Paul’s Best Bits OR John Lennon’s Album of Choice Paul McCartney Songs. A Speculative Nice Thing in a Nasty World.
In today’s wicked world, I’m prepared to go to a considerable degree of trouble to re-organise and foreground things that will make me smile. So I thought I’d go through an interview database and see if I couldn’t figure out which Paul McCartney songs, written while he was in the Beatles, were known to be John Lennon favourites, and make a compilation album out of them. I came up with this…
All My Loving
Things We Said Today
I’ll Follow the Sun
The Night Before
Here There and Everywhere
For No One
Got to Get You Into My Life
Fixing a Hole
Fool on the Hill
Why Don’t We Do It In The Road
Whatever else this is, it’s an astonishing collection of songs. I should say something about methodology though. I have excluded any songs to which John Lennon made a significant contribution to either the music or words (which removes, for example, “She’s Leaving Home”). Sadly, I’m also excluding any song to which John Lennon claimed, probably erroneously, to have made a significant contribution (which removes “Eleanor Rigby”). All of the songs on this album are the subject of positive commentary from John Lennon while being fully acknowledged as McCartney compositions.
A few other things to note. “Yesterday” is praised by John Lennon, even though he also said he never wished he’d written it. It seems that Lennon recognised it as a very very McCartney song and admired in formal terms. And it’s also clear from interviews that John Lennon understood the song and respected why it worked so well. I’m extrapolating a high regard for “Penny Lane” from the enthusiasm with which John Lennon described the nostalgic evocations it produced. Lennon regarded Penny Lane as very much his neighborhood, and helped out with a few lyrics on one of the verses. In short, “Yesterday” is praised in exclusively formal terms, and “Penny Lane” is praised in exclusively expressive terms. But I’m confident they should both be here.
A few people have suggested that John’s praise for “Why don’t we do it in the Road?” was a sarcastic joke. I don’t think so. The writer of “I Want You – She’s So Heavy” clearly responded to very simple and repetitive songs that are sex obsessed. John resented having been left out of the recording of this song, an indication of the unhappiness of so many of the White Album recording sessions, as well as the strength of original affection which made such estrangements so painful. “Why don’t we do it in the Road?”, like “Oh Darling” (cognate with “Yer Blues”, “Cold Turkey” as well as Paul’s later “Let Me Roll It”) was a song that John regarded as his sort of song, a kind he felt he could and should have written himself. Likewise the utterly different “Fixing a Hole” I think.
I’m sure this list is not exhaustive. If John Lennon had been questioned more specifically about particular songs, or if he’d been asked to make a list, or if he HAD LIVED A LOT LOT LONGER FOR GOD’S SAKE – then there are more songs that could be added to this album. As it is, it’s a pleasant mixture of the familiar and the obscure, a collection of beautiful songs praised by someone with good taste.
These songs stand as evidence not just of a beautiful body of work, but also a beautiful friendship and we have never needed beautiful friendships more.