Several weeks back, I linked to this three-part piece from Slate that addresses and dissects the complex chemistry between John and Paul. I raved about it at the time. Since then, I re-read it and once again felt that thrill of discovery. The article is just laced with penetrating insights, some of which I excerpted below. My only complaint is one that stems from envy: I wish I had come up with much of this myself.
What Paul represented to John—for good and for ill, for excitement and for fear—was a loss of control. All through his relationship with McCartney, the power between them would be fluid—a charged, creative exchange that fueled them and frustrated them, leading to creative peaks and valleys of recrimination and estrangement.
And it can all be traced to their first encounter. "The decision was made to make the group stronger," Lennon told Wenner. Had he decided to keep the power all to himself, he probably would have forsaken his power entirely.
. . .
Just as shorter people are more aware of height, Paul seems to have noticed the power dynamic more acutely. In a 1967 conversation about the band's Hamburg days, Lennon said that Paul had just recently told him about fights they had over who led the band. "I can't remember them," Lennon said. "It had stopped mattering by then. I wasn't so determined to be the leader at all costs." This is crucial. He had decided he didn't need to be the leader at all costs—itself a leadership claim. As the band rocketed to success, Lennon would increasingly acquiesce to Paul's ideas, much as a king in tumultuous times will defer to his counsel. But he never gave up the idea that he could, when he wanted, return straight to his throne.
. . .
At the top of their music sheets, they would write, "Another Lennon/McCartney original." They collapsed the space between them—not even an "and" would divide their names, just a slash.
. . .
Lennon eventually threw himself into the relationship—he literally asked people to consider them JohnandYoko. (Yoko made for the third person, following Pete Shotton and Paul McCartney, with whom he collapsed his name.)
. . .
It's supremely odd how history would play the collaboration between John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The result of one of the most intertwined partnerships in music history, their work would consistently be reduced to static roles. It's almost as if, faced with the bound pair, a culture obsessed with individualism found a way to cleave them in two.
. . .
They've lost too much of their individual distinction into a shared whole.