On Abbey Road, Paul McCartney was firing on all cylinders and had started to become the group’s de-facto leader. However, his favourite track from the album is one of John Lennon’s additions, rather than his own creation.
‘Come Together’ is perhaps the definitive album opener, and for Paul McCartney, it’s also the high point of Abbey Road. Initially, the song wasn’t intended for The Beatles and was instead earmarked to appear as part of a political campaign for Timothy Leary. However, after a public scandal, Lennon recognised the embryo of a classic within the material and brought the track to his bandmates, who helped him unleash its potential.
Lennon later revealed that the song led to a dispute between him and the psychologist, who inspired ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’. He explained: “Leary attacked me years later, saying I ripped him off. I didn’t rip him off. It’s just that it turned into ‘Come Together.’ What am I going to do, give it to him?”.
In the immediate aftermath of the album’s release, McCartney stepped foot on the promo trail and welcomed David Wigg from the BBC into the Apple offices to discuss Abbey Road. The first question on the agenda was McCartney’s favourite song on the record, to which Macca replied: “Well, I like Come Together. That’s a great one, which is John’s one, yeah”.
Although George Harrison’s two gifts to the record, ‘Something’ and ‘Here Comes The Sun’, are also popular preferences, the magnificence of ‘Come Together’ is impossible to deny. The unapologetically Chuck Berry-influenced track is also an example of the genius collaborative process behind Lennon and McCartney which made The Beatles glisten.
In the Barry Miles book Many Years From Now, McCartney explains how he helped transform the song from its original incarnation into the one we love, stating: “He originally brought it over as a very perky little song, and I pointed out to him that it was very similar to Chuck Berry’s ‘You Can’t Catch Me’. John acknowledged it was rather close to it, so I said, ‘Well, anything you can do to get away from that.'”
McCartney added: “I suggested that we tried it swampy – ‘swampy’ was the word I used – so we did, we took it right down. I laid that bass line down which very much makes the mood. It’s actually a bass line that people now use very often in rap records. If it’s not a sample, they use that riff. But that was my contribution to that.”
However, McCartney would later disclose his regret about not contributing further. In 1970, He told The Evening Standard: “On ‘Come Together’ I would have liked to sing harmony with John and I think he would have liked me to, but I was too embarrassed to ask him and I don’t work to the best of my abilities in that situation”.
Listen below to ‘Come Together’.