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Paul McCartney and John Lennon were key collaborators in The Beatles. There were four Beatles, including Ringo Starr and George Harrison, and each of them wrote songs. The Lennon-McCartney collaboration was responsible for such classics as “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Get Back,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and many more. In a recent interview, McCartney explained why writing with Lennon was so easy. 

The Beatles songwriters Paul McCartney and John Lennon play guitar together
L-R: Paul McCartney and John Lennon | Mark and Colleen Hayward/Getty Images

McCartney appeared on the Fresh Air podcast with Terry Gross on Nov. 24, 2021. He’s just released a book, Paul McCartney: The Lyrics which includes songs he wrote with the Beatles and later in his career. So, there were many Lennon-McCartney songs to discuss.

John Lennon gave Paul McCartney instant feedback 

Thanks to Peter Jackson’s Disney+ series, The Beatles: Get Back, fans can see the exact process through which Lennon and McCartney wrote. It also showed where Harrison and Starr fit in. McCartney described the back and forth with Lennon.

“Writing with John was a lot easier because you’ve actually got a sounding board,” McCartney said on Fresh Air. “You’re sitting across from someone and we normally wrote on two acoustic guitars. So he’d be sitting there, I’d be sitting here and one of us would suggest an opening line. And then the other one would go okay and would make a suggestion for the second line. So you would kind of ping pong.”

John Lennon was a tough critic of The Beatles songs 

Another benefit to Lennon, McCartney said, was that he did not mince words. If any element of a song was not up to The Beatles’ standards, Lennon would say so, and vice versa. 


‘The Beatles: Get Back’ Shows ‘No Single Beatle Says an Angry Word,’ Peter Jackson Says

“If a line was terrible, the other person would say that’s terrible and we’d scratch it,” McCartney said. “So just with that process of the two of us making this piece, it was quite easy. I don’t want to make it sound too easy but it made the process very enjoyable and easy. If you had a line that you were questioning in your own mind, if you were writing on your own, you could spend a good half hour going, ‘This is terrible, what can I do, think of something quick.’ Whereas with John, you just go, ‘Oh, this is terrible.’ He’d go, ‘Yeah, I know’, and we’d fix it. Between the two of us we would just improve it so it was easier.”

John Lennon assured Paul McCartney ‘Yesterday’ was an original

The Lennon-McCartney collaboration could also be a form of checks and balances. In his own bubble, McCartney couldn’t always be sure where his inspiration came from. 

“So for instance, ‘Yesterday,’ the melody came to me in a dream,” McCartney said. “So I played that intact to John and he said, ‘Oh, I like that.’ I was basically asking him if this was somebody else’s melody because I couldn’t believe it was mine because it arrived in a dream.”