Paul McCartney picks his top three John Lennon songs

In the late 1950s, John Lennon and Paul McCartney formed one of the most legendary partnerships in the history of music. With the addition of George Harrison and Ringo Starr in the early 1960s, The Beatles embarked on a journey that would eventually conquer the world.

Transitioning from their early days of covering rhythm and blues classics and crafting love songs, The Beatles ventured into the realms of experimental psychedelia during their later years. In doing so, they paved the way for countless contemporary artists and changed the course of pop culture history irrevocably.

In July 1957, a 16-year-old Lennon met 15-year-old McCartney at St Peter’s Church Hall fête in Woolton. The pair got on like a house on fire, and it wasn’t long before McCartney joined Lennon’s school band, The Quarrymen, initially as a rhythm guitarist.

“We’d grown up together. From little kids, we’d taken the first steps together. We kind of learned to walk together, then we learned to run,” McCartney told BBC Radio 2 in 2021. “And the fact that each of us was influencing the other was very important. And we were learning, not just about songs and stuff, about life.”

Continuing, McCartney explained how, as a pair, they propagated creative ideas. “If I did something that was a little bit ahead of the curve, then John would come up with something that was a bit ahead of my curve. And then so I’d go, ‘Well, how about this?’ and there was a lot of friendly competition.”

“If you know someone that long from your early teenage years to your late twenties, that’s an awful long time to be collaborating with someone, and you grow to know each other, and even when you’re apart, you’re still thinking about each other, you’re still referencing each other,” he added.

While appearing on the British radio station, McCartney was asked to pick out his favourite John Lennon solo compositions. “Obviously, ‘Imagine’… and ‘Instant Karma’ is great, and the nice thing was, when I listen to the records, I can imagine him in the studio and go, ‘Oh ok, I know what he’s done. He’s just said to the engineer, ‘Gimme some Elvis echo. Bog echo’,” McCartney laughed.

Feeling it necessary to explain what he meant, the former Beatle added: “Bog is the toilet in Liverpool, but we just called it bog echo… But I can imagine him saying, ‘I want that,’ and getting in the headphones with that and recording a lot of his stuff that way.”

Above these two classic tracks, however, is McCartney’s favourite from the Lennon solo catalogue, ‘Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)’. “I’m often asked for my favourite tunes kind of thing, and I always include ‘Beautiful Boy’,” he said.

McCartney also chose ‘Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)’ as his Castaway’s Favourite when appearing on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ on Boxing Day, 1984. “I haven’t chosen any Beatles records, but if we had more than eight, I probably would have,” he said, announcing the track. “I haven’t chosen any of my records, so to sum up the whole thing, I have chosen one of John Lennon’s from Double Fantasy, which I think is a beautiful song, very moving to me. So, I’d like to sum the whole thing [up] by playing ‘Beautiful Boy’.”

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