Paul McCartney said he and John Lennon had “rescued each other” with the partnership that led to their success with the Beatles and beyond.

Speaking on the BBC radio documentary John Lennon at 80, he recalled how they had started out together at a similar level of musical ability, and kept learning to the point that they “absorbed” each other’s influence.

“We all had to learn together,” McCartney told host Sean Ono Lennon, John's son. “He only knew a couple of banjo chords, but that only lasted a week or two. And I would just show him chords I knew, which [were] very basic, but it was great bonding, just learning chords off each other. And I think the minute he knew those chords, he was as good as anyone. … He might have had a little bit of a hang-up about not being sort of musically trained, but none of us were.”

McCartney recalled how both of them had started trying to write songs around the same time, in an era when it was common for musicians to perform material written by other parties.

"No one would pick up on that songwriting thing until I met John,” he explained. “I said, ‘Well, you know I've written a couple of songs.’ He said, ‘So have I.’ … Having our guitars, it had struck us as a good idea to try and do something of our own. ... When Buddy [Holly] came along, the Everlys came along, we took a lot of their style and put them into our style – but we had actually started to flirt with songwriting independent of one another without major influences.”

He was also asked how both artists managed to continue their development through the Beatles era and afterward. “Okay, number one, we were good," McCartney said. "Right there. Number two, we'd grown up together. From little kids, we’d taken the first steps together. We kind of learned to walk together, then we learned to run. And the fact that each of us was influencing the other was very important … the fact that we'd come along this journey together meant that, ‘Hey, we're just gonna continue, and who knows, we might get better.’ And so we did.”

McCartney noted that if he "did something that was a little bit ahead of the curve, then John would come up with something that was a bit ahead of my curve. And then so I'd go, ‘Well, how about this?’ And there was a lot of friendly competition.”

He agreed with Sean’s suggestion that they had “absorbed” each other as influences: “Really very much so. And as you say, who knows – I mean I was looking at being a schoolteacher. And I don't know what John was looking at, maybe an artist or something, I don't know. And I think we rescued each other.”

 

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