The Paul McCartney Song That Really Earned John Lennon’s Respect in the Early Beatles Years

Though they went their separate ways as songwriters in the later years, John Lennon and Paul McCartney certainly started out as a team. In fact, they couldn’t have worked together any more closely on “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and other early hits by The Beatles.

“We wrote a lot of stuff together, one on one, eyeball to eyeball,” John once said, citing “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” But the two increasingly productive songwriters weren’t always in each other’s company. Soon enough, they started working out songs on their own.

That brought out the competitive spirit in both. In 1964, after hearing Paul’s “Can’t Buy Me Love,” John went on a creative tear. (He penned “A Hard Day’s Night” and several other classics in response.)

But John knew better than to sleep on Paul’s talents by then. The previous year, Paul put everyone on notice when he composed “All My Loving” by himself. Nearly 20 years later, it was a song John couldn’t help but praise.

John Lennon genuinely admired ‘All My Loving’

The Beatles and Roy Orbison backstage, '63
The Beatles pose with Roy Orbison backstage during a UK tour, May 1963. | Harry Hammond/V&A Images/Getty Images

As early Beatles songs go, “All My Loving” was unique for several reasons. For starters, Paul said it was the first tune he ever wrote where he came up with the words before the music.

“I never wrote words first, it was always some kind of accompaniment,” he said in his authorized biography Many Years From Now (1997). “I’ve hardly ever done it since either. We were on a tour bus going to a gig so I started with the words.”

When they arrived at the venue, Paul began working out the music on a piano in the backstage area. “I didn’t have a guitar, it was probably with our road manager,” he recalled. When running through the Beatles’ catalog in his 1980 Playboy interviews, John didn’t hide his admiration for the track.

“‘All My Loving’ is Paul, I regret to say,” he told David Sheff. (The Playboy interviews were collected in All We Are Saying.) When Sheff asked why John regretted saying that, he replied, “Because it’s a damn good piece of work.” That was about the most praise you’d ever from John about Paul’s work.

John wasn’t in the habit of complimenting Paul’s work

Lennon and McCartney in 1063
November 1963: Beatles John Lennon and Paul McCartney | Fox Photos/Getty Images

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In All We Are Saying, John doesn’t shy away from mocking Paul’s songs when Sheff mentions one he considers weak. On the subject of “One and One Is Two,” John cracks, “Another of Paul’s bad attempts at writing a song.” As for “Tip of My Tongue,” John called it “another piece of Paul’s garbage.”

So while John praised “Hey Jude” and “For No One,” about the most John would say about other notable Paul tracks was “good song.” But that wasn’t the case with “All My Loving.” As Barry Miles noted in Many Years From Now, John described it as “one of [Paul’s] first biggies.”

John didn’t change a great deal by 1980. When The Beatles were together, Paul only remembered John complimenting him once. It was when they recorded the ethereal “Here, There and Everywhere.” John gave him a “Really good song, lad,” and Paul never forgot it.