The Beatles’ unparalleled success was undoubtedly built upon the foundations laid down by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. While, on occasion, a handful of tracks did originate from the minds of either George Harrison or Ringo Starr, it was only on a select number of times that all four members of The Fab Four would put their minds together to be credited on their material collectively.
Admittedly, The Beatles were never the most democratic of bands. Together, they had stumbled upon a formula which made them the biggest group to ever exist, so why would they change something that had provided them with such riches? Lennon and McCartney wrote the songs, The Beatles played the songs and the teenagers bought the songs. It was a simple but effective proposition.
For a period of time, it was this pattern that worked for them and they weren’t going to change in order to make it a more communal songwriting experience for Harrison and Starr. The partnership of Lennon-McCartney had guided them to places that no band had ever been before, or arguably since. Remarkably, it would only be four anomalies from the course of their gigantic career that saw all four pillars of the band credited on a track together.
In fact, it wouldn’t be until The Beatles had slowed things down a touch and stopped touring that they would all be credited as songwriters on the same track. However, the track in question, unfortunately, wasn’t the result of The Beatles joining forces to help each other through the intricacies of writing lyrics…it was an instrumental number.
‘Flying’ first appeared on the group’s 1967 album Magical Mystery Tour and was the band’s first instrumental since their self-explanatory titled ’12 Bar Instrumental’ in 1965. Paul McCartney later revealed the background to the song as part of Barry Miles’ biography Many Years From Now: “‘Flying’ was an instrumental that we needed for Magical Mystery Tour so in the studio one night I suggested to the guys that we made something up. I said, ‘We can keep it very very simple, we can make it a twelve-bar blues,” he explained.
“We need a little bit of a theme and a little bit of a backing.’ I wrote the melody. The only thing to warrant it as a song is basically the melody, otherwise, it’s just a nice twelve-bar backing thing. It’s played on the Mellotron, on a trombone setting. It’s credited to all four, which is how you would credit a non-song,” Macca dutifully added.
The next time that all four would be credited together would come at the end of 1967 as part of The Beatles’ Christmas 1967 fan club record, Christmas Time Is Here Again. The release was the usual mixture of skits, improvised characters and jokes that fans came to expect from The Beatles’ special festive records. Among all the nonsense, however, is a track inventively titled ‘Christmas Time (Is Here Again)’ that is credited to all four different members of the band. Of course, this credit line derived from that fact that each member had chipped in on vocal duties.
The Lennon masterclass of ‘Real Love’ wouldn’t be released until it appeared on Anthology 2 in 1996 but does, somewhat unusually, feature all four members of the band who are credited in one way or another. John Lennon is named as the sole songwriter with Ringo Starr, George Harrison, Paul Mccartney all being named as producers alongside Jeff Lynne.
The final Beatles release that credits all four members of the band from when they were together is the short but sweet ‘Dig It’ from Let It Be. The title of the track was born after The Beatles decided to poke fun at themselves for their constant use of the titular phrase. Although the version of ‘Dig It’ that appears on Let It Be is just 49 seconds long, the original was much longer and lasted close to seven minutes.
It goes to show that while the idyllic idea of The Beatles as four fast friends, ready to defeat all comers, the band were just that: a band. They knew their strengths and their weaknesses and were never going to be swayed to include the entire group just for the sake of it.
The Beatles songs with all four members credited:
- ‘Christmas Time (Is Here Again)’
- ‘Real Love’
- ‘Dig It’