The genius of Paul McCartney dissected in 900 pages

Better understand your creative process

In his book Words and memories from 1956 to todaySir McCartney took the note even further when he spoke with Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry Paul Muldoon. He looks back on 154 of the 800 or so songs that made his fame and his fortune with The Beatles, Wings or solo. The vast majority are missing, but this two-volume box set takes on the appearance of an encyclopedia totaling over 900 large-format pages.

Paul McCartney has always refused to write his autobiography, in part because his songs reveal him one word at a time. Real workaholic as shown in the documentary Get back, the musician has always taken his creative process seriously.

From the introduction of his book, he explains that, to write a song, you have to trust your first impressions, because at the beginning, you don’t really know where you are going. It is undoubtedly this confidence which pushed him to write in particular the classics. Yesterday (1965), Eleanor Rigby (1966), Blackbird (1968), Maybe I’m Amazed (1970), Jet (1973) and Here Today (1982). In these memories, the chosen songs are presented in alphabetical order (not chronological), because their creation is associated with various moments, anecdotes and rarely published photos.

The book “Words and memories from 1956 to today”

Photo: Liveright

The influence of the untimely death of his mother

It all started with the song I Lost My Little Girl (1956). No need to be called Sigmund Freud to guess that this piece is a reaction to the death of his mother … She died too early, in October 1956, at just 47 years old, writes Paul McCartney.

The image of the absent mother will return in McCartney’s work. Think about the creation of the song Let it be (1970). One day, I was exhausted, I fell asleep: in a dream, my mother came to visit me [et] said to me: “Everything is going to be fine. Accept that it is so” (Let it be). Also think of the song Teddy boy (1970): It is the terrible feeling of abandonment that I always have with my mother. Teddy can therefore be seen as a version of myself trying to console myself while giving the illusion of consoling my mother., is it indicated in Words and memories from 1956 to today on page 695.

His friend John

Sir McCartney also returns to the play In Spite of All the Danger (1958), recorded with The Quarrymen, and the only one attributed to McCartney and Harrison. This was before we understood the ins and outs of copyright; but part of the song does indeed come from John [Lennon].

The genesis of several Beatles songs is of course at the heart of this journey through time. John and I used to write our songs with our two guitars. As I said before, the pleasure was special because he was right-handed and I was left-handed; we could look at each other like in a mirror, can we read about the song Please Please Me.

For nearly 10 years, the Lennon-McCartney tandem created songs that have made history. When the mirror shattered, Paul McCartney sank into a deep depression, and John Lennon’s assassination in 1980 inspired the song. Here Today (1982).

John Lennon and Paul McCartney in 1963

John Lennon and Paul McCartney in 1963

Photo: Fox Photos / Getty Images

We had to stay in the shelter for a few days in our little motel room in Key West, we got drunk and [nous nous sommes] confessed, in tears, how much we loved each other, reveals Paul McCartney in his book about his friend. But it is certain that when we were young, only a gay man could have said that to another man – and that narrow-minded attitude made us a little cynical.

The importance of composing successes

After the separation of the Beatles, like a phoenix, the musician will rise from the ashes with the song Another day (1971). I needed a hit at all costs, he wrote. One in two songs had to be a hit. This song was therefore born from a deliberate desire to compose a commercial success.

Paul McCartney will continue to achieve great success. Two of his recent albums, Egypt Station (2018) and Mccartney III Imagined (2021), rose to the top of the Billboard charts.

Words and memories from 1956 to today is more than just a collection of anecdotes; it is above all a meticulous work serving to present the point of view of Paul McCartney as well as photographs as emblematic as unpublished by one of the most notable composer of the 20e century. Of course, there is a desire here to rewrite part of that story, and let’s put that down to the fact that sometimes memory takes certain detours.

Perhaps some fans will be surprised to see that in the book songs are attributed to Paul McCartney and John Lennon, violating the traditional “Lennon-McCartney” featured on all Beatles records.

Ultimately, these lyrics and memories will be a benchmark for all admirers of the singer-songwriter’s imposing musical body.

Published by Buchet-Chastel editions, Words and memories of 1956 to today, by Paul McCartney, is composed of two bound volumes of 470 pages each.

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The genius of Paul McCartney dissected in 900 pages