The Beatles song that “insulted and hurt” John Lennon

Every great song by The Beatles stemmed from the massive powerhouse of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. While George Harrison had his fair share of highlights, the majority of the Fab Four’s classic tracks came from how Lennon and McCartney wrote melodies together, creating vivid pictures in the listener’s mind that are still relevant 50 years later. Although the band innovated left and right, one song left Lennon feeling a bit jaded.

Coming out of their initial mop-top phase, The Beatles were moving towards more ambitious territory when releasing albums like Rubber Soul. Featuring none of the traditional love songs that fans were used to hearing from their favourite band, these tracks tackled adult themes that The Beatles were dealing with every day, from the confident young woman in ‘Girl’ to the woman who leads her boyfriend along on ‘Drive My Car’.

It wouldn’t be until Revolver that things started to change drastically. Following their experiments in folk-tinged rock, the band’s embrace of avant-garde songwriting styles pioneered the psychedelic movement by a few years, with tracks like ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ and ‘Taxman’ being a bold step forward than the usual love song.

Of all the experiments, though, McCartney’s ‘Eleanor Rigby’ was a massive departure, featuring no rock instrumentation as McCartney tells the story of a lonely woman wasting her life away in a church. Although Lennon maintains that he helped in structuring the song, there were a few pieces of the puzzle that never sat well with him.

Instead of the usual back-and-forth, Lennon remembered McCartney offering the song up to the room, with roadie Mal Evans and roadies Neil Aspinal chipping in a couple of words. To Lennon, this was infringing on sacred ground, recalling: “I was sat there with Mal Evans, a road manager, who was a telephone installer, and Neil Aspinall, who was a not-completed student accountant, who became our road manager. And I was insulted and hurt that he’d thrown it out in the air, but I wanted to grab a piece of it, and I wrote it with them sitting at the table.”

Then again, McCartney got a few critical phrases without Lennon’s help. When discussing the song’s development, Ringo Starr would come up with the lines of Father McKenzie donning his socks in the night when there’s nobody there.

According to Lennon, this mentality was way too communal than the private experience of writing a song, continuing, “We had the first lines about ‘Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice…’. And we worked in a room together on it somewhere to finish up a verse and a bit, and then the rest of it was finished off in the studio. With me sitting at the table, thinking, ‘How dare you throw it in the air like that?’”.

However, it would only be a matter of time before Lennon started writing his songs independently from McCartney. Thanks to his blossoming relationship with Yoko Ono, Lennon’s immersion in the artsy side of rock drove a line between the songwriting duo, starting a massive creative split that ultimately broke up the partnership.

Even though The Beatles made beautiful music together, both Lennon and McCartney were two very different people on different musical wavelengths. If anything, McCartney’s offer of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ may as well have been the first sign that Lennon and McCartney wouldn’t be writing together forever.

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