Published today (November 2nd) is the new book, The Lyrics: 1956 To The Present by Paul McCartney. The collection, which was edited and introduced by Paul Muldoon, features “a treasure trove of material from McCartney’s personal archive — drafts, letters, photographs — never seen before, which make this also a unique visual record of one of the greatest songwriters of all time.”
“Macca” wrote in the two-volume set’s press release, “More often than I can count, I’ve been asked if I would write an autobiography, but the time has never been right. The one thing I’ve always managed to do, whether at home or on the road, is to write new songs. I know that some people, when they get to a certain age, like to go to a diary to recall day-to-day events from the past, but I have no such notebooks. What I do have are my songs, hundreds of them, which I’ve learned serve much the same purpose. And these songs span my entire life.”
The official announcement sheds light on the book’s contents:
In this extraordinary book, with unparalleled candour, Paul recounts his life and art through the prism of 154 songs from all stages of his career — from his earliest boyhood compositions through the legendary decade of The Beatles, to Wings and his solo albums to the present.
Arranged alphabetically to provide a kaleidoscopic rather than chronological account, it establishes definitive texts of the songs’ lyrics for the first time and describes the circumstances in which they were written, the people and places that inspired them, and what he thinks of them now.
Presented with this is a treasure trove of material from McCartney’s personal archive — drafts, letters, photographs — never seen before, which make this also a unique visual record of one of the greatest songwriters of all time.
During a recent chat with GQ, Paul McCartney looked back at his first song from back in 1956, “I Lost My Little Girl”: “The very first song I wrote. That was very simple, three chords — four chords. Yeah, it was real early, kind of, rock n’ roll thing. I got a guitar when I was (in my) early-teens, I made up this little song called, ‘I Lost My Little Girl.’ People asked me whether it was about losing my mother at that early age, which I don’t know. A psychiatrist might have a field day with that, but I certainly didn’t think it was at the time. It coulda been.”
McCartney explained that the inspiration for “Hey Jude” was none other than John Lennon’s then-five-year-old son, Julian Lennon: “I was driving out to John’s house after John and Cynthia had got divorced and I was just going out to say hello to Cynthia and Julian. And I started coming up with these words. In my own mind I was kind of talking to Julian: ‘Hey Jules don’t take it bad, take a sad song and make it better’ — y’know, it will be alright. So, I kind of got the first of the idea on the way out there with this ‘Hey Jules’ as I thought it was going to be called, It seemed a little bit of a mouthful so I changed it to Jude.”
Paul McCartney explained that for him, songwriting is an extremely personal and often therapeutic process: “One thing with me, I don’t really want to have anyone hear me writing a song. And I don’t like the idea, ’cause I’m going to make mistakes. I’m gonna put words in I hate and then I’m gonna realize I hate them, I’m gonna change it. It’s good to go away somewhere that, pretty much, people aren’t gonna hear you. It’s good if it’s got a little bit of an acoustic, so little cupboards and cellars, bathrooms and little areas like that are good. Yeah, I like to just go and hide, hide away.”