- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 19, 2002

It may not seem like a big deal to outsiders, but Paul McCartney is still nettled by the fact that his name comes second in the most famous songwriting team in pop-music history.
In a move that has brought his already rocky relationship with John Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, to a rolling boil, Mr. McCartney tweaked the traditional Lennon-McCartney credit on a recently released live CD.
On "Back in the U.S. Live 2002," culled from Mr. McCartney's spring tour, 19 Beatles songs are credited to "Paul McCartney and John Lennon."
"There's no question this is an attempted act of Beatle revisionism," says Elliot Mintz, Miss Ono's spokesman, "and it does appear to be an attempt to rewrite history."
"The truth is that this is much ado about nothing and there is no need for anybody to get their knickers in a twist," Mr. McCartney said in a statement yesterday.
Mr. McCartney first broached the idea in 1995, when the surviving members of the Beatles were producing their "Anthology" project.
Mr. McCartney asked Miss Ono if the credit for "Yesterday" could be switched to McCartney-Lennon, thus reflecting the bassist's independent composition of the hit song.Mr. McCartney, in fact, wrote the famous ballad in its entirety, and none of the other Beatles performed on the recording.
Miss Ono, who controls Mr. Lennon's estate, refused the request.
The Los Angeles Times reported earlier this month that the Ono camp was considering suing Mr. McCartney for the credit reversal on "Back in the U.S. Live 2002."
Peter Shukat, Miss Ono's lawyer, later denied the report.
Known for jealously guarding her late husband's legacy, Miss Ono may not even have legal standing to sue Mr. McCartney, as Michael Jackson and Sony Music Publishing own the publishing rights to much of the Beatles catalog.
"When the publisher issues a license to the record label for them to distribute the song, it doesn't stipulate the order [of the songwriting attribution]," says Rick Carnes, president of the Songwriters Guild of America.
Moreover, Mr. Lennon and Mr. McCartney, who began writing songs together as early as 1957, never reached a legally binding agreement on the order of their songwriting byline, according to a spokesman for Mr. McCartney.
"It doesn't matter whose name is in what order unless there was some sort of contractual agreement," Mr. Carnes says. "It doesn't really affect who gets paid."
In other words, Miss Ono could sue Mr. McCartney only if she could prove the Lennon estate was harmed by the credit reversal.
If that were proved, Mr. Carnes surmises, Mr. McCartney could countersue on the same grounds.
Mr. Carnes notes that, to his knowledge, no other songwriting team from the Gershwin brothers to Rodgers and Hammerstein to Leiber and Stoller has wrangled publicly over the sequence of its publishing byline.
A contemporary of the Beatles, Mick Jagger, explained to Rolling Stone magazine in 1995 how he and songwriting partner Keith Richards rubber-stamp the Jagger-Richards byline on all their compositions, regardless of who wrote them.
Mr. Jagger said that he didn't mind not being acknowledged as a musician and that Mr. Richards was similarly unconcerned about not being recognized for lyric writing.
"I can't imagine changing it except for ego purposes," Mr. Carnes says. "If Paul wants to change the order this late in his career, I guess he can."
This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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