When people hear the name “The Beatles” most people think of lead singer,
John Lennon. However, the role of Paul McCartney is often overlooked. It was
McCartney, not Lennon who was the driving force behind the Beatles.
John Lennon and Paul McCartney were in many bands together before the
forming of the Beatles. In 1962, along with Ringo Starr1 and George Harrison,
they formed the rock group known as “The Beatles”. The group featured a modern
rock that was new and popular during the period with John and Paul composing
and doing the leads on most of the songs. They were backed by George on
rhythm and bass guitar and Ringo on drums. George and Ringo also assisted on
When they first began playing, the main influence inside the band was John
Lennon, who had an uncanny ability to compose songs at a moments notice with an
inspiration that others missed. He pushed the members of the band during their
touring years and was able to achieve the best possible results from the group.
The band began playing in a Music Hall style that is very effective for
the audiences but was lacking on their albums. Together with Paul, John began
to evolve the band. As the years began to pass, the band was obviously
beginning to grow musically. They had moved from simple lyrics like “Love me Do”
to harshly aware reflections of life in their home country in “Eleanor Rigby”2.
There were attempts, some more successful than others, to incorporate the
other Beatles into the idea stage. George Harrison made this leap successfully
with such tracks as “I want to tell you”, “TAXMAN”, and the psychedelic “Love
you to”. Ringo was featured in the humorous “Yellow Submarine
As the group matured, their creativity began to rely more on the effects
and manipulations that they were able to produce in the studio. The Beatles
agreed to end their touring career after an American tour of large halls that
they failed to fill.
It was around this time, that John Lennon began to search for himself. He
began using any means that he thought might help him connect. This era was
marked by the Beatles visits to the Maharashi Mahesh Yogi, and the beginning of
heavy drug use3.
As Lennon began to use LSD in greater and greater quanti-ties4, the other
Beatles began to have more and more influence in the production of the albums.
Lennon began to become almost reclusive, and often delayed recording sessions.
By the time that they were recording Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
in 1967, Lennon would simply propose songs and themes, and McCartney was left
to execute the plans and tie together whims. They began to make demands of the
Beatles songs were quite simple in the early days, you
couldn’t play around with them too much. But by 1967
we were building sound pictures and my George Martin
role had changed-it was to interpret the pictures and
determine how best to get them down on tape. Paul was
fine-he could express what he wanted, the sounds he wa
nted to have. But John…would make whooshing sounds
and try to describe what only he could only hear in
his head, saying he wanted a song to ‘sound like an
As soon as the Sgt. Pepper album was underway, Paul McCartney came up with
the idea of actually creating a band and preforming the songs as that band.
They took the Idea from there and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band came
into existence, never to see the outside of studio 2 at Abbey Road. They spent
nearly a year recording various tracks for the album and John’s state of mind
was steadily declining.
In 1969 when they issued Abbey Road it was no longer difficult to
distinguish between the writings of Paul and John . John was producing works
like “I want you (she’s so heavy)” which had the lyrics:
I want you
it’s driving me mad
She’s so heavy6
And the more musical and thoughtful work of McCartney, such as “Golden
Slumbers” which was almost a lullaby:
Once there was a way to get back homeward
Once there was a way to get back home
Sleep pretty darling do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby
Golden slumbers fill your eyes
Smiles awake you when you rise
Sleep pretty darling do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby7
The writing of the material on The Beatles8 seemed more balanced as Lennon
began writing more cogent songs, and collaborating on a song-by-song basis with
McCartney. Their songs varied from a slow ballad in McCartney’s “Blackbird” to
the bizarre and intriguing “Revolution #9) by Lennon. Yet McCartney was needed
to control Lennon when he recorded the original version of “Sexie Sadie” with
You little twat
Who the fuck do you think you are
Who the fuck do you think you are
Oh, you cunt.9
Fortunately McCartney prevented the track from proceeding any farther than
rehearsal. He ended up suggesting that the song take a more sympathetic note
and, eventually, Lennon agreed.
During this time, one almost constant presence in the recording studio was
Yoko Ono, John’s wife. This was against an unspoken code amongst the Beatles
not to allow wives and girlfriends into the studio. Yoko had a large affect on
John, almost completely altering his style, and inspiring such songs as “I
want her (she’s so heavy)” and “Revelation #9”. Many of the other songs that
Yoko and John created were rejected by the group, but her presence changed
John’s behavior and performance.
The Beatles final album together was Let It Be released in 1970. The
album was not in any way spectacular and exhibited many of the traits that are
associated with the Beatles writing. The title track, “Let It Be” is one of
the most famous tracks recorded by the group. The music on the album was a
last chance effort to keep the group together, and although the album was well
received, it was not what the group had in mind. The Beatles did not make
another recording after that date, though there were rumors of the group
reforming until the shooting of Lennon in 1980.
One of the most obvious indicators of the heavy hand that was often kept
on Lennon is the progress of his band which he formed after the breakup of the
Beatles. The Plastic Ono Band was an only moderately successful group that
took the popular psycedalia a few steps to far and lost most of its popularity.
Lennon attempted to enter theater, but it was quickly obvious that he was no
actor. He lived a bizarre and drug ridden life secluded in his apartment with
his wife Yoko Ono and his son. Both he and his wife were reported to have
serious heroin addictions and were often said to be high in the presence of
After the breakup, McCartney launched a moderately successful solo career.
He has released many recordings both in the United States and abroad. His most
recent accomplishment was the “Liverpool Oratorio” which is no small feat
considering that McCartney never learned to read music.
The songwriting styles, the studio records, and the ndividual careers all
show that there was a very large influence in the group, and in the music, by
Paul McCartney. Equal to Lennon in the beginning, but surpassing him at the
conclusion of the relationship. Two key factors that probably caused this are
his affection and infatuation with Yoko Ono, and the heavy use of
hallucinogenic drugs. On some occasions, both of those factors may have given
Lennon inspiration for his music, but they greatly reduced his control and
influence in the band.