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Music

A deep dive into the favourite song Paul McCartney ever wrote

In 2021, Paul McCartney published his book The Lyrics. As the name suggests, the book details and discusses the prolific songwriter’s lyrics committed to paper between 1956 and the present. The 154 songs listed include all of his writing from the early days of The Beatles through his 1970s stint backed by Wings and, of course, his epic solo catalogue. 

Naturally, there was a lot to unpack in the book, so McCartney brought in the acclaimed Irish poet Paul Muldoon to edit the book and discuss the lyrics with him. The book serves as McCartney’s autobiography or at least the closest we might ever get to having one. In the book, McCartney recalls being asked “more often than I can count” to write an autobiography, but “the time has never been right”. He continues to explain that he has never kept a diary but instead has “my songs, hundreds of them, which I’ve learned serve much the same purpose. And these songs span my entire life”.

Looking back on his life through his lyrics, McCartney picked out some of the most significant moments and the songs that meant the most to him. If I were to guess his personal favourite, I would probably pick out ‘Let it Be’. The song came at the pivotal moment in McCartney’s life when The Beatles’ future was on the guillotine. He wrote it after having a dream one night in which his late mother came to him and said the phrase “let it be”. 

Surely none of McCartney’s songs were more poignant and personal than that? Alas, in The Lyrics, tasked with settling on just one song as his favourite, he chose the 1966 Beatles hit ‘Here, There and Everywhere’. Seeing himself after all the years as a different person somewhat, he reflects: “Now when I sing it, I look back at it and think, ‘The boy’s not bad.’”

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Discussing the genesis of the Revolver track, The Beatle remembered that he wanted to come up with an intro reminiscent of the composer Cole Porter. Hence the intensity of the opening lines: “To lead a better life/I need my love to be here”.

Continuing in The Lyrics, McCartney remembers having the Beach Boys’ ‘God Only Knows’ in mind while writing ‘Here, There and Everywhere’ as a direct influence on the song’s style, especially in choral backing vocals featuring George Harrison and John Lennon. He also notes the irony in that the Beach Boys’ next album, Pet Sounds (1966) was heavily influenced by Revolver

‘Here, There and Everywhere’ was a notable struggle in the studio. The Beatles began recording the main backing track and a few overdubs on June 14th, 1966, in a late session between 7pm and 2am on the following morning. Returning to the studio on the 16th, McCartney wasn’t happy with the work from two nights before. They drew a line under the initial takes and bedded down for a further nine takes before they were satisfied.

The main takes from June 16th were numbered 5-13 and featured McCartney on an Epiphone Casino guitar, Ringo Starr on the drums, and Harrison playing his Rickenbacker electric 12-string guitar. On the tape’s second track, McCartney added a bass guitar and joined Lennon and Harrison to add two harmony vocal runs to tracks three and four, the latter of which also featured finger clicks.

The omitted seventh take was included on the CD single release of ‘Real Love’ in 1996 and shows how the basic track originally sounded with McCartney’s vetoed guide vocals. Ultimately, the version that was released on Revolver in 1966 was a reduction mix of take 13. McCartney overdubbed his lead vocals, with the tape running slower, so his voice was faster and higher upon playback. On June 17th, the track was completed and added to the Revolver cannon, ready for its release on August 5th. 

Listen to the seventh take of ‘Here, There and Everywhere’ below.