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. George backed them on rhythm and bass guitar and Ringo on drums. George and Ringo also assisted in backing vocals.
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 band members 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 in 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 too”.
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 could 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 Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and heavy drug use 3. As Lennon began to use LSD in greater and greater quantity-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 propose songs and themes, and McCartney was left to execute the plans and tie together whims. They began to make demands of the crew: 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 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 noted to have. But John…would make whooshing sounds and try to describe what only he could hear in his head, saying he wanted a song to ‘sound like an orange’.5 As soon as the Sgt. Pepper album was underway; Paul McCartney came up with the idea of actually creating a band and performing the songs. They took the idea from there, and Sgt.
Pepper’s Lonely Hearts 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 so bad 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 darlingly 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 the verse: You little twat Who the fuck do you think you are Who the fuck do you think you are Oh, you cunt 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. 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”.
The group rejected many of the other songs that Yoko and John created, but her presence changed John’s behaviour 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 the 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 rumours 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 a moderately successful group that took the popular psychedelic a few steps too far and lost most of its popularity. Lennon attempted to enter the theatre, but it was quickly obvious that he was no actor. Instead, 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 visitors. 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 individual careers all show a huge influence in the group, and the music, by Paul McCartney. Equal to Lennon in the beginning, but surpassing him after 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.