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Music

The John Lennon song that 'sums up the whole' for Paul McCartney

John Lennon and Paul McCartney formed the most successful songwriting partnership in history in the late 1950s. Joined by George Harrison and Ringo Starr by the dawn of the 1960s, they took on the world. The group emerged from the comfort of rhythm and blues covers and love songs into the more experimental psychedelic compositions of their later career, leading the way for contemporary acts and inspiring the future of pop music. 

Before The Beatles, there was The Quarrymen. This early group was formed by 16-year-old Lennon in 1956 with his friends from Quarry Bank High School in Liverpool. They were briefly called the Blackjacks, but this was changed very early on to The Quarrymen.

In 1957, Lennon met 15-year-old Paul McCartney at St Peter’s Church Hall fete in Woolton. The pair got on like a house on fire, and it wasn’t long before McCartney joined The Quarrymen, initially as a rhythm guitarist.

The pair found an instant connection in a symbiotic songwriting talent whereby their powers as a team were stronger than the sum of their parts. Last year, we lucky fans got to see this relationship with our own eyes in the intensely revealing Peter Jackson documentary The Beatles: Get Back

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The documentary followed the Liverpool lads at a particularly tense moment in their career, with the final break-up just around the corner. Despite the bickering, one could see that the bond between the Beatles was one of genuine brotherhood. McCartney and Lennon still displayed their miraculous, almost telekinetic chemistry in the studio as they put together the material for their final album together, Let It Be. After the Beatles’ break-up, McCartney, Lennon and Harrison competed in their respective solo careers, but the four remained in each other’s hearts.

Following Lennon’s untimely and shocking death in 1980, the surviving Beatles were left grieving the loss of their older brother. During McCartney’s appearance on the BBC’s Desert island Discs two years later, he paid tribute to his late songwriting partner. 

For his concluding desert island disc selection, McCartney chose Lennon’s ‘Beautiful Boy’, taken from his final album, Double Fantasy. “I haven’t chosen any Beatles records, but if we had more than eight, I probably would have,” he said. “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’.”