Paul McCartney: why Here, There And Everywhere is the fab one

Ian Tasker

I’ve read some pretty heavy books in my time – Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Joyce’s Ulysses, Cervantes’ Don Quixote, even some of the short stories by Jorge Luis Borges (who I once met in a bar in the French Quarter of New Orleans, but that’s another story) – but none as heavy as The Lyrics by Paul McCartney, which weighs in at a massive nine pounds and is impossible to pick up with one hand.


Published at the end of last year, the 874-page, two-volume tome is, as McCartney has said, the nearest thing he’s likely to get to writing a full-scale autobiography. It certainly makes a fascinating read. Cleverly arranging the full lyrics of his selection of 154 songs in alphabetical order, it gets over the awkward chronological nature of a conventional autobiography, which would have made the first half of the McCartney life story so much more interesting than the second.


‘Some people, when they get to a certain age, like to refer to a diary to recall day-to-day events from the past,’ McCartney writes in the foreword. ‘But I have no such notebooks. What I do have is my songs – hundreds of them – which serve much the same purpose.’


What the book tells you is that Macca is more than capable of writing very average songs – not all of them are masterpieces – but you can forgive anything of the genius who also created Yesterday, Blackbird, Eleanor Rigby, Hey Jude, The Long And Winding Road, Let It Be and Maybe I’m Amazed, among countless others.

Surprisingly, perhaps, McCartney reveals that his own favourite is Here, There and Everywhere from The Beatles’ 1966 album Revolver (released just six days after Geoff Hurst’s famous hat-trick at Wembley – how blessed we were to be alive in that dawn).


To lead a better life,

I need my love to be here


Here, making each day of the year

Changing my life with a wave of her hand

Nobody can deny that there’s something there


There, running my hands through her hair

Both of us thinking how good it can be

Someone is speaking but she doesn’t know he’s there


I want her everywhere

And if she’s beside me I know I need never care

But to love her is to need her


Everywhere, knowing that love is to share

Each one believing that love never dies

Watching their eyes and hoping I’m always there


I want her everywhere

And if she’s beside me I know I need never care

But to love her is to need her


Everywhere, knowing that love is to share…


‘Now when I sing it,’ McCartney writes, ‘I look back at it and think: The Boy’s Not Bad. In fact, if pushed, I would say that Here, There and Everywhere is my own favourite of all my songs.

‘My favourite line is Changing my life with a wave of her hand. I look at that line now and wonder where it came from. What was it? Was I thinking of the queen waving from the royal carriage? Or was it just the power of the little thing. The power of doing hardly anything. She waves her hand and she changed my life. It summons up a lot.’


Using each song as the starting point to expand on aspects of his life at the time he was writing, there are some fascinating insights into the history of The Beatles and how the great man goes about writing songs. The story of writing Yesterday is, of course, the stuff of legend. The melody came to him in a dream, the lyric started off simply as Scrambled Eggs and ended up as possibly the greatest song of the 20th Century.


But this wasn’t the usual way he wrote. For such a master of melody you might have thought he would start by playing around with a tune in his head. But no. He usually begins by just noodling chords on his guitar or piano and seeing what comes up. This revelation was rather exciting for me as this is exactly how I write all my songs – and like McCartney I can’t read music either. Sadly, all similarities end there.

This technique was beautifully demonstrated in Peter Jackson’s mammoth and unmissable documentary Get Back, which is essential viewing for any Beatles fan. In it we see Paul, noodling away in the background, gradually coming up with what will become Get Back, which magically emerges almost fully formed. On another occasion the rest of the Fab Four are talking away nineteen to the dozen while you can just hear Paul in the background playing around with a series of piano chords that – with an exquisite frisson of recognition – you know will shortly become Let It Be.


Each of McCartney’s 154 songs in the book are presented in bite-sized chunks of lyrics and autobiographical stories alongside previously unpublished photographs and documents from Paul’s personal archive. It is an absolute delight to tackle the book while simultaneously asking Spotify, Siri or Alexa to play the songs for you as you read. Utterly magical.


Weaving your way gently through the tapestry of songs the full story emerges – The Quarrymen, meeting John, George and Ringo, the Pete Best-Stuart Sutcliffe-Cavern days, what they all got up to in Hamburg, the early success as The Beatles, the girlfriends, Beatlemania, the trip to Rishikesh, the break-up, Wings, the solo career, the farm in deepest Scotland and his life today – it’s all there.


Paul is, naturally, the major character in the book but the presence of John and Linda permeate just about every page. The book is dedicated to his third wife Nancy. No mention anywhere, though, of Heather Mills. That just made me wonder if his experience with his second wife ‘inspired” any of his later songs – if they did, he doesn’t mention it.


For people of my generation The Beatles represent nostalgia for a golden age that, in today’s troublesome world, seems further away than ever, so please excuse me as I ask Alexa to play Hey Jude for the millionth time.


Tim Woods on Help! and I Need You


John Pearson on Strawberry Fields Forever

 



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