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View Poll Results: Who was the better LYRICIST while in the Beatles?
Paul McCartney 2 14.29%
John Lennon 12 85.71%
Voters: 14. You may not vote on this poll


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Old Oct 06, 2010, 10:18 PM   #1
Fool On The Hill
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Default Lennon/McCartney .. who was better?

Iím sure on this forum this topic has been done once or twice at least, but I want to know for myself what you guys think without having to look back through the forums. Iím sure it will spark a bit of debate. What I want to know is, who do you think the better Beatle was between Lennon and McCartney in terms of lyrics? So, who was the best lyricist? Iíve excluded Ringo and George because I just want to focus on this partnership. Solo songs arenít taken into consideration, I want to know who wrote the best songs while in the Beatles.

So how do we define ďbestĒ lyrics? To me itís songs with meaning, songs that leave you guessing, songs that have a good syllable combination. Itís interesting though. One day I heard John was wondering why nobody ever really did covers of his songs (or less covers) than Paulís. And Yoko said it was because unlike Paul, he didnít try to rhyme June with Spoon or something to that effect. This may shock some of you, but generally I would agree with Yoko. But thatís not to a bad thing. Paul was the master at taking something simple and doing it extraordinarily well. At the same time, he did write plenty of classics like Let it Be and Hey Jude. John was, imo, a more emotional writer. He wrote nonsense songs, songs that DID keep you guessing, he loved things with double meanings and his songs often had underlying messages. McCartneyís did as well, but imo I feel this is especially true for Lennon. Anyway, Iíve taken 10 songs from each which are quite good lyrically written songs and compared them to each other to give us a rough idea of what weíre comparing what against. Whats a typical Lennon song versus a typical McCartney song sorta thing.

John Lennon:
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
Across the Universe
Strawberry Fields Forever
Hide your love away
All you need is love
Norwegian Wood
Nowhere Man
Dear Prudence


Paul McCartney:
Hey Jude
Let it be
Eight days a week
Iíll follow the sun
Magical Mystery Tour
The Fool on the hill
Back in the USSR
The long and winding road

To be completely honest with you, I had no trouble in listing Lennon songs which I felt flattered him. And I STILL havenít used classics like I am the Walrus, The Word, Hard Days Night, etc. I had a tougher time thinking of songs that would flatter McCartney in this debate. I mean, we have the instant classics but look at my list .. after let it be I actually really had to think and even visit websites. I didnít include Eleanor Rigby because Iíve heard various Beatles contributing so many lines so .. sorta left that out. But it does seem to me as if John Lennon was a better lyricist based on what I stated in the second paragraph. Thatís just how I feel. Now if your talking about who could produce the better melody or vocals then Iíd probably go with McCartney.

This debate is about who wrote the better lyrics. John Lennon? Or Paul McCartney?
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Old Oct 07, 2010, 02:29 AM   #2
Dr Winston
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Eight Days A Week and Magical Mystery Tour were co-written.

Lennon had a way with words that made his songs have extra meaning. Sometimes McCartney struggled with his lyrics. However, Lennon admired the lyrics in two of Paul's classic songs - Here There and Everywhere and The Fool On The Hill, saying, 'He can write good lyrics when he thinks about it'.
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Old Oct 07, 2010, 04:55 AM   #3
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I vote for John

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Old Oct 07, 2010, 08:22 AM   #4
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It's a pity we can't vote for a tie. John's my favorite, so I prefer his songs. But I think Paul had some good lyrics too. I'd add "Here, There, and Everywhere" to that list.
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Old Oct 07, 2010, 10:27 AM   #5
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We can just vote for a tie, write it in....I vote a TIE!
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Old Oct 07, 2010, 01:01 PM   #6
Maggie Mae
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I think John was a better lyricist but Paul had better melodies... I think a majority of people would agree with that (maybe?) But it's like John's lyrics were in a different place than Paul's... it's almost like comparing apples and oranges. So when I voted for John, it was purely subjective. I don't think there's any way to objectively tell who was better (unless you stated looking at sales figures for each song or number of weeks in the top 10 or whatever and matched it up to whoever wrote the song... and even then...)

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Old Oct 07, 2010, 02:43 PM   #7
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When I saw the title of this thread I groaned and thought oh not again. But now I see you've put some specificity into the question. It's not just who was better, John or Paul, It's who was better at lyrics, John or Paul?

And for that my answer is John. Yes, Paul's my favorite, and yes, I like his songs the best. But he could really write a lot of banal lyrics.

Take it this way:

While John was writing:

So long ago, was it a dream?
Was it just a dream?

Paul was writing:

I took my bag into a grocery store
the prices higher than the time before
old man asked me "Why is it more?"

Although I will say Paul is an underrated lyricist. He set the bar really high for himself on Revolver (Revolver and Let it Be are the only albums where I think Paul outshines John lyrics-wise) so perhaps people were expecting to get a "For No One" every time. But we didn't, we got "Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da", "Maxwell's Silver Hammer", "Silly Love Songs", etc.

The biggest problem with Paul's lyrics is his best ones are known well enough. Your average McCartney-detractor will endlessly cite Let Em In, Silly Love Songs, Ebony And Ivory, We All Stand Together, and Dance Tonight as signs of his poor lyric-writing, but they'll ignore the lyrical genius of songs like Maybe I'm Amazed, Too Many People, Tug of War, Calico Skies, and Jenny Wren.

But yeah, like I said earlier, John was the better lyricist.
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Old Oct 08, 2010, 11:28 AM   #8
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Good lyrics for me are the ones you can easily understand and relate to, without them being too simplistic.

I'd vote for Paul during the Beatles and for John on solo career.

Even though John has some awesome lyrics with the Beatles (Nowhere Man, In My Life and Across the Universe being my favorites), I much prefer the beautiful, meaningful and down-to-earth lyrics of For No One, Hey Jude, The fool on the hill, Eleanor Rigby, Here There and Everywhere, The Long and Winding Road, Let it Be, Blackbird and She's Leaving Home than confunsing lyrics that say nothing to me like Strawberry Fields, I'm The Walrus, Happiness is a Warm Gun, Glass Onion, Tomorrow Never Knows...

However... Paul seemed to care less about lyrics during his solo career. With a few exceptions like Maybe I'm Amazed, his memorable lyrics are all post-80. John kept the good work (he improved, if you ask me). So I think John is a better lyricist overall.

But since this thread is asking about The Beatles... I voted for Paul.
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Old Oct 09, 2010, 02:18 PM   #9
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just gimme some truth.

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nice theory, but seriously flawed in many respects. Sir Paul contributed many lines and lyrics to Lucy in the Sky, and In My Life appears to be a Sir Paul song also. interesting write up here:. Two of Us is also another example.

and i find this idea of fragmenting the Lennon/McCartney songwriting juggernaut into separate distinct parts to be spiritless and colorless, that is, an absurdist notion. plus an even bigger hazard is ignoring the impetus and/or influences that drives writing a song, and of course the symbiotic relationship between the two songwriters.

Originally Posted by The_Taxman View Post
Take it this way:

While John was writing:

So long ago, was it a dream?
Was it just a dream?

Paul was writing:

I took my bag into a grocery store
the prices higher than the time before
old man asked me "Why is it more?"

Although I will say Paul is an underrated lyricist.

or while John was writing:

you're gonna lose that girl

Paul was writing:

for i have got another girl

yes i agree Sir Paul is vastly underrated and underappreciated as a lyricist, on that point we agree.

Last edited by PepperlandFrog : Oct 09, 2010 at 02:22 PM.
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Old Oct 09, 2010, 04:37 PM   #10
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"Better" is speculative at best. In the context of The Beatles, one could not exist without the other, so all of you voting for John please remember that.

Besides, Paul is better.

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Old Oct 12, 2010, 02:54 AM   #11
Fool On The Hill
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Trying to separate Lennon and McCartney is too often a goal of many fans. The beauty of their songwriting relationship lies in the influence that each had on the other. I don't believe either has written anything that didn't somehow, someway reflect the other, so I see every one of their songs as Lennon-McCartney songs.
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Old Oct 28, 2010, 05:05 PM   #12
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John's lyrics might have been more somber and "mature" in some cases, but Paul's role in the Beatles was the happy, fun one. I admire "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" and "Hey Jude" because Paul has fun while singing it. I vote 100% Paul!
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