It is hard to write about Paul without writing about John. It was Paul McCartney who recognized immediately the genius of John Lennon. Even if it was Paul who taught John how to tune his instrument properly, and how to play guitar instead of the banjo chords his Mum had taught him, Paul always saw John as the leader of the band. Even though, at 16, McCartney was already playing guitar, piano and figuring out his favorite rock'n roll songs, some of which he played to John's amazement on that's summers' day in July 1957.
McCartney is a born musician. His Dad was a band leader in the 20's and 30's and Paul was tinkering on the piano at a very early age. Though he couldn't read or write music he was always able to work out his musical ideas or articulate them note for note working with George Martin. By the time he was 18 he’d had already written the melodies for “When I’m 64”, “Michelle” and “I’ll Follow the Sun.” His versatility came in handy for the Beatles in the early days. He played guitar for a while, Piano when there was one, Drums when there was no drummer, and finally bass when no one else would.
While there's no question that he and John were competitive, they also recognized and encouraged one another's strengths. They challenged one another even as they pushed themselves harder. In the early days the competition between Paul and John was focused on finding great rock'n roll songs to cover. Later it was songwriting. As for singers, Elvis and Little Richard were his earliest inspirations. His bass playing was transformed after hearing Motown records bassist Jamie Jameson.
It is remarkable to think that in late 1962, Paul and his writing partner really only had a handful of songs. Clearly they both worked well under pressure judging by the quality and quantity of songs that followed. And, though they didn’t always write together - one generally came in with an idea - they often helped resolve one another’s musical problems. When Paul sang "It's getting better all the time," John replied, "It couldn't get much worse."
As a kid I imagined the two of them as best friends, completing each other sentences, and songs. John could be outrageous while Paul always seemed to want to please. He is a born entertainer and I believe we would have heard of him even if there had never been the Beatles - that’s how driven to write, play and sing he really is. As the years went by it struck me that Paul wasn’t trying to take over the band so much as he was trying to egg them on to new things and to keep them together - trying to fill the void of Lennon’s increasing absence. He is a perfectionist, and by the end the Beatles had very high expectations to meet. This only put more strain on the band as a whole. But as difficult as Paul could be, he recognized that each member of the band played a key role in making the Beatles who and what they were. During the filming of Let it Be, George Harrison quit the band after disagreements with both McCartney and Lennon. After Harrison left the studio, John suggested they invite Eric Clapton to join the Beatles. McCartney and Starr made it clear to Lennon that without Harrison there would be no Beatles.