John Lennon and Paul McCartney were rarely writing songs together by 1969. While McCartney comments in the docuseries The Beatles: Get Back that he and Lennon were still a team during this time, it was increasingly clear their sensibilities and styles were diverging. McCartney had whimsical tracks like ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ in large numbers, while Lennon struggled to even finish a single song and dismissed the lighter fare as “granny shit”.
Perhaps Lennon was slightly jealous of McCartney’s ability to conjure up songs out of the blue. Even though he’s not in the room at the time, Lennon must have heard McCartney’s story about writing ‘Back Seat of My Car’ overnight and brining it into Twickenham studios the next day. George Harrison did the same with ‘I Me Mine’, and Lennon gave that track some light ridicule when Harrison presented it.
McCartney took longer when it came to another song, however, as he formulated the details of ‘Teddy Boy’. Originally conceived in India during The Beatles’ trip in 1968, ‘Teddy Boy’ was refined and finished enough for McCartney to bring the track into the band’s rehearsals at Twickenham, but the atmosphere was tense and not particularly productive. Harrison left the group the following day, and all recordings came to a halt until the band could regroup.
By the time McCartney tried to restart interest in the song, it was January 24th. Relations had improved, and recording had moved to the band’s Apple headquarters. The group were still unsure about what form their project was taking, and the idea of a live show was still being pushed by McCartney and director Michael Lindsey-Hogg. ‘Teddy Boy’ certainly didn’t seem to fit with the live concept, but the group still took a few swings at it.
Well, McCartney did, while the others humoured him. McCartney can be heard reiterating at the end of the first few takes that the song is “for further consideration”, as it was clear that the other band members weren’t exactly taken with the track. Lennon, in particular, is doing his best to take the piss out of the song, especially once he starts turning the song into a square dance. This was how the band worked: Lennon was known to keep the atmosphere light by joking around, but he also would entertain himself by interrupting songs he was bored with.
It was clear that ‘Teddy Boy’ wasn’t going anywhere, so McCartney took it home with him. The basic track for the version of the song that eventually found its way onto McCartney was recorded at McCartney’s home in St. John’s Wood, without proper recording equipment. When he added overdubs to the song, the transfer process severely degraded the original basic track, but the lo-fi sound had a profound effect on future generations of indie musicians.