by Kevin Burton
If you’ve ever talked Beatles with me or even read some of my music posts, you know I’m a McCartney guy.
So to show you Lennon people my heart is in the right place, I’m going to tell you the great things about John that stand out to me before I explain why I think Paul is the most essential Beatle.
Yes, this is the Page 7 version of the fun but useless question, “John or Paul.”
First, Lennon did start the band. It was known as the Quarrymen at first. He took the initiative to put musicians together and get bookings. It’s not easy to put or to keep something like that together.
Second, Lennon put the success of the band above his position in the band when he added McCartney. He had a decision to make. He could see straightaway that Paul was his equal, or more, as a musician. Adding Paul jeopardized his status as the leader of the group. Had he not made that decision, the whole history of rock and roll would be different.
Third, he issued the greatest line ever from a musician.
The date was Nov. 4, 1963. The Beatles performed at the Royal Variety Performance in London, attended by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret.
The Beatles did four songs, the last of which was “Twist And Shout.”
Before that song, Lennon said to the Royal assemblage, “For our last number I’d like to ask your help. Would the people in the cheaper seats clap your hands? And the rest of you, if you’ll just rattle your jewelry.”
Considering what the working class group did to dismantle the stratified class system in England, that is among the greatest lines of the 20th century and only Lennon could have pulled it off.
And this was about four months before The Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show and began their reinvention of pop music. They were already full of themselves!
John Lennon was lead bolder in the rock and roll avalanche, never more so that with the Royals in London.
I’m American, so my idea of Royals is George Brett, Hal McRae and Frank White. So glad John could take those others down a peg.
Fourth, Lennon’s guitar triplets on “All My Loving” did a lot to solidify that song. The lyrics are forgettable. But the groove and general flow of the song is great, Lennon’s work on rhythm guitar being most memorable.
Fifth, it’s not a crazy notion to say “In My Life,” written by Lennon, is the best Beatles song ever. Not sure how many would put it at the very top, but it’s a reasonable conversation at the very least.
I’ll stop here with the first things that came to mind. I could go on quite a while.
I said the John or Paul question is silly because we don’t need to make the choice. The synergy that came from their partnership changed the world. It’s more relevant to consider them together.
The Beatles are not the Beatles if everything is “Mi-chelle my belle.” They are not the Beatles if everything is “I Am The Walrus.” The two of them demanding excellence from one another, working to impress and outdo each other, that’s what made them the band they became.
The John or Paul question is more relevant when comparing their post-Beatles work. In that context the answer of course, is George. Just kidding, we’ll get to that question at another time.
I wonder who was the first to ask the John or Paul question and why. Maybe it’s because the Beatles are so far superior to any other band. Without a real argument there I guess John or Paul is the next best thing.
Anyway, since we’ve jumped into this musical parlor game, next Tuesday on Page 7 I plan to make the case for Paul McCartney as Beatle In Chief.