Friday, April 7, 2023

Things I learned from McCartney’s book The Lyrics Volume 1

Paul McCartney’s massive self-penned 2021 book, The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present is an excellent read. My local library has the hard copies (it’s a thick, photo and image-heavy two-volume set) and so I’ll be reading the second book on paper rather than on my Kindle. That said, here are the most interesting things I learned about Sir Paul in the first volume:

  • Paul got the idea to have his band Wings after The Beatles because he still wanted to do music and also saw Johnny Cash playing with a band.
  • His daughter Stella was a rough birth and Paul saw a vision of angels with wings during that time, leading to his band’s name.
  • The night John Lennon and McCartney heard “God Only Knows,” their minds were so blown that it inspired them to write “Here There and Everywhere.”
  • Around the time of Sgt. Pepper’s, the band realized they had access to a sound-effects library and started using them a lot, in songs such as “Blackbird” and “A Day in the Life.”
  • He did a lot of painting in the ‘90s and always remembered his dad talking about “do it now.” He also thought about all the great painters who obsessed for long periods on individual works and Paul always wanted to keep it fun and get all his paintings powered through and done in one sitting.
  • Paul says the trick to songwriting is to write something that is easy to remember, because you also have to do that as a musician. His chauffeur said he’d been working eight days a week, and Paul knew that would be a memorable line when he and Lennon wrote it as soon as he hopped out of the car.
  • George Harrison was inspired by the short stabbing sounds in the music of the movie Psycho for Eleanor Rigby.
  • Paul says he was pretty “straight laced” and was the last Beatle to take LSD. One night he saw a blue hole in his eye and it formed the basis of “Fixing a Hole.”
  • Paul actually met Yoko before John and introduced her, in a way, to John.
  • Paul never could read music and he didn’t like piano lessons when he was young because they were restrictive and boring. And later on, he thinks he might have lost interest in making songs in a band if everyone was just counting out things based on a mathematical formula. I couldn’t agree more. Creating songs rather than writing music has always been what intrigued me and keeps me coming back for more.
  • “Got to Get You Into My Life” is about marijuana and was inspired by the Beatles’ first experience with the drug. It was in a back room with Bob Dylan and Paul remembers George trying to leave and he chased him around as the two of them giggled endlessly.
  • “Here There and Everywhere” was inspired by “God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys, which was inspired by Rubber Soul. Paul also says it’s his favorite song he’s ever written.
  • The Rolling Stones of course hung out with The Beatles in the early ‘60s. George told their record label they should sign the Stones and they did, but Mick and Keith told their friends the problem was they didn’t have a single. So The Beatles gave the Stones an album track from one of their records that couldn’t be a single for them because it was sung by Ringo. “I Wanna Be Your Man” went on to become the Stones’s “first big hit.”
  • When discussing “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” Paul notes that most of what drove him was eroticism.
  • The diversity and quantity of John and Paul’s writing together is legendary. And Paul notes that once he and John started a song in the studio, they always finished it before leaving the studio.
  • In the early days of the Quarry Men (named after where John attended, Quarry Bank High School), John, Paul, and George always pretty much knew they would be the core of the group. They always had trouble finding drummers, or even people with drum sets. A guy named Colin Hanton was their first drummer. At their first real recording session, they laid down Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be the Day” and an original called “In Spite of All the Danger.” The latter is the only McCartney-Harrison writing credit in history.

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