Listen to The Beatles beautiful isolated vocals on ‘Penny Lane’ and hear their yearning for home
Credit: VARA

The Beatles song John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote “eyeball to eyeball”

The partnership of The Beatles own’ John Lennon and Paul McCartney is one of the most celebrated musical partnerships of all time. The duo were widely credited for the birth of pop music as we know it and, looking back at the plethora of songs and albums they created, it’s hard to disagree.

As The Beatles began to move into the winter of their careers together, the individual members had begun to separate at the seams, eventually leaving the band threadbare and stretched between four different forces. It wasn’t always like that, however. For a while the group were inseparable.

As the Fab Four found their way in the music industry, the band’s propulsion from within the group came form Lennon and McCartney. The duo had begun to find their classic sound by the release of their first record, Please, Please Me but on the follow up album, With The Beatles they had honed it to perfection.

It meant the album is full of the modern pop classics that turned their fans into fanatics and their doubters into chumps. This was the album that confirmed Beatlemania wasn’t just a fad and the band did so with a series of well-crafted pop songs. One track, among many, would be written “eyeball to eyeball” between Lennon and McCartney, the Beatles classic ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’.

“We wrote alot of stuff together, one on one, eyeball to eyeball,” recalls John Lennon with Playboy in 1980. “Like in ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand,’ I remember when we got the chord that made the song. We were in Jane Asher’s house, downstairs in the cellar playing on the piano at the same time. And we had, ‘Oh you-u-u/ got that something…'”

It offers an image of two of pop music’s finest working across from one another at a furious speed. As with so many great pieces of art there was a eureka moment: “And Paul hits this chord, and I turn to him and say, ‘That’s it!’ I said, ‘Do that again!’ In those days, we really used to absolutely write like that—both playing into each other’s noses.”

Later, in 1994, 14 years after Lennon’s sad murder, McCartney reflected on the song’s composition: “‘Eyeball to eyeball’ is a very good description of it. That’s exactly how it was. ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ was very co-written.” Like much of the music that was truly co-written by the partnership (more often than not songs credited to Lennon-McCartney were driven by one member), ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ rides a wave of duality that is utterly captivating.

Sure, The Beatles were making pop records, they were even concerned with making sure they charted well. But there’s something carefree and imbued with the exuberant enthusiasm of youth, about this song in particular which makes it feel special.

The description of the song from McCartney from back in ’64 says it all and captures that excitement: “Let’s see, we were told we had to get down to it. So we found this house when we were walking along one day. We knew we had to really get this song going, so we got down in the basement of this disused house and there was an old piano. It wasn’t really disused, it was rooms to let. We found this old piano and started banging away. There was a little old organ too.

“So we were having this informal jam and we started banging away. Suddenly a little bit came to us, the catch line. So we started working on it from there. We got our pens and paper out and just wrote down the lyrics. Eventually, we had some sort of a song, so we played it for our recording manager and he seemed to like it. We recorded it the next day.” As simple as that.

Byt the time The Beatles would split up the group had been in disarray for months and their recording process had become protracted and painful. We’d bet that as it was all happening all the Beatles involved would have happily taken it back t 1964. Simpler times when you could share a gaze with your friend and write a pop masterpiece.

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