A Little Help for Their Friends: Lennon/McCartney Non-Beatles Songwriting Credits

The songwriting partnership of John Lennon and Paul McCartney deservedly has hallowed status on the basis of the many classics the Beatles themselves recorded.

But as songwriters they remain perhaps under-appraised even so, considering their many other, lesser-known songwriting credits on hit songs they gave to others to perform–songs which might have added to the Beatles’ own lengthy list of hits had they chosen to release them themselves.

Paul was particularly active in promoting other fledgling acts by giving them hit songs, even though his compositions at the time were still credited to the Lennon/McCartney team. One such example is “Goodbye“, which he gave to an 18-year-old Mary Hopkin, and which was a #13 single in America (#2 UK) Here’s Mary’s recording:

…and Paul’s demo version:

Hopkin’s debut album was produced by McCartney and featured the massive worldwide hit “Those Were The Days”.

The sixties hit duo Peter and Gordon’s first three hit singles were all penned by Lennon and McCartney, although if you listen to Beatles demo versions you hear Paul singing the lead vocals, a pretty sure sign (judging from the Beatles’ catalogue itself) that he was at least the primary and perhaps sole writer of these songs also:

A World Without Love“, a number 1 hit in 1964, almost certainly would have topped the charts in Beatle-recorded form as well. It’s a British Invasion classic:

(Peter Asher is the Austin Powers-looking gent at left)

Here’s the Beatles’ demo version:

The other two Peter and Gordon hits written by the Beatles:

Nobody I Know” (#12 US hit):

…and “I Don’t Want To See You Again” (#16 US):

Another British Invasion act, Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas, were produced by George Martin and recorded many Lennon/McCartney songs. Bad To Me (below) reached number 1 in England (#9 US) and its sound is pure 1964 Beatles.

The “J” in Billy J. Kramer, by the way, was the suggestion of John Lennon, who thought it gave Billy a tougher image. (Lennon also gave the band The Cyrkle its name. Maybe Beatle-influenced band nomenclature is an article unto itself…) 

“I’ll Be On My Way”, “I Call Your Name”, “I’ll Keep You Satisfied”, and “From A Window“, all recorded by the Dakotas, were Lennon/McCartney songs. And their recording of George Harrison’s “Do You Want To Know A Secret” was also a number 2 hit in the UK.

Badfinger, who, like Mary Hopkin were signed to the Beatles’ Apple Records, had their career jump-started in 1969 when Paul McCartney gave away another (#7 US) hit, “Come And Get It“.

Beatle fans who’ve never heard the demo will find that Badfinger pretty much stuck to Paul’s blueprint:

This is by no means a complete list. It’s merely meant to point out that Lennon and McCartney weren’t just hitmakers as Beatles. From the mid-60’s through the early 70’s their songwriting was here, there and everywhere.

Inside the Dirty Business of Hit Songwriting

Telekhovskyi/Adobe Stock

(via Variety) by Jem Aswad

Sixty-four years ago, as Elvis Presley’s career reached its supernova stage, the 21-year-old singer’s team hit on a strategy that enabled him to profit from songwriting without actually writing songs. His management and music publisher had added Presley’s name to the credits on a couple of his early hits, but the singer wasn’t comfortable with the practice and frequently told interviewers that he had “never written a song in my life.” Instead, as recounted in Peter Guralnick’s authoritative biography “Last Train to Memphis,” his team set up an arrangement whereby the King skipped the credit but received one-third of the songwriting royalties for each song he released, no matter who wrote it. (This arrangement was confirmed to Variety by an industry source familiar with the catalog.)

According to Dolly Parton, the policy not only was still in practice nearly two decades later, but the King’s ransom had gotten even bigger. Presley was going to cover Parton’s 1974 hit “I Will Always Love You,” which is now one of the top-selling and most-performed songs of all time, largely thanks to Whitney Houston’s epochal 1992 cover.

“I was so excited, Elvis wanted to meet me and all that,” she recalled in a September 2020 interview on the “Living & Learning With Reba McEntire” podcast. “And the night before the session, Colonel Tom [Parker, Presley’s longtime manager] called me and said, ‘You know, we don’t record anything with Elvis unless we have at least half the publishing.’ I said, ‘I can’t do that.’ And he said, ‘Well, then we can’t do it.’ And I cried all night, ‘cause I’d just pictured Elvis singing it. I know it wasn’t [his decision], but it’s true. I said ‘no.’”

Read more: Inside the Dirty Business of Hit Songwriting – Variety

“Track and Hook”: The Death of Creativity in Songwriting?

(via The Pudding)

“Track-and-hook” is Seabrook’s coinage for a music-making method that fundamentally distinguishes today’s music-making from all that came before. What separates track-and-hook from its predecessors is how the music is made. The storied, solitary figure working out musical problems at a piano while filling up an ashtray has been replaced by teams of digital production specialists and subspecialists, each assigned to a snare track, a bass track, and so on, mixed and matched and stuck together like Legos.
“The process doesn’t lend itself very well to art,” Seabrook said. Instead, track-and-hook is far more literally factory-like, a mode of production that emphasizes specialization and volume. As the technology writer Nicholas Carr wrote, “The manufacture of pop songs has been so thoroughly industrialized that it makes the old Motown ‘hit factory’ look like a sewing circle.”
Read more:

https://pudding.cool/2018/05/similarity/

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Our thoughts on this: As Gary Trust writes in Billboard“A Bacharach melody is not inviting people to get involved with it. But track-and-hook creates a template for a lot of different cooks stirring the broth.”

We think the first part of this statement is key. If you were Bacharach, McCartney or Elvis Costello, you wouldn’t want a lot of cooks stirring your broth. While track-and-hook involves more participants, the potential for Bacharach-like greatness is negated. We live in an era of songwriting homogeneity, but not much music that rises above the artistic mean.

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