Monday, 25 January 2010

Why McCartney Can Never Win



Back in 2002 there was a lot of controversy, stirred up by Yoko Ono, about Paul McCartney's way of writing the composer's credits on his concert releases Back in the U.S. CD, the international version Back in the World and the DVD version. The "Lennon - McCartney" songs were credited "Composed by Paul McCartney and John Lennon". You'd think that was a pretty accurate way of putting it, but someone in the media thought that this was "tampering" with the original positioning of the names. They thought it should be "Lennon-McCartney", like it used to be on the old Beatles records. Yoko got wind of this, and had her lawyers "look into it". Lots of people sided with Yoko on this, and I wrote an article chronicling the events, trying to set the story straight.
From Me To You
In 1969, when John Lennon released his single, "Give Peace A Chance", he decided to put "Lennon - McCartney" as composers. McCartney really had nothing to do with this composition, just as Lennon had no input into the song "Yesterday" four years earlier, it was just that they used to put both names on any composition made by one or the other of them.
In 1998, Yoko Ono released a compilation of John Lennon's best known songs, called Lennon Legend: The Very Best of John Lennon. "Give Peace A Chance" was naturally a part of this CD, but this time the song was credited like this: "written by John Lennon". In 2003, a DVD of the same name was released, with the same credit for "Give Peace A Chance". In 2006, a documentary called The U.S. vs. John Lennon was released, with "Give Peace A Chance" again making an appearance, once again credited only to John Lennon.
In 1990, McCartney performed a version of "Give Peace A Chance" in Liverpool, which was then made available as a bonus track on a CD-single. The medley of "Strawberry Fields Forever"/"Help!"/"Give Peace A Chance" was credited to Lennon-McCartney on that release. The medley was only performed a few times during that tour.
In 2008, again in Liverpool, McCartney revived "Give Peace A Chance", this time in a medley with "A Day In The Life". Yoko Ono was in the audience that day. The medley has been kept as part of the set list in McCartney's live performances ever since. When McCartney released his new live DVD+CD Good Evening New York City, he must have taken notice of Yoko's removal of his name on those Lennon releases from 1998/2003 and 2006, because the credit there now reads "written by John Lennon".
Imagine my surprise when I read in a Beatles forum that one fan thought this was "rude of McCartney, trying to distance himself from the song"!
To me, this kind of reaction proves that whatever McCartney does, he can't ever win. It's like Sting says, History will teach us nothing.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Exactly. It never ceases to amaze me how McCartney is constantly accused of being manipulative -- as if Lennon and Yoko weren't masters of the art. Frank Zappa has a good story about how Lennon and Yoko robbed him of credit on a song but no one seems to remember that, and somehow McCartney is always the bad guy.

Cara said...

Wait. You admit that Paul has personally and publicly accepted the J.L. only credit for Give Peace a Chance -- how do you know that Paul didn't actively agree to that change? What makes you think that Yoko didn't contact Paul in advance, and he gave his blessing? I'd very genuinely like to know. Because this strikes me as the most logical explanation.

Right now, as is my understanding, it seems that we have no one's version of this particular story, and everything we say is pure speculation. And I really, really hate to see people vilified on speculation right now.

Wogew said...

I don't see whether or not Yoko and Paul have made an agreement about how to write the composer's credits on "Give Peace A Chance" has anything to do with my point. The point is, whatever McCartney does, someone will always question his motives.

Cara said...

And my point is that whatever Yoko does, her motives will be questioned even more. And I don't think that implying that Yoko did something wrong by removing Paul's name from GPaC, as you did here or in the other post where there's no actual evidence that she did, is any better than someone on a message board implying that Paul did something wrong by doing the same.

That's all. I don't see the reason for the infighting at all. Yoko and Paul seem to be getting along quite well these days, something that makes me very happy. I don't see the need to dredge up old conflict.

Wogew said...

Okay. In that case, you're mis-interpreting me.
My take on this isn't that Paul was right to switch the credits, merely that he has the right. It was probably not a good decision of his to pursue the issue and to release such a long press statement about it back in 2002. I will defend his right to put his and John's name in whichever order he choses to, as long as it's on his own releases, but I won't say that it's a particularly wise decision to do so. If he wanted to preserve a good public image, he should have let it be. Trouble is, he doesn't see the "Lennon - McCartney" phrase as such a sacred cow that the rest of the world does, as he is too involved.
I also think that it wasn't a wise decision of Yoko's to address the issue back then. She could have neglected to comment, like John did with "Wings Over America". But as the "keeper of the Lennon flame", I can understand her interest in upholding status quo. It's an intriguing and many-faceted discussion, unfortunately the rest of the media aren't seeing all sides, which is why I'm trying to tie together the story. Now that McCartney seems to have accepted Yoko's way of crediting the composer of "Give Peace A Chance", that's a new twist on the story - and one that has already sparked negative comments in the Beatles fan community. My intentions for writing about it is merely to put the facts into the proper historic and chronological context, so that the commentators have a better understandings of the issues they are actually commenting on.