A three part article from Slate that takes a look at Lennon & McCartney’s collaborative process.
According to the conventional wisdom, their drift apart had begun. But the increased distance sometimes functioned like the space between boxers in a ring—giving more room for a powerful shot. “He’d write ‘Strawberry fields,’ I’d go away and write ‘Penny Lane,’ ” McCartney said. “If I’d write ‘I’m Down,’ he’d go away and write something similar to that. To compete with each other. But it was very friendly competition because we were both going to share in the rewards anyway.”
Friendly, but with a sharp edge. “I would bring in a song and you could sort of see John stiffen a bit,” Paul said. “Next day he’d bring in a song and I’d sort of stiffen. And it was like, ‘Oh, you’re going to do that, are you? Right. You wait till I come up with something tomorrow.’ ”
The favorite back-and-forth—who was the real genius in the pair?—looks to set one on a pedestal. But when we look closely at the back and forth, that debate’s most cherished assumptions come into question—for example, that John charged ahead with the musical avant-garde while Paul nurtured traditional elements of melody and symmetry. It’s true that John tended to stick his finger in the audience’s eye while Paul usually preferred to coo to them. John’s “Revolution 9” may be the oddest, most dissonant thing ever laid down on a big pop album and Paul’s “Let It Be” and “Hey Jude” set a standard for sweetness and formal perfection.