History’s greatest men have a habit of appearing in pairs. Plato and Aristotle walked side by side in ancient Greece. Born in Germany in 1685, Bach and Handel wrote melodies that still please us 250 years later. Even next to these two towering figures, music has never given us a closer pairing than John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Not only were they born in the same era, country, and city. They were in the same band.
The birth of Lennon-McCartney
This is a fact even Paul McCartney at age 79 notes with astonishment. “At the time I was just working with this bloke John,” he shared in a recent documentary. “Now I look back and I was working with John Lennon!”
The two met at a county fair in 1957. McCartney saw Lennon onstage with his band. He was singing a song Paul knew called ‘Come Go With Me.’ Paul quickly realized John did not know the lyrics. In fact, John was playfully making up his own.
The chemistry was instant. Soon the pair were no longer toying with songs of others. They were making their own. Within a few months, they completed an original called ‘Just Fun.’ By 1959 they had written their first hit single ‘Love Me Do.’
No two Beatles songs are alike
Even then they were good. Few realized just how good until Beatlemania erupted in 1963. By this time John Lennon and Paul McCartney were the most famous people on the planet. Along with bandmates George Harrison and Ringo Starr, The Beatles were even bigger than their musical hero Elvis.
For most, the only way would have been down. The Beatles continued to move upward. The reason why was that they were no afraid to try new things.
“We were just trying to get better and develop,” Paul McCartney told Billboard in 2019. “That was the force behind the Beatles. We’d do one song, and it’d be a hit, and instead of doing another with the same formula, we’d say, ‘OK, we’ve done that.’ You listen to the Beatles’ output and no two songs are alike.”
Before Revolver there was Rubber Soul
The Beatles were done with pop. What was next? The answer was Rubber Soul. With their sixth album, The Beatles matured. John Lennon and Paul McCartney were no longer content to write about what other songs had covered. They sang about anything and everything on their mind. “We were growing up,” Ringo Starr later reflected, “we were changing, we were smoking dope!”
These developments on Rubber Soul do little to explain Revolver. The Beatles 7th album was revolutionary. Not only did The Beatles believe they could do more with music. They belived they could do anything.
Revolver transformed The Beatles
Fuelled by youth, love, and LSD, the same idea was unfolding in the minds of millions. “There is nothing you can do that can’t be done.” The Beatles lived these words. In 1966, they made an unprecedented move. They quit touring.
From here their imagination grew. Within a few short years, they had opened a fashion boutique, started at a record label, promoted meditation to the world, contemplated buying a Greek island, and even paid an inventor to create an artificial sun. The Beatles, especially their greatest lover of radical things John Lennon, fearlessly embraced dozens of new ideas.
A thousand chanting Tibetan monks
As John Lennon instructed George Martin in the first Revolver recording session, he wanted to sound like a thousand Tibetan monks chanting from the top of the mountain. It was not pop the Beatles were making. Or even rock and roll. In fact, it would be another two years before the word psychedelic would be widely used to describe what they were doing.
What makes Revolver special
Rubber Soul was self-aware. The Beatles reached an epiphany. One in line with philosopher Descartres‘ maxim, “I think therefore I am.” They had injected a higher level of thought into music.
Revolver was not about thought but feeling. It was an album to be heard, felt, experienced, and deeply understood. John Lennon and Paul McCartney – and at times George Harrison and even Ringo – were putting across more than just music and lyrics. They translated their feelings, attitudes, friendships, curiosities, and beliefs into 11 awe-inspiring songs.
Revolver turns 55
Revolver opened itself to possibilities of what an album could be. In doing so it encouraged others to stretch out their minds, seek, think and question everything. Above all, it was a blast of possibility and imagination. All the while, The Beatles never lost hold of the joyous energy which had been running between John Lennon and Paul McCartney since ‘Just Fun.’
Sailing into the sun
Bach and Handel never met. Aristotle and Plato had a falling out. What really can blow you away about John Lennon and Paul McCartney is not just that they worked together. They loved each other. “At the end of the day when it’s all said and done, I would do anything for him,” Lennon told one interviewer shortly before his death in 1980. “I think he would do anything for me.”
Nearly 50 years later Paul returned the sentiment. “I dream of him,” he shared in 2019. “It was such a deep relationship. I have a lot of dreams about John and they’re always good.”