The artist Paul McCartney called “the closest” to John Lennon

John Lennon and Paul McCartney

There will never be another songwriting combination with the same impact on the business as John Lennon and Paul McCartney. For all the great music they made during their solo careers, the two songwriting masterminds behind most of The Beatles’ songs provided the perfect complement to each other when they played. They frequently filled in pieces of each other’s songs, which would become rock canon staples. Although McCartney thought his composition with John Lennon was unique, he believed that one collaboration was the closest. It was the closest he had ever gotten to working with his partner again.

However, after leaving the Beatles, Macca spent years perfecting his skills as a solo musician.  After a challenging start with albums like RAM, co-written with his wife Linda, the establishment of Wings followed. It saw the former Beatles return to prominence. He released stadium rock anthems like ‘Venus and Mars‘ and ‘Band on the Run.’

McCartney kept his Beatles days at arm’s length for all of the great music he was producing on his own. During the band’s live shows, he would only occasionally incorporate a Beatles song. He did this when he thought it would complement his other material. He performed tracks like ‘Yesterday‘ and deep cuts like ‘I’ve Just Seen a Face‘ during his stadium tours.

As the punk movement ridiculed McCartney’s stadium rock, Elvis Costello emerged as the lyrical mastermind behind the new wave. With the support of the Attractions, records like My Aim is True provided the world with some of the most emotive lyrics in rock and roll. Costello discussed the ins and outs of relationships in songs like ‘Allison‘.

As McCartney entered a new decade, he became interested in Costello’s musical style, even going so far as to collaborate with him on the album Flowers in the Dirt. When he sat down to work alongside the new wave guru, McCartney couldn’t help but see flashes. He saw glimpses of the writer he had known all those years before.

Longtime Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick recalled how much Paul McCartney enjoyed working with Costello. In “Here There and Everywhere,” he stated that Elvis, like John, would always come into the session with a scrap of paper. He would have a half-finished verse scribbled on it, finishing and polishing it off in the studio. A few years later, Paul wrote a few songs with Elvis, describing the experience as “the closest thing to working with John.

Although Costello’s music sounded very different from Lennon’s signature style, their perspectives on the song were far more similar than many people realized. When working on lines back and forth, McCartney frequently noticed Costello providing a mocking line to an earnest one. This was similar to how he and Lennon wrote the Sgt Pepper classic ‘Getting Better.’

Although no amount of creative expertise can replace John Lennon, hearing Costello and McCartney trade lines on the rough version of ‘My Brave Face‘ is a little strange to listen to. After years without a songwriting collaborator, it appeared that McCartney had finally discovered songwriting compatibility with someone else.

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