John Lennon and Paul McCartney were the best songwriting duo of all time. Hands down. But like any creative partnership, there was friction between their two styles. Paul’s more romantic sensibilities often clashed with John’s angst.
A perfect example of this duality comes with the song “Getting Better”. Paul croons “I’ve got to admit it’s getting better. A little better all the time.” And then John adds “It can’t get no worse.”
I am hardly surprised that the teenage version of me identified heavily with John Lennon. The way his songs swirled around his own persona and problems. Even the raw intensity of his words cut straight into my brain.
Yet as I aged, I switched sides, becoming an ardent Paul fan. Also, as I researched the bands dynamics and their ultimate split, I kept seeing how Paul held them together through the worst of times. Rolling Stone has a great article on their breakup.
But as an artist, I often see myself as two distinct personalities: A John-me and a Paul-me. Not that I’m comparing my talent with theirs, more I consider their outlooks on art and creativity.
Paul is the sensible artist in me. The practical one who asks what can I actually accomplish? What do I realistically have time to create? And it was Paul’s thinking that allowed me to produce a printed zine, The 5th Wall, as a youth. It’s also the part of me that can successfully juggle working a job and carving out time to write.
Yet sometimes the art that comes from the Paul side feels stale and predictable — simply because it is birthed from a mindset of economy.
John is the emotional artist. The one who screams his frustrations at the world. There have been times when this raw emotion actually scares me. But it’s the type of creative urge that cuts through the crap and gets straight to the point. If Paul asks what art can I make, John asks, what art should I make. And that can be incredibly liberating.
Yet, just like Lennon himself, the angst-emotion driven artist is often stop and go. The creativity is less like a spigot and more like a thunderstorm, waiting for lighting to strike. It’s not coincide that post-Beatles, John’s albums were sporadic and hit and miss while Paul churned them out like clockwork.
In truth you need both of these thought-types in your head to create art. The emotive artist who will dig down in your soul and come up with a gleaming treasure. But also the practical artist who toils at their trade day-in and day-out to actually produce something.
When I write these blog posts, I try to get them down as quickly as possible, allowing the inner John to speak for me. But it’s the Paul side that makes sure a new post is delivered every week. Because what’s the point of art if it’s all in your head?