Lennon and McCartney complemented one another as personalities and as musicians. McCartney’s melodic facility smoothed over some of Lennon’s rougher edges. Lennon’s grit added texture and leavened some of McCartney’s more saccharine tendencies.
It is the best-known and most successful musical collaboration ever by records sold, with the Beatles selling over 600 million records worldwide as of 2004. Between October 5, 1962, and May 8, 1970, the partnership published approximately 180 jointly credited songs, of which the vast majority were recorded by the Beatles, forming the bulk of their catalog.
Unlike many songwriting partnerships that comprise a separate lyricist and composer, such as George and Ira Gershwin, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, or Elton John and Bernie Taupin, both Lennon and McCartney wrote lyrics and music. Lennon and McCartney were credited equally with songs that either one of them wrote while their partnership lasted. Early on they did collaborate but later they would write their songs with little if any, input from the other.
Meeting at a church festival where Lennon was performing with his group the Quarrymen, McCartney impressed him with his guitar playing and was asked to join the band. The duo’s first musical idols were the Everly Brothers, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, and they learned many of their songs and imitated their sound.
Their first compositions were written at McCartney’s home (20 Forthlin Road), at Lennon’s aunt Mimi’s house (251 Menlove Avenue), or the Liverpool Institute. They often invited friends—including George Harrison, Nigel Walley, Barbara Baker, and Lennon’s art school colleagues—to listen to performances of their new songs. Although Lennon and McCartney often wrote independently—and many Beatles songs are primarily the work of one or the other—
it was rare that a song would be completed without some input from both writers. In many instances, one writer would sketch an idea or a song fragment and take it to the other to finish or improve; in some cases,
two incomplete songs or song ideas that each had worked on individually would be combined into a complete song. Often one of the pair would add a middle eight or bridge section to the other’s verse and chorus. George Martin attributed the high quality of their songwriting to the friendly rivalry between the two.
He’d write ‘Strawberry Fields’. I’d go away and write ‘Penny Lane’ … to compete with each other. But it was very friendly competition.Paul McCartney
[Paul] provided a lightness, an optimism, while I would always go for the sadness, the discords, the bluesy notes. There was a period when I thought I didn’t write melodies, that Paul wrote those and I just wrote straight, shouting rock ‘n’ roll. But, of course, when I think of some of my own songs—”In My Life”, or some of the early stuff, “This Boy”—I was writing melody with the best of them. John Lennon
Some of McCartney’s most characteristic songs are tragic, or express themes of isolation, such as “Yesterday”, “She’s Leaving Home”, “Eleanor Rigby” or “For No One”.Todd Compton – Historian
159 of the songs recorded for a proper album or single, by the Beatles, were credited as Lennon-McCartney written. Another 6 songs were credited to Lennon-McCartney and additional writers (ie. Lennon-McCartney -Starkey). Of these Beatles recorded songs Lennon was the main composer on 72 and McCartney on 70, sharing the writing on the others. The Beatles’ totals of 20 No. 1 singles and 19 No. 1 albums have never been matched by any artist.
John wrote 6 of the number 1 tracks while Paul contributed 10. They wrote about 21 songs that they gave away to other artists to record. This included Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, Peter & Gordon, Cilla Black, and Mary Hopkin. Another 16 or so Lennon-McCartney songs are considered to be unreleased tracks, some released on Anthology 1, some performed live and others played by the Quarrymen.
Paul McCartney (Left)
Lennon-McCartney are credited with 23 number-one US hits and 28 number-one UK chart-topping singles. In 1963, The Sunday Times called Lennon and McCartney the greatest composers since Ludwig van Beethoven.
The Lennon–McCartney brand would prove to be a model for several other songwriting teams in the rock genre, including, according to Lennon, the Rolling Stones’ Jagger–Richards partnership. The new wave band Squeeze’s partnership of Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook was infamously dubbed the “new Lennon–McCartney” by music writers.
Guinness Book of World Records