Künstlerische Zusammenarbeit ist mehr als die Summe ihrer Teile.

Joshua Wolf Shrenk am Beispiel der Entstehung von “With a little help from my friends” von den Beatles.

In 1967, the journalist Hunter Davies sat in on several of those sessions. One priceless account shows the slow, ambling course of discovery on the way toward “A Little Help From My Friends.”

They started around 2 p.m. in Paul’s workroom, a narrow, rectangular space full of instruments and amps and modern art. The previous afternoon, they’d gotten the tune for the song. Now they were trying to polish the melody and write lyrics. John took up his guitar and Paul banged at the piano. “Each seemed to be in a trance,” Davies wrote, “until the other came up with something good, then he would pluck it out of a mass of noises and try it himself.”

“Are you afraid when you turn out the light?” John offered.

Paul repeated the line, agreeing it was good. John said they could begin each of the verses with a question. He offered another one. “Do you believe in love at first sight?” “No,” he interrupted himself. “It hasn’t got the right number of syllables.” He tried singing the line breaking it in two between “believe” and “in love.”

“How about ‘Do you believe in a love at first sight?’ ” Paul offered. John sang that, and instantly added another line. “Yes I’m certain that it happens all the time.” They repeated these three lines over and over again. It was now five o’clock. Some others came by, and as they bantered about, Paul started doodling on the piano before breaking out into “Can’t Buy Me Love.” John joined in, shouting and laughing. Then they both shouted out “Tequila.”

“Remember in Germany?” John said. “We used to shout out everything.” They did the song again, with John throwing in words in every pause—”Knickers” and “Duke of Edinburgh” and “Hitler.”

“Then, as suddenly as it had started,” Davies wrote, “they both went back to the work at hand.”

John sang a slight modification of the line they’d agreed on. “What do you see when you turn out the light?” Then he answered the question: “I can’t tell you, but I know it’s mine.” Paul said that would do and wrote the four lines on a piece of exercise paper propped up on the piano. Then they broke for cake.

Had Jann Wenner picked up Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, pointed to the second track, and took Lennon up on his offer to say “exactly who wrote what, you know, and which line,” could Lennon have said honestly he had written that day’s material? Sure. The only explicit edit of Paul’s was the indefinite article “a.”

Yet, looking for concrete divisions in their labor, though not irrelevant, can certainly seem myopic. It feels, from Davies’ account, as though the two men were bound by a thousand invisible strings.


Zusammenarbeit Lennon/McCartney
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