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The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present

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From his early Liverpool days, through the historic decade of The Beatles, to Wings and his long solo career, The Lyrics pairs the definitive texts of 154 Paul McCartney songs with first-person commentaries on his life and music. Spanning two alphabetically arranged volumes, these commentaries reveal how the songs came to be and the people who inspired them: his devoted pa From his early Liverpool days, through the historic decade of The Beatles, to Wings and his long solo career, The Lyrics pairs the definitive texts of 154 Paul McCartney songs with first-person commentaries on his life and music. Spanning two alphabetically arranged volumes, these commentaries reveal how the songs came to be and the people who inspired them: his devoted parents, Mary and Jim; his songwriting partner, John Lennon; his “Golden Earth Girl,” Linda Eastman; his wife, Nancy McCartney; and even Queen Elizabeth, among many others. Here are the origins of “Let It Be,” “Lovely Rita,” “Yesterday,” and “Mull of Kintyre,” as well as McCartney’s literary influences, including Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll, and Alan Durband, his high-school English teacher. With images from McCartney’s personal archives—handwritten texts, paintings, and photographs, hundreds previously unseen—The Lyrics, spanning sixty-four years, becomes the definitive literary and visual record of one of the greatest songwriters of all time.


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From his early Liverpool days, through the historic decade of The Beatles, to Wings and his long solo career, The Lyrics pairs the definitive texts of 154 Paul McCartney songs with first-person commentaries on his life and music. Spanning two alphabetically arranged volumes, these commentaries reveal how the songs came to be and the people who inspired them: his devoted pa From his early Liverpool days, through the historic decade of The Beatles, to Wings and his long solo career, The Lyrics pairs the definitive texts of 154 Paul McCartney songs with first-person commentaries on his life and music. Spanning two alphabetically arranged volumes, these commentaries reveal how the songs came to be and the people who inspired them: his devoted parents, Mary and Jim; his songwriting partner, John Lennon; his “Golden Earth Girl,” Linda Eastman; his wife, Nancy McCartney; and even Queen Elizabeth, among many others. Here are the origins of “Let It Be,” “Lovely Rita,” “Yesterday,” and “Mull of Kintyre,” as well as McCartney’s literary influences, including Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll, and Alan Durband, his high-school English teacher. With images from McCartney’s personal archives—handwritten texts, paintings, and photographs, hundreds previously unseen—The Lyrics, spanning sixty-four years, becomes the definitive literary and visual record of one of the greatest songwriters of all time.

30 review for The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sannie

    At 863 pages, The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present seemed a bit daunting, almost like reading Mark Lewisohn's special edition, two volume book Tune In. But reading it is like sitting down and having a conversation with Paul McCartney himself; it flows easily and is a lot of fun. Moreover, there's a lot of other stuff to look at and not read, meaning photos and archival material like handwritten lyrics or drawings. I was originally skeptical of how the lyrics are organized, which is alphabetically. I s At 863 pages, The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present seemed a bit daunting, almost like reading Mark Lewisohn's special edition, two volume book Tune In. But reading it is like sitting down and having a conversation with Paul McCartney himself; it flows easily and is a lot of fun. Moreover, there's a lot of other stuff to look at and not read, meaning photos and archival material like handwritten lyrics or drawings. I was originally skeptical of how the lyrics are organized, which is alphabetically. I saw a livestream Q&A with Paul McCartney and editor Paul Muldoon, where the latter explained by doing it alphabetically, it was more of a kaleidoscope of McCartney's life. But because the book is essentially conversations that the two had together, the organization alphabetically actually works. It feels like someone has asked Paul McCartney, "Tell us about your song 'Coming Up," which may lead to thoughts about some other song or event, and everything feels very organic. By organizing the 154 songs alphabetically, readers can see some common threads between all of the songs that may have been less apparent had they been organized chronologically: 1. Paul's friendship and partnership with John Lennon is irreplaceable. His relationship to his childhood friend was a constant force in his life that drove creativity, from writing songs together early on to after The Beatles' breakup and having a sort of competition. Even now almost 40 years after John's death, Paul thinks about what John would possibly think, or what his feedback on songs would be. 2. Paul's parents influenced him greatly in many ways, even his mother who died from cancer when he was 14. Paul's upbringing is evident throughout his songwriting and his outlook in life and is really a part of who he is. 3. His grammar school teacher Alan Durban played a mentor role for which Paul is forever grateful, exposing him to the vast world of English literature and what can be done with the English language. Paul's love of wordplay, puns, and wit can be traced back to both his father and his teacher. 4. Paul has so many musical influences, and part of the reason for his success is that he's always curious. He notices things and is willing to try new things out. Even so, early rock and roll shaped who he (and The Beatles) is and it permeates everything he does. 5. Linda McCartney really helped him post-Beatles. This may be obvious, but she helped him find who he was after the band broke up, she helped with Wings, and with so many other songs. Their partnership really is only second to his with John Lennon. Since the Beatles and Paul's career are so pervasive in our culture, you could also ask yourself, "What can Paul McCartney add to the discourse?" The Lyrics is 100% Paul's point of view, and there isn't actually anything totally new and mind-blowing. It's more about having the information filtered from him and understanding what he was experiencing and how he felt and thought when he wrote the songs we all love. He is a very funny and thoughtful person who also realizes that his career is really like trying to catch lightning in a bottle. The fact that he says he suffers from impostor syndrome at times is both comforting for us plebs and proof of his humility. One thing I've always asked myself is if Paul ever gets annoyed that everyone always asks him about his time in The Beatles and basically ignores his work since then. He actually addresses this question at one point, saying, Everything I do seems to be painted with 'Beatle', and there is always some sort of echo that comes from that echo chamber...Some might regard this as a burden, and some celebrities, like Greta Garbo, have become hermits, but I'm very happy about it all because I think it was a great thing we achieved and I'm very proud of it... I cannot help but realise that so much of what I do is still entangled with the fact that I was in The Beatles. In fact, I say to people that I still am in The Beatles. Well, maybe not in The Beatles, but I'm still a 'Beatle'. The philosophy we had was, and remains, very attractive; it's a whole-world picture - an insistence on the freedom of creative thought that we discovered and that I still love...And a lot of the Beatles stuff still is amazingly timely, so I'm happy to bathe in it. (p.618) I found this striking and think this encompasses who Paul is. He's forever the optimist, and he's the one who was concerned with giving The Beatles a proper send-off with "Golden Slumbers"/"Carry That Weight"/"The End" at the end of Abbey Road. He was and is keenly aware of the legacy that this little band from Liverpool has had, and it seems to me that he sees himself as the protector of that legacy. It is more a blessing than a burden, and frankly, Paul is a global treasure. As much as The Beatles are naturally an integral part of the book, I enjoyed the fact that The Lyrics spanned Paul's entire catalog; after all, 154 songs is really only a fraction of what he's actually written. Even songs off his latest album, McCartney III make an appearance. I was especially happy to read about songs off Flaming Pie, as for whatever reason, that's a personal favorite of mine. I also couldn't help but actually listen to the accompanying playlist on Spotify with all the songs in the same order while reading. This made for a very immersive experience reading Paul's discussions about the songs like in conversation, while simultaneously poring over photos and archival material like lyrics on sheets of paper. I highly recommend doing this while reading the book. It also should be said this is definitely for hardcore Beatles/Paul McCartney fans. I'm not sure people who are casually interested in him or the band would find it interesting.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Roy Lotz

    Every Beatles fan has a favorite, and mine has always been Paul. (But let’s not get into an argument about it.) So I was delighted to receive this big, beautiful book—two books, really—as a Christmas present. Though massive, it is not a long read. Half of the pages are given over to photographs: of Paul (at various ages), of the other Beatles, of Linda (and a few of Nancy), and, most interestingly, of the original handwritten “manuscripts” (if you want to call them that) of the lyrics. The lyrics Every Beatles fan has a favorite, and mine has always been Paul. (But let’s not get into an argument about it.) So I was delighted to receive this big, beautiful book—two books, really—as a Christmas present. Though massive, it is not a long read. Half of the pages are given over to photographs: of Paul (at various ages), of the other Beatles, of Linda (and a few of Nancy), and, most interestingly, of the original handwritten “manuscripts” (if you want to call them that) of the lyrics. The lyrics are here, too, of course. But the real meat of the books are the “essays” (if you want to call them that) which accompany the lyrics. These are taken from a series of conversations that Sir Paul had with the Irish poet, Paul Mauldoon, which have been edited into coherent monologues. These conversations are ostensibly about the lyrics—what they mean, why he wrote them that way, etc.—but they often stray off into other territory, usually memories and thoughts that McCartney somehow connects to the songs. The result is a surprisingly compelling book—a kind of kaleidoscopic memoir—that feels both intimate and refreshing, even for a man whose music and life have so exhaustively been picked over already. I really felt (impressionable fan that I am) that I was getting to know the guy. Perhaps a little too much, even. For I found that an unanticipated drawback of reading this book, and listening to song after song, was getting a bit fed up with Mr. McCartney—or, at least, with his music. Even if you are a Paul fan, it is difficult to listen to his songs without noticing a fairly steep drop off in quality after he left the Beatles. The contrast highlights something that every Beatles fan knows: the interaction between the four of them—most especially, between John and Paul—are what made the group so special. Paul himself admits this. John Lennon is a constant presence in this book; their partnership (and friendship) was clearly the defining event in his life. The breakup of the Beatles hit Paul like a divorce (complete with legal squabbles and petty insults); and much as the divorced dad must learn to cook, Paul had to learn to write songs without the input of his great friend and partner. A trivial example is enough to illustrate the value in their collaboration. Paul released his song “Teddy Boy” on his first solo album. The version on that album is nice enough; it is a catchy tune. Yet, if you ask me, the practice version recorded by the Beatles during the “Let it Be” sessions is significantly better—partly because of the musicianship of Ringo and George, and partly because John improvises a silly vocal part (mostly nonsense) that helps to add a much-needed counterpoint to Paul’s lyrics. By itself, Paul’s song is a fairly inane tale of a boy and his mother, not dramatic enough to be moving; yet re-contextualized by John’s ironic commentary, Paul’s lyrics take on a comic aspect that helps to salvage the song. This, to me, is the really unsatisfactory aspect of many of the songs in this book: they are not silly enough to raise a laugh, nor serious enough to evoke a tear—instead occupying themselves with trivialities. Part of this has to do with McCartney’s philosophy of songwriting: unlike John, Paul consistently tried to keep his own life out of his songs, instead preferring to write of imaginary situations and generalized sentiments. And unlike George or John, he had no aspirations to anything more profound than a good love song. Paul himself responded to these criticisms with his “Silly Love Songs”; and maybe there is, indeed, nothing wrong with silly love songs. Even so, listening to too much of his (post-Beatles) music gives one the same sweet-sick feeling as eating too much candy. I am coming down rather hard on Paul. But, really, this book has deepened my admiration and respect for him. One remarkable thing about the man is his ability to at least seem normal (no mean feat for someone who has been famous most of his life). He talks a good deal about his humble Liverpool upbringing, and this does seem to have given him a bedrock of common humanity. He also strikes me as having an enviably healthy attitude towards life: curious, optimistic, willing to try new things. (Obviously being an immensely successful musical genius must do wonders for one’s confidence.) As an example of this, when asked to write something for the 150th anniversary of the Liverpool Philharmonic, he immediately agreed—before even considering whether he had any idea how to do such a thing. (The result, unfortunately, was rather uninspiring.) Of course, the most compelling thing about McCartney is that, at his best, he is one of the best. Admittedly, his greatest songs usually owe their excellence to their melodic rather than to their lyrical qualities. With a few notable exceptions (“Eleonor Rigby” and “For No One,” for example) the words mostly seem like an afterthought—making a project like this seem especially puzzling (and Mauldoon’s invocations of Shakespeare and Dickens, in the introduction, especially silly). Yet arguably the surest test of lyrics are whether they sing well, and Paul’s always do. In any case, Paul is certainly one of the great pop songwriters of the last century, and still iconic at the age of 79. That, I would say, is a life well lived.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ulysse

    If the Beatles are still more famous than Jesus then Sir Paul McCartney is certainly god. Paul Muldoon, the Irish poet, spent 50 hours interviewing the living legend about 153 of the songs he penned and thus was this book born. And a very big book it is. You’ve got the lyrics on the left hand side and on the right Sir Paul reminiscing on the good (and not so good) old days in a tone of voice I could find no better word to describe than avuncular. Reading his lyrics one realises that they are sim If the Beatles are still more famous than Jesus then Sir Paul McCartney is certainly god. Paul Muldoon, the Irish poet, spent 50 hours interviewing the living legend about 153 of the songs he penned and thus was this book born. And a very big book it is. You’ve got the lyrics on the left hand side and on the right Sir Paul reminiscing on the good (and not so good) old days in a tone of voice I could find no better word to describe than avuncular. Reading his lyrics one realises that they are simply wonderful. Nothing flashy or deep, just simple and true and impossible not to sing. And McCartney’s humorous optimism is a real balm for the soul in these uncertain times. Add to this hundreds of pictures of the world’s greatest troubadour and all the people who have counted in his life, as well as scraps of handwritten lyrics and school exercise books and ticket stubs and post cards and secrets and things that belong in a museum, and you’ve got yourself a treasure of a book to dive into again and again. Oh and do you know which authors influenced him the most? Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear. Magical mystery tour indeed.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Deacon Tom F

    Superb! Wonderful in everyway for a Beatles junkie like me. Ok loved every bit. My highest recommendation.

  5. 4 out of 5

    ella

    i love paul mccartney with my whole entire heart and i can't wait to get to know the deal behind maxwell's silver hammer i love paul mccartney with my whole entire heart and i can't wait to get to know the deal behind maxwell's silver hammer

  6. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    It was interesting to read the history behind the Beatles' songs. I always forget how many songs they wrote and funnily enough, remember the lyrics to practically every one. I would start to sing each song in my head the second I saw the title. It made me happy and sad at the same time. Happy to have childhood memories revived and sad that John and George are gone. It was interesting to read the history behind the Beatles' songs. I always forget how many songs they wrote and funnily enough, remember the lyrics to practically every one. I would start to sing each song in my head the second I saw the title. It made me happy and sad at the same time. Happy to have childhood memories revived and sad that John and George are gone.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Arjun SV

    This book breaks all the conventions of how an autobiography should be written. Such a beautiful read . One of the greatest things about it is I can imagine people becoming fans of his music after reading this. One of the greatest things about this book was how well his creative relationship with the late great John Lennon and Linda McCartney was depicted. Such a beautiful read

  8. 5 out of 5

    George

    An interesting collection of comments around 154 songs that Paul McCartney wrote or wrote in collaboration with John Lennon over the period 1956 to the present. For Paul McCartney fans this book is a must have! Paul McCartney writes a song in about 3 hours. He only ever once started writing a song with the lyrics already written. The song is, ‘All My Loving’. He finds a place to be by himself and has either a guitar or piano handy, and he begins working out particular chords. The lyrics happen ar An interesting collection of comments around 154 songs that Paul McCartney wrote or wrote in collaboration with John Lennon over the period 1956 to the present. For Paul McCartney fans this book is a must have! Paul McCartney writes a song in about 3 hours. He only ever once started writing a song with the lyrics already written. The song is, ‘All My Loving’. He finds a place to be by himself and has either a guitar or piano handy, and he begins working out particular chords. The lyrics happen around the same time. Throughout this 863 page book he openly admits some of the lyrics don’t make sense. He is much more interested in the sound of the song, and the words need to sound right within the verses. He refers to other artists to support his avant- grade approach to songwriting. For example, he mentions Lewis Carroll more than once. He admits repeatedly that he has no idea about certain phrases he uses. At other times he provides commentary on where he thinks he got the idea from. I found it worthwhile to listen to the song on YouTube whilst reading the lyrics to a song. All his songs are on YouTube. He has written some superb love songs, ‘for example, ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’, ‘Here, there and everywhere’, ‘Warm and Beautiful’, and ‘Somedays’, and some of his other songs are also lyrically very well done, for example, ‘Eleanor Rigby’, ‘Penny Lane’ and ‘Let it Be’. Whilst he has included songs published in the last 40 years, it is the songs written between 1956 and 1980, and his comments about his life during this time period that I found particularly interesting. He is a bird watcher, lost his drivers licence for a year for speeding too often, painted a large shed roof, sheared sheep, bought his first guitar on a loan scheme, lived in his girlfriend’s family home in the attic room where there was a piano, met Bertrand Russell by phoning the famous philosopher and arranging to meet Russell. Paul McCartney is a doer who likes time to himself. He states his father and mother had a big impact on his life, as did Linda McCartney and John Lennon. A book to go back to again and again. Loved it! So why only 4 stars? Some of the lyrics are just so annoyingly nonsensical, there is a little repetition of particular sentences, lots of repetition of particular themes, and whilst lots of the photos are great, there are a number of photos with only a few words written on a page that add little to the overall story. I have been a Paul McCartney and Beatles fan since 1968. This book was first published in 2021.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Carr

    WOW what a book and what an experience! These two GIGANTIC tomes are lyrics from original McCartney songs (mainly written with John Lennon) along with photos and memories from the song -- whether it is musical memories, the circumstances of the song, what inspired it, etc. Through his songs we learn so much about Paul! I decided to listen to each song (only two were unavailable on YouTube Music) as I read the book and it was a FANTASTIC addition to the reading experience. I discovered many new s WOW what a book and what an experience! These two GIGANTIC tomes are lyrics from original McCartney songs (mainly written with John Lennon) along with photos and memories from the song -- whether it is musical memories, the circumstances of the song, what inspired it, etc. Through his songs we learn so much about Paul! I decided to listen to each song (only two were unavailable on YouTube Music) as I read the book and it was a FANTASTIC addition to the reading experience. I discovered many new songs, mainly from his solo + Wings days and I'm grateful for this insight into a man in a way that's not the "I was born, etc., etc." autobiography.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rick Pucci

    Love it. Although, I had a lot of interpretations of his songs that differed from his. e.g. I always thought Elenore Rigby "kept her face in a jar by the door ( got this from a cartoon I saw where she literally had a face in a jar by the door). Paul said he was referring to all the women who spread Noxima Face creams on their faces and he meant she kept a jar by the door. lol. So it's pretty cool learning what this lyrical Master was actually writing about and more importantly where the creativity Love it. Although, I had a lot of interpretations of his songs that differed from his. e.g. I always thought Elenore Rigby "kept her face in a jar by the door ( got this from a cartoon I saw where she literally had a face in a jar by the door). Paul said he was referring to all the women who spread Noxima Face creams on their faces and he meant she kept a jar by the door. lol. So it's pretty cool learning what this lyrical Master was actually writing about and more importantly where the creativity came from at that particular moment in time. Five stars all the way - and I saw it's made the NY Times Best Seller List already!!!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jo

    If you have a Beatles fan in your family, this would be a great gift. Photographs complement Paul’s thoughtful reflections about the songs he wrote. This is as close to a memoir we will get from him.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Joe Schilp

    It's tough to be critical of Paul, as I am a HUGE fan. His talent is unmatched and his music is phenomenal, but often times he contradicts what we know as fact about his music. Take, for example, when he states multiple times that he always writes on piano or guitar and never - NEVER - on anything else. Well, last month we watched Paul literally write "Get Back" while noodling around on bass, waiting for John Lennon to show up at a session. Similarly, he says that he wrote the lyrics to "Got To It's tough to be critical of Paul, as I am a HUGE fan. His talent is unmatched and his music is phenomenal, but often times he contradicts what we know as fact about his music. Take, for example, when he states multiple times that he always writes on piano or guitar and never - NEVER - on anything else. Well, last month we watched Paul literally write "Get Back" while noodling around on bass, waiting for John Lennon to show up at a session. Similarly, he says that he wrote the lyrics to "Got To Get You Into My Life" about pot, then recorded the music, easy peasy, but if you watch Anthology and listen to the early takes on Anthology, you know that the original song was very, VERY different than the final release, so the song went thought many changes. I was also looking for more out of this book. He obviously talks about John, George and Ringo a lot, as expected, but when he also has lyrics from dozens of Wings songs and the only time Denny Laine's name appears in print is in the caption of a photo, well, there's a problem. Denny was in a McCartney band longer than Ringo was, doesn't Paul have anything to say about his contributions to Wings? I'd like to know what Denny added to the music and to the songs. Paul does mention a beautiful solo by Jimmy McCulloch, but mentions nothing else about him. No disrespect to George Harrison or anyone else, but I believe Jimmy McCulloch was probably the most talented guitar player in any McCartney band. Sadly, he overdosed at the age of 27 in the late 70s. How did Paul feel about McCulloch's playing? About his passing? We may never know, which is sad, to me. Did members leave Wings on a real sour note? Why no real stories about those guys? Finally, his politics bore me. I mean, the anti-Trump nonsense? This last year under Biden has been a real disaster, worse than any leader in any nation in the free world has ever been. And while Paul endorses the left, he admits that he has enough money to help family with medical problems so they can get immediate access to the best doctors without having to wait 6 months, which is the problem with socialist medicine. See Paul's a true capitalist - buying song rights and healthcare - while espousing socialism for the rest of us, which is the problem I have with politics in general, so better to say nothing at all. There were some great photos and anecdotes, no doubt. And sure, I would have loved to hear more about songs from Flaming Pie and New, not to mention the song "Take It Away," about which I'd love to know why he has Ringo and Steve Gadd both on drums, but I get it, he couldn't talk about EVERY song he's ever done, so I can't knock his choices too much. But for 870 pages (that I read in 24 hours), I'd have liked to have learned more about the guys he has played with who weren't named John, George and Ringo, who've been written about ad nauseum. One other note... Paul says he has catalogued over one million pieces in his archives. He's 79. he's not going to live forever. Has he ever thought of opening up a museum? That alone would get me to fly across the Atlantic to visit London. Same with Yoko and Olivia Harrison; neither of whom have grandchildren to whom they can pass their husband's memorabilia, eventually it's going to go into private ownership. Start a Beatles museum along the likes of a presidential museum, with a massive amount of artifacts on display and an even larger collection of documents that can be accessed for research.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bart

    An excellent pair of books, with rich insights into his music and lots of great anecdotes and thoughts along the way. It's not a comprehensive overview of his lyrics -- not every song gets covered (for example, only two or three songs from his album "Chaos and Creation in the Backyard" get discussed here). But it works as an autobiography of sorts, and we learn a lot about McCartney's upbringing, his relationship to the Beatles, his solo career, his loves, his philosophy, and so on, through his An excellent pair of books, with rich insights into his music and lots of great anecdotes and thoughts along the way. It's not a comprehensive overview of his lyrics -- not every song gets covered (for example, only two or three songs from his album "Chaos and Creation in the Backyard" get discussed here). But it works as an autobiography of sorts, and we learn a lot about McCartney's upbringing, his relationship to the Beatles, his solo career, his loves, his philosophy, and so on, through his memories of the songs they cover. Sometimes it works very well, and we learn intimate details about him. Sometimes he gets deep into music theory (e.g. he talks quite a bit about the chord used in "Michelle"). Sometimes he goes on a tangent and frustratingly doesn't talk much about the song -- when discussing "A Day in the Life," which just might be the best Beatles song, he spoke very vaguely about the time period and not at all about the song itself. But then you get several pages of him talking about "Yesterday" or "Eleanor Rigby," or charming anecdotes about how he wrote "My Valentine" as he was falling in love with his current wife, Nancy Shevell, while rained out in Morocco. The book is beautifully laid out, too, generous use of photography and other design elements. Worth having if you're a Beatles and/or McCartney fan.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Carrie

    Aah!!!! I’m totally fan-girling here. I just started reading this but I have to give five stars because what an honor! To see the sheets of scrap paper with lyrics printed on them (complete with cross-outs), to hear the stories, Wow! I wish this weren’t a library book so I didn’t have to give it back… what a treat!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dan Trefethen

    This is volume 2 of the two-volume set of lyrics by Paul McCartney, covering the song titles L-Z (well, there are no Zs). Each song has the lyrics, Paul's first-person description of how the song came to be created, and accompanying photographs and illustrations. Often there is a handwritten set of lyrics presented, in Paul's hand. The first thing that should be said is that these are Paul's song, not just the Beatles songs. There are many Beatles songs that Paul didn't write which aren't here, a This is volume 2 of the two-volume set of lyrics by Paul McCartney, covering the song titles L-Z (well, there are no Zs). Each song has the lyrics, Paul's first-person description of how the song came to be created, and accompanying photographs and illustrations. Often there is a handwritten set of lyrics presented, in Paul's hand. The first thing that should be said is that these are Paul's song, not just the Beatles songs. There are many Beatles songs that Paul didn't write which aren't here, although the ones co-written by him and John are. Conversely, most of the songs in this volume are not Beatles songs, but written after the band broke up. Paul has had a long creative life, and readers' enjoyment of this book will probably depend largely on how familiar they are with his later work. Paul says that often he created a song by getting the chords first, rather than the lyrics. A reader's familiarity with the tune will make Paul's comments make more sense. Often the lyrics read quite plainly if the tune is unknown. Having said that, it's still interesting to see the inner workings of Paul's creative process. It's somewhat true that Paul was the light one, while John was the dark one, and Paul comments a few times of the differences in their childhoods that contributed to that. The volume also is a short biographical walk through his life, mainly his relationships with his family and with the other Beatles. But mostly family. Beatles fans will find his musings about their relationship and break-up interesting. True McCartney fans will appreciate the in-depth self-analysis of his songwriting methods.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Kallenberger Marzola

    I finished the first book in the set and loved it. Paul mentions in the forward that people have asked him for years to write his autobiography. He never had time, and didn't want to make time because he felt that they were only interested in the gossip. His brother-in-law, John Eastman, suggested that he tell his story through his lyrics. What a great idea this was. I pulled out my albums and sat down with the first book in this set. I played the song, and read what was going on in Paul's life I finished the first book in the set and loved it. Paul mentions in the forward that people have asked him for years to write his autobiography. He never had time, and didn't want to make time because he felt that they were only interested in the gossip. His brother-in-law, John Eastman, suggested that he tell his story through his lyrics. What a great idea this was. I pulled out my albums and sat down with the first book in this set. I played the song, and read what was going on in Paul's life that inspired his lyrics. His parents love and influence is obvious in many songs. Surprisingly, his love for words was influenced by Shakespeare, Geoffrey Chaucer, and other poets that he was required to memorize in school. I was surprised when Paul talked about John after his Uncle George died. John said he didn't think that he was supposed to have a male influence in his life. There are so many other stories from his school days, The Beatles years, and solo careers in this first book. Any Paul McCartney or Beatle fan should read this one. Not only is it filled with information I didn't know (I was a major Beatlemaniac back in the day) every song brought back so many good memories for me. I loved it.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Amy Lafayette

    This book, these stories. When they were over, it was like saying goodbye to a friend. I absolutely loved The Lyrics. Here are some themes I picked up on (basically all spoilers): 1. **Nature** So many of Paul’s stories centered around nature and being outside. From his farm in Scotland, to taking walks as a kid by himself, the outside world seems to both calm him and inspire him. Nature shines through in several of his songs, including Calico Skies, Jenny Wren, Mother Nature’s Son, Mull of Kintyr This book, these stories. When they were over, it was like saying goodbye to a friend. I absolutely loved The Lyrics. Here are some themes I picked up on (basically all spoilers): 1. **Nature** So many of Paul’s stories centered around nature and being outside. From his farm in Scotland, to taking walks as a kid by himself, the outside world seems to both calm him and inspire him. Nature shines through in several of his songs, including Calico Skies, Jenny Wren, Mother Nature’s Son, Mull of Kintyre, and Waterfalls. 2. **Loss** Paul has experienced a great deal of loss in his life, which in turn inspired many songs. He lost his mom at fourteen (Lady Madonna, Let it Be, Only Mama Knows). He lost John Lennon, twice—first when the band broke up and they were feuding with each other through dis-tracks (Dear Friend, Too Many People) and a second time when he was murdered (Here Today). And he lost his wife Linda after 30 years together. Paul dedicates My Love to Linda at concerts and rearranged Warm and Beautiful for her funeral. 3. **Optimism** Despite experiencing so much loss, Paul is a self-proclaimed optimist. He feels he has a duty to stay positive and let others know things will get better. You see this in Great Day, Hey Jude, I’ll Follow The Sun, and Coming Up. 4. **Ordinary people** Paul is able to draw inspiration from seemingly mundane people and create entire worlds for them. His upbringing is a big influence here, as he greatly respected his working class parents and schoolteacher. His curiosity about average people inspired Another Day, Drive My Car, Eleanor Rigby, Lovely Rita, and one my favorites, She’s Leaving Home. 5.**Acting** Paul McCartney might be one of the most underrated actors of our time. He mentions having to get himself into character to record a number of songs. In Rocky Racoon, he sounds like a country western outlaw; in Michelle, he is rocking a French accent; and in Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey, he takes on a posh English accent to convey snobbery. 6.**Inspiration from anything and everything** The Beatles were inspired early on by the Everly Brothers, Chuck Berry, and Buddy Holly. But as time went on, especially in his solo career, Paul could turn even boring things into extraordinary songs. Penny Lane was inspired by taking the train to visit John and stopping at the Penny Lane bus stop; In Spite of All the Danger is about Donald Trump; Jet is about his pony; and Martha My Dear about his dog. 7.**Inability to read/write music as a good thing** Paul mentions a number of times that he isn’t able to read or write music in the formal sense. He took a few piano lessons and dropped out because he found them rote. But this lack of these skills actually serve him in a positive way; because he didn’t know the technical way to do things, he wasn’t ever limited by what something was “supposed to” sound like. He wrote songs that were sagas and joined together in very interesting ways, like Band on the Run and Live and Let Die, and basically the entire second half of Abbey Road. 8.**Musical genius** His genius really cannot be understated. I think about a song like Yesterday. He dreamt the melody and rolled out of bed to play it on a piano. At first, he thought it was someone else’s song, so he kept playing it to his bandmates to ask them, “What is this?” Everyone agreed it was an original song he dreamed up. Having recently watched Get Back, I was astonished at just how quickly he could invent a melody and a song from just messing around on a piano. He also wrote an entire oratorio with the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. 9.**Lack of George**. I was surprised at how little George was mentioned in this book. When he was, it was a footnote of the story, or he was mentioned as part of the larger Beatles. Since Paul wrote most songs with John Lennon, this shouldn’t come as a shock, but somehow it did. Even Ringo got more airtime than poor old George. 10.**No Z** It really bothered me that there wasn’t a Z song entry in this book! I Googled it and he wrote one Z song called Zoo Gang…but it’s an instrumental! Overall I absolutely loved this book and loved learning more about his extensive catalogue of songs. And I've got a bunch of fun "did you know" party tricks up my sleeve now.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mary Lou

    *The Good: a (very) few new stories and some new personal pictures, but not a lot of new content for old fans. One tidbit that was new to me is that McCartney has a form of synaesthesia, which I find fascinating. Sadly, it was a mere mention. There were actually a handful of songs, mostly relatively recent, that I didn't know, so I looked then up. A couple of them I really enjoyed. *The Bad: There's a LOT of redundancy here, which you might not notice if you randomly choose a song to read about *The Good: a (very) few new stories and some new personal pictures, but not a lot of new content for old fans. One tidbit that was new to me is that McCartney has a form of synaesthesia, which I find fascinating. Sadly, it was a mere mention. There were actually a handful of songs, mostly relatively recent, that I didn't know, so I looked then up. A couple of them I really enjoyed. *The Bad: There's a LOT of redundancy here, which you might not notice if you randomly choose a song to read about from time to time, but which is glaringly obvious when the book is read straight through. McCartney is a contradiction. For example, he writes about not being interested in running in social circles with the likes of the Vanderbilt's, that he's from working class stock, and that his favorite thing was living off the land in Scotland. In the next breath he talks about hanging in Jamaica with Dustin Hoffman, talking poetry with Ginsberg and art with Magritte and Warhol. I guess you can have it both ways, but it's a bit hard to reconcile. He also talks in one moment about lyrics fitting the rhythm of the music and how it's not necessary that they make any sense. Then he'll switch gears and talk about the double, and sometimes triple, meanings people can take from certain words and lines. Perhaps the importance of their meaning all depends on if there actually is one. The Ugly: They say men think about sex every 7 seconds, or something like that. McCartney has me believing this is accurate. It never occurred to me that so very many of his lyrics were naughty schoolboy allusions to sex or body parts. For Heaven's sake. And when he wasn't giving a wink, wink, nudge, nudge about "eroticism" (as he loftily liked to call it), he was using his double entendres to send ridiculous signals about smoking dope to other potheads. Yes, I knew all about the "finger pies" and what it was he had to get into his life, but I didn't realize just how pervasive the references were in seemingly innocuous lyrics, and I'm not happier knowing. Note to Paul: if you're REALLY cool, you don't have to talk about it so much. As Paul approaches his 80th birthday, he seems determined to set the record straight, and be the author of his own legacy. It's natural, but it also smacks of a little bit of desperation. He needn't worry. His songs will live on for decades, if not centuries to come. Side note - Paul skillfully uses the power to ignore. I thought there might be a blurb about 'Waiting for Your Friends to Go' or some other songs from the Heather Mills era. In fact, the second Mrs. McCartney isn't mentioned even once. Sadly, neither is their daughter, Beatrice, which is too bad. Surely he's written her a lullaby or something.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    I was fortunate to find this gorgeous 2-book set from my local library. Paul McCartney has had an incredible life with and without The Beatles. It’s obvious there were three very important people in the early to middle years of Paul McCartney’s life: his mother, his friend and co-writer John Lennon, and his wife Linda McCartney. In all, there are about 150 songs, with lyrics and explanations, in this autobiography. The book does not include the early years of McCartney’s life, but there are so m I was fortunate to find this gorgeous 2-book set from my local library. Paul McCartney has had an incredible life with and without The Beatles. It’s obvious there were three very important people in the early to middle years of Paul McCartney’s life: his mother, his friend and co-writer John Lennon, and his wife Linda McCartney. In all, there are about 150 songs, with lyrics and explanations, in this autobiography. The book does not include the early years of McCartney’s life, but there are so many details revealed about his productive years as a musician. For example, he revealed that Mother Mary in “Let It Be” was actually his own mother named Mary. I always thought of Mother Mary in a biblical sense, not as his real mother. Also, I never knew that he was an avid reader of British literature. For me, it wasn’t enough to read the book and gaze at the excellent photos and documents. I needed to purchase many of the songs from I-tunes to hear the music again. Then, the real trip down memory lane arrived. This book is an absolute treasure!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Loki

    He really does want to fill the world with silly love songs... but what's wrong with that? This two volume set features the complete lyrics written by McCartney, including all collaborations, along with several thousand photos from throughout his life and his recollections of the inspiration and creation of each song. McCartney is enjoyably earnest, and not afraid to be honest about the Beatles' drug use or lust, and at the same time, you get the impression of a man who doesn't take himself very He really does want to fill the world with silly love songs... but what's wrong with that? This two volume set features the complete lyrics written by McCartney, including all collaborations, along with several thousand photos from throughout his life and his recollections of the inspiration and creation of each song. McCartney is enjoyably earnest, and not afraid to be honest about the Beatles' drug use or lust, and at the same time, you get the impression of a man who doesn't take himself very seriously and feels more than a little bemused by how many people in the world do.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Alex O'Brien

    Being a big Macca fan, and having read the excellent reviews, I knew The Lyrics was going to be very good, but it ended up exceeding even these high expectations. Paul's stories about the songs included go beyond what I've heard and read before in both depth and scope. The book is lovingly and beautifully put together and includes over a hundred previously unpublished photos. There is also a treasure trove of info about Paul's songwriting process making the work essential reading for up and comi Being a big Macca fan, and having read the excellent reviews, I knew The Lyrics was going to be very good, but it ended up exceeding even these high expectations. Paul's stories about the songs included go beyond what I've heard and read before in both depth and scope. The book is lovingly and beautifully put together and includes over a hundred previously unpublished photos. There is also a treasure trove of info about Paul's songwriting process making the work essential reading for up and coming songwriters. Paul's had an absolutely wonderful year with Peter Jackson's Get Back doc, his albums McCartney III and McCartney III Reimagined, and The Lyrics.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Louise Culmer

    Lovely collection of the lyrics of all Paul McCartney’s songs, from his Beatles days up to the present, with descriptions of how they came to be written, what inspired them etc. Lots of gorgeous illustrations. A treat for any Paul McCartney fan.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Monica

    This was such fun!! Reading this is like listening to Paul sit and tell stories. There are so many photos from the archives—pictures and lyrics and all sorts of things. They even found lyrics from the late forties that have never been recorded. I just loved reading this.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Zach Collins

    As a die hard beatles fan, this book still gave me houndreds of insights and stories i never knew. I think it is a must read for anybody whose a fan of there work, or 20th century music as a whole. Theres not much I can say, other then just how amazing this was. There was a diverse mix of Beatles and Solo songs he covered, all of which had there own special feeling behind them. The book is not chronological, but the layout is well thought out and extremely intentional.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    I did not want this book to end. I loved the essays and the stories behind so many of these songs. The pictures and song lyrics woven into the background of each song create such a feeling of connectedness to Paul and the time period. I’m so happy he took the time to publish this masterpiece.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lydia

    I have been a fan of The Beatles for more than ten years. When it comes to their post-Beatles work, I've always felt more drawn to Paul's music. This book reminded me why I love his work. It was amazing to discover and re-discover some of Paul's songs. I have never listened to Paul's entire discography, not because I do not want to. It just simply has not happened. This book made me realize I still have many songs to discover, enjoy, and possibly love. I loved to read all these stories behind hi I have been a fan of The Beatles for more than ten years. When it comes to their post-Beatles work, I've always felt more drawn to Paul's music. This book reminded me why I love his work. It was amazing to discover and re-discover some of Paul's songs. I have never listened to Paul's entire discography, not because I do not want to. It just simply has not happened. This book made me realize I still have many songs to discover, enjoy, and possibly love. I loved to read all these stories behind his songs and how art, other musicians, the news, and all the aspects of his life have influenced his songwriting. It feels like he is directly talking to you. The pictures included are so amazing. I wish I had a physical copy of the book to see them every day. No one can deny Paul's talent, but I think not many people realize that Paul wrote many of his most known songs in his 20s, and I find that absolutely incredible. He has a remarkable career, and I am glad he continues to make fantastic songs. "I’ve learnt over the years to try to open myself up, to understand that so many people’s hearts and lives have a lot of rain in them, a lot of pain. I’d like to think that some of my songs have done the same, have made people feel something they did not even know was there. People have told me they’ve had that experience. And plenty of songs have done the same for me. It’s true that life can sometimes be ‘too much for anyone’, but that’s why we have songs – to try and make the rain go away or, at least, hold an umbrella over you for a while." Paul McCartney, The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present. Note: When I was reading this book, I found an amazing YouTube video by Elliot Roberts in which he ranks Paul's albums. I really liked it and I think it would be a good idea to see it before or after reading the book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    Beautifully laid out and deeply charming. I've been a fan of Paul's for more than half my life and he really does come across as just a really nice bloke who happens to be an extraordinary songwriter. While sometimes his comments on a particular song seemed only tangentially related to that song (and often he doesn't really comment specifically on the lyrics) his stories are all enjoyable to read. There is the inevitable repetition of old chestnuts he's told hundreds of times before, but lots of Beautifully laid out and deeply charming. I've been a fan of Paul's for more than half my life and he really does come across as just a really nice bloke who happens to be an extraordinary songwriter. While sometimes his comments on a particular song seemed only tangentially related to that song (and often he doesn't really comment specifically on the lyrics) his stories are all enjoyable to read. There is the inevitable repetition of old chestnuts he's told hundreds of times before, but lots of new gems as well. His parents really are at the heart of this, cropping up over and over. It's sweet. Splitting it into two volumes was a great idea as it improves comfort of reading and holding. I actually slightly preferred volume two as the back half of the alphabet happened to contain a more obscure batch of songs (I love reading about Wings and solo years as the ground is much less rutted than the Beatles years). He also has lovely things to say about Linda, Nancy and even Jane Asher. His second wife goes unmentioned. His thoughts on John Lennon are complex throughout, both fond and frustrated. I appreciated hearing Paul open up honestly about how he felt about something like How Do You Sleep. George and Ringo are infrequently mentioned. Overall, it's a truly lovely tribute to Paul's artistic and personal legacy. We're very lucky to have him.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    This will be a cherished book in my collection. Paul McCartney’s insights into his family life, music career, and song interpretations are beautiful. I especially enjoyed the pairings of photos along with the lyrics. His songs, the poems of his life, are transcendent.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Nan

    In these two weighty volumes, Sir Paul expounds on the process, meaning, and times of each of his many memorable songs. It's not an autobiography, but readers get fascinating glimpses into McCartney's life from his childhood in Liverpool to the present. The photographs, copies of scrawled lyrics, and other memorabilia make this project even more enjoyable. Hard to say what this would mean to a non-Beatles fan (Is there such a thing?), but it completely charmed me. Actual rating: 4.5 In these two weighty volumes, Sir Paul expounds on the process, meaning, and times of each of his many memorable songs. It's not an autobiography, but readers get fascinating glimpses into McCartney's life from his childhood in Liverpool to the present. The photographs, copies of scrawled lyrics, and other memorabilia make this project even more enjoyable. Hard to say what this would mean to a non-Beatles fan (Is there such a thing?), but it completely charmed me. Actual rating: 4.5

  30. 4 out of 5

    Michelle "Champ"

    I wouldn't tell you the book is spectacular if I didn't believe it. Any Beatles, Macca, songwriter, and possibly just a music fan, could benefit from something in this book. It is beautifully done, full of handwritten notes, pages of scrapbooks, and Paul's delightful drawings. You see all this and say, "why didn't you give it 5 stars?" I can tell you that in two words, Flaming Pie. Flaming Pie is my second favorite Macca song of all time and yet, it didn't make the cut. That wasn't all, I looked I wouldn't tell you the book is spectacular if I didn't believe it. Any Beatles, Macca, songwriter, and possibly just a music fan, could benefit from something in this book. It is beautifully done, full of handwritten notes, pages of scrapbooks, and Paul's delightful drawings. You see all this and say, "why didn't you give it 5 stars?" I can tell you that in two words, Flaming Pie. Flaming Pie is my second favorite Macca song of all time and yet, it didn't make the cut. That wasn't all, I looked and looked to make sure I didn't miss these too, Ballroom Dancing, Take it Away, Press, Beautiful Night, and Wanderlust. You may not miss those songs, but if you love all of those like I do, you feel a little short. Overall, I love it, I am so grateful it was released and even more happy for the tunes that often grace my eardrums.

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