We Can Work It Out

Photo credit: Norman Parkinson

 
 

It was released as a “double A-sided” single with Day Tripper, the first time both sides of a single were so designated in an initial release. Both songs were recorded during the Rubber Soul sessions. Paul McCartney wrote the words and music to the verses and the chorus, with lyrics that “might have been personal”, probably a reference to his relationship with Jane Asher. McCartney then took the song to John Lennon:

“I took it to John to finish it off, and we wrote the middle together. Which is nice: ‘Life is very short. There’s no time for fussing and fighting, my friend.’ Then it was George Harrison‘s idea to put the middle into waltz time, like a German waltz. That came on the session, it was one of the cases of the arrangement being done on the session.”

With its intimations of mortality, Lennon’s contribution to the twelve-bar bridge contrasts typically with what Lennon saw as McCartney’s cajoling optimism, a contrast also seen in other collaborations by the pair, such as Getting Better and I’ve Got a Feeling. As Lennon told Playboy in 1980:

“In We Can Work It Out, Paul did the first half, I did the middle eight. But you’ve got Paul writing, ‘We can work it out / We can work it out’—real optimistic, y’know, and me, impatient: ‘Life is very short, and there’s no time / For fussing and fighting, my friend.'”

 
 

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Lennon & McCartney

Photos and contact sheets by David Bailey. January, 1965

 
 

The songwriting partnership between John Lennon and Paul McCartney, members of The Beatles, it is one of the best-known and most successful musical collaborations in history. Between 1962 and 1969, they both published approximately 180 jointly credited songs, of which the vast majority were recorded by the Beatles, forming the bulk of their catalogue.

Sometimes, especially early on, they would collaborate extensively when writing songs, working “eyeball to eyeball”. Later, it became more common for one of the two credited authors to write all or most of a song with limited input from the other. However, by an agreement made before the Beatles became famous, Lennon and McCartney agreed to share equal writing credit on songs that either one of them wrote while their partnership lasted.

The pair met at the local church fete, where Lennon was playing with his skiffle group, The Quarrymen. Paul, brought along by a mutual friend, Ivan Vaughan, impressed Lennon with his ability on the guitar and his version of Eddie Cochran‘s 20 Flight Rock. Soon after, John Lennon asked McCartney if he would join The Quarrymen. McCartney accepted, and there the legacy was born.

In his 1980 Playboy interview, Lennon said of the partnership,

“He provided a lightness, an optimism, while I would always go for the sadness, the discords, the bluesy notes. There was a period when I thought I didn’t write melodies, that Paul wrote those and I just wrote straight, shouting rock ‘n’ roll. But, of course, when I think of some of my own songs— In My Life, or some of the early stuff, This Boy—I was writing melody with the best of them”.