John Lennon and Paul McCartney - Creativity and Music
John Lennon (1940-80) and Paul McCartney (1942- )
Pop stars and songwriters from Liverpool (pictured right in 1964 with
Lennon on the left)
Revolutionized pop music with The Beatles (pictured right below).
They wrote nearly all of their big hits including the top five selling singles in America during one week in
Why were they so creative and popular?
I Want To Hold Your Hand, their biggest selling single, had only five guitar
chords, and before then their songs, like other people’s, only had three.
Their magic came from unexpected chord changes, which they believed you shouldn’t notice.
“I like a song to be seamless”, Paul said.
Their songs of peace and love touched people’s hearts with:
- the appeal of their lyrics.
Their inspiration often came from relaxation.
Paul composed hits, walking his dogs and sitting in taxis.
John wrote Nowhere Man relaxing after a frustrating night trying to write.
4. Inspiration with perspiration
A lot of their songs came quickly from moments of inspiration.
- woke up one morning at the home of girlfriend, Jane Asher (pictured together right in 1964) , with the
tune of Yesterday in his head.
- got the idea for She’s Leaving Home (on the Sergeant Pepper album) from a newspaper
article about a young girl.
But inspiration was followed by lots of perspiration - Paul took nearly two
years to finish Yesterday.
John based Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds on a picture by his young son,
Julian, who also inspired Paul's Hey Jude (initially called Hey Jules).
Julian is pictured right with Paul.
5. Talent and intuition
They couldn’t read or write music, but they were brilliant songwriters from an early age.
Paul wrote When I’m 64 when he was only 16.
They instinctively and intuitively knew how to write a great
6. Drive and determination
John led the Beatles in the early days (when the Beatles played in the Cavern, the Liverpool night club,
But, as his interest waned, Paul took over and became the driving force behind projects like:
- The Magical Mystery Tour.
Following his father’s rule of “do it now”, Paul always did something, when he wanted to do
They worked well together, each contributing ideas for a song, particularly in the early years, when they
- bonded by the death of both their mothers as boys.
The key chord of I Want To Hold Your Hand was struck by Paul on the piano of his
girlfriend (Jane Asher).
John (pictured right in 1964) then said, “That’s it!”, from where they completed the song.
They complemented each other well with their different styles -
- John stopped Paul being too sentimental.
- Paul stopped John being too obscure.
A Day in the Life on the Sergeant Pepper album is a great example of their teamwork – Paul
added the tune in the middle to John’s song.
They revolutionized pop music with a completely new sound, always:
For example, Paul (pictured right in 2010) was the first Beatle to accept reggae and
They didn’t have any rules for song writing and, if they had some, they immediately tried to break
9. Customer satisfaction
Their music has delighted nearly everyone on the planet with different types of music: rock, ballads, folk,
blues and singalong songs.
They learned from:
a) other pop music
Elvis Presley had a big influence
“Nothing really affected me until Elvis”, John said.
b) classical composers
Paul’s Blackbird (on the White album) and Penny Lane were
influenced by Bach (pictured right).
John wrote Abbey Road’s Because based upon Beethoven’s (pictured right below) Moonlight
Sonata, played backwards by his wife, Yoko Ono!
(from their concerts and playing the clubs in Liverpool and Hamburg).
d) the world around them
Paul's lyrics for Blackbird were inspired by the African American civil rights movement.
11. Love of music
They loved writing and had great fun, particularly in the early days writing songs together in hotel rooms.
They were obsessed with their music and beloved guitars.
As a teenager Paul even played his guitar in the bath and on the toilet!
12. Continuous improvement and competition
They thrived on the pressure to produce better and better songs.
“We’d listen to something that somebody else had done and try and beat it”, Paul said.
Their music also benefited from creative tension that resulted from the competition and
constructive criticism between them.
13. Support and encouragement
Paul’s father and John’s mother (who bought him his first guitar) encouraged their music
All the Beatles were supportive friends until the arguments that broke up the group in 1970.
They were also helped by:
- George Martin (their record producer and orchestral arranger, pictured right together
in the recording studio).
- Brian Epstein (their manager until his suicide in 1967, pictured right together
- Jim Gretty (their guitar teacher).
- Arthur Ballard (John’s art college teacher) .
They had big egos, but they believed that their music was more important than them and came from a higher
“You don’t know, if it’s you who is writing it”, Paul said.
Similarly, John thought they were only channels for their music, which wasn’t really theirs. All they had to do
was to “be in tune with it”, he said.
They dealt with the:
- rejection of the Beatles by the Decca record company in 1962.
- problems of instant fame.
John was particularly badly affected, illustrated by his song, Help!
He found the process of song writing excrutiating. “It’s torture”, John once said.
But they battled through and worked hard for their success.
They took over 500 hours in the studio to record their Sergeant Pepper
album (its famous cover is pictured right).
If they hadn’t met for the first time at the Woolton Village Fete, near Liverpool, on
July 6,1957, the greatest pop songwriting duo would never have existed.
The early deaths of both their mothers gave them something in common.
Key quotes on creativity and success (John Lennon)
It’s no fun being an artist. It isn’t fun. It’s torture.
Song writing is about getting the demon out of me. It’s like being possessed. You try to go to sleep but the
song won’t let you. So you have to get up and make it into something
Nothing really affected me until Elvis.
I always felt I’d make it.
Key quotes on creativity and success (Paul
How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practise, practise, practise.
I'm always trying to do better music
I like a song to be seamless.
About a third of our songs are pure slog.