The Beatles song that highlighted Paul McCartney’s “insensitivity” to John Lennon

Before fame had changed the fortunes of their lives by supplying them with unfathomable riches, Paul McCartney and John Lennon were inseparable when it related to their songwriting. They were two different individuals on a biological level, but when it came to the art of crafting music, the duo moved in tandem.

Much of their early original material was penned in McCartney’s humble family home in Allerton, which the National Trust now owns due to its cultural value. However, as their popularity reached unimaginable levels and their lives changed significantly, it was no longer possible for the pair of bandmates to cosy up within the same room to write.

While they still assisted each other with the songwriting process, especially if the other had come unstuck, their methods evolved over time. Although on the odd occasion, they’d still pluck songs out of thin air while in the company of one another, usually, it was based on a previous idea that a band member had already thought of before the session began. Most importantly, this approach led to seismic results and songs that stand the test of time.

Discussing their approach, Lennon once told Rolling Stone of their technique: “We sometimes wrote together. All our best work – apart from the early days, like ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ we wrote together and things like that – we wrote apart always. The ‘One After 909,’ on the Let It Be LP, I wrote when I was 17 or 18.”

He added: “We always wrote separately, but we wrote together because we enjoyed it a lot sometimes, and also because they would say, well, you’re going to make an album, get together and knock off a few songs, just like a job.”

In one instance, McCartney had arrived at the studio with the skeleton of a song which he knew had the potential to feature on a future Beatles record. However, rather than admit he needed the help of Lennon to fulfil his creative vision, McCartney upset his songwriting partner by leaving the room after instructing everybody else to work on his track.

The song in question was ‘Eleanor Rigby’, which later appeared on Revolver. During an interview with David Sheff in 1980, Lennon explained why McCartney’s approach to creating the track rubbed him up the wrong way, which he perceived as an example of his bandmate’s “insensitivity”.

“Ah, the first verse was his, and the rest are basically mine,” Lennon told Sheff. “But the way he did it … Well, he knew he had a song. But by that time, he didn’t want to ask for my help, and we were sitting around with Mal Evans and Neil Aspinall, so he said to us, ‘Hey, you guys, finish up the lyrics.’”

“Now I was there with Mal, a telephone installer who was our road manager, and Neil, who was a student accountant, and I was insulted and hurt that Paul had just thrown it out in the air,” he continued. “He actually meant he wanted me to do it, and of course, there isn’t a line of theirs in the song because I finally went off to a room with Paul and we finished the song. But that’s how … that’s the kind of insensitivity he would have, which upset me in later years.”

While Lennon arguably overreacted to McCartney’s actions, it was likely a gradual build-up of similar incidents which led to his explosion of anger over ‘Eleanor Rigby’. However, his comments show how tensions had begun to arise within The Beatles’ camp as early as 1966, and their split was already beginning to ferment.

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