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Lennon and McCartney's Friendship Was Turned into a Musical Composition

The Beatles at Cliveden House, UK in 1965. Shot by © Robert Whitaker - (This image is available to buy below)

Lennon and McCartney is one of the most famous, and arguably productive, songwriting partnerships in popular music. And on 6th July this year it will be 60 years since a 15-year-old Paul McCartney met a 16-year-old John Lennon at a church fete in Liverpool, England back in 1957.

Since that day the pair enjoyed and endured both a fruitful and fraught relationship, with ups and downs like any creative pairing. In those years, as any Beatles—and music fan—knows, that pairing produced some of the most renowned and acclaimed songs and albums ever made. Albums like The Beatles groundbreaking Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which is being re-released this month to makes its 50th anniversary.

The seminal album will be reissued on 26 May 2017 on four formats including single CD, double CD, double vinyl, and a super deluxe edition with four CDs, DVD, a Blu-ray disc, posters, inserts, all delivered in a replica EMI tape box with slipcase.

“It’s crazy to think that 50 years later we are looking back on this project with such fondness and a little bit of amazement at how four guys, a great producer and his engineers could make such a lasting piece of art,” Paul McCartney says in a new introduction for the album's anniversary edition.

Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was made a decade into Lennon and McCartney’s creative alliance. One way to chart the duo’s friendship and how it progressed is to look at these songs they made together. Which is exactly what one composer, Dr Alexis Kirke from Plymouth University, did. Kirke used computer algorithms to follow the “emotional development of [Lennon and McCartney’s] friendship through their lyrics.”

The resulting piece was performed at the Peninsula Arts Contemporary Music Festival in Plymouth earlier this year. It was titled Come Together: The Sonification of McCartney and Lennon and saw Kirke use emotionally-annotated words from 156 McCartney songs and 131 Lennon songs.

From that he created a classical duet, an a cappella performance between a soprano and tenor, exploring the emotional positivity and physical intensity of the legendary twosome. The happiness in McCartney’s lyrics are performed in the high vocal range of the soprano, while Lennon’s rising unhappiness are mirrored in the tenor’s lower pitch.

Iconic photo of John Lennon with a dandelion in his eye, fondly known as 'Adoration' . Shot by © Robert Whitaker - (This image is available to buy below)

The duet also reflects events that happened between the two in real life, from Beatle-mania, pointing to the jubilation of their early success with songs like “I Feel Fine,” to the negativity that came with their split in 1970. Leading up to Lennon's tragic assassination in 1980 which is signified with lyrics from “Borrowed Time”.

“I’ve been a huge fan of The Beatles since my dad introduced me to Sgt. Pepper’s in my early teens," Dr. Kirke said about the composition. "Having developed the lyrical analysis method with other artists [Kirke has previously done a sonification of Bowie's career for the V&A], and realizing that this year was the 60th anniversary of McCartney and Lennon forming The Quarrymen, it seemed a wonderful opportunity to combine my childhood musical enthusiasms with my adult research and composition. The lyrical emotion patterns that I discovered were very exciting and cried out to be turned into a performance.”

This image is fondly known as 'Umbrella' and was taken on the banks of Loch Earn in Scotland. Shot by © Robert Whitaker - (This image is available to buy below)

The Beatles ascend the steps to the stage at Tokyo's Nippon Budokan for a matinee concert on 2nd July, 1966. Shot by © Robert Whitaker - (This image is available to buy below)

You can check out the duet on Kirke’s Soundcloud page. And you can check out a classic and pertinent performance by The Beatles below, singing “We Can Work it Out”. It's pertinent because the song’s lyrics are a typical example of McCartney’s optimism paired with Lennon’s more cynical outlook.

“In ‘We Can Work It Out’, Paul did the first half, I did the middle eight.” Lennon once said. “But you've got Paul writing, 'We can work it out / We can work it out'—real optimistic, y'know, and me, impatient: 'Life is very short, and there's no time / For fussing and fighting, my friend.”

Rockarchive is delighted to be able to offer the iconic images featured here, and many more Beatles photos, for sale as limited edition photographic prints. You can check out our selection and buy them here.

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