Lennon-McCartney were regarded as the backbone of The Beatles, with their songs changing the music scene. The pair have influenced a huge number of performers with their music and their creativity in the recording studio. While Sir Ringo Starr and George Harrison also contributed, it was John Lennon and Sir Paul McCartney who really made the magic happen – but even Sir Paul was left confused by how they were named.
There does not seem to be a reason why John Lennon’s name went first, except perhaps that the names were alphabetical.
Sir Paul described how the decision making took place, which he has said happened without him being there.
He even suggested the names would be swapped depending on who wrote the song.
He told The Telegraph in 2015: “We had a meeting with Brian Epstein [manager of the Beatles]. I arrived late.
“John and Brian had been talking. ‘We were thinking we ought to call the songs, Lennon and McCartney.’
“I said, ‘That’s OK, but what about McCartney and Lennon? If I write it, what about that? It sounds good, too’
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“They said, ‘OK, what we’ll do is we’ll alternate it: Lennon and McCartney, McCartney and Lennon.’
“Well, that didn’t happen. And I didn’t mind.”
According to Barry Miles’ book Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now, the songs were mainly written independently, though both writers often had input in the process in some way.
In many instances, one writer would sketch an idea or a song fragment and take to the other to finish or improve.
As well as this, sometimes two incomplete songs from the songwriters would be combined to make a complete song.
Despite their collaboration, many Beatles fans are aware the partnership between them was not always a happy one.
The pair fought throughout their time in the band, and the songwriters did disagree a number of times during their careers, not to mention on which albums they felt were their most important.
However, Sir Paul was keen for his name to appear first, and attempted to have some of the names on this credit changed to read McCartney-Lennon after Lennon’s death, given what he told The Telegraph about the intentions for the stories.
He continued in the same interview: “The original artwork had ‘Yesterday by John Lennon and Paul McCartney’ and a photo of John above it.
“And I went, ‘Argh, Come on, lads.’ Anyway they wouldn’t do it [change the names around].”
Sir Paul added: “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.”
Before this interview, Sir Paul did indeed attempt to swap the names, but one person was there to stop him: Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono.
In 2002, Ono threatened legal action to stop Sir Paul reversing the credit, with his lawyer telling The Telegraph: “This was done against [Ono’s] wishes. Paul is hurting his own legacy with this.
“He and John made an agreement 40 years ago that they would share credit in this way. To change it now, well, John’s not here to argue.”
In the same year, Ono said of the attempt: “What he did was absolutely inappropriate.
“It is very petty. John and Paul often disagreed on which songs were written by whom.
“If John was here now they could fight it out or maybe they could never agree. The point is he is not.”
Sir Paul’s attempt to reverse the credits on 19 songs featured on his Back in the US Live 2002, including Eleanor Rigby, Hey Jude and Yesterday.
A year later, the pair worked things out, with Sir Paul allowing things to remain as they were.
He said in 2003: “I’m happy with the way it is and always has been.
“Lennon and McCartney is still the rock ‘n’ roll trademark I’m proud to be a part of – in the order it has always been.”
However, Lennon and Sir Paul felt the pressure of writing during their time in the Beatles, as Lennon revealed in an interview before his death.
According to Lennon in a Playboy interview in 1980, he felt “pressure” to write songs while he was in the Beatles, despite trying to start up a domestic life with his then-wife, Cynthia, and son Julian, about whom Hey Jude is written.
He said: “You can never be 24 again. You can never be that hungry twice.
“There was a problem with that period. [his early life in the Beatles] I was living a more suburban life at the time, with a wife and kid, while [Sir Paul] was still tripping around town.
“He [Sir Paul] would work something out for a song or an album and then suddenly call me and say, ‘It’s time to do into the studio, write some songs.’
“He’d have his prepared while I would be starting from scratch.”
While this may have caused a tense working atmosphere, according to Lennon, it spurred him on to write some big hits, including writing two mega-hits in just a week-and-a-half.
He added: “I managed to come up with Lucy in the Sky and A Day in the Life under the pressure in only 10 days.”