Guide to British Music of the 1960s

December 2021

Book Review

Lyrics 1956 to the Present Day by Paul McCartney with Paul Muldoon

Paul McCartney could be described as the greatest songwriter of his generation, not just in quantity but crucially quality too. From the years with the Beatles through Wings and to the later solo career his output has not been matched. Paul McCartney has not written an autobiography but this could be the closest yet.

These two volumes cover 154 songs that McCartney has written or co-written between 1956 and the present day. It is a vast work although clearly there are many songs not included. The books are beautifully illustrated with pictures of the handwritten lyrics, record covers, live photographs and family photographs from early days up to the present. Although the book can be read from start to finish, it is a great coffee table work for dipping in and out of.

The analysis of the songs is not detailed and this makes the book very readable. McCartney describes the lyrics according to where the influences were, his life at the time and the musical direction. Clearly his relationship with John Lennon takes up a lot of the analysis describing how they would write songs together. The relationships with Jane Asher, Linda and Nancy are also covered where they impact on the songwriting. Linda was also a co-writer in many cases.

Most readers will probably focus more on the work with the Beatles. At this time songs were always credited as Lennon-McCartney where they ranged from pure collaborations to one person's work. Often they would sit down together, their guitars mirroring each other and work songs from a chord pattern. Other songs would be largely written by one or other with John or Paul finishing it off or providing the missing spark. The listener will instinctively know the sings that were pure McCartney, the likes of Yesterday, Can't Buy Me Love, Things We Said Today. Other major hits were driven by Lennon such as A Hard Day's Night, She Loves You, A Day in the Life. There are even some songs that were never recorded and date from the pre-Beatles or even pre-Quarrymen period. These give an interesting insight into the way McCartney was developing as a musician and songwriter.

After the Beatles Paul McCartney was trying to establish himself as "not a Beatle" and create his own identity. Some of the solo tracks and ones performed with Wings did show that he was much more than a Beatle. Many of Wings' songs have become classics such as Maybe I'm Amazed, Mull of Kintyre or Live & Let Die.

This is a joy to read and a fascinating insight into Paul McCartney's songwriting.

Published: 2 November 2021

Allen Lane


Privacy Policy


Making Time 1997-2021