Reviews for The Lyrics: 1956 To The Present

by Paul McCartney

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Closing in on 80, the iconic musician looks back on a long career and reveals how his songs came about. “The best comparison I can think of is an old snapshot album that’s been kept up in a dusty attic.” So writes McCartney of this gathering of his lyrics, which, though overall less poetic than Bob Dylan’s, still read well on the page. This is true even of his earliest songs: “Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you / Tomorrow I’ll miss you” pretty well says it all, but McCartney’s extensive commentary places it in the context of his life, his band’s trajectory (“The thing that strikes me about the ‘All My Loving’ recording is John’s guitar part; he’s playing the chords as triplets”), and the pop-music tradition generally. Studded with photographs and featuring an introduction by editor Muldoon, the book is a gold mine of Beatles lore and reminiscence. Among countless other intriguing bits, McCartney notes how Allen Ginsberg called “Eleanor Rigby” “a great poem.” While it’s well known that “Yesterday” started with the placeholder lyrics “Scrambled eggs,” it will come as news that “it was almost recorded as an electronic avant-garde song” until George Martin decided to add a string quartet and make a sad song even sadder. McCartney airs some dirty laundry—e.g., why John Lennon was so nasty to him after the Beatles’ breakup—but he allows that none of his musical backing afterward came close to his Beatles band mates. Even so, he includes plenty of Wings material, as well. Some of the omissions are odd (“I’m Looking Through You,” “Little Lamb Dragonfly”), while some of the songs are largely attributed to Lennon, notably “A Day in the Life” and “Ticket To Ride.” The odd curiosity aside, though, what emerges here is a portrait of a songwriter constantly searching for the elusive tune. A delightful, surprising treasure trove that no Beatles completist should miss. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.