McCartney, 72, made the comments in the new UK issue of Esquire Magazine, which he also covers.
“Yeah, John was the witty one, sure. John did a lot of great work, yeah. And post-Beatles he did more great work, but he also did a lot of not-great work,” he says, with what must have been a tinge of bitterness.
Even though the collaborated on some of the greatest songs in rock and roll, Lennon and McCartney were rivals even when they played together in The Beatles. When the group broke up in 1970, there were bitter recriminations. Lennon and McCartney were bitterly at odds and remained so.
Lennon’s shocking death came in December 1980 when he was gunned down outside his New York City apartment building by a crazed fan. It changed the Beatles survivors for life.
“When John got shot, aside from the pure horror of it, the lingering thing was, OK, well now John’s a martyr. A JFK,” he said.
“So what happened was, I started to get frustrated because people started to say, ‘Well, he was The Beatles.’ And me, George and Ringo would go, ‘Er, hang on. It’s only a year ago we were all equal-ish.’
Like so many artists, Lennon became larger in death than he probably ever was in life. McCartney grudgingly acknowledged as much.
“Now the fact that he’s now martyred has elevated him to a James Dean, and beyond. So whilst I didn’t mind that–I agreed with it–I understood that now there was going to be revisionism. It was going to be: John was the one.”
McCartney also still harbors hard feelings over the fact that he and Lennon never alternated songwriting credits, even on songs he wrote alone, like “Yesterday.”
“I said, ‘Could we have “By Paul McCartney and John Lennon,” wouldn’t that be a good idea?’ […] Particularly on that particular song, because the original artwork had ‘Yesterday’ by John Lennon and Paul McCartney and a photo of John above it. And I went, ‘Argh! Come on, lads!’ Anyway they wouldn’t do it.”
He also recalled the heat he took over questioning Lennon’s preeminence after his death. It’s hard to believe he still has doubts about his own place in history. But apparently he wouldn’t be McCartney without Lennon and vice versa.
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