“We Can Work It Out“ is a song by the English rock band the Beatles….which was written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon….and was first issued as a double A-side single with “Day Tripper” in December 1965. The release marked the first time in Britain that both tracks on an artist’s single were promoted as joint A-sides….as the song was recorded during the sessions for the band’s Rubber Soul album. The single was # 1 in Britain….where it won the Ivor Novello Award for the top-selling A-side of 1965 in America, Australia, Canada and Ireland.
“We Can Work It Out” is a comparatively rare example of a Lennon–McCartney collaboration from this period in the Beatles’ career, in that it recalls the level of collaboration the two songwriters had shared when writing the group’s hit singles of 1963…..while this song, “A Day in the Life”, “Baby, You’re a Rich Man” and “I’ve Got a Feeling”, are among the notable exceptions.
McCartney wrote the words and music to the verses and the chorus….with lyrics that “might have been personal”….while probably being a reference to his relationship with Jane Asher. McCartney then took the song to Lennon while saying “I took it to John to finish it off, and we wrote the middle together. Which is nice: ‘Life is very short. There’s no time for fussing and fighting, my friend.’ Then it was George Harrison’s idea to put the middle into 3/4 time, like a German waltz.”
With its intimations of mortality, Lennon’s contribution to the twelve-bar bridge contrasts typically with what Lennon saw as McCartney’s cajoling optimism….which was a contrast also seen in other collaborations by the pair, such as “Getting Better” and “I’ve Got a Feeling”. As Lennon told Playboy in 1980….”In We Can Work It Out, Paul did the first half, I did the middle eight. But you’ve got Paul writing, ‘We can work it out / We can work it out’ – real optimistic, y’know, and me, impatient: ‘Life is very short, and there’s no time / For fussing and fighting, my friend.’