John Lennon‘s relationship with Paul McCartney’s music often teetered between love and disdain. While their collaboration as songwriters in The Beatles produced phenomenal results, Lennon didn’t shy away from criticizing McCartney’s compositions, famously disliking ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.’ Despite their occasional clashes, there was one McCartney creation that Lennon considered far superior to many others.
In the early Beatles era, Lennon held sway over the band’s direction. He dominated the albums, taking the lead vocals on the majority of songs and using McCartney as a complementary figure, especially on ballads like ‘If I Fell’ and ‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away.’
Lennon’s edgy style contrasted with McCartney’s penchant for optimistic melodies, often bringing a lightness to the band’s sound. Despite their creative differences, Lennon couldn’t resist acknowledging McCartney’s ability to craft classic tunes. He notably praised ‘Here, There and Everywhere’ as one of McCartney’s finest creations.
As the Beatles progressed, McCartney gradually became the driving force behind the group, particularly in the later albums like Sgt. Pepper’s. The dynamic shifted, with McCartney taking on a more prominent role creatively, while Lennon explored experimental avenues with tracks like ‘Strawberry Fields Forever.’
During the tumultuous recording of The White Album, Lennon maintained his admiration for ‘Hey Jude.’ A song aimed at McCartney’s son Julian during the divorce of Lennon and his first wife, the tune served as a comforting gesture from McCartney to his honorary nephew.
Featuring one of the longest outros in rock history, ‘Hey Jude’ resonated deeply with Lennon. While appreciating its songcraft, Lennon interpreted the lyrics as a message to him about their friendship. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Lennon remarked, “It was one of Paul’s masterpieces. I always heard it as a song to me. Paul is saying, ‘Go ahead, leave me’. He didn’t want to lose his partner.”
In the years that followed, McCartney began to see different facets of the song’s advice, interpreting it as guidance for himself. Starting a new relationship with Linda Eastman, McCartney saw the phrase “now go and get her” as a plea to follow his heart and not let love slip away.
Acknowledging that McCartney was the primary architect of the song, he admitted that Lennon’s spirit permeated one line: “the movement you need is on your shoulder.” McCartney shared that he still gets emotional when singing this line in concert, feeling the enduring presence of Lennon in the song.
Despite occasional cynicism from Lennon, ‘Hey Jude’ showcased The Beatles venturing into more ambitious territory. Even Lennon couldn’t deny the compelling power captured by McCartney in this enduring song.