Paul vs. John: Who’s the Better Songwriter?

I first heard the Beatles way back when I was a Boy Scout. Our scoutmaster had brought some tapes on the campout and he played them in the car as went back and forth to the campsite and I have to admit that at the time I thought they were just…okay. But, much like This is Spinal Tap, with repeated hearings they got better and more interesting. I don’t remember now what those first tapes were, probably “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “The White Album”, but I don’t know. Maybe it was those, maybe not. Since then though I think that “Revolver” is probably their best, and as with most everything, everyone has their own opinion about the band.

Everyone who’s anyone, on first hearing, just knows that John is the better songwriter. 1 He was much cooler than Paul since Paul had gone on to be in that lame band Wings. Then Paul did “Ebony and Ivory”, which immediately disqualified him in the cool category. Paul was the pretty one that all of the girls loved while John was the rebel and resident weirdo. Who would have thought to have a bag in for peace? John. Would Paul have thought about having a bag in for peace? No of course not, because Paul was the good one.

So time passes and I see the film Imagine, starring the rebel himself, and you come away with only one thought: Man, John was a jerk. And not just a small-time jerk. His jerkiosity could have caused an eclipse. Or sank the Titanic. Or crushed the Third Reich. At one point there is a fan hanging around outside of John’s home, so John goes out to the gate and talks to the guy. He is less than friendly and actually insults the man several times.

John was a tool. But that shouldn’t discount his ability to write cool songs. “The Ballad of John and Yoko”? Genius.

And now when I listen to the Beatles albums 2 I hear the songs that Paul sang and how their much more…singable…than John’s songs. “Eleanor Rigby”, “For No One”, “Let it Be”, Paul is the winner on my scorecard. John’s got some great ones to his credit, and Paul did sing “Back in the USSR”, which I think is terrible and knocks Paul down a few notches, but the same album has “Happiness is a Warm Gun” and “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey”, which are awesome. But they don’t make John the winner. John wrote some very strange songs, which I’m sure some people like, but for me, the walrus is Paul.

  1. And everybody was cooler than Ringo.
  2. And I own and have heard all of them. Least favorite? “Yellow Submarine”

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