The Beatles were an undoubted force to be reckoned with during the sixties. Their potency was sonly matched by their popularity, and as the band began to enact their creative will over the musical landscape, the world was left in no doubt that the Fab Four would become supreme legends. While the band was famed for the central songwriting partnership of John Lennon and Paul McCartney and their studio sessions a positive bubbling crucible of artistic talent, there was one song that saw McCartney work largely on his own.
The group began life as a touring rock act and frequented countless clubs on their way to Beatlemania. Lennon and McCartney were a fearsome pair, crafting songs that would become hit after hit during this time. Unlike many of the artists that followed them, they wrote most of these classics “eyeball to eyeball”, using their familiarity with one another to work hard and fast. But ‘All My Loving’, one of the band’s iconic pieces, was created differently.
John Lennon remembered the song when speaking to David Sheff in 1980: “‘All My Loving’ is Paul, I regret to say. Ha-ha-ha. Because it’s a damn good piece of work. [Singing] ‘All my loving…’ But I play a pretty mean guitar in back.” While it’s true that Lennon’s guitar work within the track is admirable, it’s one song that can be traced straight back to Paul McCartney’s songwriting nouse. It arrived as a tune that would typify their only sound and came in a strange way for Macca.
“It was the first song I’d ever written the words first,” recalled the songwriter when speaking to Barry Miles for Many Years From Now. “I never wrote words first, it was always some kind of accompaniment, I’ve hardly ever done it since either. We were on a tour bus going to a gig and so I started with the words. I had in mind a little country and western song.”
The band were on their way to perform when inspiration struck: “We played the Moss Empire circuit a lot, and there were always these nice big empty backstage areas. The places have all become bingo halls now. We arrived at the gig and I remember being in one of these big backstage areas and there was a piano there so I’d got my instrument. I didn’t have a guitar, it was probably with our road manager, and I remember working the tune out to it on the piano. It was a good show song, it worked well live.”
For McCartney though, despite his appreciation for the song, he only ever heard it as a track to feature on an album and never saw it as a single until one DJ changed his mind. “You know, that was on the album and the first person I heard single it out was the disc jockey David Jacobs, who was pretty hip,” McCartney told Mark Lewisohn. “He was always quite an expert, for one of the older generation. I remember him singling it out on his radio show and I think from that moment it did become a big favourite for people. And I heard it differently.
“Till then, I’d heard it as an album track. But when he played it on his radio show, and it went over to however many million people on network BBC, it was like ‘Woah! That is a good one’. I always liked it.”
This song may be one of the first moments in which Paul McCartney began to see a career for himself away from The Beatles. Though, of course, that was some way in the future and to suggest that Macca was already planning an escape route out of the band would be ridiculous. But, this song confirmed that Macca could write lyrics and melody and make hit records, largely on his own.
It was a landmark moment in the career of both The Beatles and Paul McCartney himself.