Lennon vs. McCartney: Dem’s Fightin’ Words

When two of the most prolific and successful composers of the twentieth century parted ways in 1970, there were years of anger and resentment between them. A few years before they split however, The Beatles wrote some of the boldest lyrics to ever take place in popular music.

With the release of Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967, The Beatles started to really transform their pop rock playing sound and became acquainted what psychedelic rock. Even though Sgt. Pepper is known as one of the first flower power albums, there are hints of cruelty within one of the songs.

In ‘Getting Better,’ McCartney got mad at his school but also his woman:

I used to be cruel to my woman

I beat her and kept her apart

from the things that she loved,

Man I was mean but I’m changing my scene

And I’m doing the best that I can.

It doesn’t stop there for McCartney. Their most memorable album, Abbey Road, McCartney had no good intentions towards Maxwell’s so-called foes in the chorus of the song, ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’:

…But when she turns her back on the boy,
He creeps up from behind.

Bang! Bang! Maxwell’s silver hammer
Came down upon her head.
Clang! Clang! Maxwell’s silver hammer
Made sure that she was dead.

Less than two years later, Lennon releases Imagine in 1971. On that album, Lennon lets his fury out on McCartney on the track, ‘How Do You Sleep?’ With some conspiracy theorists believing that the real Paul McCartney died in a car crash in 1966, Lennon nails them and McCartney in one shot:

Those freaks was right when they said you was dead
The one mistake you made was in your head

Here, Lennon really sticks it to McCartney:

The only thing you done was yesterday
And since you’re gone you’re just another day

Although Lennon is angry at McCartney at this point in the post-Beatles era, he ironically acknowledges and credits his ex-songwriting partner at the end of the song:

A pretty face may last a year or two
But pretty soon they’ll see what you can do

The sound you make is muzak to my ears
You must have learned something in all those years.

In response to this, McCartney (five years later) writes ‘Silly Love Songs.’ This becomes one of Paul McCartney & Wings’ biggest hits. Even though ‘Silly Love Songs’ has a catchy chorus and pounding bass line, it’s almost impossible to know that it’s a song directed towards Lennon.

What might not seem as the angriest lyrics in the world, McCartney has ‘Silly Love Songs’ asking Lennon:

You’d think that people would have had enough of silly love songs
I look around me and I see it isn’t so, oh no,
Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs
What’s wrong with that?

Even though Lennon accused McCartney of writing vapid love songs, it was McCartney who had more crafty, bold and cruel lyrics in his songs whereas Lennon didn’t take too much of that risk. Lennon has had his share of left leaning protest songs to ‘turn you onto’ (‘I Don’t To Be A Soldier’ and ‘Gimme Some Truth’) but he wasn’t consistent enough by the time 1980 came around. Lennon would start writing a bunch of solo love songs (Oh Yoko, Woman’) so the resentment he felt towards McCartney faded away.










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