When in a songwriting partnership as fruitful as The Beatles’ Lennon and McCartney rivalry is bound to crop up from time to time. As well as being friends and bandmates Paul McCartney and John Lennon were certainly adversaries when it came to songwriting.
Each Beatle would go on to forge their own path following the band’s split, with Lennon, McCartney and George Harrison all pursuing solo careers in the aftermath of the Fab Four’s split. But what were Lennon’s favourite McCartney-penned songs for The Beatles?
The creative tensions by the end of the band’s final record Abbey Road would’ve been too much to bear for many bands. The group were bubbling with songwriters keen to enact their vision which meant that often the other members of the group were playing to somebody else’s figurative drum. It caused distrust and disdain to rise between the members of the world’ biggest band, but that didn’t stop them loving each other’s music too.
While George Harrison’s contribution to the band’s catalogue is undoubtedly highly valued, it was the partnership between Lennon and McCartney that shot the band to fame. Despite all the press rumours, John Lennon was a big fan of McCartney’s work and often praised his songs.
Below is a selection of Paul McCartney songs that John Lennon admired most. First up is the iconic, ‘Hey Jude’. A track written for Lennon’s son, Julian, the ‘Imagine’ singer often labelled the song as McCartney’s best and highlighted the dual lineage of the tune.
In a 1972 interview with Hit Parader, Lennon said,“That’s his best song. It started off as a song about my son Julian because Paul was going to see him. Then he turned it into “Hey Jude.” I always thought it was about me and Yoko but he said it was about him and his.”
During his famous 1980 Playboy interview, Lennon also offered another theory to the song’s inception: “He said it was written about Julian. He knew I was splitting with Cyn and leaving Julian then. He was driving to see Julian to say hello. He had been like an uncle. And he came up with ‘Hey Jude.’ But I always heard it as a song to me.”
“Now I’m sounding like one of those fans reading things into it… Think about it: Yoko had just come into the picture. He is saying. ‘Hey, Jude’– ‘Hey, John.’ Subconsciously, he was saying, ‘Go ahead, leave me.’ On a conscious level, he didn’t want me to go ahead. The angel in him was saying, ‘Bless you.’ The devil in him didn’t like it at all, because he didn’t want to lose his partner.”
Another track to make the list was 1966’s Revolver anthem, ‘Here There and Everywhere’. Lennon said of the song, “This was a great one of his,” and “That’s Paul’s song completely, I believe. And one of my favourite songs of the Beatles.” McCartney himself later remarked that it “was the only song that John ever complimented me on.”
Also on the list are 1963’s ‘All My Loving’ which Lennon said was “a damn good piece of work”, ‘Let It Be’ also ranks highly with Lennon commenting that it was Paul’s last burst of creativity before the band split.
The final track on the list is Abbey Road’s ‘Oh! Darling’ which Lennon singled out for the highest praise. After suggesting Paul didn’t sing the song so well, he said, “I should have written that song, it sounds like a song I’d write.” You don’t get much higher praise than that from John Lennon.
Though it is literally impossible to ascertain the exact ranking of John Lennon’s favourite Paul McCartney songs, it’s fair to say that these five would feature highly on a list of his best hits.
It’s true that John Lennon and Paul McCartney were songwriting rivals—how could they not be? But one thing is often overlooked, as well as rivals they were musical aficionados who knew a good tune when they saw one.
‘Here, There and Everywhere’
‘All My Loving’
‘Let It Be’