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Music

Paul McCartney's favourite song that he's written for somebody else

Paul McCartney has written a number of tunes for a number of different singers. There was the barrelling nonsense of ‘Yellow Submarine’, written for Ringo Starr’s timbre; there was the yearning of ‘A World Without Love’, written for wholesome twosome Peter and Gordon; and then there was Cilla Black’s boisterous ‘Love of The Loved’, which The Beatles worked on in their early days with drummer Pete Best.

“Cilla’s version [‘Love of The Loved’] was very commercial,” forgotten Beatle Pete Best once explained in reflection of the moment. “Very commercial. It’s a lot different to the way we played it. Well, no, it’s not that different actually, but it was quite different hearing a girl singer. It was a good number for her to cut her teeth in, I think it was one of her first singles. We played ‘Hello Little Girl’ on stage lots of times before it got onto Decca. When we started introducing recent material, it went down well with the kids. They loved it. Again, it showed in a way how versatile The Beatles were. We weren’t just a rock ‘n’ roll band.”

McCartney was anything but a rock writer, and his metier is one of the most expansive of his generation. From classical symphonies to propulsive funk duets with Stevie Wonder, the singer has created a catalogue that is diverse. Queried as to what was his favourite composition written for another singer in 2014, McCartney pencilled ‘Step Inside Love’ as his personal favourite.

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Written in the style of Cilla Black, the tune is one of McCartney’s more interesting efforts and boasts a wide space of chords that helps bolster the work along, leading it to its euphoric close. The song was composed in 1967, the effort of a guitar player singing into a microphone, filling out the blank spaces with his imagination, and sense of chord play.

The tune was written as the theme for her television show Cilla, and the lyric “you look tired, love” reportedly stemmed from a comment the bassist made about Black, when he noticed how overworked she was. Black is one of a handful of women who served as a muse for the artist, although by the time Linda Eastman walked into his life, he was understandably loathed to write about any women.

By the turn of the millennium, McCartney found the strength to write about another woman, Heather Mills, which meant that the singer was at his happiest writing about the women he married. Even ‘Mine For Me’, which was written for Rod Stewart, likely stemmed from his unquenching love for Eastman, which is likely why his most fondly remembered solo song, ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’, was one he saved for himself.

It was a towering work that exposed the bottom of his unquenching love for the woman he was due to spend the rest of his life with, and it was only after her death that he felt confident writing for other women. In 2015, he collaborated with Rihanna on the gently written ‘Fourfiveseconds‘, which helped create a sense of longing in the ears of the music-buying public.

What the songs created was a feeling of community and family, behind the cohesion of voices, and standardised harmony vocals. 2015 was also the year Black died, and her impact was felt across Britain. The singer turned television personality was one of bubbly good humour and general goodwill.

McCartney was deeply upset by Black’s death, stating that he considered a peer and a colleague. “Such a shock to hear about Cilla’s passing,” McCartney wrote. “She was a lovely girl who infected everyone with her great spirit. From first meeting her as a cloakroom girl at the Cavern in Liverpool, to seeing her many times since she always had a fun-loving dignity that made her a great pleasure to be around.”

Clearly, she made an impression on the songwriter, as he composed a work of lush beauty and tremendous staying power, creating a powerful, piercing impasto that was determined to bring out the best in the vocalist, on what wound up becoming her voice to the world at large. From a Beatle to her, the song had a testimony that outlived Black, and will likely outlive McCartney when he too leaves this earthly coil.