Paul McCartney believes the last shall be first. Yoko Ono believes he wants to rewrite history. After 40 years of second billing to his late partner John Lennon, McCartney has turned the tables on his Beatles collaborator by reversing the order of the famous Lennon-McCartney songwriting credit in the liner notes for his Capitol live album, “Back in the U.S.”
The two-CD set includes 19 classic Beatles songs billed as written by “Paul McCartney and John Lennon.” The flip-flop continues a nasty feud between McCartney and Lennon’s widow Ono, who in the past accused the Beatles bassist of “opening a Pandora’s box” by changing the credits.
“I think it is fair and accurate for the songs that John declared were mine to carry my name first” McCartney said today (Dec. 18). “This isn’t anything I’m going to lose any sleep over, nor is it anything that will cause litigation. But it seems to be harmless to me, after more than 30 years of it being the other way. The truth is that this is much ado about nothing and there is no need for anybody to get their knickers in a twist.”
“This is not a divisive thing,” insisted McCartney spokesman Geoff Baker. “It’s not Lennon or McCartney. Even if Paul did 95% or more on these songs, he’s not asking that John’s name be taken off. He just doesn’t think it should be first.”
Ono’s spokesman, Elliott Mintz, disagreed. “There’s no question this is an attempted act of Beatle revisionism,” Mintz said. “And it does appear to be an attempt to rewrite history.” Mintz said that Ono had no plans to sue McCartney over the swap and was “feeling secure in the fact that the original Lennon-McCartney agreement still stands.”
This particular intra-Beatles spat — one of many since the megaband dissolved in 1970 — dates back seven years, although it started with “Yesterday.” When the surviving members of the Fab Four began releasing their acclaimed “Anthology” series in 1995, McCartney approached Ono about flipping the Lennon-McCartney credit for the hit single.
Ono, the guardian of the Lennon legacy since her husband’s 1980 murder by a deranged fan, turned him down. She and her attorney did not return calls seeking comment.
No one disputes that McCartney wrote “Yesterday” by himself, or that he was the only Beatle in the studio for its recording. The tale of McCartney’s waking up one morning with the tune in his head is part of Beatles’ lore, as is its working title: “Scrambled Eggs.”
Music historians suggest McCartney, now 60, has become worried about his place in history — as if half-ownership of rock’n’roll’s most-revered writing credit was not enough. And though he’s a multimillionaire many times over — a spring tour of North America grossed $53 million — it still irks McCartney that part of his songwriting profits go to Ono.
“At one point, Yoko earned more from `Yesterday’ than I did,” McCartney complained in a May 2001 interview. “It doesn’t compute, especially when it’s the only song that none of the Beatles had anything to do with.”
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