Yes, McCartney might be guilty of the double peace sign, dodgy waistcoats and the bloody frog song, but his work in The Beatles and as a solo artist pisses all over that of Liam Gallagher's hero...
Let me begin this list with a disclaimer. Let me recant before I even begin. Comparison between artists is almost always meaningless. What we must do is understand the artist individually, on their own merits and for their own purposes. No, I don’t think Paul McCartney is better than John Lennon, nor can the reverse be true. Maybe Lennon was more literate while McCartney was more musical; to denigrate either for failing to have aptitudes in both areas is to miss the point of the complementary nature of the pair. Having said that, here is a list of all the ways in which McCartney bests Lennon. My rationale is as follows: his is the critical reputation that most needs rehabilitation. Esteem him! Or, take to the comments section…
1. McCartney played drums, bass, piano, maracas and sang backing vocals on ‘The Ballad of John and Yoko’, a self-indulgent sub-par b-side.
2. Lennon played bass so badly that mistakes on the master are still audible (try 0:28, 2:10, 2:52 etc) on ‘The Long and Winding Road’, an understated and graceful actual ballad.
3. He wrote what might be Lennon’s most iconic song introduction (the mellotron opening to ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’).
4. McCartney is loved by sentimental pop music enthusiasts and hated by hipsters. Lennon is loved by both.
5. The most covered Beatles song is ‘Yesterday’ -whose opening line was originally “Scrambled eggs, oh my baby how I love your legs.” Anyone who can pen a melody that profound to lyrics like that is a considerable talent.
6. Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was McCartney’s idea. In fact, most everything the band did post-Epstein’s death in ’66 was driven by him. We have McCartney to thank for their entire post-66 catalogue.
7. McCartney explored chamber music and classical, resulting in esoteric and original compositions like ‘Eleanor Rigby’, and ‘When I’m 64′. Lennon explored psychedelic drugs, resulting in lumpen and enervating compositions like ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’, and ‘Baby You’re a Rich Man’.
8. He never beat his wife.
9. McCartney’s bass-playing was the envy of his contemporaries and still ranks among the most restlessly melodic playing around.
10. McCartney recruited his friend George Harrison into the group. Lennon attempted to recruit Yoko Ono into the group. These recruitments had varying level of success.
Lennon’s post Beatles material was sanctimonious and navel-gazing
11. Lennon betrayed a political and ideological naïveté by campaigning for peace from his bed with the slogan “War is over, if you want it”, as though a slogan and bed rest ever resolved any serious conflict.
12. Lennon’s post Beatles material was sanctimonious and navel-gazing. McCartney’s is consistently melodic, unpretentious, and winningly optimistic.
13. He had the sense to excavate Let It Be from under the musical submersion of Phil Spector’s whitewashing string arrangements. Delivering his partner’s classic ‘Across the Universe’ in pristine acoustic glory.
14. McCartney moved toward the avant garde underground of London before Lennon, by virtue of distance (Lennon lived in the country with his first wife Cynthia). Tape loops on Revolver were his innovation.
15. Lennon’s quip in response to the question “Is Ringo Starr the best drummer in the world?” was “He’s not even the best drummer in The Beatles.” He was talking about Paul.
16. He never grew a pretentious messiah-beard. Nor adopted pretentious Ghandi frames.
17. McCartney’s Ram and Band on the Run are the only solo-period works which could be considered lost Beatles albums.
18. He wanted the finale to the Let It Be film to be the band attempting a live show somewhere they wouldn’t be allowed and being ejected, and that would be the show. This idea became the infamous rooftop concert.
19. There’s no personality cult surrounding McCartney. Ageing hippies simply listen to his songs.
20. He’s still alive.
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