Hello, goodbye: Lennon-McCartney out, McCartney-Lennon in

LARRY McSHANE, Associated Press Writer Tuesday, December 17, 2002

(12-17) 15:42 PST NEW YORK (AP) --

Paul McCartney believes the last shall be first. Yoko Ono believes he wants to rewrite history.

McCartney, after 40 years of second billing to his late partner John Lennon, has turned the tables on his Beatles collaborator by reversing the order of the famous Lennon-McCartney songwriting credit.

On Paul's last project, a two-CD live album, the cute Beatle is now top dog.

"Back in the U.S. Live 2002" includes 19 classic Beatles songs billed as written by "Paul McCartney and John Lennon."

The back-and-forth continues a nasty feud between McCartney and Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, who in the past accused the Beatles bassist of "opening a Pandora's box" by changing the credits.

"This is not a divisive thing," insisted McCartney spokesman Geoff Baker in London. "It's not Lennon or McCartney. Even if Paul did 95 percent or more on these songs, he's not asking that John's name be taken off.

"He just doesn't think it should be first."

Ono's spokesman, Elliott Mintz, disagreed.

"There's no question this is an attempted act of Beatle revisionism," Mintz said Tuesday. "And it does appear to be an attempt to rewrite history."

Mintz said that Ono had no plans to sue McCartney over the swap and was "feeling secure in the fact that the original Lennon-McCartney agreement still stands."

This particular intra-Beatles spat -- one of many since the megaband dissolved in 1970 -- dates back seven years, although it started with "Yesterday."

When the surviving members of the Fab Four began releasing their acclaimed "Anthology" series in 1995, McCartney approached Ono about flipping the Lennon-McCartney credit for the hit single.

Ono, the guardian of the Lennon legacy since her husband's 1980 murder by a deranged fan, turned him down. She and her attorney did not return calls seeking comment.

"It actually is one of the reasons we're not the best of friends," McCartney confessed in an interview with Reader's Digest last year.

No one disputes that McCartney wrote "Yesterday" by himself, or that he was the only Beatle in the studio for its recording. The tale of McCartney's waking up one morning with the tune in his head is part of Beatles' lore, as is its working title: "Scrambled Eggs."

Music historians suggest McCartney, now 60, has become worried about his place in history -- as if half-ownership of rock 'n' roll's most-revered writing credit was nothing.

It's also a strange thing for McCartney to focus on: songwriting pairs such as Jagger and Richards, Leiber and Stoller, and Rodgers and Hammerstein have lived with their respective slots and the resulting music.

Yet this is not the first time there's been a posthumous feud between the one-time bandmates. When the Beatles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, McCartney boycotted over financial disputes.

"I would feel like a complete hypocrite waving and smiling with them at a fake reunion," McCartney said at the time.

George Harrison, Ringo Starr, John's two sons, Julian and Sean, and Ono wound up accepting for the band.

And though he's a multimillionaire many times over -- a spring tour of the United States grossed $53 million -- it still irks McCartney that part of his songwriting profits go to Ono.

"At one point, Yoko earned more from `Yesterday' than I did," McCartney complained in a May 2001 interview. "It doesn't compute, especially when it's the only song that none of the Beatles had anything to do with."