with someone and you grow to know each other and even when you’re apart you’re still thinking about each other, you’re still referencing each other,” McCartney added.
Sean was eager to discover what song from Lennon’s solo career holds the biggest place in McCartney’s heart, and his answer didn’t disappoint. “Obviously ‘Imagine and ‘Instant Karma’ is great, and the nice thing was when I listen to the records, I can imagine him in the studio and go, ‘Oh ok, I know what he’s done’. I’m often asked for my favourite tunes kind of thing, and I always include ‘Beautiful Boy’,” McCartney revealed.
The Double Fantasy track was famously written for Sean by John, and the song full of messages of self-improvement like “Every day and in every way, I am getting better and better”, which has become somewhat of a self-help mantra. The honest lyrics also feature the famous line, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” — it’s a track that sees Lennon truly lay his heart on the line for his art.
McCartney wasn’t just polite by saying it was his favourite Lennon song because it was written about his former bandmate’s passionate adoration for his son, who he was in the company of — he has been banging the drum about ‘Beautiful Boy’ for decades.
During an appearance on Desert Island Discs back in 1982, just two years after John’s death — a grief-stricken Macca picked the beautiful song as one of his choices, “I haven’t chosen any Beatles records, but if we had more than eight, I probably would have. I haven’t chosen any of my records so, to sum up the whole thing, I have chosen one of John Lennon’s from Double Fantasy which I think is a beautiful song very moving to me. So, I’d like to sum up the whole thing by playing ‘Beautiful Boy’.”
Almost forty years on from when he made that initial statement about ‘Beautiful Boy’ being the song from the entirety of The Beatles Universe, which means the most to him — it warms the heart to know that despite everything which has changed in that long period, his adoration for the John, Sean and the song remains the same.