Paul McCartney Revealed the Lennon-McCartney Song That Made Them ‘Hacks’

Paul McCartney wanted to write a song for another artist to boost The Beatles’ career. He shared why he didn’t think the song was very good.

Paul McCartney wrote many hit songs for The Beatles but also penned tunes that he intended to give out to other artists. These occasionally made their way onto Beatles records, even if McCartney and John Lennon wrote them with other musicians in mind. One such song was “Misery,” a ballad intended for musician Helen Shapiro. McCartney shared why writing the song was hacky of them.

Paul McCartney said a song he wrote with John Lennon was a hack job

Early in their years as a band, McCartney and Lennon wrote together and wanted to do whatever they could to get their songs play time. This included writing songs for other artists. The Beatles were touring with Shapiro, and they felt she could boost their career by singing a song they wrote. So, they penned “Misery” with her in mind.

“We wrote it for Helen Shapiro because we were going on tour with her and, being young lads with an eye for an opportunity, we thought, well, even if she does it on a B side, this’ll be very good for our songwriting,” McCartney said in the book Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now by Barry Miles.

Ultimately, though, Columbia Records turned down the song, and it went to Kenny Lynch instead. He was also on tour with Shapiro and The Beatles. McCartney didn’t see Lynch’s cover of the song as the opportunity a cover by Shapiro would have been.

“He was another lad with an eye for an opportunity, and he had a minor hit with it,” he explained. “He used to do it on tour with us … not amazingly well. It was our first stab at a ballad and had a little spoken preface.”

He said that he and Lennon took equal responsibility for the song and that they both viewed it as a job, not art. As a result, he thought it made them hacks.

“It was co-written,” he said. “I don’t think either of us dominated on that one, it was just a job, you could have called us hacks, hacking out a song for someone.”

He continued to write songs for other musicians after fame

Even long after The Beatles had proven themselves as songwriters, becoming the biggest band in the world, they continued to write songs for other artists. In 1968, McCartney wrote a song for actor, model, and singer Twiggy, though she never used it.

“Early in 1968, Twiggy was going to film a special for Granada TV, called Twiggy in Russia,” author Allan Kozinn told Goldmine. “She asked Paul for a song, and he gave her “Back in the U.S.S.R.” But the special was never completed, so Paul used the song himself, on The Beatles (aka ‘The White Album’).”

Mick Jagger shared what it was like to take a song from Paul McCartney and John Lennon

McCartney and Lennon also wrote a song for another one of the preeminent groups of the 1960s: The Rolling Stones. Mick Jagger shared what it was like to take “I Wanna Be Your Man” from the songwriters.

“They said they had this tune, they were really hustlers then,” he told Rolling Stone. “I mean the way they used to hustle tunes was great: ‘Hey Mick, we’ve got this great song’ [done with a John Lennon accent]. So they played it and we thought it sounded pretty commercial, which is what we were looking for, so we did it like Elmore James or something. I haven’t heard it for ages but it must be pretty freaky ’cause nobody really produced it. The guy who happened to be our manager at the time was a 50-year-old northern mill owner [Eric Easton]. It was completely crackers, but it was a hit and sounded great on stage.”

The Beatles also released their version of “I Wanna Be Your Man” in 1963.

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