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John Lennon’s 1971 track “How Do You Sleep” levied a torrent of musical criticisms against Paul McCartney, but the former Beatles star didn’t reserve judgment on his own work either. In fact, as the following list of 20 Beatles Songs That John Lennon Hated shows, he was an equal-opportunity critic.
Lennon tore into deep cuts, treasured favorites and no less than four songs that hit No. 1 on the American or U.K. charts. No sacred cow went un-slaughtered. Sometimes, he didn’t like the arrangement or the take the group decided to use, other times he couldn’t get past the lyrics. “I feel I could remake every fucking one of them better,” he bluntly told David Sheff in a 1980 interview for Playboy.
All of it underscores just how brutally honest Lennon could be – even with the band that hurtled him to superstardom. Keep scrolling to see our list of 20 Beatles Songs That John Lennon Hated, presented in chronological order according to sessions dates.
“A TASTE OF HONEY”From: Please Please Me (1963)
The History: A pop standard composed for a play of the same name, “A Taste of Honey” was adapted from Lenny Welch’s 1962 vocal update during the afternoon portion of a marathon session on Feb. 11, 1963, in which the Beatles recorded most of their first album. The screenplay for A Taste of Honey was also said to have inspired Paul McCartney to write 1967’s “Your Mother Should Know.”On the Charts: Part of their Hamburg set lists in 1962-63, and was performed seven times for BBC radio, but never released as a single.Lennon’s Line: Lennon actually took jabs at the song while on stage with the Beatles, singing “A Waste of Money” behind McCartney’s lead vocal.
“YES IT IS”From: Past Masters (1965)The History: “Yes It Is” was recorded in February 1965, on the same day the Beatles completed George Harrison’s “I Need You.” Both notably featured volume-pedal work from George, though “Yes It Is” is more famous for its gorgeous three-part harmonies.On the Charts: First appeared as the B-side to the Beatles’ No. 1 smash “Ticket to Ride.”Lennon’s Line: “That’s me trying a rewrite of [1963’s] ‘This Boy,'” Lennon said in the 1980 interview with Playboy, “but it didn’t work.”
“IT’S ONLY LOVE”From: Help! (1965)
The History: The Beatles completed this song, which appeared on the second side of Help!, over six takes in June 1965. By the way, McCartney later took up for “It’s Only Love” in Barry Miles’ Many Years From Now, saying: “It’s only a rock ‘n’ roll song; I mean, this is not literature.”On the Charts: Never released as a single, “It’s Only Love” ended up on the heavily edited U.S. version of Rubber Soul.Lennon’s Line: “That’s the one song I really hate of mine. Terrible lyric,” Lennon told Hit Parader magazine. In David Sheff’s All We Are Saying, Lennon added: “I always thought it was a lousy song. The lyrics were abysmal. I always hated that song.”
“RUN FOR YOUR LIFE”From: Rubber Soul (1965)
The History: Lennon got this song underway by swiping a line from “Baby, Let’s Play House,” made famous by Elvis Presley in 1955 – then gave it a far more jealous edge.On the Charts: The Beatles actually began the October 1965 sessions for Rubber Soul with “Run for Your Life,” though it ended up as the album’s final track. Never released as a single.Lennon’s Line: John returned to this more than once over the years, saying he “always hated” it, that “Run for Your Life,” was his “least favorite Beatles song,” and calling it “just a sort of throwaway song of mine that I never thought much of.”
“PAPERBACK WRITER”From: Past Masters (1966)
The History: “Paperback Writer” marked the end of a hectic cycle, envisioned by Brian Epstein and George Martin, in which the Beatles would release two albums and four stand-alone singles each year. Lennon argued that it led them to a cookie-cutter result.On the Charts: Recorded in April 1966, the gold-selling “Paperback Writer” nevertheless went to No. 1 in both the U.K. and America.Lennon’s Line: Referring to his own 1965 single featuring a “lick on a fuzzy, loud guitar,” John dismissed “Paperback Writer” as “son of ‘Day Tripper.'”
“WHEN I’M SIXTY-FOUR”From: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
The History: Dusted off in December 1966 sessions for Sgt. Pepper as McCartney’s own father was turning 64, this track actually dates back to before the Beatles. Paul wrote an early version on the family piano when he was about 15. He’d later vamp on it when the Beatles had equipment breakdowns during very early club dates.On the Charts: “When I’m Sixty-Four” was originally supposed to serve as the b-side to “Strawberry Fields Forever,” before George Martin and Brian Epstein suggested they use “Penny Lane” instead.Lennon’s Line: Lennon sneeringly described McCartney’s songs in this music-hall style as “granny music shit,” according to engineer Geoff Emerick. Asked who wrote “When I’m Sixty-Four” in his 1980 talk with Playboy, Lennon said it was “Paul’s, completely. I would never dream of writing a song like that.”
“GOOD MORNING, GOOD MORNING”From: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
The History: Dating back to February and March 1967, “Good Morning Good Morning” was initially sparked by a Kellogg’s cereal television commercial that was playing in the background. Lennon’s stream-of-consciousness tale concludes with a roaring stampede of animals.On the Charts: Never released as a single.Lennon’s Line: “It’s a throwaway, a piece of garbage, I always thought,” Lennon argued in All We Are Saying. “I always had the TV on very low in the background when I was writing and it came over, and then I wrote the song.”
“LOVELY RITA”From: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
The History: Also recorded in February and March of 1967, McCartney’s paean to English traffic wardens – known in the U.S. back then as the more colloquially interesting “meter maids” – was completed with a kazoo-like sound made with paper threaded through a comb, and a sped-up honky-tonk piano solo by George Martin.On the Charts: Never released as a single.Lennon’s Line: “I’m not interested in writing about people like that,” he said in 1980. “I like to write about me, because I know me. I don’t know anything about secretaries and postmen and meter maids.”
“LUCY IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS”From: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
The History: A popular theory at the time was that “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” recorded in February and March 1967, held a coded reference to psychedelic drugs. But Lucy O’Donnell was actually the name of a school friend found in a drawing by John Lennon’s four-year-old son Julian. The classic fairy tale Alice in Wonderland also had a clear influence on this song’s imagery.On the Charts: The Beatles didn’t release this as a single, but Elton John did – scoring a No. 1 hit in 1975 with a cover version featuring John Lennon performing as Dr. Winston O’Boogie.Lennon’s Line: “I heard ‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds’ last night. It’s abysmal, you know?” Lennon said in 1980. “The track is just terrible. I mean, it is a great track, a great song, but it isn’t a great track because it wasn’t made right. You know what I mean?”
“HELLO GOODBYE”From: Magical Mystery Tour (1967)
The History: In Many Years From Now, McCartney argued that “Hello Goodbye” spoke to deeper themes of duality in the universe – man and woman, black and white, up and down, so on. Lennon, who admitted to being angry that “I Am the Walrus” appeared as this song’s B-side, just thought “Hello Goodbye” was goofy.On the Charts: This chart-topping song was recorded during October 1967 sessions, then became the Beatles’ final single in a year of remarkable output.Lennon’s Line: “[Hello Goodbye] smells a mile away,” he said in withering comments to Playboy, adding that it “wasn’t a great piece.” Earlier, Lennon reportedly described the tune as “three minutes of contradictions and meaningless juxtapositions.” He finally conceded, however, that “the best bit was the end, which we all ad-libbed in the studio, where I played piano.”
“ACROSS THE UNIVERSE”From: Let It Be (1970)
The History: Lennon couldn’t quite nail this one down. Originally recorded in February 1968, “Across the Universe” took a circuitous route before finally appearing on Let It Be. The track was originally released on 1969’s No One’s Gonna Change Our World, a World Wildlife Fund charity project, then languished until second producer Phil Spector reworked it for the Beatles’ last-released album.On the Charts: Never issued as a single.Lennon’s Line: “It was a lousy track of a great song, and I was so disappointed by it,” he told Sheff, blaming the others – specifically McCartney – for not “supporting me or helping me with it. … Paul would sort of subconsciously try and destroy a great song, meaning that we’d play experimental games with my great pieces. Usually, we’d spend hours doing little detailed clean-ups of Paul’s songs; when it came to mine, especially if it was a great song like ‘Strawberry Fields’ or ‘Across the Universe,’ somehow this atmosphere of looseness and casualness and experimentation would creep in.”
“LADY MADONNA”From: Past Masters (1968)
The History: The Beatles’ first release of 1968 was recorded just before they left for a doomed trip to study under the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. “Lady Madonna” betrayed McCartney’s deep debt to the late early-rock legend Fats Domino, and marked a sharp turn away from the psychedelia that dominated the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper-era work.On the Charts: Recorded in February 1968, “Lady Madonna” became another Beatles No. 1 single in the U.K., while finishing at No. 4 on the Billboard charts.Lennon’s Line: “Good piano lick, but the song never really went anywhere,” he said in 1980. “Maybe I helped [Paul] with some of the lyrics, but I’m not proud of them either way.”
“OB-LA-DI, OB-LA-DA”From: The White Album (1968)
The History: McCartney celebrated the pre-reggae sounds of Jamaican ska on this track, which was written while the Beatles were in India and then recorded in July 1968. George Harrison clearly disliked “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” too, taking a direct swipe at it in the lyrics for “Savoy Truffle” from the same album.On the Charts: “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” was a contemporary release internationally, but it didn’t become a U.S. single until 1976. Fans apparently had come to agree with Lennon by then, since the song ended up stalling out at No. 49 on the Billboard charts.Lennon’s Line: This is the original song to elicit Lennon’s “granny shit” put down. Worse, McCartney ran the group through so many different anger-inducing takes that a frustrated Geoff Emerick quit the day after “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” was completed.
“CRY BABY CRY”From: The While Album (1968)
The History: Composed during the Beatles’ 1968 trip to India, and then recorded that July, “Cry Baby Cry” harkens back to age-old nursery rhymes like “Sing a Song of Sixpence.” They tacked on an ad-libbed snippet that McCartney recorded during a separate session for the White Album song “I Will,” as Ken Scott took over engineering duties for the now-departed Geoff Emerick.On the Charts: Never released as a single.Lennon’s Line: He apparently came to dislike “Cry Baby Cry” so much that he disowned it. When David Sheff asked him who wrote the song, Lennon said, “Not me. A piece of rubbish.”
“ROCKY RACCOON”From: The White Album (1968)
The History: McCartney follows the adventures of an old-west cuckold in a goofy aside which was written on the roof of a Rishikesh ashram and then recorded in August 1968.On the Charts: Never issued as a single – to Lennon’s eternal relief.Lennon’s Line: “I saw Bob Hope doing it once on the telly years ago; I just thanked God it wasn’t one of mine,” Lennon was quoted as saying in Blackbird: The Life and Times of Paul McCartney. David Sheff subsequently asked him who wrote “Rocky Raccoon.” “Couldn’t you guess?” Lennon fired back. “Would I go to all that trouble about Gideon’s Bible and all that stuff?”
“BIRTHDAY”From: The While Album (1968)
The History: The result of a September 1968 jam session at Abbey Road, “Birthday” eventually became the opening song for the second half of the Beatles’ self-titled 1968 double album. McCartney later gave Lennon credit for 50 percent of the song’s composition in Many Years From Now.On the Charts: Never released as a single.Lennon’s Line: “I think Paul wanted a song like ‘[Happy,] Happy Birthday Baby,’ the old ’50s hit,” he told Playboy. “It was a piece of garbage.”
“DIG A PONY”From: Let It Be (1970)
The History: “Dig a Pony” dated back to their original January 1969 sessions at Twickenham Film Studios, though the version on Let It Be was recorded during the rooftop concert later that month. For some reason, Spector edited out Lennon’s opening line (“all I want is you”), which originally gave this song its title.On the Charts: Never appeared as a single.Lennon’s Line: “It was literally a nonsense song,” Lennon said in 1972. “You just take words and you stick them together, and you see if they have any meaning. Some of them do and some of them don’t.”
“LET IT BE”From: Let It Be (1970)
The History: It gave their final album its title, but “Let It Be” was actually part of The White Album era. Original work on the track was done on the song in January and April 1969, with final overdubs in January 1970 by Spector.On the Charts: A No. 1 smash in the U.S., “Let It Be” was released with two different guitar solos: Harrison used a rotating Leslie on the single, and played in a more straight-forward manner on the album version.Lennon’s Line: “That’s Paul. What can you say?” he told Sheff. “Nothing to do with the Beatles. It could’ve been Wings. I don’t know what he’s thinking when he writes ‘Let It Be.'”
“SUN KING”From: Abbey Road (1969)
The History: The second track in Abbey Road’s lengthy medley of song fragments, “Sun King” was recorded back-to-back in July 1969 with the succeeding song, “Mean Mr. Mustard.” The trembling guitar sound from Fleetwood Mac’s “Albatross” influenced Harrison’s intro; Lennon subsequently descends into gibberish that seems to combine elements of Spanish, Portuguese and Italian.On the Charts: Never released as single, this song was originally called “Here Comes the Sun King,” but the title was shortened after George submitted the similar-sounding “Here Comes the Sun.”Lennon’s Line: “That’s a piece of garbage I had around,” he said in 1980.
“MEAN MR. MUSTARD”From: Abbey Road (1969)
The History: Through composed during their time with the Maharishi, “Mean Mr. Mustard” sat around through sessions for The White Album and Let It Be before finally finding a home during the July 1969 sessions on Abbey Road. The song was inspired by a news item on a penny-pincher who reportedly concealed money in his rectum. An original reference to sister “Shirley” became “Pam,” in order to link “Mean Mr. Mustard” with “Polythene Pam,” the next Lennon track in the medley.On the Charts: Never released as a single.Lennon’s Line: He described “Mean Mr. Mustard” to David Sheff as “a bit of crap that I wrote in India,” adding that it was a “piece of garbage. I’d read somewhere in the newspaper about this mean guy who hid five-pound notes, not up his nose but somewhere else.”
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1971 Against criticisms John Lennon's levied musical Sleep torrent track
Only a handful of lines from the first draft of Nirvana classic made the final cut. Continue reading…
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