The Beatles were a quintessential four-piece in the less obvious sense of the word. As Ethan Hawke passionately proclaims in the movie Boyhood: “There is no favourite Beatle! That’s what I’m saying, it’s in the balance!” Of all the expanding reams written about the Fab Four, few things are less subjectively certain than that. Although it might not have seemed that way sometimes, creatively, they were meddling in the same alchemically creative mix. And the reason that mix was so intoxicating for millions of fans was that they all provided their own undiluted dose of singular brilliance.
As Ethan Hake continues to bawl: “Paul takes you to the party, George talks to you about God, John says, ‘Nah it’s about love and pain’, then Ringo who just says ‘hey, can’t we just enjoy what we have when we have it?’” So, with that in mind, we’ve decided to take a look at the times when John Lennon was happiest to have Paul McCartney take him to the party, by exploring his favourite tracks that his old mucker penned.
Naturally, we can’t really proceed with the love-in without acknowledging the often-caustic by-product of their fruitful relationship. For instance, Lennon even expressed loathing of the seminal McCartney track ‘Yesterday’. “The lyrics don’t resolve into any sense, they’re good lines,” he once told David Sheff. “They certainly work, you know what I mean? They’re good— but if you read the whole song, it doesn’t say anything; you don’t know what happened. She left, and he wishes it were yesterday, that much you get, but it doesn’t really resolve.” Before he concluded: “I never wished I’d written it.”
However, there are more than a few that he did indeed wish he wrote, and these are the ones that we are diving into below.
John Lennon’s favourite songs written by Paul McCartney:
To begin, we’ll start with the one that was perhaps Lennon’s favourite and he certainly isn’t alone in the opinion. “That’s his best song,” John told Hit Parader in 1972. ” 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.”
He even later declared that he thought it had a cryptic undercurrent that was very personal to their partnership. “I always heard it as a song to me,” he told Playboy in 1980. “‘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.”
‘All My Loving’
Lennon was never much of a fan of the band’s strait-laced early work, describing most of them as “throwaway” and “meaningless”. However, one or two stood out to him in later years as still being worthy with the McCartney hit ‘All My Loving’ being one of them.
Sitting down with David Sheff for his infamous 1980 Playboy interview, Lennon was open about his admiration for the song. During the interview Lennon was running through classic Beatles tracks and offering up his opinion, “‘All My Loving’ is Paul, I regret to say,” he told David Sheff. But why did he regret to say it? “Because it’s a damn good piece of work.” It’s not the usual remark Lennon had for McCartney’s work at the time, but he was happy to champion the track as “one of [Paul’s] first biggies.”
‘Here, There and Everywhere’
Revolver represented a huge turning point for The Beatles. It was the moment that they became tousled and spiritual, but they needed the songs to go along with it, and fortunately, they delivered one of their best records and a favourite for many fans.
“’Here There and Everywhere’ was a great one of his,” John once proclaimed. “That’s Paul’s song completely, I believe. And one of my favourite songs of the Beatles.” And he even charmingly yelled out during the recording process: “Really good song lad!” Paul McCartney would later add: “That was the only song that John ever complimented me on.”
‘Why Don’t We Do It In The Road’
Tensions by the time that The White Album came around were mounting. In fact, they had reached the point that Paul McCartney decided to record this track in a separate room on his own. Thus, the fact that a peeved Lennon still complimented it, is testimony to the work he put in.
“He even recorded it by himself in another room,” Lennon once declared. “That’s how it was getting in those days. We came in and he’d made the whole record. Him drumming [sic]. Him playing the piano. Him singing. But he couldn’t—he couldn’t—maybe he couldn’t make the break from the Beatles. I don’t know what it was, you know. I enjoyed the track. Still, I can’t speak for George, but I was always hurt when Paul would knock something off without involving us. But that’s just the way it was then.”
The song ‘Oh! Darling’ is proof that even the dying embers of the band still packed a lot of heat. The band was soon to be no more, but they were still crafting work that resides among their best.
Lennon’s praise for the piece was somewhat backhanded, however, if anything, that revealed an even deeper sense of envious admiration. As he once said: “‘Oh! Darling’ was a great one of Paul’s that he didn’t sing too well. I always thought I could have done it better – it was more my style than his. He wrote it, so what the hell, he’s going to sing it.” Before continuing that sentiment when he later said: “I should have written that song. It sounds like a song I’d write.”
‘For No One’
This is another song from Revolver that showed a growing introspection to the Fab Four’s work. There is a level of realism to the track that disavowed the glossy-eyed nature of their earlier and it proved sonically idiosyncratic too.
Those are all elements that stir Lennon’s pot, so it is perhaps not surprising that he liked this one. His praise, however, was short and sweet; he simply declared: “One of my favourites of his – a nice piece of work.”
‘Fixing A Hole’
If any album signalled the unity of the band that ran alongside the friction, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band would surely be it. Simply put, it would’ve been impossible to craft an album as kaleidoscopic as this, over months of tireless work, unless they were working from the same page.
Once again, Lennon’s praise was hardly verbose, but he didn’t have a bad word to say about it which was significant. “That’s Paul, again writing a good lyric.,” he proclaimed in an interview with notable stress on again, which was a rarity.
‘Band on the Run’ (with Wings)
Lennon’s comments on McCartney’s solo work are relatively hard to come by. For the most part, he seemed to be concerned about the hidden jibes contained within the tracks rather than appraising the songs themselves.
However, ‘Band on the Run’ stands out as an exception. He noted that his former bandmates outing was, “a great song,” and he even elevated the compliment even further by adding, “and a great album,” which is praise that was missing when Ram and others were released.
The noteworthy appraisal of his solo outings came in the form of McCartney II’s opening single ‘Coming Up’, which came at a time when the friendship had rekindled, and apparently, a creative partnership could’ve been a possibility before Lennon’s tragic end.
Not only did Lennon proclaim the song as “a good piece of work,” but according to McCartney it also prompted Lennon to return to the studio to recommence recording in 1980. Lennon went on to add: “I thought that Coming Up was great and I like the freak version that he made in his barn better than that live Glasgow one. If I’d have been with him I would’ve said ‘that’s the one’ too. And I thought that the record company had a nerve changing it round on him, and I know what they mean, they want to hear the real guy singing, but I like the freaky one.”