Paul McCartney and John Lennon may have shared bowl cuts during their early Beatles days, but the pair were like apples and oranges in real life. Their interests and personalities often clashed due to differing upbringings — family-man McCartney liked to “charm” the press whereas Lennon (once a shoplifter) often “insult[ed] reporters,” per The Atlantic. Their differences also extended to their musical abilities with McCartney said to be “meticulous and organized” whereas Lennon was most creative “in chaos.” But while they had contrasting ideas, Lennon’s first wife Cynthia Lennon suggested they were like yin and yang when she said, “John needed Paul’s attention to detail and persistence. Paul needed John’s anarchic, lateral thinking.”
This sometimes dysfunctional bond ended up seeing the pair release almost 200 songs under “Lennon-McCartney,” per NPR. However, it’s not to say that they were 50/50 when it came to each song’s composition — in fact, it’s probably naive to suggest that, according to The Atlantic. Back in 1990, rock critic Greg Kot wrote that McCartney and Lennon’s “‘partnership’ was more of a competition than a collaboration,” per The Atlantic. This became all the more evident in the band’s latter years as the pair claimed ownership over songs they had jointly released. They went from gushing over one another when they released “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” with Lennon calling it “eyeball to eyeball” — to McCartney later saying he wrote “the whole melody” of “‘Eleanor Rigby’ & ‘In My Life,'” per Paul McCartney pod.
We may never know how many songs they produced as a pair
It’s said that the two Beatles agreed as teenagers to show joint-credit for all the songs they wrote no matter what (per NPR) — making it hard to truly determine who wrote what. According to Cheat Sheet, early tracks like “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” were true Lennon-McCartney compositions — but the pair often competed for their songs to be released as singles. But despite their competitive nature and claims to have solely written songs they jointly released, it’s believed McCartney and Lennon may be confused as to which songs they actually produced. NPR says their memories may even have been “tainted by the mind-altering era they were writing in,” in other words — the amount of drugs they used.
McCartney previously admitted that while he dosed a few times, he “wasn’t keen on getting that weird,” meanwhile Lennon reportedly “plunged into LSD” after moving in with Yoko Ono, per The Atlantic. He once said he “must have had a thousand trips” on the substance … surely that would fog the memory just a little. Nevertheless, while we may never know how many songs the pair co-wrote — their total of 20 No. 1 singles and 19 No. 1 albums is unmatched by any artist to this day. And despite their yearning to be known as individual creators, The Atlantic says they were “obviously more creative as a pair.” George Martin even said, “The tension between the two of them made for the bond.”
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