Subscribe to our newsletter

(Credit: Alamy)

Music

The song Paul McCartney wrote about being a father

In 1984, Paul McCartney made a curious comment. He claimed that out of all the people on the planet, it was the people that he grew up with in Liverpool who made the biggest and greatest impression on him. “I mean, the Presidents, the Prime Minister, I never met anyone half as nice as some of the people I know from Liverpool who are nothing, who do nothing,” he said, adding: “They’re not important or famous. But they are smart, like my dad was smart. I mean, people who can just cut through problems like a hot knife through butter. The kind of people you need in life. Salt of the earth.”

Clearly, McCartney loved his father: In a tradition that was done by a number of Irish families, McCartney was christened after his father, James, but was known by his middle name. Interestingly, McCartney elected to call his first son James, perhaps in honour of the father who had worked two roles in his adolescence (McCartney’s mother died when he was 14, and ‘Let It Be‘ is dedicated in her memory).

So, ‘Put It There’ is this continuation of the three generations under one impressive portal of person. McCartney is singing about the lessons he learned from his father, while he too showed them to the next generation of McCartney. This was done in an effort to unite the three men under one voice, and one tradition. ‘Putting it there’ was a father’s way of showing affection and congratulations to their child, especially after they had shown themselves worthy of a compliment. “Put it there,” McCartney sings, “If it weighs a ton.”

The tune can be heard on the Flowers In The Dirt album, a shimmering album that featured the bassist in fine form, as he reinvented himself as the father of the next generation of pop. It featured Elvis Costello, Trevor Horn and David Gilmour, each of them described at one point as the son of The Beatles.

And in his own idiosyncratic way, McCartney realised that this was his way of celebrating his father, in a series of impressive oils. It’s a portrait of a time that was disappearing before McCartney’s very eyes, and it likely would have continued this way, if there wasn’t a concentrated effort in the 1990s to remember the working class values of the past.

The tune of ‘Put It There’ is whimsically Irish, as if it was McCartney’s desire to return to his fatherland. McCartney’s mother had grown up in Monaghan and his father had strong Irish roots. McCartney had already flirted with Irish music on the gorgeous ‘The Casket’, which was heard on his brother’s McGear album.

And so it was that McCartney ventured forward, safe in the knowledge that he would chase another avenue with his dreams, spirit and goals very much intact. McCartney was a man of many talents, but he was now happy to show a warmer, more parental side to him. Pop took notice, bringing Flowers In The Dirt to the top of the charts.