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Paul McCartney on the play he wrote with John Lennon before The Beatles


The initial friendship between Paul McCartney and John Lennon was that of two creative soulmates finally finding each other. Both had friends who liked music, rhyming jokes and skipping school, but McCartney and Lennon had never met anyone who had connected on the same level of ambition and artistic desire as each other. The songs began to naturally follow in quick succession.

But it wasn’t just songs: the two would share drawings, poetry, short stories, and impressions with each other as well. Lennon was a voracious writer, obsessed with wordplay and wit, while McCartney was quick to improvise jaunty tunes or a comedic double act for them to keep themselves entertained. But their ambitions grew beyond song and dance – they wanted to write a play. So that’s what they did… for about a day.

“For years I’ve been telling people that me and John wrote a play,” McCartney explained in a recent interview with John Wilson on the BBC Radio 4 programme This Cultural Life. “We were just knocking round at my house and having a cup of tea or whatever and we decided ‘we’ll write a play!’ We only got four pages in.”

“This was before The Beatles, when we were just hanging out writing our early songs.” McCartney rediscovered the work while cleaning out his study. “We started this play and I said ‘Oh, stop’ and I read it and I said ‘that’s that play that I’ve been talking about forever’, and I really thought that was lost. And it’s quite a funny little thing.”

Elsewhere in the interview McCartney also reveals that he found the lyrics to an early Lennon/McCartney song called ‘Tell Me Who He Is’. When pressed about the plot of the play, McCartney reveals that even as kids, he and Lennon had grand writing ambitions.

“It’s called Pilchard, and it is about the Messiah. It was the era of the kitchen sink, and the idea was the mother and the daughter are in the kitchen area, and they’re just talking and she says ‘where’s Pilchard?’ and the daughter says ‘oh he’s upstairs again, he’s always up there he never comes down’. And the idea was that the whole story would go on and on and on. And it was the Messiah, that’s why he never came down. He was doing stuff and thinking of stuff. That was going to be the payoff. I still think it’s not a bad idea actually.”

There’s still time to produce the play, Paul. I doubt it would be hard to find the funding for it. The full interview with This Cultural Life premiered last night and can be accessed through BBC Sounds.