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The "Lennon - McCartney" vs "McCartney - Lennon" - controversy


1956 (unknown date): Paul McCartney (14) writes his first song: "I lost my little girl". The same year he writes "When I'm 64" as an instrumental.

1957 (July 6): John Lennon and Paul McCartney meet. Lennon is impressed with Paul's abilities to tune a guitar, to remember all the words to Eddie Cochran's "20 Flight Rock" and the fact that he has composed songs of his own. Some time later, John asks Paul to join his skiffle group, the Quarrymen. John starts to compose songs of his own, "Hello Little Girl" being his first effort. John and Paul starts to help each other out with the songs, forming a partnership. The two young men agrees that whenever they have written a new song, both their names shall appear as composers. This remains a secret for years.

1962 (October 5): The Beatles release the "Love Me Do/P.S. I Love You" - single. Both songs are credited to "Lennon - McCartney". A misprint on the test-pressing, "Lennon - McArtney" has been corrected before the official release.

Love Me Do

1963 (January 11): The Beatles release the "Please Please Me/Ask Me Why" - single. Both songs are credited to "McCartney - Lennon".

Please Please Me

1963 (March 27): The Beatles release the "Please Please Me" album. All original songs are credited to "McCartney - Lennon", including Love Me Do and P.S. I Love You.

Please Please Me LP

1963 (April 11): The Beatles release the "From Me To You/Thank You Girl" - single. Both songs are credited to "McCartney - Lennon".

From Me To Youenlargement of norwegian single label

1963 (April 27): John Lennon and Brian Epstein have a 12 day vacation in Spain. The other three Beatles spend their holidays in the Canary Island of Tenerife.

1963 (date unknown): Paul turns up late for a business meeting and is informed by John and Brian that the songwriting credit shall from now on be reversed. He protests, but is in minority.

She Loves You - click for an excellent site specializing in this record

1963 (August 23): The Beatles release the "She Loves You" - single. Both songs are credited to "Lennon - McCartney". It sells. In droves. It is to become the all-time best selling single of Great Britain, and holds that title for 14 years. (Eventually being outsold by a Paul McCartney - single in 1977, "Mull of Kintyre") Unfortunately for Paul, the success of 'She Loves You' and subsequent Beatles - releases make this constellation of their names a 'household word'. 

1965 (February 4): the company MacLen (Music) Ltd. is formed to handle the business of licensing the rights of the Paul and John compositions to Northern Songs, and to collect 50% of the publishing royalties due to Lennon and McCartney from Northern Songs. The remaining 50% of the publishing revenue goes to Northern Songs, then still jointly owned by the Beatles, their manager and Dick James.

And now: The Beatles
The ever thorough germans struggled to keep track of the changing credits: This is from their album "And Now: The Beatles" (also released as "The Beatles Beat").

1970: The Beatles split up, and the songwriting partnership of John and Paul is no more. They start releasing new songs under their own names, or as "Paul and Linda McCartney" or "Lennon - Ono".

1976 (Dec 10): Paul McCartney releases the triple concert album "Wings Over America". 5 songs on this albums are credited to "McCartney/Lennon". John Lennon does not complain about this. Probably since these five songs were mainly Paul - compositions, anyway. And since it's not a "Beatles-release", Paul can write up their names in any way he choses to, so long as both names are listed.

1980 (unknown date): John Lennon reveals in an interview: "Paul and I made a deal when we were fifteen(sic). There was never a legal deal between us, just a deal we made when we decided to write together that we put both our names on it, no matter what."

1980 (Dec 8): John Lennon is killed by a deranged madman on the street outside his home in New York. His wife Yoko Ono is a horrified witness to the senseless crime. The world mourns. The spirit of the sixties dies.

1983 (unknown date): Michael Jackson buys Northern Songs.

1987 (various dates): The Beatles' recordings are released on compact discs. The "Please Please Me" album CD and the "Please Please Me" and "From Me To You" single-cd's are still credited as "McCartney - Lennon".

1992 CD single
1992 release of the CD - single

1990 - 1996: The 1927 Songwriting Act comes into play, regarding Yoko Ono's ownership of the "McCartney-Lennon" or "Lennon-McCartney" songs.
That act gives heirs of a songwriter all the rights to his or her music once the original copyrights run out. It doesn't matter if they've been sold to someone else. If the songwriter died during the copyright term, once the term runs out the new owner loses the rights and they revert back to the heirs. Because John Lennon died, it didn't matter that the rights to the songs were with Michael Jackson. Once the copyrights had to be renewed, Jackson lost Lennon's portion; they reverted to Yoko Ono and her son, Sean. The Beatles songs were under 28-year copyright protection. So songs in 1962 had to be renewed in 1990, and so on. When they were renewed, Lennon's ownership — which had been sold to Jackson — started going to Yoko. This meant that because John was dead, he was no longer under Jackson's agreement. McCartney, however, was. So half of his portion of royalties from the Beatles catalog goes to Jackson (or now, Sony/ATV Music Publishing).

1995 (unknown date): Apple is about to release The Beatles' "Anthology 2", on which there is a version of "Yesterday". Paul makes a request to Yoko Ono, who is now his partner in the MacLen (Music) Ltd. company (there are three shareholders and five shares, Paul and Yoko has two each and Apple holds the fifth share), to have McCartney's name put first on the song. Yoko agrees at first, but later calls back to reverse her decision.

2002 (Nov 10): Paul McCartney releases the double concert CD "Back in the U.S." in Japan. It is later released in other territories as well, including USA, but excluding Europe. The "Lennon-McCartney" - songs and the one "McCartney - Lennon" -song ("I Saw Her Standing There") on the album is credited like this: "Composed by Paul McCartney & John Lennon".

2002 (Nov 11): The Abbey Road Beatles fansite on the web reports about the composing credits, choosing not to comment.

2002 (Nov 12): UK Newspaper the Sun reports on the switching of credits on "Back In the U.S." in the article "So now it's McCartney & Lennon". Britain yawns.

2002 (Dec 7): Rolling Stone.com reports that the switch of songwriting credits on Paul McCartney's recently released "Back in the U.S." CD has ignited a new battle with Yoko Ono. Ono lawyer Peter Shukat tells the paper, "What he did was absolutely inappropriate. John and Paul had an agreement. This is very petty." And Yoko Ono is quoted as saying, "John and Paul often disagreed on which songs were written by whom. If John was here now, they could fight it out, or maybe they could never agree. But the important point is that John has to be here. He is not." Though McCartney doesn't give a response to the paper, his spokesman, Geoff Baker tells Rolling Stone, John and Paul "had agreed in the Sixties that they could switch the names whenever they felt like it."

2002 (Dec 12) The story is picked up by Associated Press. In the following days, the news item is picked up by newspapers all over the world and the journalists have a field day, juxtaposing the names of Abbott and Costello etc, poking fun at Paul's futile attempt to set the record straight. Speculations are made in the press, that Yoko Ono is going to sue Paul for the "credit switch". No action is being taken by Yoko, other than having her lawyers "see into it".

2002 (Dec 18): Paul is forced to release a press statement:

"The truth is that this is much ado about nothing and there is no need for anybody to get their knickers in a twist. I'm quite happy with the situation and I'm not worried about what Yoko Ono is saying - as I am more excited about now, rather than then, having finished a great tour and winning the No.1 tour of the year. The people whose opinion matters to me have had their say."

"But I think it's time that I made it clear what the facts are over this long-running and rather silly dispute."

"John and I wrote many songs together but in an article in Playboy magazine John very accurately divided the credit for each of the Beatles songs between us - 'I wrote this; this one was Paul's' etc. - and when I ran the exercise for myself a few years back for Barry Miles's book 'Many Years From Now' I found that John and I were in complete agreement as to who had done what."

"At the very beginning, the first time this ever came up was at a meeting at Brian Epstein's office in Albemarle Street in London between Brian, John and myself. I arrived at the meeting to find that Brian and John had already independently decided the the billing would be 'songs by John Lennon and Paul McCartney'."

"I said 'What about McCartney/Lennon?' They said 'We'll do this for now and we can change it around to be fair at any point in the future'.

"Been reassured by this, I let the matter go and our songs became known as Lennon/McCartney songs, a fact I was perfectly happy about.

"Many years later, when we were involved in 'The Beatles Anthology' project, instead of using the term Lennon/McCartney, the songs were been credited as 'written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney'. I made a request to Yoko Ono to have my name put first on the song 'Yesterday', which John had often admitted he had nothing whatsoever to do with. "

"I felt that after 30 years this would be a nice gesture and something that might be easy for Yoko to agree with. At first she said yes, but then she rang back a couple of hours later and reversed her decision."

"The fact is that it was not a decision that was hers to make, but because of her objection I was not allowed to have my name in front of John's."

"Many people say to me that it doesn't matter and in many ways I agree, but an incident that happened recently made me wonder whether it wouldn't be such a bad idea to have each song labelled accurately so that people would know which of the two composers had the bigger input in which song."

"Late one night, I was in an empty bar flicking through the bar pianist's music book when I came across 'Hey Jude written by John Lennon'. If there is an argument for 'correct labelling' I think this is probably the best one. Computers these days often allow certain space for labelling of any item and as we all know the end of the label often gets cut off a sentence or title. For instance, I recently went to see a film which the tickets described as 'Miss Congenia'."

"I personally don't see any harm in John's songs such as 'Strawberry Fields' and 'Help' being labelled 'by John Lennon and Paul McCartney' and my songs such as 'Let It Be' and 'Eleanor Rigby' being labelled 'by Paul McCartney and John Lennon'. It lays out the information so that no one is in any doubt as to who did what - and I have also pointed out to Yoko Ono that I'm happy for our co-written songs to have John's name in front of mine."

"I think it is fair and accurate for the songs that John declared were mine to carry my name first. This isn't anything I'm going to lose any sleep over, nor is it anything that will cause litigation, but it seems to be harmless to me after more than 30 years of it been the other way for people like Yoko who have benefitted, and who continues to benefit from, my past efforts to be a little generous and to not have a problem with this suggestion of how to simply map out for those who do not know who wrote which of the songs."