Paul McCartney has taken a fresh look at the impact John Lennon had on him as a musician, songwriter and friend and labeled the chemistry between them a miracle.
In the latest episode of ““McCartney: A Life in Lyrics” On the podcast, the Beatles bassist and songwriter said the duo’s efforts surpassed anything McCartney could ever have accomplished on his own.
“Now I’m aware that I don’t have it very much,” McCartney said. “And you know, a lot of times we ask ourselves, ‘What would John say to that?’ Is that too sloppy? He would have said “da da da” so I’m going to change it. But my songs have to reflect me, and there isn’t that much of that opposing element. I have to do it myself these days.”
McCartney was matter-of-fact when describing what it was like working with Lennon from a practical perspective.
“It was easier, much easier, because there were two minds at work,” McCartney said. “And this interaction was nothing short of a miracle.”
McCartney illustrated this with lyrics from “Getting Better,” her hit song from “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” their eighth studio album, considered by many to be their best.
“One of the good things about writing with John is that he often came from a different perspective,” McCartney said. “So if I’m doing a song where it’s getting better and better, John could easily say, ‘It couldn’t get much worse,’ which immediately opens the song. That was one of the things I loved about working with him. He could easily have said, ‘It’s getting better, yes, it is.'”
McCartney recounted how he and Lennon first came up with the idea of collaborating musically, which represented a potential collaboration unlike any they had ever experienced before. At some point they just said to each other that they would like to see each other’s work.
“So that was the beginning of our relationship,” McCartney said. “We decided to meet, usually at my house. And my father always left his pipe in the drawer.
“So we took tea, filled the pipe with it and smoked it,” McCartney added with a laugh, referring to tea leaves, not cannabis, which of course would come later.
McCartney dropped the podcast revelations a week after releasing what he called the Beatles’ final song. “Then and now,” and an accompanying 12-minute short film, streaming exclusively on Disney+, telling the song’s backstory, the final touches of which were put together by McCartney and Ringo Starr in 2022 (George Harrison died in 2001, but recorded guitar tracks for it before his death). The song was ultimately possible thanks to AI technology, which separated a raw track containing Lennon’s voice and a piano melody.
On the podcast, McCartney reflected on Lennon. The episode focused on the lyrics to McCartney’s 1982 solo song “Here Today”, which was written and recorded about Lennon’s death shortly after he was murdered outside his New York apartment building in December 1980.
“What about the time we met? I guess you could say we were hard to get,” one lyric goes.
McCartney explained the story behind another refrain of the song: “‘What about the night we cried?'”
“This was a specific incident in Key West,” McCartney said. “A hurricane came and we had to hide for a few days. So we were in our little motel room, really drunk and crying about how much we loved each other or something.”
McCartney called it “basically a memory song, this is a love song for John.”
“It was very moving and very emotional writing that song because I was just sitting in this bare room thinking about John and realizing that I had lost him,” McCartney said. “And it was a great loss, so to speak to him in song was a kind of comfort. Somehow I was with him again.”
The Beatles bassist and Wings frontman also recalled his first memory of Lennon.
“He was like this slightly older guy, hair grease, black jacket, sideboards, as we called them – sideburns were American,” McCartney said. “I remember thinking, ‘Well, he’s a cool guy.’ No idea who he is.”
Listen to the full podcast or other episodes of McCartney: A Life in Lyrics. Here.