Ever since audiences first put the hotly anticipated vinyl of Let It Be on the record player, there has been an air of discontent around ‘Two of Us’. Just imagine: this is the album that was almost completely shelved by The Beatles, allegedly caused some of their worst fights, and had to be rescued by Phil Spector from the proverbial garbage can. And the first thing you hear is… John Lennon yelling some inane studio chatter, followed by a mellow acoustic number? Where’s the excitement of ‘Get Back’, or the tumultuousness of ‘The Long and Winding Road’? Why start the album with this?
There doesn’t seem to be any discourse about the quality of the song itself: ‘Two of Us’ is undoubtedly a beautiful song with some lovely imagery and vocal work from both Lennon and Paul McCartney. But it makes for a poor album opener, with or without unnecessary studio banter, and it now remains emblematic of some of the less-savoury aspects of the Get Back project. While McCartney claimed it was written for his wife Linda, fans almost didn’t want to believe that the song wasn’t about his and Lennon’s friendship.
“Paul wrote ‘Two Of Us’ on one of those days out,” Linda McCartney insisted in Steve Turner’s A Hard Day’s Write. “It’s about us. We just pulled off in a wood somewhere and parked the car. I went off walking while Paul sat in the car and started writing. He also mentions the postcards because we used to send a lot of postcards to each other.”
“As a kid, I loved getting lost,” she continues. “I would say to my father – let’s get lost. But you could never seem to be able to get really lost. All signs would eventually lead back to New York or wherever we were staying! Then, when I moved to England to be with Paul, we would put Martha in the back of the car and drive out of London. As soon as we were on the open road I’d say, ‘Let’s get lost’ and we’d keep driving without looking at any signs. Hence the line in the song, ‘Two of us going nowhere’.”
McCartney corroborates his wife’s recollections in The Lyrics, stating: “One of the great things about Linda was that while I was driving and going, ‘Oh my god, I think I’m lost’, she’s simply say ‘Great!’ She loved getting lost. And she pointed out to me quite rightly that there would always be a sign somewhere saying ‘London’, so we’d just follow that.”
But beyond its lyrical content, the song would become infamous due to one of the most notorious arguments captured during its making. While The Beatles were set up in Twickenham Studios to begin production on Get Back, McCartney and George Harrison had a tense standoff regarding the song’s guitar part.
Paul: It’s complicated now. We can get it simpler, and then complicate it where it needs complications.
George: It’s not complicated.
Paul: This one is like, shall we play guitars through ‘Hey Jude’… well, I don’t think we should.
George: OK, well I don’t mind. I’ll play, you know, whatever you want me to play, or I won’t play at all if you don’t want me to play. Whatever it is that will please you, I’ll do it.
While it failed to reach the heights of the knock-down/drag-out fights that were allegedly (and falsely) occurring during the sessions, it was the closest the public ever got to see The Beatles at their most frayed. For a number of years, the exchange between McCartney and Harrison was the only look into the tensions that surrounded Let It Be, thanks to Michael Lindsey-Hogg’s original Let It Be documentary.
The Beatles eventually completed ‘Two of Us’ during the final day of sessions for the Get Back project. For such a sublime song, the turbulent and conflicting history behind it actually helped add to the legend of Let It Be as the downfall of the Fab Four. There were certainly difficulties involved, but like the process as a whole, ‘Two of Us’ contains a lot more optimism and harmony than most detractors would have thought.