An audience with Paul McCartney live stream from Southbank Centre 5 November 2021

paul4 - Copy (2)Paul McCartney has recently written a wonderful book entitled The Lyrics, which is a beautifully presented, two-volume (in a presentation box) selection of 154 of his lyrics. The book was edited by the poet, Paul Muldoon, who  helped Paul choose the lyrics to be included. This live stream was from a question-and-answer/audience with event which saw the two Pauls interviewed by Samira Ahmed in the Southbank Centre, London. I would have loved to attend the actual event in London but, given my circumstances, it was more practical to settle for the live streaming. Having said that the live stream was excellently done, and I really enjoyed it. It was actually almost “like being there”!

“More often than I can count, I’ve been asked if I would write an autobiography, but the time has never been right. The one thing I’ve always managed to do, whether at home or on the road, is to write new songs. I know that some people, when they get to a certain age, like to go to a diary to recall day-to-day events from the past, but I have no such notebooks. What I do have are my songs, hundreds of them, which I’ve learned serve much the same purpose. And these songs span my entire life.” – Paul McCartney, The Lyrics

“In this extraordinary book, with unparalleled candour, Paul McCartney recounts his life and art through the prism of 154 songs from all stages of his career – from his earliest boyhood compositions through the legendary decade of The Beatles, to Wings and his solo albums to the present.” (From Paul McCartney website)

paul2

I have just received my own copy of the book and haven’t had time to go through it properly yet. However I can confirm that it is a beautiful artefact, well presented, and provides fascinating insights into the lyrics of one of our true musical geniuses, and one of my heroes. I look forward to going through the book in more detail in the weeks to come.

Paul McCartney’s collaborator and editor in this venture comes with an incredible pedigree and background, which makes him an excellent choice for working on The Lyrics. Apparently the two Paul’s worked together for five years, carefully selecting which songs to include, spanning Paul McCartney’s entire career: “Paul Muldoon is an Irish poet. He has published more than thirty collections and won a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the T. S. Eliot Prize. At Princeton University he is currently both the Howard G. B. Clark ’21 University Professor in the Humanities and Founding Chair of the Lewis Center for the Arts. He held the post of Oxford Professor of Poetry from 1999 to 2004 and has also served as president of the Poetry Society (UK) and Poetry Editor at The New Yorker.” (From Wikipedia).

paul 8

Chair and chief questioner Samira also comes with impeccable credentials: “On TV I present Newswatch on BBC1 and the BBC News channel. I was named the British Broadcasting Press Guild Audio Presenter of the Year 2020. On radio I present Front Row on Radio 4 and the Intelligence Squared podcast How I Found My Voice.” (In her own words, from her website).

The event was fascinating and well presented. Samira did an excellent job, questioning the two Paul’s. It was very clear that Paul and Paul have built up a very close working relationship. Paul Muldoon clearly has a deep understanding of Paul McCartney’s lyrics and throughout the evening it became very clear the very careful and almost forensic way in which they had approached the selection of the lyrics. They felt that the final collection represents the entirety of Paul’s career and includes important lyrics each of which tell their own story. The lyrics are presented alphabetically, rather than chronologically (which is what I for some reason expected), as they explain: “Arranged alphabetically to provide a kaleidoscopic rather than chronological account, it establishes definitive texts of the songs’ lyrics for the first time and describes the circumstances in which they were written, the people and places that inspired them, and what he thinks of them now.” (From Paul McCartney website).

paul6

The first thing that came over to me very clearly was just how natural Paul McCartney sounded and behaved. I don’t know what I was expecting, but what I saw was an ordinarily guy, without any big ego, chatting about his work and his life. It was a pleasure to see and hear him talk so naturally about songs which have become parts of all of our lives and which mean so much to many of us. There were many little snippets which came out and revealed aspects of the songs and their lyrics of which I was not aware. A few I remember, I will recount below.

“Ticket to Ride”. Paul revealed that there was a double meaning to this song. Apparently, he and John Lennon wrote the song during a trip to a family home on the Isle of Wight and “Ride” has a double meaning, referring to “Ryde”, the town on the Isle of Wight where they were heading.

“Eight Days a Week”. Paul was travelling in a taxi and he asked the driver what sort of week he had had. The taxidriver replied “It has been really busy. I have full on working eight days a week!” Paul rushed to see John and said “I have a great title for our next song!” The rest is history. I wonder if that taxidriver ever clicked on.

“Let It Be”. This iconic song came to Paul in a dream where his mother appeared to him and, as Paul appeared worried about something, she gave him a piece of advice. She simply said to Paul “Let It Be”. He said she seemed completely real in the dream. I think we all have such dreams which seem real to us. I often wonder if they do have a deeper meaning and represent some alternative reality.

paul 7

Paul also discussed how the fact that he is left-handed and John was right-handed helped them when writing songs together. Instead of the necks of their guitars getting in the way and hitting each other, they would point in opposite directions, enabling the two to watch each other as they played and sang. Paul said he could watch John’s guitar playing and this would help him complement it with his own guitar or bass playing. He also said it brought the two young men closer together which helped with their singing, harmonies and songwriting. A fascinating insight which, in some ways, is obvious yet reveals a lot.

The evening concluded with Samira selecting a small number of questions from the audience within the Southbank Centre and from those sent in online.

paul 3 - Copy (2)

A fascinating event, which complements a wonderful book, and gave some unique insights into the thought processes behind the lyrics and songs of one of our musical geniuses.

It is not often that we get an opportunity to gain intimate insights into the mind and thoughts of a musical genius. One thing I forgot. Paul also spoke lovingly of his education at school. He admitted that, although he did not realise it at the time, he learnt a lot from one particular teacher, who taught him English Literature. He said that he particularly enjoyed Chaucer and the Canterbury Tales (“very rude, filthy!”) He also admitted that all four Beatles gained a lot from school and that influenced their songwriting, perhaps without them realising.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: