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Who do you think was the better songwriter of the Beatles?
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10 July 2011
7.21pm
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The Walrus
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Jello said:

 He even wrote the top two most covered songs in history. 

I was under the impression that Something was the second most covered song in history.

 

Anyway, for me, it's John. Doubtless McCartney is amongst the best composers (and songwriters) of the 20th century, but John turned music into songs better than he did.

There were four songs recorded by the Beatles that ended up on Anthology 3 and were released solo by a Beatle- Paul's Junk and Teddy Boy, and George's Not Guilty and All Things Must Pass. Personally, I prefer all four Anthology versions, even though John clearly wasn't taking Paul's songs seriously and George didn't think anybody was putting enough effort into Not Guilty. But anyway, I think these songs improved due to John saying "no, that's not right, do it like this". Paul cites John telling him to increase the tempo of Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da, keep the "the movement you need is on your shoulders" line in Hey Jude, and others. John knew the tempo of Help! had to be increased, and he knew what lines would work in songs like Taxman and Piggies. The decision to attempt to combine the two very different parts of Strawberry Fields Forever was a bold one, and it worked despite all the odds.

The best example of John as a songmaker as well as writer is Happiness Is A Warm Gun. There are four or five different sections to it, most of them written seperately, plus the removed "Yoko Ono, no, Yoko Ono, yes", and they all have different meters and timbres and tempos that had to fit together. Yes, the other Beatles helped (Ringo in particular sounds excellent here... listen to the drum fill before "she's well acquianted with..."), but it was John's baby, and he was responsible for fitting it together. Similarly, his compositions of I'm Stepping Out and Real Love that somebody posted a video of a few weeks ago, where he created two songs from a series of fragments.

In the same way that Paul's "serious" side is often brushed aside, John's emotional side is too. I think, whilst Paul was writing songs overflowing with emotion like Let It Be or She's Leaving Home that covered up his "serious" side to a degree (though Eleanor Rigby is probably the best known "serious" Beatles song), they also covered up John's emotional songs, which seemed to hold back a little more than Paul's. The exception is In My Life... written (musically) primarily by George Martin. But then there's something like Nowhere Man- rise here, fall there, hold that note, increase the tempo, pause... it's like Gnik's example of Penny Lane, he knew what he had to do to create the effect he wanted.

And I neeeeeeeeed her all the time
10 July 2011
7.29pm
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mr. Sun king coming together
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a-hard-days-night-ringo-8They both had a great gift to achieve the best from a song. but Lennon abused that ability by intentionally ruining The Long And Winding Road. If he wasn't a selfish bastard then Phil Spector wouldn't have plastered it with strings and there wouldn't have been this huge feud with McCartney. And yet no one mentions that.

As if it matters how a man falls down.'

'When the fall's all that's left, it matters a great deal.

10 July 2011
10.05pm
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GniknuS
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Come on now, that seems a bit over the top. John wasn't a bass player and so he plays a boring bass part on a boring song. Go listen to Rocky Raccoon, the bass isn't exactly fantastic there but he doesn't ruin the song.
I think it would be incredibly interesting if anything was really written about how they constructed songs together, things have sort of been written about who wrote what melody and who wrote what middle eight, but there has to be something more in depth. I look at the songs and wonder who suggested what key change or tempo change or bit of harmony that made some of those songs great when before they may have just been good.
So I think the question is kind of unfair because they were clearly better together because they always had each others musical opinions to rely on.

I sat on a rug, biding my time, drinking her wine
10 July 2011
10.22pm
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mr. Sun king coming together
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GniknuS said:

Come on now, that seems a bit over the top. John wasn't a bass player and so he plays a boring bass part on a boring song. Go listen to Rocky Raccoon, the bass isn't exactly fantastic there but he doesn't ruin the song....

...Because he tried. He gave zero effort on Road. I think Lennon called their songwriting, at least in the beginning, as "eyeball to eyeball". I'm trying to find his Playboy interview to see if he says anything else.

Edit: Found it!

PLAYBOY: "Then let's talk about the work you did together. Generally speaking, what did each of you contribute to the Lennon-McCartney songwriting team?"

LENNON: "Well, you could say that he provided a lightness, an optimism, while I would always go for the sadness, the discords, a certain bluesy edge. Paul had a lot of training, could play a lot of instruments. He'd say, 'Well, why don't you change that there? You've done that note 50 times in the song.' You know, I'll grab a note and ram it home. Then again, I'd be the one to figure out where to go with a song... a story that Paul would start. In a lot of the songs, my stuff is the middle-eight, the bridge."

As if it matters how a man falls down.'

'When the fall's all that's left, it matters a great deal.

10 July 2011
10.44pm
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GniknuS
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So you know for a fact he gave no effort on the song? It's certainly not a great bass line but it doesn't ruin the song and a better bass line or riff wouldn't make the song much better.
That's like saying, take the one bad bass line or bad guitar solo and that means the other person intentionally tried to ruin the song. Did George try to intentionally ruin
I Need You? No, but sometimes it's just not your day. Had the Beatles cared more about that song or had Paul been given the opportunity to clean up TLAWR then things would have been different.

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12 July 2011
2.38am
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mithveaen
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a-hard-days-night-ringo-8 a-hard-days-night-ringo-7 So it would be something like this??

 

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Here comes the sun….. Scoobie-doobie…… Something in the way she moves…..attracts me like a cauliflower… Bop. Bop, cat bop. Go, Johnny, Go. Beware of Darkness…  I believe in SH...
12 July 2011
6.59am
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GniknuS
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It's best to be honest about these things. a-hard-days-night-george-10

Re-rail, mith, in response to Across The Universe, I guess what I mean is that nothing of Paul's looks as clever as that song on a piece of paper, at least to me. ATU just has some really fantastic metaphors, "pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my open mind, possessing and caressing me…" what a line! I read a book on musical hallucinations and it sounds like that happened to John, the words just came to him and he doesn't 'own them.' That's pure inspiration, absolutely nothing forced. It's sort of what happened with Paul and Yesterday with the melody just coming to him.
Anyway, I just don't think anything of Paul's is quite as clever from a pure lyrics perspective, Here, There And Everywhere is nice as is something like Eleanor Rigby and obviously many others, but I still think Paul is a musician first and a writer second whereas John seems to be the opposite.

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12 July 2011
3.54pm
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mithveaen
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GniknuS said:

It's best to be honest about these things. a-hard-days-night-george-10

Re-rail, mith, in response to Across The Universe, I guess what I mean is that nothing of Paul's looks as clever as that song on a piece of paper, at least to me. ATU just has some really fantastic metaphors, "pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my open mind, possessing and caressing me…" what a line! I read a book on musical hallucinations and it sounds like that happened to John, the words just came to him and he doesn't 'own them.' That's pure inspiration, absolutely nothing forced. It's sort of what happened with Paul and Yesterday with the melody just coming to him.
Anyway, I just don't think anything of Paul's is quite as clever from a pure lyrics perspective, Here, There And Everywhere is nice as is something like Eleanor Rigby and obviously many others, but I still think Paul is a musician first and a writer second whereas John seems to be the opposite.

Oh now I get it. And what you say is so interesting and right!!!! Thanks for your answer Sun.. I mean Gniknus... a-hard-days-night-george-9

Here comes the sun….. Scoobie-doobie…… Something in the way she moves…..attracts me like a cauliflower… Bop. Bop, cat bop. Go, Johnny, Go. Beware of Darkness…  I believe in SH...
12 July 2011
3.59pm
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mr. Sun king coming together
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Paul was/is a much better lyricist then he thinks he is. Remember this quote from Lennon: Paul is quite a capable lyricist who doesn't think he is. 

And now look at Eleanor Rigby. Almost all the lyrics are Paul, and those are one of the best lyrics ever.

As if it matters how a man falls down.'

'When the fall's all that's left, it matters a great deal.

12 July 2011
10.24pm
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MeanMrsMustard
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Well, GniknuS said that John was better at writing songs that could stand on their own as poetry. Stuff like "Across The Universe" and "Strawberry Fields Forever." Maybe Paul was better at writing things that could stand on their own with no words. Nothing's really coming to mind, though. The first thing I thought of was "She's Leaving Home." 

If I seem to act unkind, it's only me, it's not my mind that is confusing things.

13 July 2011
11.10pm
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GniknuS
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What do you mean, just melody? Paul has a lot of hum-able (word?) songs. Mother Nature's Son stands when he is just going do do do do... I really think most great Beatles tunes would stand on their own, I saw a band called Harpnotic play the Norwegian Wood melody with just a harp and a bass and it was absolutely beautiful.
I'm back and forth about this though, I think I have more respect for Paul but I still tend to like John's songs better.

I sat on a rug, biding my time, drinking her wine
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