John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s songwriting partnership is the most successful in music history. Some of The Beatles tracks took the pair longer than others, but one was penned and recorded within just 24 hours. Lennon shared in 1969: “It just so happened that there were only two of us there.”
The late Beatle said: “George was abroad and Ringo was on the film and he couldn’t come that night. Because of that, it was a choice of either re-mixing or doing a new song. And you always go for doing a new one instead of fiddling about with an old one. So we did and it turned out well.”
Recorded at Abbey Road studios, McCartney took on the drums and bass in their place and Lennon handled the rest.
The song was The Ballad of John and Yoko, which amusingly has Lennon saying “Go a bit faster, Ringo” and McCartney replying, “Okay, George!”
The late Beatle reflected in 1969: “It’s something I wrote, and it’s like an old-time ballad. It’s the story of us going along getting married, going to Paris, going to Amsterdam, all that. It’s Johnny B. Paperback Writer. The story came out that only Paul and I were on the record, but I wouldn’t have bothered publicising that. It doesn’t mean anything.”
Lennon was married to Yoko Ono from March 1969, a couple of months before recording the song, until his death in December 1980.
McCartney said of the rapid turn around on the track in 1988: “John came to me and said, ‘I’ve got this song about our wedding and it’s called The Ballad Of John And Yoko, Christ They’re Gonna Crucify Me, and I said ‘Jesus Christ, you’re kidding aren’t you? Someone really is going to get upset about it.’ He said, ‘Yeah, but let’s do it.’ I was a little worried for him because of the lyric but he was going through a lot of terrible things.”
Lennon had been heavily using drugs in the late Beatles period and would go through withdrawal symptoms after becoming addicted to heroin – something which he documented in his single Cold Turkey.
McCartney added: “He came around to my house, wanting to do it really quick. He said, ‘Let’s just you and me run over to the studio.’ I said ‘Oh alright, I’ll play drums, I’ll play bass.’ John played guitar. So we did it and stood back to see if the other guys would hate us for it – which I’m not sure about. They probably never forgave us. John was on heat, so to speak. He needed to record it so we just ran in and did it.”
Released in May 1969, The Ballad of John and Yoko ended up being The Beatles’ 17th and final No 1 UK single.