First released by the Plastic Ono Band in 1969, “Give Peace a Chance” appears on the new DVD Lennon Legend, and, as per the arrangement the songwriting duo reached forty years ago, it was previously credited to both men, despite Lennon being its sole author.
The credits to “Give Peace a Chance” have been in contention for decades. On the 1975 Lennon compilation Shaved Fish, the song was credited to Lennon/McCartney, but when the original Legend CD was released in 1997, McCartney’s name was dropped, as it was on the 1998 John Lennon Anthology box set.
The exclusion of McCartney’s name in 1997 and 1998 might have simply been an oversight, according to a spokesperson for Sony/ATV, which holds the song’s publishing rights. “The change to listing it as solely a Lennon composition came within the past two or three years,” the source said, without elaborating on who or what instigated the change.
As far as the performing rights organization ASCAP is considered, though, the song is still a Lennon/McCartney composition. “We have to be advised if the split is changed, which would be a good thing for us to know,” an ASCAP representative said, noting that the performance royalties for the song are still split evenly until the organization is advised otherwise.
Last December, McCartney flipped the traditional Lennon/McCartney credits on nineteen Beatles songs on his live album, Back in the U.S. to read “Paul McCartney and John Lennon.” At the time, McCartney said he rearranged the names only on the songs that he wrote without Lennon.
Ono’s lawyer, Peter Shukat, told Rolling Stone at the time, “What he did was absolutely inappropriate. John and Paul had an agreement. This is very petty.”
Ono added, “John and Paul often disagreed on which songs were written by whom. If John was here now, they could fight it out, or maybe they could never agree. But the important point is that John has to be here. He is not.”
McCartney’s contract with Capitol Records gives him control over the way songs are credited on his solo works, but credits on the Beatles’ Apple Records have to be approved by the surviving band members or their estates. McCartney previously flipped the credit on five Beatles songs included on his 1976 Wings Over America live album.
The dual credit on “Give Peace a Chance” was Lennon’s thank you to McCartney for his help on the sessions for the Lennon song “The Ballad of John and Yoko,” according to Bruce Spizer, author of this year’s The Beatles on Apple Records. Spizer says the subsequent credit change may have been a reaction to McCartney’s flips on his live album.
“When Paul did his own things with Wings and when he flipped the credit on that solo album recently I’m sure Yoko felt the same rules applied to John’s solo material,” Spizer said. “Paul had nothing to do with the song, so perhaps her feeling was that he got a free ride all these years and it was no longer required to list it as Lennon/McCartney. That might be why you haven’t heard anything from him on this.”
After last year’s squabble with Ono, McCartney agreed not to change any more credits in the future, which paved the way for the recent release of the Let It Be … Naked reissue.
Beatles spokesperson Geoff Baker had no comment on the “Give Peace a Chance” attribution, and Ono could not be reached at press time.