Paul McCartney Said a ‘Revisionism’ Happened After John Lennon Died Which Put Him Down

Paul McCartney and John Lennon were living proof that opposites attract. They had different upbringings, which, of course, gave them dissimilar personalities. John sang “Help!” and Paul sang “We Can Work It Out.”

However, they did have a lot in common. Paul and John shared a deep love for music. They both wanted to make it to the top, but their work never satisfied them. They had one of the best songwriting partnerships in the world.

Yet when John died in 1980, fans started treating acting as if Paul was never part of it.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney at a press conference in New York City, 1968.
John Lennon and Paul McCartney | Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Paul McCartney loves the fact that he got to write songs with John Lennon

Looking back on his career and his time as a Beatle, Paul is just happy that he got to be the one who wrote songs with John. Being a Beatle wasn’t always a walk in the park, but at least he got to do that. He’s the only person on the planet who knows who got that pleasure.

“I was thinking the other day about the achievements people want in life,” Paul told Rolling Stone in 2001. “It was sort of shocking as I started to think of some of mine. Let’s say, imagine being the guy who wrote with John Lennon? Jesus Christ, I mean, what about that? The guy.

“Let’s just go over this again: The guy that wrote with John Lennon. Are you kidding? I have such an admiration for John, like most people. But to be the guy who wrote with him — well, that’s enough. Right there, you could retire, and go, ‘Jesus, I had a fantastic life. Take me, Lord.'”

Paul and John might have had their ups and downs, but having their songwriting partnership will forever be one of Paul’s greatest achievements.

However, Paul started to feel as if he was never a part of that partnership after John died in 1980.

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Paul said a ‘revisionism’ happened after John died and fans started to put him down

After John died in 1980, Paul noticed that fans treated him differently. Rolling Stone pointed it out during Paul’s 2001 interview. “It seemed that after John died, people often felt that part of praising him meant putting you down,” they said.

“The minute John died, there started to be a revisionism,” Paul explained. “There were some strange quotes, like, ‘John was the only one in the Beatles.’ Or ‘Paul booked the studio’ — I don’t want to get into who said what, but that was attributed to someone who very much knew better.

“‘John was the Mozart; Paul was the Salieri.’ Like, John was the real genius, and I was just the guy who sang ‘Yesterday’ — and I got lucky to do that. Even with John in that song [‘How Do You Sleep‘], when he sang, ‘The only thing you done was yesterday.’

“I tried to ignore it, but it built into an insecurity. People would say, ‘Paul, people know.’ I said, ‘Yeah, but what about fifty years in the future?’ If this revisionism gets around, a lot of kids will be like, ‘Did he have a group before Wings?’ There may come a time when people won’t know.

“It was only after we’d stopped working together it even reared its ugly head — the whole idea of who wrote what.

“Really, John once said to me, ‘I wonder how I’ll be remembered.’ I was kind of shocked. I said, ‘I’ll tell you how you’ll be remembered: You’re great. But you won’t be here. It won’t matter to you, so don’t worry about it.’ And I thought, ‘Why’d he get into that?’ But now I understand.”

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Paul wanted his name printed first on songs like ‘Yesterday’ but Yoko said no

To combat that “revisionism” and the insecurity, Paul started to fight for a more prominent credit on Beatles songs that he mainly wrote, like “Yesterday.”

“‘Lennon-McCartney’ was always cool. I like it. It’s a logo. But what was happening was, for example, my poem ‘Blackbird’ appeared in an anthology, and it appeared as ‘By John Lennon and Paul McCartney.’ I mean, wait a minute, I wrote that.

“I thought, ‘That should really say, ‘Written by Paul McCartney.’ Or at the very worst, ‘Written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon.’ I should get front billing.’ So when the [Beatles] Anthology came out, after thirty years of always having John’s name in front, I thought it should say, ”Yesterday,’ by Paul McCartney and John Lennon.’

“So I rang up and asked Yoko, ‘Couldn’t I, on the Anthology, just on this one song, put my name in front? Could we put, ‘Written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon’? It would be a great favor to me.’

“Well, it became a major issue… But in the end, she just said no.

“After that, I was in Rome… there was a pianist’s fake book in the corner… I open the page, and it says, ”Hey Jude,’ written by John Lennon.’ There was no room on the page, and ‘Paul McCartney’ got left off. That was the killer blow… So I thought, ‘This is what’s going to happen.’ This is what I meant when people said, ‘Don’t worry, Paul.’

“I do think it would be not a bad thing for me to be allowed to do that — and only when our names are used in full. When it’s Lennon-McCartney, John should always come first.”

After a legal battle, Yoko still didn’t allow it. Although, Paul credits all the co-written Beatles songs to “Paul McCartney and John Lennon” in his career-spanning new book, The Lyrics: 1956 To The Present.

So, that’s a small victory for Paul. However, Paul is proud to be a part of Lennon-McCartney (or McCartney-Lennon).

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