The Beatles song that John Lennon said was Paul McCartney ‘trying to copy Simon & Garfunkel’

John Lennon was never a man to mince his words, especially in the latter stages of his life. An artist deeply critical of the world around him right up until the very end, the former Beatle even looked back on his own pioneering work with a slight taste of disappointment: “I feel I could make every fucking one of them better,” remarked Lennon during a typically brash interview with David Sheff. It was in that sentiment Lennon lived his life, relentlessly searching for improvement, both professionally and personally.

While Lennon was quick to criticise his own work, he wasn’t shy about doing it to those closest to him either. Dismissing some of Paul McCartney’s creations as “granny music” and distancing himself from his songwriting partner’s biggest hits, as Lennon grew older, the more he publicly hit out at the work that had taken him to this point.

In 1969, with band relations at an all-time low, the Beatles headed to Twickenham Film Studios in a bid to rehearse and record material for what was to be their twelfth studio album, Let It Be. Armed with hits such as ‘Get Back’, ‘I’ve Got a Feeling’, ‘The Long and Winding Road’ and more, the band were accompanied by producer Phil Spector and attempted to lay down what was to be some of their most bittersweet creations. However, the sessions were arduous, ill-tempered and littered with the signs of a band on the edge of splitting up.

Reflecting on the mood of the Let It Be recording sessions, Lennon said the band were working for “God knows how long,” during an interview with Rolling Stone co-founder Jann S. Wenner. “Paul [McCartney] had this idea that we were going to rehearse or… see it all was more like Simon & Garfunkel [laugh], like looking for perfection all the time. And so he has these ideas that we’ll rehearse and then make the album. And of course, we’re lazy fuckers and we’ve been playing for 20 years, for fuck’s sake, we’re grown men, we’re not going to sit around rehearsing. I’m not, anyway. And we couldn’t get into it.”

“And we put down a few tracks, and nobody was in it at all,” Lennon added. “It was a dreadful, dreadful feeling in Twickenham Studio, and being filmed all the time. I just wanted them to go away, and we’d be there, eight in the morning. You couldn’t make music at eight in the morning or ten or whatever it was, in a strange place with people filming you and coloured lights.”

Of course, the sessions would be infamously remembered as the period of time when both Ringo Starr and George Harrison temporarily quit the band. However, Lennon’s mention of Simon & Garfunkel in the aforementioned quote is a telling one, a reflection of his desire to repeatedly remain original and true to himself in every creation to the point of paranoia.

During a 1980 interview recorded in All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Lennon was asked about the album’s lead single, ‘Let It Be’. Pausing for a moment, the bespectacled Beatle replied: “That’s Paul,” he said. “What can you say? Nothing to do with The Beatles. It could’ve been Wings”.

Detailing further, Lennon added: “I don’t know what he’s thinking when he writes ‘Let It Be,” he said. “I think it was inspired by ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water.’ That’s my feeling, although I have nothing to go on. I know that he wanted to write a ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’.” However, there’s some debate surrounding Lennon’s opinion. While ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ was released a couple of months before ‘Let It Be’, they were likely recorded around the very same time.

Explaining the origins of ‘Let It Be’ in Many Years From Now, McCartney said: “One night during this tense time I had a dream I saw my mum, who’d been dead ten years or so. And it was so great to see her because that’s a wonderful thing about dreams: you actually are reunited with that person for a second; there they are and you appear to both be physically together again. It was so wonderful for me and she was very reassuring.”

McCartney continued: “In the dream she said, ‘It’ll be all right.’ I’m not sure if she used the words ‘Let it be’ but that was the gist of her advice, it was, ‘Don’t worry too much, it will turn out OK.’ It was such a sweet dream I woke up thinking, Oh, it was really great to visit with her again. I felt very blessed to have that dream. So that got me writing the song ‘Let It Be’.” I literally started off ‘Mother Mary’, which was her name, ‘When I find myself in times of trouble’, which I certainly found myself in. The song was based on that dream.”

Lennon’s belief that McCartney used ‘Let It Be’ as a means of copying Simon & Garfunkel certainly didn’t impact their view, however, as Paul Simon later cited the Beatle as one of the greatest songwriters of all time. Back in 2011, he was asked the big question concerning who he thinks are the greatest, and he told Mojo: “I’d put Gershwin, Berlin and Hank Williams. I’d probably put Paul McCartney in there too. Then I’d have Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. Then, in the second tier, Lennon is there, Dylan is there, Bob Marley and Stephen Sondheim are there, and maybe I’m there, too. It’s about whose songs last.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You May Also Like