Paul McCartney and John Lennon’s relationship within The Beatles is that of a modern-day childhood sweetheart. The duo found each other in their teenage years and went through a host of life experiences by each other’s side, sharing the highs and lows in equal measure as they motored through an expansive career. But soon enough, as they realised they couldn’t be attached to another songwriter for their entire adult life, resentment and tensions grew and a messy divorce was inevitable.
After The Beatles disbanded, the anger and hostility that once seemed so warranted decreased and the duo eventually shared some good times together, once again. Often enjoying their lives and each other’s company outside of the biggest band on the planet, no matter how much it provided them with the means and luxury to do so. Of course, their newfound friendship outside of the Fab Four didn’t last nearly long enough as John Lennon was tragically assassinated in front of his home in 1980.
Following Lennon’s death, McCartney has largely spoken favourably of his friend. No stranger to his cantankerous ways, as a mark of respect, Macca neglects to take shots at his late bandmate and with a substantial solo career in tow, preferring instead to keep the trips down memory lane to a relative minimum. John Lennon, on the other hand, was always happy to share a few words on The Beatles.
More often than not, these were simple re-tellings of song’s conception or picking out songs he didn’t particularly like, citing a lot that he hated. But he also spoke very favourably of Paul McCartney’s songwriting skill, highlighting tracks he loved that Paul had written in several interviews. That said, it’s rare to find Paul McCartney doing the same thing.
McCartney has been happy to pick out songs of The Beatles he loved but never citing particular Lennon favourites except for one moment while appearing on BBC Radio’s Desert Island Discs. The show is a British institution and sees prominent figures of the world sit down with their host and pick eight songs they would take with them to an inescapable desert island.
In the 1982 episode on which McCartney features, two years after’s Lennon’s murder, the musician pays homage to his friend and picks quite possibly his favourite Lennon song. During the show, he walks host Roy Plomley through his life so far with a special mention to the songs which shaped him.
McCartney takes Plomley through The Beatles’ very early beginnings, from The Quarrymen to Johnny and The Moondogs to The Silver Beetles and onwards. It’s a touchingly candid walk through history as McCartney retells the iconic Plomley as one might their father about a local football game. A few names and a few places will ring out for Beatles fans but otherwise, it is a beautiful gentle journey down the history of rock and roll.
It’s a precursor to Paul’s fifth and probably most poignant selection of discs to take with him to his desert island retreat, as only two years after his murder he picks his favourite song to be castaway with as John Lennon’s ‘Beautiful Boy’. It’s a touching track and undoubtedly one of Lennon’s most moving. The fact that McCartney picked it showed that Macca wasn’t only thinking of his friend but those Lennon had left behind too.
He says of the selecting the beautiful song, “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’.”
It’s a heartwarming moment as it not only signifies McCartney’s pain and grief but also his commitment to helping his friend’s family, acknowledging the song’s intended recipient as his John’s son Sean. Below, you can listen to the full Desert Island Discs episode as well as the incredible song ‘Beautiful Boy’.