Paul McCartney has probably been interviewed thousands of times, and often, we’d imagine, facing a similar set of questions about his time in The Beatles. It’s an expected turn of affairs when you’re part of one of the biggest bands the world has ever known. However, we’d still imagine that the composer and multi-instrumentalist has become a little tired of answering the lacklustre queries. However, to his credit, if he ever was tired of doing so, he rarely shows it.
McCartney has never been one to turn his back on The Beatles or the work they achieved so no matter how many times he has been asked; he is always happy to fire back with an answer — even if it is a tried and tested one. It means the perennial question of what is Sir Paul McCartney’s favourite song by The Beatles, usually gets one or two answers. However, when speaking with Zane Lowe for Apple Music, McCartney opened up a little further and picked his five favourite Beatles songs ever.
Macca’s usual answer to the question of his favourite Fab Four tune is the little known B-side ‘You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)’ which is a curious number. The singer once again offered the track up as one of his favourites when Lowe asked him for his favourite track, “We had such fun making it, it’s like a little comedy record!” replied McCartney. While that is usually where the story ends, this time the ‘Yesterday’ singer added four more selections to his list too, “There’s a lot of Beatles songs I love.”
Perhaps as a slight indicator of the competition between McCartney and the other principal songwriter in the group, John Lennon, Macca only ended up picking one song written by the bespectacled Beatle and instead picked four songs of his own composition as his favourites. That one song was ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, a track which many have said is perhaps some of Lennon’s finest work.
“Strawberry Fields is a real place,” Lennon recalled in 1980 when speaking to David Sheff for Playboy. “We always had fun at Strawberry Fields. So that’s where I got the name. But I used it as an image. Strawberry Fields Forever. ‘Living is easy with eyes closed. Misunderstanding all you see.’ It still goes, doesn’t it?” It clearly still resonated with McCartney too as he saw the connection between the song and has since departed friend, John. Within the interview, McCartney opens up about his songwriting partner as we anniversaries his murder.
The next three songs up as part of McCartney’s favourite five are three of his best songs: ‘Eleanor Rigby’, ‘Hey Jude’ and ‘Blackbird’. The first song from that list, the Revolver number ‘Eleanor Rigby’, will always be a part of McCartney’s favourite canon, a song selected out of the names of a phonebook, it’s one track which shines a light on McCartney’s then-growing ability to make the mundane and the everyday feel special and grand — poetic almost.
The other two moments come from a similar period for The Beatles and see McCartney perhaps at the top of his game. Firstly, ‘Hey Jude’ which McCartney has always claimed was written for John Lennon’s son from his first marriage, Julian. However, despite once calling it his “best song”, the origination of the track was something Lennon contested: “He said it was written about Julian. He knew I was splitting with Cyn and leaving Julian then. He was driving to see Julian to say hello. He had been like an uncle. And he came up with ‘Hey Jude.’ But I always heard it as a song to me.
“Now I’m sounding like one of those fans reading things into it… Think about it: Yoko had just come into the picture. He is saying. ‘Hey, Jude’– ‘Hey, John.’ Subconsciously, he was saying, ‘Go ahead, leave me.’ On a conscious level, he didn’t want me to go ahead.”
The final track on McCartney’s list was the brilliant ‘Blackbird’ one of the singer’s most political tracks. Written during the civil rights movement, McCartney said of the song in 1994: “Those were the days of the civil-rights movement, which all of us cared passionately about. So this was really a song from me to a black woman, experiencing these problems in the states… ‘Let me encourage you to keep trying, to keep your faith, there is hope.'”
Though we’d imagine like any Beatles fan, and Paul McCartney really is a fan, Macca’s picks would change form week to week but it’s hard not to get swept up in his words. You can find his full conversation with Zane Lowe below and a playlist of Paul McCartney’s favourite Beatles songs below that.