MARRONE CRAIG: Paul McCartney's magical treasure trove of a book

Gli scarafaggi? I know it allor so I thought until I read Paul McCartney’s magical treasure trove of a book

The Lyrics

Paul McCartney Allen Lane £75

Valutazione:

Apart, Forse, a partire dal Regina Elisabetta II, it is hard to think of anyone in the world who has been quite so famous for quite so long as Paul McCartney.

The Beatles achieved worldwide fame back in 1964. Da allora, Paul has been the subject of countless interviews, articles, books and films. His personal archive, started by his first wife Linda, now amounts to more than a million items.

For the past 50-odd years he has been asked over and over again about his comparatively brief time as a Beatle. Ever obliging, he has been willing to air the same old memories, the same old anecdotes and observations.

Da adesso, most of us are Beatles experts (George Harrison, John Lennon and Paul McCartney above with friend Dennis Littler)

Da adesso, most of us are Beatles experts (George Harrison, John Lennon and Paul McCartney above with friend Dennis Littler)

Da adesso, most of us are Beatles experts. We probably know more about Paul McCartney than we know about our cousins.

We know that Yesterday was originally called Scrambled Eggs, that he wrote Let It Be after his late mother appeared to him in a dream, that Martha My Dear was about his dog, that Hey Jude was written for John’s son Julian, and so on and so forth.

Even the most trivial detail from his childhood – for instance, that he was the only boy in his class who knew how to spell the word ‘phlegm’ – reappears in every new biography.

In some ways I know more about Paul McCartney than about myself.

Heaven knows what I was doing on any given day in the 1960s. At this distance in time I have no means of finding out. But if I want to know exactly what Paul was up to, I can look up the date in any number of books.

John Lennon (sopra, writing I Saw Her Standing There with Paul McCartney) è, inevitabilmente, a dominant figure in the book

John Lennon (sopra, writing I Saw Her Standing There with Paul McCartney) è, inevitabilmente, a dominant figure in the book

When I first heard that he was planning a lavish – and, it must be said, greedily over-priced – two-volume work on his lyrics, complete with autobiographical reminiscences, I was very sceptical.

How could there possibly be anything left to say?

But how wrong I was! Alongside the well-known stories, The Lyrics contains a wealth of new material, much of it very touching.

Come per magia, The Lyrics is both an old man’s book and a young man’s book. Ora invecchiato 79, Paul has clearly been drawn back to thinking about his childhood and youth, before the clamour of the world overtook him.

‘Happy those early days! when I/ Shined in my angel infancy…’ wrote the 17th Century poet Henry Vaughan. ‘O, how I long to travel back/ And tread again that ancient track!'

The Lyrics is both an old man’s book and a young man’s book. Paul McCartney (sopra, in his family home's garden) has clearly been drawn back to thinking about his childhood and youth

The Lyrics is both an old man’s book and a young man’s book. Paul McCartney (sopra, in his family home’s garden) has clearly been drawn back to thinking about his childhood and youth

It is arranged in what at first sight looks like a dull and dogged trawl through the lyrics of 154 of Paul’s songs, listed from A-Z.

One page is given over to each lyric, followed by four or five pages of thoughts and memories inspired by that lyric, interspersed with photographs and other bits and pieces – school essays, original manuscripts, concert bills.

Against the odds, it proves a fishing method that yields a bountiful catch. Looking again at his old lyrics, he finds himself transported back to the time when they were written.

The oldest is a simple little song called I Lost My Little Girl, which he wrote when he was only 14. Or is it so simple? ‘You wouldn’t have to be Sigmund Freud to recognise that the song is a very direct response to the death of my mother,’ says Paul.

‘She died in October 1956 at the terribly young age of 47. I wrote this song later that same year.’

Looking again at his old lyrics, Paul McCartney (sopra) finds himself transported back to the time when they were written. The oldest is a simple little song called I Lost My Little Girl

Looking again at his old lyrics, Paul McCartney (sopra) finds himself transported back to the time when they were written. The oldest is a simple little song called I Lost My Little Girl

Allora, he clearly thought he was composing a sweet little country/blues song about losing a girlfriend. ‘Well her clothes were not expensive/ Her hair didn’t always curl/ I don’t know why I loved her/ But I loved my little girl.’ But 64 anni dopo, it dawns on him that it sprang from somewhere deeper.

I suoi genitori, Mary and Jim, dominate this book in an unexpected way, popping up in his memory in response to lyrics old and new. ‘It’s been suggested to me that this is a “losing my mother” song, to which I’ve always said, “No, I don’t believe so,” ’ he says of Yesterday. 'Ma, sai, the more I think about it…’

Lady Madonna is the first song in Volume 2. ‘The fact that my mother Mary died when I was 14 is something I never got over,' lui dice. He remembers her whistling in the kitchen, and thinking: 'Oh, it’s beautiful that she’s happy.’

In previous books and interviews his father, who died much later, nel 1976, has remained a shadowy figure, but here he comes alive. UN 1990 McCartney song – unknown to me – called Put It There turns out to be all about Jim McCartney.

‘When he was shaking your hand he would say, “Put it there if it weighs a ton”… my dad had a million of these funny phrases… another one of these expressions was, “There’s no hairs on a seagull’s chest.”

Your guess is as good as mine as to what it really means, but it’s such a beautiful line that I’m pretty sure I’m going to feature it in a song one of these days.’

The book contains plenty of previously unpublished photographs of Jim, among them a colour portrait of him holding a flower, taken by Paul himself.

Paul goes on to remember his dad spanking him and his brother on the legs when they were naughty, and from there thinks about the gloomy atmosphere surrounding the last days of The Beatles.

And then he wonders if some lines in the song – ‘If there’s a fight, I’d like to fix it/ I hate to see things go so wrong’ – might have been directed towards John, who had died ten years before. He asks ‘whether it’s not, in its own way, a peace offering to a man who died way too early’. Thus does one memory float into another, and then another.

John is, inevitabilmente, a dominant figure in the book. More open than he has ever been, Paul keeps returning to the hurt he felt when John became vicious immediately after the break-up of The Beatles. ‘John turned nasty. I don’t really understand why.’

But he always held out for John’s approval, and in many ways still does. Twice he mentions that John liked his solo song Coming Up.

Fino ad oggi, he still dreams about him and talks to him. ‘I still have him whispering in my ear after all these years. I’m often second-guessing what John would have thought.’

Finora, he has barely spoken of his long and formative relationship with Jane Asher, but here he acknowledges that beautiful songs such as And I Love Her and For No One were written for her.

Years after they split up, he was passing the house in Wimpole Street where he lived for three years with Jane and her family.

‘I passed the house and thought, “Wow, great memories there.” Then I went further down the street to where my doctor was, and I was just pressing the bell when I sensed someone behind me. I turned around, and it was Jane. ho detto, "Dio mio, I was just thinking about you and the house.” That was the last time I saw her, but memories don’t fade.’

Though he is, by nature, buoyant, infatti, almost ruthlessly so – with Stalinist efficiency, his ghastly second wife, Heather, is excised from the record – he does acknowledge shortcomings in his own character.

Talking about We Can Work It Out, he reveals that it was written at a time when ‘things were not going so smoothly between Jane and me… Time has told me that millions of people go through these little squabbles all the time and will recognise just how common this is, but this particular song was not like that; it was “Try to see it my way.”’

Ripensandoci, he realises that he was being self-centred. ‘With a Beatles song, if it’s going to be heard by millions of people, you can spread a good message: “We can work it out”.

If you wanted to say it in one line, it would be, “Let’s not argue”. If you wanted to say it in two lines: “Let’s not argue/ Listen to me.” Obviously, that is quite selfish, but then so is the song.’

Ahimè, there isn’t the space to go on about quite what a treasure trove this book is.

Speaking of the Beatles song Your Mother Should Know, he reveals that it was prompted by his bossy Auntie Jin being sent by his family, at the height of The Beatles’ fame, to give him a telling-off about taking pot.

He talks about influences such as Dickens, The Beach Boys, Louis MacNeice, Ken Dodd, Shakespeare, Dylan Thomas and Vaughan Williams, and he touches on subjects as diverse as The Queen (‘We rather fancied her. She was a good-looking woman, like a Hollywood film star’) and being forced by his father to scoop up horse manure from the street.

The over-riding impression is of a remarkably talented man who recognises his own good fortune.

As Goethe once wrote: ‘He is the happiest man who can trace an unbroken connection between the end of his life and the beginning.’

I commenti sono chiusi.