Paul McCartney is to publish a 960-page two-volume book described as “a self-portrait in 154 songs”.
The Lyrics will be published on 2 November 2021, and contains lyrics for 154 songs from 1956 to the present, arranged alphabetically. They include McCartney’s earliest compositions, plus his works with The Beatles, Wings, and from his lengthy solo career.
The two hardcover books will be contained in an outer slipcase, and will not be sold separately. An ebook edition will also be available.
Pulitzer prize-winning Irish poet Paul Muldoon edited the book, which is based on conversations he had with McCartney. Muldoon described the book as being “as close to an autobiography as we may ever come”.
Sir Paul and I met regularly over a period of five years for two or three hour sessions in which we talked in a very intensive way about the background to a half dozen songs. In a strange way, our process mimicked the afternoon sessions he had with John Lennon when they wrote for the Beatles. We were determined never to leave the room without something interesting.
He’s one of the most buoyant, upbeat people I know, but his general demeanour shouldn’t suggest that he’s anything but a deep thinker. He looks long and hard into every aspect of life and I believe readers, old and new, will be struck by a book that will show that side of him. He’s going to come out of this book as a major literary figure.
His insights into his artistic process confirm a notion at which we had but guessed: that Paul McCartney is a major literary figure who draws upon, and extends, the long tradition of poetry in English.
The UK and US publications will feature different artwork. The US edition has a green slipcase and a portrait of McCartney spread over the spines of the two books.
The Lyrics will be published by Allen Lane/Penguin in the UK, Liveright Publishing Corporation/WW Norton in the US, C.H. Beck in Germany, Libros Cúpula/Grupo Planeta in
Spain, Rizzoli in Italy, and Het Spectrum in the Netherlands.
The slipcase for the UK version, meanwhile, will show a photograph taken by Paul’s brother Mike McCartney, which previously appeared on the cover of the 2005 album Chaos And Creation In The Backyard. The image was originally entitled Paul Under Washing, but later became known as Our Kid Through Mum’s Net Curtains.
The Lyrics: 1956 To The Present is not the first McCartney lyrics anthology. Blackbird Singing: Poems and Lyrics 1965-1999 was published in 2001, albeit without any additional commentary from McCartney. His other books include the children’s titles Hey Grandude! and High In The Clouds.
More often than I can count, I’ve been asked if I would write an autobiography, but the time has never been right. The one thing I’ve always managed to do, whether at home or on the road, is to write new songs. I know that some people, when they get to a certain age, like to go to a diary to recall day-to-day events from the past, but I have no such notebooks. What I do have are my songs, hundreds of them, which I’ve learned serve much the same purpose. And these songs span my entire life.
Paul McCartney, The Lyrics
In this extraordinary book, with unparalleled candour, Paul McCartney recounts his life and art through the prism of 154 songs from all stages of his career – from his earliest boyhood compositions through the legendary decade of The Beatles, to Wings and his solo albums to the present. Arranged alphabetically to provide a kaleidoscopic rather than chronological account, it establishes definitive texts of the songs’ lyrics for the first time and describes the circumstances in which they were written, the people and places that inspired them, and what he thinks of them now. Presented with this is a treasure trove of material from McCartney’s personal archive – drafts, letters, photographs – never seen before, which make this also a unique visual record of one of the greatest songwriters of all time.
I hope that what I’ve written will show people something about my songs and my life which they haven’t seen before. I’ve tried to say something about how the music happens and what it means to me and I hope what it may mean to others too.
We learn intimately about the man, the creative process, the working out of melodies, the moments of inspiration. The voice and personality of Paul McCartney sings off every page. There has never been a book about a great musician like it.
Based on conversations I had with Paul McCartney over a five year period, these commentaries are as close to an autobiography as we may ever come. His insights into his own artistic process confirm a notion at which we had but guessed — that Paul McCartney is a major literary figure who draws upon, and extends, the long tradition of poetry in English.