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Music

David Crosby picks his favourite Paul McCartney song

David Crosby rose to fame with The Byrds in the 1960s and later joined forces with Neil Young, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash in various combinations. Throughout his illustrious career, Crosby has been lucky enough to work with other leading folk figures like Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan, who gave the Byrds their first number one hit with ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’.

His influences were broad and clearly well-rooted in the folkier side of rock music. As an artist coming to fruition in the late 1960s, he was also naturally influenced by The Beatles. By this point, The Beatles had already become such a transformative figure in the music industry that they were even vicariously influencing artists who might not have been big followers of the Fab Four. 

Alas, in Crosby’s case, he was a big fan of The Beatles and has often taken a moment to discuss his favourite material from their extensive and eclectic discography. He has shown love for both John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s compositions in equal measure over the years. 

In a 2021 interview, Crosby recalled the first time he heard John Lennon’s ‘A Day in the Life’. “The best thing that ever happened to me was visiting The Beatles when they were making Sgt. Pepper,” he said. “I came in and I was very high. They sat me down on a stool in the middle of the studio and rolled up two six-foot-tall speakers on either side of me. Then, laughing, they climbed the stairs back to the control room and left me there. And then they played ‘A Day In The Life’. At the end of that last chord, my brains just ran out my nose onto the floor in a puddle. I didn’t know what to do, I was just stupefied.”

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More recently, in celebration of McCartney’s 80th birthday, Crosby showed some love to the other side of the successful songwriting partnership. In an interview with Stereogum, he explained his unparalleled love for Paul McCartney’s Revolver classic, ‘Eleanor Rigby’.

“Nobody else wrote about those people,” Crosby opined. “Nobody else had the heart to write about the lonely, old, frozen-in-place people that are the main part of the population. Nobody writes about them. We write about glorious, brave, bigger-than-life. We write about people who are in terrible pain. We write about very dramatic things. But we don’t write about small, cold, old, painful, lonely stuff like that, man. It was a very brave piece of writing. It’s a kind song, it’s a song of compassion in a quiet and very beautiful way.”

He continued, elaborating on the scope of McCartney’s songwriting aptitude: “A friend of mine, an English guy named Clem Floyd, brought the very first Beatles record home and said, ‘You won’t believe this’. We put it on and it absolutely freaking floored me. It was the first rock’ n’ roll that had that kind of feel to it. Paul just wrote differently than other people. He could write ‘Paperback Writer’ and stuff like that without even thinking about it. It was so different. Everybody else was trying to write about some girl’s tits or some bright, shiny experience that they had. This was dark and mysterious but kind. I just didn’t think anybody else was doing that. I didn’t think anybody else had the balls to do that kind of stuff. I thought it was an immensely courageous piece of writing.”

Crosby then touched on the influences of psychedelic drugs on the band’s creative whim. “I was stunned, man. I didn’t know they could grow that fast. I didn’t realise what would happen when you gave guys like that acid and pot. They said, ‘Oh, well, look at this’. And they went crazy. They went beautifully fucking nuts. They expanded their world drastically the same way their consciousness had been expanded. They were my inspiration for consciousness expansion on a lot of levels, not just taking psychedelics. Becoming aware of human beings in a different way than I had been.”

Conclusively, he outlined the eclecticism of moods expressed in McCartney’s writing: “You know, if I’m driving on a sunny afternoon I want to hear ‘Day Tripper’. But if I want to be moved emotionally, man, ‘Eleanor Rigby’ really does it for me. I love ‘She’s Leaving Home’ also. I think that’s another very brave song from around the same time. Very emotionally mature, very grown-up, very beautiful. He dealt with very emotional stuff very bravely.”

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