The Beatles, “Two of Us” from Let It Be (1970): Deep Beatles

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You and I have memories / Longer than the road that stretches out ahead.”

Paul McCartney may have intended the Beatles’ “Two of Us” to celebrate his blooming romance with Linda Eastman, but those words also summarized his friendship and creative partnership with John Lennon. Though recorded during the Beatles’ turbulent Get Back sessions, “Two of Us” remains a tender ode to love and friendship, although McCartney surprisingly intended the song for someone else to record.

As McCartney told biographer Barry Miles, he and Eastman would enjoy going for country drives together, often getting lost on purpose. Once she moved permanently to London, the couple would frequently bundle McCartney’s sheepdog Martha into the car, pick up a picnic lunch, and drive out to a remote rural area. Eastman would then take photographs as McCartney strummed his guitar.

It was during one of those adventures that McCartney composed what he originally titled “On Our Way Home.” “We’d just enjoy sitting out in nature, and this song was about that: doing nothing, trying to get lost,” McCartney told Miles. “It’s a favorite of mine because it reminds me of that period, getting together with Linda, and the wonderfully free attitude we were able to have.”

Although “Two of Us” was clearly a personal song for McCartney, he initially offered it to another group. Mortimer, a New York trio being considered for Apple Records, recorded the then-titled “On Our Way Home,” intended to be their debut single in June 1969. Even though they recorded other Peter Asher-produced tracks as well, Mortimer was soon ejected from the label — a victim of the Beatles’ then-manager Allen Klein. The album remained unreleased until 2017, when the PRM Records label finally released their shelved Asher sessions.

Assembling at Apple Studios, the Beatles first rehearsed “On Our Way Home” from January 24-25, 1969; by January 31, they were ready to record. Judging from early outtakes, the early versions relied heavily on electric guitar, sported a faster tempo, and included silly Elvis Presley-esque vocals by McCartney.

The rehearsals were immortalized in an unfortunate sense. As documented in Let It Be, a tense exchange occurred between Paul McCartney and George Harrison concerning the guitar parts. During the heated debate, a clearly exasperated Harrison stated, “I’ll play, you know, whatever you want me to play, or I wont play at all if you don’t want to me to play. Whatever it is that will please you … I’ll do it!”

According to Kenneth Womack’s The Beatles Encyclopedia, Lennon suggested during the rehearsal stage that an acoustic arrangement would be a more appropriate accompaniment for the lyrics. Once that issue was settled, Lennon and McCartney harmonized into the same microphone. The personnel consists of Paul McCartney and John Lennon on acoustic guitars; George Harrison on “bass” (in reality the low strings of an electric guitar), and Ringo Starr on drums.

As McCartney crafted the “you and I have memories” bridge, he led the Beatles in a 13-minute rehearsal on just that section during the January 25 sessions. Lennon later added the whistling solo toward the end of the track.

The Let It Be version also includes Lennon’s amusing introduction to the “Two of Us” (“I Dig A Pygmy by Charles Hawtrey and the Deaf Aids. Phase one, in which Doris gets her oats!”), appended to “Two of Us” a year later. Lennon actually uttered those words during a January 21 session at Apple Studios. As is well known, the Get Back session tapes were set aside until March 1970, when Phil Spector remixed the Beatles tracks and assembled them for the Let It Be album.

After a gentle introduction courtesy of an acoustic guitar riff, Lennon and McCartney begin describing aimless travel. “You and me Sunday driving, not arriving / On our way back home,” they croon, alluding to McCartney’s driving excursions with his future wife. The line “two of us sending postcards” refers to the couple’s habit of sending each other letters when apart.

The lyrics “Two of us wearing raincoats / Standing solo in the sun” may describe their picnics or enjoyment of nature. An interesting line is “you and me chasing paper,” an apparent reference to the Beatles’ money troubles concerning the failing Apple Corps (a subject McCartney would revisit in “You Never Give Me Your Money”).

The middle eight remains the most poignant line, however, and it seems to address McCartney’s long friendship with Lennon: “You and I have memories / Longer than the road that stretches out ahead.” Since Eastman had not begun dating McCartney until May 1968, it can be assumed that these lines describe his relationship with his writing partner.

The lyrics contrast his past with his present; in sum, Lennon was no longer the sole influence in McCartney’s life. Obviously those memories would never be forgotten, and McCartney renders those words highly personal by singing most of them alone.

Ringo Starr uses a light touch on “Two of Us,” with a brief change in rhythm pattern to introduce the bridges. George Harrison’s bass work proves effective, as it imitates a galloping pace: an appropriate metaphor, as the song’s traveling theme dominates the track. From Starr’s drums to the guitars, the arrangement emulates movement — not only physical movement, but also one of time passing.

A version from the January 24 rehearsals later emerged on Anthology 3 (featuring a slightly different guitar riff and harmonies); Let It Be … Naked featured an alternate mix of the January 31 version and no Lennon dialogue. “Two of Us” obviously remains a favorite of Paul McCartney’s, as he performed it live at his 2003 Red Square concert in Moscow, and during a 2010 stop in Argentina.

Through the lyrics and close harmonies, it is evident that Lennon and McCartney sensed their working partnership in the Beatles was soon ending. This fact makes “Two of Us” particularly poignant; at the same time, it represents a joyous time in McCartney’s life as he entered a new relationship.

Years after writing the song, McCartney seemed to relish the song’s ambiguity: “It was basically about me and Linda,” he told Paul Du Noyer in Conversations with McCartney. “But when I sang it with John, it becomes about me and John. … I love that interpretation that songs do. It’s magical.”

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