Paul McCartney: How John Lennon’s Criticisms Inspired His Biggest Hit

After the Beatles broke up, John Lennon and Paul McCartney emerged as two very different artists. John became an avant-gardist while Paul became a pop craftsman. Both artists were great in their own ways, John was dissatisfied with the direction of Paul’s career.

John was one of the most outspoken musicians of his time. As such, John expressed his distaste for Paul’s music to Paul himself. Here’s how Paul turned that negativity into a huge hit.

Paul McCartney in a recording studio | Frank Tewkesbury/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The Paul McCartney songs John Lennon thought were silly

When Paul left the Beatles, love songs were a big part of his output. “Maybe I’m Amazed” and “My Love” are two of the most well-remembered songs from his early post-Beatles career. To some, this gave Paul a bit of a reputation for being a lightweight.

Meanwhile, John’s solo career included bold experiments like “Don’t Worry Kyoko (Mummy’s Only Looking for Her Hand in the Snow)” and Unfinished Music No.1: Two Virgins. The contrast between their careers could not be more obvious. When John dismissed Paul for mostly making silly love songs, some fans were upset, but they could at least understand why John said that.

In fact, John wasn’t the only one who said Paul was too focused on writing silly love songs. Paul told Billboard “over the years people have said, ‘Aw, he sings love songs, he writes love songs, he’s so soppy at times.’ I thought, Well, I know what they mean, but, people have been doing love songs forever. I like ’em, other people like ’em, and there’s a lot of people I love — I’m lucky enough to have that in my life. So the idea was that ‘you’ may call them silly, but what’s wrong with that?”

Paul McCartney channels the criticisms into a song

“Silly Love Songs” by Wings

What’s wrong with that indeed? Paul would channel these criticisms into the Wings track “Silly Love Songs.” The lyrics of the song proclaim it’s fine that people want to fill the world with silly love songs because so many people still enjoy them.

In addition to being a defense of his own work, “Silly Love Songs” is also a love song from Paul to his wife, Linda McCartney. Fittingly, she appears in the video for the track. It’s amazing how the song is two very different things at the same time!

How the public received ‘Silly Love Songs’ and other silly love songs

Paul McCartney in Paris, France | François LOCHON/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

“Silly Love Songs” could have embarrassed Paul. After all, it’s a song where he admits his work is sometimes silly! However, the risk paid off handsomely. “Silly Love Songs” stayed at the number-one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for five weeks.It became the single biggest hit of Paul’s post-Beatles career.

Ultimately, Paul saw some of the people who dismissed his work as too sentimental come around to him. He told Billboard he wrote “Silly Love Songs” “to answer people who just accuse me of being soppy. The nice payoff now is that a lot of the people I meet who are at the age where they’ve just got a couple of kids and have grown up a bit, settling down, they’ll say to me, ‘I thought you were really soppy for years, but I get it now! I see what you were doing!'”

Also see: Were Paul McCartney and John Lennon Best Friends?