It’s got to be the most tired argument in all of music–who was more responsible for the Beatles success? Was it Paul, the melody maker, or was it John, the iconoclast rocker?
The only reason I raise it yet again is because I’ve just finished reading a piece titled: “Paul McCartney was the Best Beatle.”
The magic that was the Beatles belonged to the whole band. They all contributed and of course, the driving engine was the competition between Paul and John with a side order of George who got involved here and there. (I will say this: Although George wrote some great songs, I do understand why Paul and John considered his song-writing secondary. He was not in their league IMO.)
But let me say this, having just finished the new Paul McCartney bio by Phillip Norman. It’s thick as a brick and there’s not much new but, once again, as he did in “Many Years from Now,” Paul presents the argument that he was the innovative Beatle, not John, as many claim.
In that regard, Paul is correct but that’s only because he is framing the argument. The reason John’s legions of fans loved him was not because he was innovative but because he was a rebel! And that’s an argument that Paul cannot win!
Paul was and is a crowd pleaser. He wants to win you over with his personality, his wit and yes, his songs. John cared about his songs no doubt, as evidenced by his penchant for insisting on proper song titles. When Goeff Emerick called one of his songs “For The Benefit of Mister Kite,” John was quick to correct him. It’s “Being For the Benefit of Mister Kite,” thank you!
But John, like Muhammad Ali, was a revolutionary. He didn’t care what people thought and Paul probably cares way too much. The guy is a genius, don’t get me wrong, but he’s been framing the argument his way for years.
It’s not because John was an innovative songwriter that he’s loved, it’s because of his devil-may-care attitude. He did things his way, from marrying Yoko Ono, to joining the protest movement in the U.S. while the FBI tracked his every move. He had balls and moxie.
Paul is alive, God bless him, but he’ll never be like John.