How Behaviors and Drivers Influenced the Greatest Songwriting Team in History

In our previous blog entitled, How Lennon and McCartney Used Collaboration and Competition to Create Genius, we looked at how John Lennon and Paul McCartney used their opposing behavior styles to work brilliantly together. John and Paul, along with a little help from their friends George and Ringo, changed the world in their eight years as a popular music powerhouse. Taking a closer look at the power duo’s behaviors and drivers, John and Paul couldn’t have been more opposite. How did they make it work and change the music world as we know it?

Defining behaviors and drivers

In the realm of behaviors as measured by DISC, Paul is a classic S/C. He was slower-paced compared to John and his priority was the proper execution of his tasks. While friendly and good with people, Paul would probably have preferred to work in the studio than have a press conference. However, he clearly understood the value the press provided for the band and was willing to accommodate. Paul was very systematic when it came to making music and he could also be possessive of his musical ideas. Paul was comfortable when things were status-quo. When something came in to affect the status-quo, such as Yoko Ono’s presence in the studio, it made Paul very uncomfortable.

John was the epitome of a high-D, low-S/C, driven to accomplish much, but always in a hurry to finish whatever it was so he could move to the next thing. Definitely lacking patience, John wanted everything to be done as quickly as possible. John never cared much for rules and followed only those rules that seemed to suit him. He was charismatic and people were always drawn to him, which is indicative of someone possessing at least a relatively high-I. Comparing the behavior of John and Paul, they were mostly opposites.

From a driver’s perspective, John was constantly being driven by new ideas and ways of doing things. Paul was much more set in his way, having very specific ideas for how he liked to do things. Paul wanted to learn as much about music as he could while John learned mostly what was necessary for the project he was working on at the time. Paul always worked purposefully and knew exactly what he needed from others to accomplish his goals, which were always driven around increasing the stature of the band.

Both men enjoyed the spotlight, but Paul would defer to John on occasion, such as when standing on the Ed Sullivan stage after their performance, when there was only room for one Beatle on the higher platform. Other times, John would step back and let Paul have his moment, usually to the delight of the screaming girls in the front row. They realized they each brought their own value to their audience, to the overall benefit of the band, so they adapted their behaviors accordingly and willingly shared the spotlight.

Switching roles

As the decade progressed and The Beatles continued to define the music of the generation, John and Paul continued to answer each other through music. When John penned the politically-fueled Revolution, Paul answered with his own social commentary in his ballad, Blackbird.

For a new challenge, the two occasionally spent time reversing roles. John was known for his rockers and Paul for his ballads. However, toward the end of the union, Paul penned the very raucous, Helter Skelter, while John countered with the touching soft ballad, Julia, a tribute to his deceased mother.

What it all means

Most people will argue that Lennon and McCartney were more successful together than as solo artists, and rightfully so. Together, the two created a force that far surpassed what they could, and did, accomplish individually. With a unique balance of collaboration and competition, the two pushed each other to continuously raise the bar and exceed even their own expectations.

While Paul may have been the band’s unofficial “musical director,” he and John took turns running the show. Early on, John and Paul may have deferred to the mastery of their experienced producer George Martin. As time went on, they took turns calling the shots for various album sessions. Paul was widely known to have controlled the majority of the Sgt. Pepper sessions while John reasserted his leadership during the tumultuous White Album sessions. Both albums are considered brilliant by critics and fans alike.

As a unit, The Beatles seemed to have a natural ability to channel the exact behaviors and drivers needed when they were needed. When John lost focus, Paul took control. When Paul began to lose interest, John took control back. Finally when conflict between John and Paul was making it difficult to accomplish anything together, George Harrison stepped out of the shadows, asserted control and delivered some of the bands most iconic songs as showcased by their epic masterpiece, Abbey Road.

There was a perpetual give and take, push and pull, that made The Beatles work. John and Paul were clearly each other’s yin and yang. The complementary behaviors and drivers closed all the gaps and filled all the holes, making The Beatles an unmatched force in the music scene, something the world hasn’t seen since.

Note: This article originally appeared on TTI Success Insights and was republished with permission.

How Lennon and McCartney Used Collaboration and Competition to Create Genius

John Lennon and Paul McCartney, it can be argued, formed the greatest songwriting partnership in the history of recorded music. The Beatles changed the world in their eight years as a popular music powerhouse. On the surface, the two may seem like two peas in a pod. In reality, John and Paul couldn’t have been more opposite, when viewed from a behavior and driver perspective.

As the staff writer for an assessment solutions company, I am intrigued to study how different behavioral styles and motivators can work together to create greatness. And who better to study than the brains behind arguably the greatest band of all-time?

While George Harrison and Ringo Starr certainly contributed to the group (especially in the later years), it was McCartney and Lennon that did the majority of the songwriting and were the engine that powered The Beatles music machine.

After being inspired by reading a thought-provoking article about the differing personalities of the two lead Beatles, I was motivated to compare and contrast Lennon and McCartney from a perspective of behaviors. The article is entitled The Power of Two, written by Joshua Wolf Shenk of The Atlantic, a great read for anyone who considers themselves a fan of The Beatles.

Proving that opposites certainly do attract – and have the ability to work fantastically together – comparing the behaviors of these two musical geniuses and the drivers behind those behaviors sheds insight on how their individual opposing forces were often the fuel that brought out the greatness in both men’s songwriting.

Behaviors form early

While John was just twenty months older than Paul, the age gap was significant enough to position John as somewhat of an “alpha dog” during the two boys’ formative teenage years. John was 100% rebel, moving to the beat of his own drum from the very beginning. John lived in the moment and did as he pleased, without much care or concern for future repercussions.

Paul, on the other hand, was a proper and polite young gentleman, well-schooled and respectful. Paul came from a loving family, while John was raised by a strict aunt who cared for him after his father left and his mother decided she wasn’t cut out for the job. While John’s aunt had his best interests at heart, her style of parenting left John more resentful than appreciative.

When the two boys met sometime around 1957, a magnetic pull occurred instantly. John was the rebellious older boy that did as he pleased, which appealed to the well-behaved Paul. Conversely, Paul’s musical ability was equal, or even superior, to John’s. Paul’s ability to be able to keep up with and push John appealed to his competitive nature. John, whether he’d openly admit or not, was somewhat envious of Paul’s stable household while Paul often wondered what it would be like to break some rules once in awhile.

Competition vs. collaboration

The two were virtually inseparable from the time they met until the later years of The Beatles. They could often be seen with their guitars in hand, learning popular songs of the day or creating songs of their own. Both Liverpool lads had wildly-creative minds and ideas flowed like fountains from both of them. One would create a song idea and the other would have an equally compelling idea to complete the song. John and Paul thrived on collaboration, and what they accomplished together was leaps and bounds above what they would have seemingly accomplished individually. In this case, 1+1=3. There was John, there was Paul and there was a third force that was created when the two worked together.

Their collaborative genius can be seen in what many consider to be the Beatles greatest song, A Day In The Life, where both members came to the table with parts of incomplete songs. While vastly different in musical composition, the pair fused these parts together to create an epic masterpiece that defines their greatness. In writing the psychedelic Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, it is said that they “volleyed” lines back and forth, coming up with ideas with ease, creating the definition of a true collaboration.

Interestingly, competition also drove the pair. During the Beatles’ heyday, when everything the band wrote became a hit, they began to write significant parts of songs, or even entire songs, on their own. When John appeared in the studio one day with Strawberry Fields Forever, a melancholy reflection of his childhood, Paul immediately answered with Penny Lane; an interpretation of his childhood. Always trying to “one-up” each other, the pair kept raising the stakes on what it meant to write a great song. Because of this, the songs kept getting better all the time.

When they weren’t competing with each other, they were teaming up to compete against other rival bands. The Beach Boys were their main competition, battling The Beatles in the early and mid-60s for chart supremacy. When the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson wrote his signature classic God Only Knows, Paul answered with his touching ballad Here, There and Everywhere.

The competition wasn’t confined to the music either. Shortly after Lennon broke the unwritten rules of bringing an outsider (Yoko Ono) into the studio, McCartney quickly followed suit introducing Linda Eastman. When Paul married Linda, John and Yoko also married, a mere eight days later.

Comparing behaviors

Paul was meticulous and organized; he was known for always carrying a notebook with him should inspiration hit him while he was on the move. Known for his neat handwriting, and equally smooth communication skills, Paul usually had a plan and a specific method for doing things. He was willing to put in the long hours to accomplish his goals. He’d see ideas through to completion and was known to be somewhat set in his ways.

John was the opposite of organized, scrambling to find scraps of paper to jot down unreadable notes when inspiration struck him. He didn’t have a set method for going about his tasks, he was open to go with the flow and enjoyed constantly trying new things. He liked to move quickly from song to song and project to project, having a high sense of urgency. If an idea of his morphed into something different than he originally imagined, he was open to the change. This was unlike Paul who would often take offense when someone would critique one of his ideas.

Being a natural communicator, and usually having a calculated purpose in mind, Paul was a perfect fit for the press. Always prepared, he was engaging and he gave them exactly what they were seeking. This made him a media darling. It also helped counteract John’s sometimes harsh, if not crude, approach with the same media members. John could get away with his rebellious attitude because of Paul’s opposite manner. Together, the two made it work.

John’s first wife Cynthia Lennon was known for saying “John needed Paul’s persistence and attention-to-detail while Paul needed John’s anarchic, lateral thinking.” They each had strengths and weaknesses and it seemed, in many regards, one’s strength was the other one’s weakness. That’s why things worked so well for John and Paul.

While the two did share many things in common, it seemed their opposing behaviors and drivers are what really propelled them to a place no band had ever reached previously.

Note: This article originally appeared on TTI Success Insights and was republished with permission.

Bohemian Rhapsody – The Contrasting Personalities of Queen

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With box office sales reaching $142 million in the US and almost $600 million worldwide, the movie Bohemian Rhapsody has captured the hearts and minds of movie goers everywhere. Based on the story of the British rock band Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody chronicles the nascent band from its early days playing clubs to its rise into megastardom.

Comprised of four superstar musicians, the band was unquestionably led by frontman and vocal virtuoso Freddie Mercury. Much like The Beatles did a decade earlier, Queen leveraged the unique personalities of each member to create a sound that changed the music landscape forever.

With millions of musicians in the world, what made Queen so special? Authenticity, emotion and energy is what set Queen apart from everyone else. Whether it’s the euphonic harmonies of the song Bohemian Rhapsody or the unparalleled energy the band delivered during their live concert performances, Queen was the true embodiment of emotion and energy, with a side of style and class.

Creating the band’s sound
Queen is a study in how disparate styles can come together to create something bigger than the sum of its parts. In many ways, the differences in the band were showcased in how Freddie’s style contrasted with the other three band members.

Freddie was a showman who clearly envisioned the big picture, imagining a song from its conception to its stage delivery. Incorporating classical music training into his songwriting, Mercury challenged the status quo of the rock world by delivering a sound that possessed elements of ballads, rock and opera.

Brian May’s musical palate was as vast as his intellect, spanning from classic hard rock such as “Hammer to Fall” to the softest of ballads found in the beautiful melodies of “Love of My Life.” Drummer/vocalist Roger Taylor liked to inject a little humor into his writing as is shown in the song “I’m In Love With My Car.” Bassist John Deacon was a frequent songwriting contributor, penning some of the band’s bigger hits including “You’re My Best Friend” and the unmistakably bass-driven “Another One Bites the Dust.”

 

Challenging the status quo
Often rejected by record company execs for not being commercial enough, songs like Bohemian Rhapsody redefined what commercial became. At the time the song was recorded, there were no six minute radio hits, no opera parts in rock and certainly no music videos.

Queen wanted to break free from what was previously considered “radio acceptable,” fully believing there was a market for their new brand of rock. They rightfully believed that if the public had a chance to experience the music, they would enjoy it.

For a song “certain to fail” according to record company execs, Bohemian Rhapsody became the third most popular song in the history of the British charts based on sales, having reached the #1 spot in two separate decades (on its release and upon Mercury’s death) and charting on the Billboard Hot 100 in an unheard of three different decades (70s, 90s, 10s).

Collaboration is king
It’s safe to say that Queen left an indelible mark on the music world. The bigger question is what propelled Queen to produce music that became so long lasting and impactful? A strong argument can be made that the unique personalities of the band members is what created the greatness.

While no one will doubt that Mercury was the band’s driving force, every member of the band was a contributing songwriter. The future astrophysicist May was the yin to Mercury’s yang, with Mercury’s soft melodies being sonically balanced by May’s raging power chords. When it came to songwriting, they were very collaborative, with different members taking the lead at different times, creating unique, memorable songs that spanned the musical gamut. When the band performed live, however, the three members of the rhythm section were willing to take on more of a supporting role role so that Mercury’s star could shine the brightest.Queen-Performing

History has seen many bands crash and burn with a dominant personality in the mix. However, May, Taylor and Deacon understood that letting Mercury take the lead on stage – and often in the studio too (i.e. Bohemian Rhapsody) – brought out the best from the vocalist. The band’s epic performance at Live Aid, considered by many to be the quintessential rock performance of all time, showed that the bigger the stage, the better the band performed.

As self-assured as Mercury was, it was what the others contributed that made Queen the powerhouse they were. The commercial failure of Mercury’s solo album, made without the help of his trusted bandmates, confirmed this point. It proved that even the most creative minds have their limitations and often it takes another voice or idea to elevate something from good to great.

What motivated Queen?
Queen believed in pushing the limits and creating a new definition of what was considered to be mainstream. The band understood that with their supreme songwriting and performing capabilities, they could accomplish just about anything. Freddie had a commanding personality, wanting to be the center of attention at all times. The spotlight energized him. The others were smart enough to realize that Mercury was a bonafide star and that letting him shine was very much to the band’s benefit.

John Deacon seemed to avoid the spotlight, instead preferring to be the foundation on which the songs were built. Slow and steady, Deacon’s bass lines were the glue that held everything together. Roger Taylor was a showy drummer and a good vocalist in his own right. While the press would regularly gravitate toward Mercury during interviews, Taylor would frequently chime in to remind the eager press that Queen, in fact, consisted of four equal members.

While Mercury attracted attention with his showmanship and stage acrobatics, May attracted attention with his style and guitar virtuosity. With a precise attention to detail, May performed like a master craftsman, creating both a style and a sound that was unlike any that came before or after him.

Wanting to be unique, May and his father Harold built an unconventionally-shaped guitar that became known as the Red Special. It produced a thick, bright sound which instantaneously conveyed the Queen sound. Playing with a Sixpence instead of a guitar pick, May created his unique, ear-piercing squeal that a traditional plastic pick could never produce. To say May was detail-oriented in his approach would be quite the understatement; he was nothing short of a guitar maestro.

The show must go on
The members of Queen had an insatiable appetite for songwriting and performing. Attention to the finest details is what set this band apart from other acts of the time that were more consumed with sex, drugs and everything else that came with the rock and roll lifestyle.

Queen was a supergroup before the term was even coined. Understanding that, through collaboration, they could achieve virtually anything they wanted to, the individual members sacrificed a certain level of personal fame and fortune in exchange for a lasting legacy for the band as a whole. They were a band in the truest sense of the word.

Note: This article originally appeared on TTI Success Insights and was republished with permission.