Why so much Paul? What about John? No one actually asks me this question, but I’ll answer it anyway.
One might gather from the single-minded focus on Paul McCartney on this site that I’m not a John Lennon fan. Not so fast, my friend. The fact of the matter is that through 1975, I like them equally. Paul remained active in the late seventies, and has had the good fortune to live a healthy and creative life ever since. My “Paul” bias has developed mostly because there is simply so much more Paul stuff, and he’s still putting out albums and touring. As a consequence of John’s retirement and then murder, there are only six Lennon albums to obsess over, while there are 40 or so McCartney albums to obsess over.
I’m not particularly clear what Lennon was up to when he finished Rock ‘N Roll. He started preliminary work on songs for his next album prior to Yoko getting pregnant. Then he stopped. It seemed like he was going through the motions of being a rock star because that’s what he thought he should do. He didn’t have any particular direction or inspiration. Dropping out of the record biz seemed like a badge of honor, even a revelation, as well as an artistic decision not to simply churn out product. He even put those sentiments into song (“Watching The Wheels”). Taking care of Yoko, and then Sean, was no doubt a more meaningful endeavor for John than putting out a new album he didn’t particularly care about.
Then Double Fantasy came out five years later and he was gone. Who knows what would have happened next? Understanding the full scope of John’s creative life requires that he quit on his own. Had he never made another album after 1975, then we could draw reasonably accurate conclusions about his work. His work was instead terminated by someone else. John didn’t retire again in 1980.
John Lennon did not complete his life’s work. His career is unfinished. All we can do is speculate based on what we know, which is actually very little. Did John have another “Imagine” in him? We have no idea. I maintain that he would have put out a lame eighties record (because that’s what everyone did), and he would have done a full-on reggae album.
With McCartney, on the other hand, we have the answers. Yes, he had more good songs in him. Yes, he toured again. No, he never topped “Hey Jude”, but he never stopped trying. Beyond that, there is simply the volume of output. It’s doubtful John would have completed even half the amount of work that Paul has done. He wasn’t oriented towards constantly working on projects for public consumption.
This is what I feel to be the biggest difference between John and Paul as artists. Music was a way of communicating something for John, whereas for Paul, music was and still is, an end in and of itself. This is why Paul’s lyrics suffer so frequently. Not only does not usually have anything in particular to say, but he simply can’t write as many words as music. Thus, Paul puts out stuff like “Big Barn Bed”, which sounds great, and reads terribly. Paul loved music-making for it’s own sake. John was like this earlier on, but later seemed concerned that the music must always mean something. Paul works because he loves work. John worked because he wanted to get a message across. Music was one of the ways to do that. If he had no message, he didn’t want to make music, or write, or draw, or paint.
As a fan, this meant that as time passed, and the volume of McCartney material built up, I began to focus on McCartney more than Lennon. When I first started listening to solo Beatles, I had the same amount of Lennon albums as McCartney. Twenty-five years later, my McCartney shelf is packed, while my Lennon shelf remains the same, with Led Zeppelin to the left and Curtis Mayfield to the right.
Now I have this McCartney blog with hundreds of songs to write about, dozen of questionable decisions to ponder, and new songs to review. That is pretty much all there is to it. Paul has more stuff.