This Is The Only Beatles Song To Feature Just John Lennon And Paul McCartney

Some bands have only one person writing the songs, thereby establishing that member as the unquestioned leader of the band, at least in a creative sense. Others keep things democratic and insist that everyone gets credited for the tunes they compose. Then you've got the Beatles, where all four members likewise had a hand in writing songs but only two stood out as the group's main songwriters — John Lennon and Paul McCartney. From their first meeting in 1957 to the Beatles' breakup in 1970, the two creative geniuses behind most of the Fab Four's hits were always linked to each other, so much so that both would be credited even if only one of them wrote the song in question. But Quarrymen days aside, was there ever a time when a Beatles track had just these two men recording one song without even a little help from their friends?

The songwriting partnership between Lennon and McCartney almost always involved other people — specifically, George Harrison playing lead guitar and Ringo Starr playing drums, as well as a select few other musicians who guested on the Beatles' recordings. They were the Fab Four's primary songwriting tandem, but in almost all cases, they couldn't do it by themselves in the studio. There was, however, just one Beatles song that only featured John and Paul handling all the vocals and instrumentation, and you might be surprised when we tell you what it is. (We'll get the obvious guess out of the way — it's not "Two of Us.")

The Ballad of John and Yoko, aka The Ballad Recorded by John and Paul

Considering the long-standing rumors that Paul McCartney and the other Beatles weren't cool with John Lennon's second wife, Yoko Ono (as McCartney ultimately confirmed to Rolling Stone), this may be a shock to some. "The Ballad of John and Yoko" was a laid-back, slice-of-life track that recounted the events that took place around the time Lennon and Ono tied the knot, and McCartney revealed to biographer Barry Miles (via Beatles Bible) that he was "happy to help" and that he was glad the song sounded as good as it did, despite the fact it was just the two of them working on it.

As Lennon had been "impatient" when he and McCartney worked on finishing the song on April 14, 1969, the pair quickly headed to Abbey Road Studios to record the track with neither George Harrison nor Ringo Starr pitching in as they usually did. "The Ballad of John and Yoko" featured Lennon singing lead vocals and playing lead and rhythm guitars and McCartney playing bass, drums, piano, and maracas and contributing backing vocals. This wasn't the first time, however, that McCartney kept time behind the drum kit on a Beatles song. In 1968, he filled in for Starr, who momentarily walked out in frustration during the "White Album" sessions, and provided the drum parts for "Back in the U.S.S.R." and "Dear Prudence."

It would seem that Lennon and McCartney had a good time recording "The Ballad of John and Yoko" despite the increasing intra-band turmoil that was tearing the Fab Four apart at that time. But the Beatles had other hurdles to clear as they prepared to release the song as a single toward the end of May 1969.

The song's chorus struck a raw nerve due to a previous controversy

As pointed out by Beatles Bible, there were some concerns regarding the lyrical content of "The Ballad of John and Yoko," mainly the fact that the chorus started out with the line "Christ, you know it ain't easy." Not helping matters was the last line of the chorus, which ended with the words "they're gonna crucify me." Knowing that it had been just three years since religious leaders and conservative DJs and fans boycotted the Beatles over John Lennon's "more popular than Jesus" comment, the singer-guitarist asked Apple publicist (and later CEO) Tony Bramwell not to promote "The Ballad of John and Yoko" ahead of its May 30, 1969, release in the U.K. According to Lennon's memo to Bramwell, he was worried that the lyrics of the upcoming single might "frighten people."

Just as Lennon had feared, his two-man effort with Paul McCartney was banned by numerous U.K. and U.S. radio stations. Some DJs did add the song to their playlists, but with a caveat — they bleeped out the word "Christ." But that didn't stop the song from becoming yet another big hit for the Beatles, as it peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 on the week of July 12, 1969.