Though John Lennon was perhaps his own fiercest critic, he may well have been The Beatles and Paul McCartney’s too. The songwriting powerhouse existed with such a fraternal undercurrent — linked not only by location and interest but personal tragedy too — that McCartney famously said the bespectacled Beatle only ever complimented one of his songs to his face, though we’re not sure that can be true. There’s no debate on whether the song in question, ‘Here, There and Everywhere’, was the lone song of McCartney’s that Lennon loved; he was an avid fan of his counterpart’s work, citing any McCartney compositions as his favourite.
Equally, while Lennon rarely commented about his perceived high valuation of McCartney’s work to his face, he used interviews and retrospective moments to heap praise on the singer whenever he could. Championing him as one of the great songwriters of musical history as well as a wholesome partner. However, as any Beatles fan will tell you, Lennon was the band’s worst critic, as well as his own. Meaning many of McCartney’s songs came under fire following the Fab Four’s split. Below, we’ve got a list of songs written by Paul McCartney that his old pal John hated.
In defence of Lennon, the singer was usually most scathing about his own work, picking out ‘Run For Your Life’ as the song from the band’s repertoire that he disliked most. And that’s just one of many of his own works that he routinely bashed when given the opportunity, often remarking that the efforts were “throwaway” or “meaningless”, perhaps emboldened by his new socially conscious push. It was an ethos that had begun to take hold while he was in the band, and some of their songs from the early days, still held a hefty deal of resentment for Lennon.
It would seem as time passed, the earlier efforts of the group were routinely lambasted by Lennon, who perceived them in a new light. Tracks like ‘Hold Me Tight’, which Lennon called “album filler”, or the 1964 hit ‘Eight Days A Week’ about which Lennon remarked that it was “never a good song” and concluded, “it was lousy.”
Another huge hit for the band that Lennon later disliked was the seminal ‘Yesterday’. Telling David Sheff in 1980: “The lyrics don’t resolve into any sense, they’re good lines. 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. So, mine didn’t used to either. I have had so much accolade for ‘Yesterday.’ That’s Paul’s song, and Paul’s baby. Well done. Beautiful— and I never wished I’d written it.”
One such album typified that struggle between the commercial, creative and righteous values that resided within the band, Sgt. Pepper. After having difficulty reconciling with McCartney’s overarching and, perhaps more accurately, overbearing concept for Sgt. Pepper, it’s no surprise there are a few entries from the 1967 album as Lennon’s most disliked album the band ever made. The main reason being that, at the time, McCartney was pushing the artistic creativity of the group and was, for all intents and purposes, the band’s leader. Something Lennon, the founder, was none too keen on.
One of those songs, recorded on a four-track, ‘Lovely Rita’ was written and sang by Paul McCartney and details the narrator’s affection for a traffic warden, it’s something Lennon thought was silly, at best. “I’m not interested in writing about people like that,” Lennon once said of the song. “I like to write about me, because I know me.” It was far removed from Lennon’s classic songwriting style.
Next up is another Pepper number, ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’. This iconic track, one of the first songs McCartney wrote, at the tender age of just 16, tells the tale of a young man planning to grow old with his lover. Given the slightly more traditional themes in the track, Lennon once aimed a subtle dig at his bandmate by describing his writing as “granny music” and, when asked who wrote the track ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’, he replied: “Paul’s, completely. I would never dream of writing a song like that.”
Perhaps one of the most beloved songs on Lennon’s most hated list is ‘Hello, Goodbye’. Written by McCartney, Lennon was said to have been particularly unhappy when it was decided that ‘Hello, Goodbye’ was chosen to be the A-side to the Beatles’ experimental song ‘I Am the Walrus‘. “It wasn’t a great piece,” Lennon said in a 1980 interview with Playboy, adding that it was: “Three minutes of contradictions and meaningless juxtapositions. The best bit was the end, which we all ad-libbed in the studio, where I played the piano.”
The song that launched Lennon’s tirade of “granny music” was ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ a track that not only lacks any real sensical lyrics but was also compounded by Macca’s incessant desire to record it. After the song was finally completed, studio engineer Geoff Emerick quit the studio and refused to work with the band.
‘Birthday’ is another unlucky effort that has seen Lennon’s wrath. Chosen as the opening track on the third side of The Beatles’ now-iconic LP The White Album, ‘Birthday‘ was an impromptu creation: “We thought, ‘Why not make something up?’ So we got a riff going and arranged it around this riff,” McCartney once said. “So that is 50–50 John and me, made up on the spot and recorded all in the same evening.” For Lennon though, the feeling wasn’t so mutual: “I think Paul wanted a song like ‘Happy Birthday Baby,’ the old ’50s hit,” he once said. “It was a piece of garbage.”
Similarly, featuring on The White Album was ‘Rocky Raccoon’ which Lennon was notably disdainful of when asked who wrote the song: “Couldn’t you guess? Would I go to all that trouble about Gideon’s Bible and all that stuff?” He was also quoted as saying a few years later: “I saw Bob Hope doing it once on the telly years ago; I just thanked God it wasn’t one of mine.”
Many of the songs listed thus far rely on Lennon’s own perception. But one track gathered up the entire band’s anger very easily; ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’. His bandmates would have backed the singer and guitarist as George and Ringo equally disliked this song, too, largely because of the song’s lengthy composition. “He (Paul) did quite a lot of work on it. I was ill after the (automobile) accident while they did most of the track, and I believe he really ground George and Ringo into the ground recording it. We spent more money on that song than any of them on the whole album, I think.”
Another song from McCartney’s collection may be a surprising one. In what was The Beatles final single before McCartney announced his departure from the band, ‘Let It Be’ is arguably one of the band’s most famous songs. While fans often speculated that the song was built around the band’s tense relationships, Lennon disputed it emphatically: “It has nothing to do with The Beatles,” he said in 1980. “It could’ve been Wings. I don’t know what [Paul was] thinking when he writes ‘Let It Be.’”
It concludes a list of songs that would happily sit among many band’s list of greatest hits, but for The Beatles, rich and potent as their back catalogue is, they fall away in comparison — according to John Lennon at least. There’s no doubt that Lennon’s opinion on his work changed from day to day, so there’s a good chance he would have found another reason to like them had his life not been cut short.
However, below, we’ve got a list and a playlist of the Paul McCartney songs written for The Beatles that John Lennon hated. It may not have been a steadfast list, it may not have even been the full list, but it’s a reminder of the high standards The Beatles set themselves.
Paul McCartney’s 10 Beatles songs that John Lennon hated:
- ‘Hold Me Tight’
- ‘Eight Days A Week’
- ‘Lovely Rita’
- ‘When I’m Sixty Four’
- ‘Hello Goodbye’
- ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’
- ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’
- ‘Let It Be’