Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Blessed Are The Prolific (pt. 2) - Write For Multiple Outlets

(Read part one here)

A second secret to the Lennon & McCartney’s prolific output was that The Beatles had lots of different avenues for their songs on something of a sliding scale of quality, starting with the songs they wrote for themselves.


Every three months, or so, they would try to write the next single. Their practice, unlike today, was not to write an album’s worth of material and then pick the best tracks for a second life as a single - the two were completely separate. It’s interesting to see the number of times a song in progress would be earmarked as a single before it was even finished. That seems remarkable in this day and age.


Second they wrote album tracks. Every 6 months they had to come up with a new album. Not that album songs were second rate material. Many tracks went on to be hits singles in the US or elsewhere, or when covered by other artists.

Ringo Songs

Third they wrote songs for Ringo (and George in the early days) to sing. These sometimes were the average songs (McCartney calls them work songs, more graft and craft than inspiration) but often they were specifically written (What Goes On, With A Little Help From My Friends). Ringo’s songs had to have a limited range and be possible to drum and sing at the same time.

Cover Songs

Fourth they wrote songs for other artists. Lots of em. Some were failed Beatles songs (Like Dreamers Do, That Means A Lot) many specially written (I Wanna Be Your Man & Come And Get It, for The Rolling Stones & Badfinger respectively). Some were good songs that didn’t fit the Beatles style.

Incredible as it now may seem Paul tried to give away Yesterday to Marianne Faithfull judging it a stylistic bridge too far for a ‘beat group’.

I Think We're Gonna Need A Bigger Box...

Which leads me to another unintended benefit of writing so broadly. The Beatles had the freedom to write anything they wanted knowing that if they came up with anything beyond the pale they could always give it to another recording artist (Catcall – Chris Barber). But when you spend time writing outside the box what you find is that your own box gets bigger.

If you could write for anyone who is totally out of your genre who would it be? Try writing the next single for Beyonce, Susan Boyle or Bonnie Raitt just for fun. You might find that it’s your biggest hit. 

Blessed are they who let the Beatles teach them how to write songs - read more Be-atletudes here



  1. "Incredible as it now may seem Paul tried to give away Yesterday to Marianne Faithfull judging it a stylistic bridge too far for a ‘beat group’."

    Appropriately, the Rolling Stones' own version of "As Tears Go By" (recorded after Marianne's) is pretty clearly modeled on "Yesterday".

  2. Very interesting connection J.

    Apparently the song was written before Yesterday (though released after) but it's pretty clear that the string arrangement is a rip off of Yesterday. We forget now what a pioneering sound it was - a string quartet, very classical, very close miked on a pop song. The usual thing at that time was a whole string section drenched in reverb with lots of vibrato.