The Ultimate Music Showdown: Lennon vs. McCartney

There are fewer summers more fun, relaxing and unproductive that come to mind than that of 2011. I spent much of it studying in depth what is arguably the most successful songwriting duo of all time: John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

Having just acquired The Beatles Remasters, and having also recently attended Paul McCartney’s concert in Buenos Aires, one could say I was tapping back into my obsessive Beatle fan phase. Just to be clear, by “studying” I mean to “listen, investigate, read and play”.

The title of this post is “Lennon vs. McCartney”, which completely goes against my usual way of thinking. I’ve always thought that comparing artists and musicians is absurd and a huge waste of time. Nevertheless, rather than a competitive comparison, in this case, I would like to do a reflexive contrast.

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For those who don’t know me (i.e. virtually everyone), I am an amateur musician, and I have archived inadvertently in my head files with chords, riffs, and many creations of these Liverpoolians. And I just thought, ‘why don’t share my opinions with other fans, and try to transmit a way of seeing the Beatles not as the wonderful whole it was as a band, but rather as the wonder of some of its individualities. Here I go…

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At the very beginning of Beatlemania, John and Paul were quite neck and neck as songwriters, surrounded by a rather collaborative atmosphere, and occasionally one would help the other finish a song. They were alway curiosity, and from the very beginning — even in their poppy-love tunes’ songwriting era — they were determined to try their best every time to sound the least as possible as their previous hit. The studio was just a tool and a place for recording: Eight Days a Week, from 1964’s Beatles For Sale, was the first song they ever took to the studio incomplete and was finished right there moments prior to record.

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However, from 1966 forward, instead of being excellent pop artists, they were pushing the limits of the genre, and constantly redefining the style, studio became a place for experiment, a tool, an instrument itself, and as time went by a clear tendency started to be evident: Lennon was the rocker, the most experimental, the paradigm destroyer: he embraced the psychedelic more than the others, and usually liked to play with fans’ psyche, He gave life to rarities and songs like ‘I Am The Walrus’, which are fashionable even today.

Paul, on the other hand, despite owning a strong experimental character too (of which 1968’s Helter Skelter is a solid proof…(did Paul invent Heavy Metal?), he was more inclined to sweet ballads, and melodic songs about everyday people, most of which are among the group’s most famous hits. Paul was highly inspired by British “Music Hall” (a style also known as Vaudevillian), partly because his father was a musician, and maybe thanks to this influence he could have developed a taste and sensitivity the others lacked.

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Now, having given this introduction, let’s get to the fun part! I therefore, propose the following test. Below, there are 2 columns with 32 songs each. One contains John’s songs (or mostly inspired by John), and the other Paul’s. The test consists in choosing, between songs that are in the same line, which is your favourite. The column that contains more chosen songs will represent (in some kind of way) to which Beatle composition style you are more inclined. Just one request to preserve the fun: do not let this knowledge influence your choices. Paul might be the cutest Beatle, and John’s tragic death might be a reason to further adore him… But this is not about charisma or favoritisms, please keep in mind this is about the songs.

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The list is not arbitrary, each showdown (each line) was established for a musical reason. For those readers that can’t help being too technical and love to know the why’s and how’s of everything, each pair of songs was decided either in terms of style, tempo feel, instruments that were used in the recording, among others.

First, here are some recommendations and facts:

  • In some cases, fanatism could result in making a choice really hard… even impossible! In that case, you might vote blank. But try to keep your blank voting as a last resource measure. You’ll find that battling with yourself is the most fun part of the test!
  • If in any line there’s a song you don’t know, vote blank (or even better, Youtube the song, you might discover a gem).
  • Songs “I Want To Hold Your Hand”, “Ticket To Ride”, “I’ve Got A Feeling” and “A Day In The Life”, did not enter the contest, because they are commonly considered 50–50 collaborations and/or mash-ups, respectively.
  • Paul’s Music Hall inspired tunes are not considered either (“Good Day Sunshine”, “When I’m Sixty Four”, “Your Mother Should Know”, “Honey Pie”, “Martha My Dear”, and “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”). The reason is that Lennon does not have compositions of this style.
  • Wonderful and nostalgic Lennon’s “In My Life”, as well as McCartney’s explosive and mind-blowing “The End” were kept aside.
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Now, without further ado, let’s begin the quiz:

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I will leave you with one last interesting fact: can you believe that these amazing 64 songs (plus George Harrison’s classics, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Here Comes The Sun, Something) were crafted in just seven years’ time?. Still wondering why they’re the biggest band ever?!

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