“What I have to say is all in the music. If I want to say anything, I write a song.” ~ Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney turns 80 tomorrow!
We’re celebrating Macca’s milestone birthday by sipping English tea, nibbling on fairy cakes, and listening again to several of his best songs.
We all have our favorite McCartney tunes – from his time with the Beatles, Wings, and as a solo artist. But have you ever wondered which of Paul’s songs he likes most?
I imagine “I Lost My Little Girl” will always hold a special place in his heart, since it’s the first song he ever wrote at age 14. He composed it on his Zenith acoustic guitar shortly after his mother Mary died.
Here he is on MTV Unplugged (1991). Can you detect the Buddy Holly influence? 🙂
🎼 “Yesterday” 🎻
In interviews, Paul often cites “Yesterday” as special because the melody came to him in a dream while he was living at Jane Asher’s family home in 57 Wimpole Street.
It was all just there, a complete thing. I couldn’t believe it.
Just to make sure the tune was truly original, he asked others for about a month if they’d ever heard it before. Its working title: “Scrambled Eggs.”
With just his vocal, acoustic guitar and a string quartet, it was the first solo performance of the Beatles, and is one of the most covered songs in the history of recorded music.
Paul recorded “Yesterday” at Abbey Road Studios on June 14, 1965. It was first released on the Help! album in the UK, then as a single in the U.S. Here’s Paul singing it in NYC that same year. So young, earnest and endearing – who wouldn’t believe every word he sings?
🎹 “Here, There, and Everywhere” ♥️
Nowhere does Paul’s gift for melody shine brighter than in his love songs. His romantic ballads, delivered in his distinctive tenor, have had millions of females swooning for at least six decades.
Paul especially likes “Here, There, and Everywhere” from a songwriting standpoint. Its opening harmonies were inspired by the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows,” which he’d heard with John at a Pet Sounds private listening party in London (May 1966).
Paul wrote the song poolside at John’s home in Weybridge. The Beatles worked at the Abbey Road Studios on June 14, 16, and 17, perfecting the layered backing vocals, and finally recorded it after 13 takes. It became the 5th track on their Revolver album, released in August 1966.
Both producer George Martin and John Lennon considered the song a favorite, with John proclaiming it not only the best track on Revolver, but one of his favorite Beatle songs. John’s praise meant a lot to Paul, who remembers to this day exactly where he was when John complimented him (apparently, among ‘Liverpool guys’ this wasn’t something that happened very often).
Today, “Here, There, and Everywhere” is widely regarded as Paul’s finest love song.
🎤 “I Will” 🎧
Whenever I listen to The Beatles (White Album), I always wait for, “I Will.” Yes, the White Album is a mother lode of richness, innovation, and a wide range of musical styles, but somehow this pure melodic gem with its simple lyrics never fails to captivate me.
As often seems to be the case with Paul, the melody came together easily. The Beatles were in India at the time, and Paul traded lyric ideas with Donovan, discarding a “moon” theme in favor of straightforward “love-song words.”
Paul continued to tinker with the lyrics even while back in the London studio. The Beatles recorded “I Will” on September 16, 1968, after 67 takes. In addition to lead vocals, Paul played acoustic guitar, with John on percussion (beating on wood blocks), and Ringo on bongos, maracas, and cymbals.
This is a good example of how much work is sometimes required for a seemingly simple end product. “I Will” is short and effective, and the Beatles polished it to perfection. Paul says with this song he was in “troubadour mode” as he extolled the joys of love.
It’s still one of my favourite melodies that I’ve written. You just occasionally get lucky with a melody and it becomes rather complete, and I think this is one of them; quite a complete tune.
I like this cover of “I Will” by the acoustic group Dahlia Row. It showcases Paul’s musicality to beautiful effect.
☕️ “English Tea” 🧁
Finally, let’s top off our cups with “English Tea,” Alphabet Soup’s official song. It’s included on Paul’s 13th solo studio album, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard (2005).
Can’t say if he considers it a personal favorite like the others, but this charming ditty makes me love Paul even more. Like me, he’s fascinated by how people speak.
. . . that’s particularly me, that kind of English Tea type of thing . . . Again it was this fascination with sort of how people speak, how some English people speak. But the idea started, I was on holiday, and if you want a cup of tea, you don’t do what you do in England, say ‘A cup of tea please’, They always say ‘What kind of tea?’ You know like in England nobody would ever say ‘What kind of tea?’ Well, they actually would these days, but in the old days it was never like ‘What kind of tea?’ It’d be like ‘What do you mean? Cuppa tea.’ So now they say ‘What kind of tea?’ and you have to say ‘English Breakfast tea‘ and then they go ‘Oh OK’ and you get it you know you get an ordinary cup of tea.
So I just thought that’s amazing that calling it English tea, but I thought it’s kind of original because we don’t call it that. So I just started playing with that idea, of English tea. And then as I say there’s one particular older English person I’m thinking of who instead of saying ‘Do you want a cup of tea?’ might say ‘Would you care for a cup of tea?’ It’s just the way they say it, and I love that. ‘Would you care?’ and in this case ‘Would you care to sit with me, for a cup of English tea?’ And so I really went to town on that whole fruity way of talking, that whole fruity language that I like. It’s I think it’s very endearing, very English, and I even managed to work in the word ‘peradventure’ which I was very proud of . . . cos I read Dickens quite a bit . . . I thought there is a word ‘peradventure’ and I think as I say I read it in Dickens (you get these old usages of words in there). And I thought ‘I do hope I’m right cos I’ve put it in the song’. ‘Do you know the game croquet … Peradventure we might play’ … You know I thought ‘Oh I hope this is right‘ I looked it up in the dictionary, : ‘peradventure – perhaps, maybe’ ‘Yes!’ (from an interview with Gary Crowley, 2005)
I especially like hearing British males speak that “fruity language.” They use “lovely” a lot (how often do American men describe things that way?). And who else has such quaint ways of saying goodbye: “Tattie-bye” (Ricky Gervais), “Toodle Pip” (River of YouTube fame)? Grown men using granny talk. Love it!
The only question remaining now is: how does Paul take his tea?
I take my tea with some soya milk and one sugar. If I’m really feeling naughty, one and a half sugars . . . I know, I’m living on the edge!
Surprisingly, he doesn’t consider himself a big tea drinker; he mainly drinks it while working in the studio or office, where it’s kind of a ritual.
So tomorrow, this working class lad from Liverpool will be 80 years old. How is that even possible? I’ve been crushing on him ever since he sang, “All My Loving” and “Till There Was You” on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. Safe to say, the earth shifted.
The Beatles changed music, social, and cultural history. I’ll always be glad (and grateful) to have been just the right age to experience the full impact of Beatlemania.
With the Beatles and beyond, Paul has given us so many beautiful songs over the years. To me, he’s music personified, a natural genius with melody, a creative soul who’s always lived true to self, a consummate artist with incredible staying power.
Completely self taught on guitar and piano, he doesn’t read or write music. He grew up in a musical home, explaining how he internalized years of hearing his dad (a jazz musician) play the piano for family gatherings, where the aunties would sing the oldies. Eventually he took over for his dad.
Paul has been called one of the greatest songwriters of all time. True, there are other brilliant composers, but not all are the best vehicles for performing their own music. Paul is the whole package – his voice is perfectly suited for his songs; add to that, charm, good looks, charisma, and a disarming stage presence. Truly OOAK, the GOAT. And who else has aged as gracefully or handled such tremendous fame even half as well?
I wonder what it’s like to know your music has meant so much to so many for so long? It must be the best feeling to see people of all ages all over the world singing along at your concerts, knowing how deeply you’ve touched their lives.
Paul’s instinct was right on when he opted for “straightforward love-song lyrics” for “I Will.” He made it easy for the average person to sing and remember the words, trusting his lyrical melody to carry each syllable on a gentle wave, note by note.
🧁 Mary Berry’s Fairy Cakes 🧚🏿♂️
Very twee me channeled “nanny bakes fairy cakes on a Sunday morning.” Trust me, it wasn’t that much of a stretch. 😀
What are fairy cakes, you may ask? Are they the same as cupcakes? Yes and no. While both are baked in paper cups/cases, true fairy cakes are smaller than American cupcakes, and instead of a big swirly pile of buttercream frosting on top, fairy cakes are adorned with a simple powdered sugar glacé. Nice and light, flutter away deliciousness.
We used Mary Berry’s recipe; it was pretty basic as fairy cake recipes go, quick and easy, and something suitable for making with kids (who especially enjoy decorating with sprinkles or candy bits). And yes, she does specify baking at 390 degrees (a first for me).
Peradventure you should make some this weekend while listening to Paul’s music.
Mary Berry's Fairy Cakes
- For the cakes:
- 1/2 cup (one stick) butter or margarine
- 1/2 cup caster sugar
- 3/4 cup self rising flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 eggs
- For the icing:
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- a few tablespoons water
- For the cakes:
- Preheat oven to 390 degrees F.
- Line a muffin tin with 12 fairy cake cases. If you only have larger cupcake cases, don’t worry, use them but know you won’t get 12 cakes out of the mixture.
- Measure out all the ingredients and add them to a mixing bowl or freestanding mixer.
- Start with the butter. If it’s not soft, pop it in the microwave for a few seconds, but not long enough to melt it. Using a blunt knife, chop the butter into small pieces to make it easier to mix.
- Next, measure out the sugar, flour and baking powder and add them to your mixing bowl.
- Add the eggs to your mixing bowl.
- Mix everything together with your handheld or freestanding mixer until you have a smooth batter. Don’t overmix it.
- Spoon the cake batter into your cases. Fill them up about 3/4 full.
- Bake the fairy cakes for 15-20 minutes. They’re ready when they’ve risen and turned golden brown, or when an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
- Remove the cakes from the oven and leave them in the tin for a few minutes to cool before removing them and leaving them to cool on a wire rack completely.
- For the icing:
- Measure out the icing sugar then add a few spoons of water. Mix it together until it’s smooth. You don’t want the icing to be too runny otherwise it will run off the fairy cakes. If it is too runny, add a little more icing sugar to stiffen it up. Likewise if it is too stiff add a drop or two more water.
- Using a teaspoon, spread some icing over the top of each fairy cake, then add some sprinkles on top.
🎉 HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PAUL! 🎂
☕️ ANOTHER CUPPA ☕️
♥️ Check out Paul’s 74th birthday post, which includes Linda’s recipe for Lemon Drizzle Cake.
♥️ Paul once said that the song he’d like to be remembered for in the future is “Maybe I’m Amazed.” Scroll to the bottom of this post for backstory about this song, our most recent “Swoon Tune.”
♥️ Excellent Waterstones Interview, where Paul discusses his songwriting influences (love his references to Shakespeare, Dickens, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, the Beach Boys et. al.).
♥️ Interesting article at Stereogum, where “80 Artists Pick Their Favorite Paul McCartney song for his 80th Birthday.” And they explain why. 🙂
THE LYRICS: 1956 to the Present
by Paul McCartney
edited by Paul Muldoon
published by Liveright, 2021
Autobiographical Nonfiction, 960 pp.
😎 Summer Blog Break 🍧
It’s time once again to turn off the oven and take a little summer break. Mr Cornelius has promised to clean out my file cabinets (hah! we’ll see how that goes!), while the resident Paddingtons plan to vacuum themselves.
I’ll be keeping an eye out for our wildlife friends (we have two adorable fox kits gamboling through the woods), and look forward to tackling my towering TBR pile and generally just filling up the well to generate ideas for new posts.
Hope you have a nice summer, whether you’re traveling or planning on a relaxing staycation. See you right after Labor Day. 🙂 🙂 🙂
The lovely and talented Michelle Kogan is hosting the Roundup this week. Do-si-do on over to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up around the blogosphere. Have a good Father’s Day weekend. I imagine Paul will have a good time with his five children and eight grandchildren. BTW, my father’s favorite Beatle song was “Yesterday.” 🙂
” And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.“
*Copyright © 2022 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.