By Phil Hall | October 18, 2011

This documentary, which is released without a credited director, provides an in-depth overview of the parallel careers enjoyed by John Lennon and Paul McCartney in the decade following the breakup of the Beatles.

Lennon, who was already establishing a solo career while the Beatles were still (barely) intact, got off to a fast start with groundbreaking works such as “Give Peace a Chance” and “Imagine.” But a series of personal problems seemed to constantly distract him, and his output became inconsistent until he stepped away from music in 1975 for what would become a five-year hiatus. McCartney, however, initially stumbled in his solo efforts, and he never truly convinced anyone that his band Wings was little more than a back-up effort for his showmanship. However, he found his groove in the mid-1970s with a number of quirky singles, including the Oscar-nominated theme song for the James Bond epic “Live and Let Die.”

Since the filmmakers did not secure cooperation from Lennon’s estate or from McCartney, the amount of music that is made available is limited – and most of the classic tunes are presented in fleeting clips from promotional films. However, the film provides a wealth of rare photographs and film clips, plus interviews with a number of Lennon and McCartney’s 1970s collaborators – most notably drummer Denny Seiwell, who admits quitting Wings after being poorly paid by McCartney.

Running nearly two-and-a-half hours, the film occasionally runs the risk of wearing out its welcome. But Lennon and McCartney fans have never grown tired of their heroes’ output, and “Composing Outside of the Beatles” provides a happy glut of information on the performers’ attempts to carve out their individual identities.

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  1. Elise says:

    The one point where you are wrong and where this DVD gets it wrong is in this sentence: “McCartney, however, initially stumbled in his solo efforts.” In fact, while critics at that time were ridiculously savage in dismissing McCartney’s early solo efforts, those early albums are NOW considered far differently. His solo debut was just reissued this year and received good to great reviews. And Ram — an album that was ripped apart by Lennon-obsessed critics in 1971 — is now considered a “proto-indie masterpiece” as Pitchfork recently put it.

    The problem with this DVD is you have a bunch of old fart critics (like that blowhard Christgau) rehashing the same old tired 1971 views on McCartney’s solo work when modern critics are singing a far different tune.

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