Paul McCartney and John Lennon were undoubtedly the driving force behind the Beatles’ most classic material, but disagreements between Yoko Ono and Paul about just who deceived top billing have hampered the relationship between them for years.
In their original agreement, John always went first. Lennon and McCartney was a logo of sorts for the music they wrote together, though sometimes with very little input from the other, Paul recently told Esquire. When that moniker changed years after John’s death, Paul began petitioning for his name to come first on certain recordings where he was the primary artist.
“It’s a good logo, like Rogers and Hammerstein. Hammerstein and Rogers doesn’t work. So I thought, ‘OK.’ But what happened was the Anthology came out [in 1996]. And I said, ‘OK, what they’re now saying is, ‘Song by John Lennon and Paul McCartney.’ I said, if you’re doing that, it’s not Lennon and McCartney, it’s not the logo any more. So, in particular cases like ‘Yesterday’, which John actually had nothing to do with… I said, “Could we have ‘By Paul McCartney and John Lennon’, wouldn’t that be a good idea? And then on ‘Strawberry Fields’ we’ll have, ‘By John Lennon and Paul McCartney’. ‘Nowhere Man’, ‘John Lennon and Paul McCartney’. ‘Penny Lane’, ‘Paul McCartney and John Lennon’. Seeing as we’re breaking it up, can we do that?”
Though Yoko was initially receptive to the idea of Paul coming first on songs he had the biggest hand in writing, she withdrew her support and began to diminish McCartney’s role in the music in the media. As Lennon became a rock and roll deity after his death, it was a trend Paul began to notice across the board.
“Strange things would happen. Like Yoko would appear in the press, and I’d read it, and it said [comedy Yoko accent], ‘Paul did nothing! All he did was book the studio…’ Like, ‘F**k you, darling! Hang on! All I did was book the f**king studio?’ Well, OK, now people know that’s not true. But that was just part of it. There was a lot of revisionism: John did this, John did that. I mean, if you just pull out all his great stuff and then stack it up against my not-so-great stuff, it’s an easy case to make.”
Despite some bad blood between Ono and McCartney, Paul still reflects fondly on his time working with Lennon. Furthermore, he doesn’t believe his former bandmate would have any issue with what he’s proposed for the songwriter credits.
“I tell you what, if John was here he would definitely say that’s OK. Because he didn’t give a damn. It wasn’t anything that worried him. But I’ve given up on it. Suffice to say. In case it seems like I’m trying to do something to John.”
Although Yoko Ono and Paul McCartney seem to have patched things up in recent years, it appears John Lennon will continue to come first despite Paul’s continuing protests.
[Image via Hulton Archive and Jim Dyson/Getty Images]