“The Lyrics” According to Paul McCartney

Editor’s Note: Now released in paperback, our writer was able to luxuriate in the stories and details of the Beatles/McCartney catalog.


Despite officially breaking up over half a century ago, the public’s fascination with the Beatles remains undiminished. This enduring interest was reignited with the release of the Anthology series (1995-1996), which included videos of the three surviving Beatles performing together one last time and the release of “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love.” These two songs, utilizing audio scrubbing technologies to enhance John Lennon’s low-quality demo tracks, marked the almost-final releases by all four Beatles.

In 2016, Ron Howard directed The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years, a documentary focusing on their touring years. In 2021, Peter Jackson used modern AI and computer technologies to sift through 60 hours of unseen footage from Michael Lindsey-Hogg’s January 1969 film of the Let It Be sessions, producing a fresh take on those recordings. In 2023, a previously unusable John Lennon demo became the basis for another Beatles release titled “Now and Then,” with contributions from Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison, mostly done in the 90s. Additionally, Jackson’s team meticulously restored the original Let It Be film, which was recently released on the Disney+ streaming platform.

Accompanying these films and audio releases, numerous written works by those closest to the Beatles have provided varied insights. Notable examples include Tune In: The Beatles: All These Years by Mark Lewisohn and Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles by Geoff Emerick. Most recently, editor Paul Muldoon compiled the lyrics of every Beatles and Paul McCartney song, along with commentary from McCartney, in a book titled The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present.

Organized alphabetically, from “All My Loving” to “Your Mother Should Know,” this over 500-page book includes McCartney’s earliest song, “I Lost My Little Girl,” written in 1956 after his mother’s death. McCartney views this collection as akin to an autobiography, as each song reflects his life experiences at the time of its writing. Encouraged by his brother-in-law John Eastman and publisher Bob Weil, McCartney embarked on this project in 2015, completing it over five years.

The Lyrics features a 25-page introduction by Muldoon and McCartney, offering poignant commentary on McCartney’s upbringing in a working-class Liverpool neighborhood, surrounded by a loving family and friends. Each song is presented with its full lyrics, release date, recording location, writing credits, and often related photos or images of the original handwritten lyrics.

Some interesting excerpts from the book include:

  • “For No One”: A song about the end of a relationship, reflecting McCartney’s breakup with Jane Asher. He uses double meanings in the lyrics, such as “the day breaks,” indicating both the arrival of morning and the breaking of one’s day. He describes the songwriting process as fragments of sentences coming to mind that suggest a cadence or structure. And this leads to additional fragments.  Pretty soon you have the structure and meter for an entire song.

  • “Silly Love Songs”: A response to criticisms that McCartney’s songs were overly sentimental. McCartney defends the value of love and suggests that cynicism towards love may stem from a lack of personal experience with it.
  • “Warm and Beautiful”: One of McCartney’s favorite songs, written for Linda McCartney. “A love so warm and beautiful / Stands when time itself is falling.”   The brass ensemble harkens back to his dad’s brass band.  While his father wanted Paul to play a brass instrument, when Paul asked instead to learn guitar his father replied simply “Yes, okay.”
  • “Golden Earth Girl”: Written primarily as an ode to Linda, it’s also a nod to John and Yoko, who suggested Paul consider including words about nature in his songs. In this case, the words “Golden earth girl, female animal” are an obvious reference to his kinship with Linda McCartney and their connection with nature.

  • “Birthday”: somewhat of a throwaway song that was written to be played in a live environment. The lyric “Take a ch-ch-ch-chance” was influenced by the stammering used by Roger Daltrey and the Who in “My Generation,” released three years earlier.

The Lyrics is a treasure trove of remembrances, insights, and observations, making it an excellent book to explore at leisure. It’s a great book to keep at the bedside or near a reading chair and just crack open occasionally during a light rain or late at night.  It offers a rare glimpse into the inspirations behind songs by one of the most prolific and successful songwriters in history.

-Will Wills

Fair use image from The Lyrics: 1956 to Present


Will Wills — a native-born Italian, raised in the US — does a killer impersonation of Mario (“a-letsa-go!”). Generally, you’ll find him frenetically bouncing between software development at a large US firm, leading a local dance/pop band, playing COD and watching MST3K. Yes, he’s sleep deprived, but you can follow his resulting incoherence at @WillrWills or his band at @WillsAndTheWays or his blog, "A Day in a Monkey's Life," if you’re suffering from insomnia, too.

5 comments on ““The Lyrics” According to Paul McCartney

  1. Sue Morgan

    It is certainly a wonderful book and you are right that it is one to dip into at leisure. One correction though: it is not ” the lyrics of every Beatles and Paul McCartney song”. It is 154 songs that were written completely, mainly or partly by McCartney, over different stages in his career. If it were ALL the Beatles songs, or even ALL the McCartney songs, plus the commentary, you would need many, many more volumes!

  2. Oscar Papaluca

    IN SPANISH, SORRY! Desafortunadamente, The Lyrics no es el libro que Paul dice: 1) Contiene 3 mentiras y 2) No contiene todos los temas compuestos por Paul, en la era Beatle y en era Post Beatle (Wings-Solo)

    • Que pena que no pudo escribirlo en Inglés! Esa noticia es muy importante.

  3. In my later (Golden) years I’ve done a lot more songwriting. I’ve been a (amateur) songwriter since early childhood.

    I’d make up (mostly humorous)songs at the drop of a hat from kindergarten age. I never wrote them down of course so they’re all in the ether.

    If I didn’t commit them to memory and reuse them…..Adios!

    But after I married inn1980 I wrote my first one down.

    Then years later I began doing the same with many songs. Now that I’m retired I write most of them down by recording them on video using my handheld recorder, iPhone or MacBook.

    For some odd reason, I find that driving alone in my Pickup provides me with a lot of creative energy.

    I’m not saying there are any gems in my compilation but they are 100% mine.

    All this prolog is to explain why i can never buy a book on lyrics by any artist regardless of how much the songs are appreciated by me or anyone else.

    Just saying that a song you wrote was inspired by another song can lead to a world of litigious nightmares.

    Just saying… but if your just a fan and not a songwriter, then have at it!!

    The one exception to my self-imposed rule is a song I wrote as a response to a wonderful song written by the great Delbert McClinton entitled “When Rita Leaves” which is (at the same time) one of the saddest yet funniest song (In My Opinion) ever written.

    Using twist on his original lyrics a wrote a song presenting a nightmare scenario for the songs original protagonist and again (IMO) it works out humorously.

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