I'm always writing, it's a hobby, and I don't thing about what I'm going to write about. to me it sort of spoils the magic of what i do so i don't often come to writing a song with much of an idea it may be a title maybe just as a phrase or just a thought I've had but I hardly ever come to it with much more than that. And I don't really come to it thinking oh I'm going to write a bunch of sad songs or I'm going to write a bunch of happy songs because that would get a bit boring you know I'd like to write a happy one and then I'm bored with that sort of sad one.
So there's no method really and i think if I work at it it's to work at not having a method I mean. Do you get snatches of tunes that come to you that you have to hum into a dictaphone so you keep those in store or do you hold them in your head ?.
I do a bit of that but um they don't tend to be the good ones right you know so I've got cassettes with millions of snatches or tunes but that's where they stay right on this little cassette where normally I'll come and I'll sit down and I'll start strumming something I fancy. You know, doing either a key that i fancy playing around in, always on the guitar first no or on piano ? right yeah no strum a piano as well and um just see where i go to first just see where it leads me
It's how we always did it yeah I would sit down with john and we would just sort of follow this road right you know, it's like okay, well so you never write a full formal lyric as a poem on a paper ? no just write it as a go along first, first second verse middle eighth third verse uh and just try and get to the end in one go, that's normally then pretty much written. Right you've got your melody your words your middle and then you may then look at it and just sort of think oh that line's a bit ropey ! or a bit you know ,I should change that but um if you're lucky more often than not you know you suddenly find you've just sort of done it and I think because john and I developed this way of doing it I mean literally we used to get rung up I mean, we're in abbey road now doing this yeah, and we would get rung up by Brian Epstein and he'd say right chaps you've got the week off next week because you're in the studio the week after and I'd like you to write the album right and we go oh yeah hey you know like that was like wow week off yeah.
And and we never looked at it like what right an album in a week it was more like yeah that's a good idea so i mean every day john and I sat down to write, well opposite opposite each other with an acoustic acoustics, you left-handed him right-handed ?, yeah sort of looking at each other as if it was like in a mirror both playing the same chords we didn't get too fancy you know we just both play the chords we would start off like I've just sort of described we started with some sort of idea roughly get a first verse and then bounce off each other so by the time we done two or three hours which is normally our attention span we had a little sheet of lyrics written down on it and we just had to remember the tune.
There was no such things as cassettes you know, yeah. or you know anything to put it down on so you just have to remember which we ended up thinking that was actually a good thing. What were some of the songs you can remember writing very quickly under those sort of circumstances ? in a hotel bedroom yeah on twin beds with the two guitars and uh we just had to knock it up for who needed a single or something you know even as young men did you think you could always pick out your goodness. I mean or were they all good ? well I think looking back on the meal thing there was actually quite a few good you know that we didn't necessarily think were that good at the time but they some of them that we didn't think were good. I now think are quite good like what um she loves you right? I mean that's quite good , I don't think that was our favorite at the time but we were trying to write a hit you know.
I think you've got to remember it was very singles orientated in those days so you were, even though you're making an album you were actually making an album of singles one of which or two of which would be pulled off and would be your big singles hit. So you were writing quite sort of concise little pieces and I say we got into the habit of just doing it in one go, hardly ever revisiting it hardly ever revise in the words and think it's interesting if that's how you have to work that's how you work. yeah you know if you've got two weeks to do it that's how you work well we didn't and we came into the studio this studio we had three hours in which to do two songs right, you know, finished. yeah. You know so that would be like yesterday and Michelle all finished you know yesterday song an interesting because there's always the famous example of that being scrambled eggs before it was yesterday which is very interesting because you thought it was such a poignant song that you wouldn't have thought that would work if you were singing or thinking about eggs. But I got the melody, I got the tune and then I think it was a sort of um young man's way of pretending i wasn't writing a soppy song right with a with you know a sort of sad song so you're being a bit disingenuous really ?
yeah just sort of for the mates you know, scrambling oh my baby i love your legs yeah but I obviously knew I had to change that you know but that was just, it was just sort of joke on the way. But I was pleased with the melody and I had just woken up one morning with it in my head couldn't believe it was mine, went round checked it with everyone and nobody knew it what you sort of sing it to them and say is this something, if I nicked this off, yeah exactly yeah first of all to john what do you mean look at this what is it what is it I can't you know it must be something because I dreamed it so. I and automatically assumed it was something I'd heard and he'd just come back in a dream took it to George Martin. He said no, I never heard of it, I took it to a few other friends and everyone agreed they'd never heard of it so it was like okay it's mine then don't quite know how, but it is and then someone reminded me recently, i was on a holiday in portugal and was driving from lisbon to the south coast where it was actually Bruce Welch of The Shadows holiday villa he was lending me. But I had this big drive and on the three-hour drive I started thinking of proper lyrics so got the yesterday and the suddenly and got the real lyrics for it and Bruce reminded me actually that when I got there i said have you got a guitar because I hadn't brought mine
He said yeah, he said, I said well lets hear it and i sat down and sort of put it all together with the lyrics you know right, yeah it must have been terrifying there was no cassettes that you'd forget it you'd never get back to it but really see this was the thing it was a kind of terror but it was a kind of great thing really because as we said if we forget it tomorrow it's no good how can we expect our public to remember it if we can't. And we only wrote it yesterday and what you would find would be that you would sort of forget it towards the end of the day and get a little bit panicked but first thing in the morning you go what was that.
Oh yeah, and it would come back so you'd play it a bit more on the guitar that was like the way of cementing it in your in your mind. So it seems like but from what you're saying that all the songs like you know come from one little snippet of an idea which is then kind of embellished upon ? I think it was reading with a magical mystery talk when you started that I think I read somewhere that you started banging out and you just had the first line ''roll up the mystery tone'' you were playing it and shouting out statues of words that Mal Evans was trying to write down as you were going along, yeah I mean we would do all that sort of thing you know you you try any method really you know. But normally it's fairly straightforward and it is just following the muse you know you get an idea and i always say to people you know why I still do it , some people say why do you still do you've written so many songs. I said well I love it, and you know if they sack me tomorrow I would wake up and write a song yeah.
Just because they attacked me it's what you do and um, it's what I do and it's what I love to do and why I love to do it is because i don't know the process I don't quite understand what happens and that's really nice for me. And I've often seen people say, talk about the craft of songwriting which sounds a bit like an academic exercise so you just like to fling yourself at it it's how I've always been yeah it's the same with singing and in a way it's kind of dangerous you know because it might be a bit more comfortable to feel like I knew something about it.
I've got a lot of friends whose biggest fear is being found out, and they're very famous and very talented but there's still this little sort of edge of panic at the back of it which probably keeps you sort of uh you know wanting to do it, yeah, who would the um, I know another song you're doing is uh 20 flight rock by uh Eddie Cochran was it were those the writers you wanted to emulate when you started when you heard rock and roll thought. I'll have a go at that yeah uh, yeah we had our favorites you know and someone like Eddie was we loved Eddie Cochran so much because he was a guitar player yeah. And you know we in our early gigs we liked that a lot of our fans were girls but we always actually kind of really liked the guy standing at the front watching the chords we thought this is craftsmanship he's after you know we kind of related a bit to him because that's what we would have been doing watching the chords you know we'd watch Elvis films for his chords and not just his hips and how soon did he want to start writing songs immediately that you'd form the group no you know the funny thing was, it's only recently I've realized why we wrote songs we were never interested at all when we started out. All we wanted to do actually was listen to these great records we weren't really interested in doing any more than that. You find it's actually true for most people then they sort of get jobs associated with this idea of just listening to all these great blues records or great country records or Elvis. Whatever, so we started off listening, then got into a band playing and doing covers of all of these uh Elvis and little Richard and records like that but then what happened was the bands on before us also had these records so they did them all before we got on so I would be due to do Lucille and long tall Sally and then from from our dressing room you know you'd hear lucia, oh no. And then long term side no crossing the setlist down and i remembered recently i thought that's why we started to write and for no other reason. She said the only way around us is if we write our own songs they won't know him so we wrote terrible songs like like dreamers too it was a terrible little early one and the pinwheel twist another classic well you know he wrote him we just said well you know they can't access these songs and uh it kind of worked at least they couldn't get hold of them but they weren't very good.
so we had to get a bit better and then by the time we got a record contract uh, with the mi then we really had to you know step it up a little bit and really try a bit harder. Can you remember as a writer you said that you know about sitting opposite john with two single beds and all that when that process became less collaborative and a bit more sort of combative when it became clear that you weren't going to be able to write like that forever and you were going to have to plow your own furrows and come back and you can probably not the moment but can you remember the first record on which that became apparent ? um I can't remember the record, I remember the circumstance it was really because we lived in each other's pockets when we were touring as a group and so as i say you know for she loves you we would just be in the same hotel room with a couple of guitars and we'd write together then as we got a bit more successful we'd have time off number one and we lived separately we were now worn in the same hotel room john was in his house in Waybridge and I would be living where I lived in London say you know and we still like writing so now you'd write separately not actually to compete just to have a go at writing when the other wasn't there and then it did get quite competitive yeah which was kind of a good thing because I'd write something, I mean I came out to John's house one time I remember saying I've had this idea of someone who's like a ''paperback writer'' and it was all it was it was something I'd read in a newspaper and it was something to do with Martin Amos I think and he was getting a paper back or something I'd read this thing.
So I imagine myself in that role you know dear sir or madam as the case may be and I was writing up you know, you can have all the rights but just publish me sort of thing, and I came in to john's house and I said look I've had this idea what about this dear silverman and I sort of wrote it out like a letter and he said yeah that's it and I said I kind of written it a little bit later you know I'd go to his house and he'd go angle I had this idea he's a real no man I go yeah that's it, so as we wrote separately like that then you did tend to just show each other the completed song virtually and just maybe tweak a few words here or there or if you were in trouble ask for a third verse or something right yeah, were you ever, was there any kind of nerves at that because you'd written together to present something on your own did you each need each other's approval to know it was good or did you know it was good yourself do you think yeah even though you knew it was good yourself you needed each other's approval ? Not only each other's we needed George and Ringo's approval too because in the Beatles any of them could veto it yeah, you know if Ringo didn't like any song we brought in he'd go I don't like that and we wouldn't do it I must say that I don't think that ever happened. But he had that right so um we all had to be pleased with it you know. I always think that was one of the good things about the Beatles that four people had to sign off and actually five with George Martin and his five good heads had to like this song before the public even got to hear it which is actually quite a nice quality control if you think about it you know.
We say to people that I don't I think it's about 300 songs that John and I wrote together we never had a dry session we'd always come in and we never went away from the session going couldn't get it today we always finish to some she's pretty remarkable I lost my little girl it's the first song I wrote that was very simple three chords four chords and yeah it was real early little kind of rock and roll thing I got a guitar when I was early teens and I learned a couple of chords I learned a G and a G7 C and Am F and we're using those chords I made up this little song called I lost my little girl people asked me whether it was about losing my mother at that early age which I don't know like a psychiatrist might have a field day with that but I certainly didn't think it was at the time it could have been yesterday all my troubles seemed so far and I had two melodies a song yesterday in my brain and I didn't have any words so I called it scrambled eggs scrambled eggs or my baby ha I think difference between me and a lot of people is they they often dream about music but they don't remember but for some reason this melody just kept going around and round my brain so I was near a piano so I kind of remembered it and blocked out some chords a couple of months later I put some words to it.
yesterday when John and I John and I were getting together we were kind of showing each other what we'd written and and this was one I I said to him what I got this idea and I started off with it and we finished it together so it was a very early Lennon McCartney song having a collaborator one thing's great if you get stuck with with something you can just say what do you think of this you know and you can kick it around together my song started she was just 17 she's never been a beauty queen and we kind of looked at each other's like I said I don't really like that line so we changed her she's just 17 you know what I mean which makes more sense even though you probably don't know what I mean so we changed it to that and they that started our songwriting partnership most of it was start from scratch but sometimes one of us would just have an idea like of the first couple of lines and then we just sit down and work it but a lot of it we just came in and just started talking about what would my world write about and then we just sit down there were three quick sessions it's normally like about three hours and we'd finished something you know from beginning to end with the chords and the melody and the words yeah.
I mean 300 was just the ones I wrote with jump since then I've written lots more and you do forget him yeah and that is my excuse and I love her I brought that I'd written it and I brought it into the studio and I was showing the guys George Martin our producer said it'd be nice to have an intro on it you know a nice to have a little something bleeding the song again so we're sitting around thinking and George Harrison just want more about this to do to do and I think you know that song wouldn't be anything without that he just came up with it so that was the kindest pace we worked at because nobody ever knew what song we were bout to record then me and John would know because we were written at the previous week with George and Ringo and the producer wouldn't know what we were so he said it was like this you know we'd shown and in the space of about 20 minutes they'd go OK and then we just recorded so it was very fast process and that was very cool cool move you know he just made up that riff when I say if you think about the song without that riff wouldn't be half as good [Music] the Rigby was when I was really little I lived on what we call a housing estate which is like the project there were a lot of old ladies and I enjoyed sitting around with these older ladies because they they had these great stories in this case about world war ii you know and one in particular who I used to kind of just visit and I kind of go shopping for her you know she couldn't get out to anybody so.
I remember her so I had that figure in my mind of a sort of lonely old lady and over the years I'd met a couple others and I don't know maybe the loneliness made me sort of empathize with them I thought it was a great character so I started this song about lonely old lady who picks up the rice in the church who never really gets the dreams in her life and then I added in the the priest the vicar father McKenzie and so there was just the two characters you know so he's nice he was like writing a short story and up but it was based basically on these old ladies that I had known as a kid father McKenzie in the song originally had father McCartney but when I came to finish it up with John I brought it to John and we were playing it around and I said I don't want it I don't want to call this father McCarty because it's like my dad just he's been confusing and he said no it's fine I said no I don't like it so I said okay let's change so we got the phone book we just went right down to sort of McCarty McCarney McCarney and look for something muck something and the next one was like McKenzie said that's better so became father McKenzie sometimes I do that you know just to block it out so you so you don't spend forever trying to figure out the exact lyric you just combine it so it could be Barbara Hawkins Miss Daisy and you just leave it like that and there you go I don't really like that so I was looking around for another name this is a kind of strange story about that because I I want it i like the name Eleanor we've been working with an actress called Ellen LeBron and the Beatles film help I like the name Eleanor I was looking for this Ellen up Papa to make the rhythm so I'm looking for this nice surname and I happened to be in Bristol and that I saw a shop that said Rigby so there are great Eleanor Rigby.
so now I had the name of my main character but then years later somebody else is researching this and they said you know in that village where you used to where John used to live there's a graveyard in the church and there is a gravestone there too an Eleanor Rigby so I said did I subconsciously know that name why would I go around searching for it I don't know I think it's maybe a coincidence but there is a gravestone in Liverpool and please call Walton were me and John met to sale and a ruby [Music] then the life was a song that John had started and he kind of had the first verse and this often happened one of us would have a little bit of an idea and instead of sitting down and sweating it we just bring it to the other one and kind of finish it together because you could ping-pong you know you got an idea then he get an idea that's good you know and so I say he had the first verse I read the news today oh boy and we sat in my music room in London and just started playing around with it got a second verse and then we got to what was going to lead into the middle and you were kind of looked at each other and kind of knew we were being a little bit kind of edgy when we sort of said I'd love to turn you we kind of knew like this would have an effect it worked and then we put another section I had woke up fell out of bed trying to calm across my head so I had that section so we put that in and then finish the song up and then did a big sort of epic recording of it with big full orchestra and everything you know and then did that crescendo thing in the middle of it with the orchestra which was an idea I'd had because I've been I've been talking people reading about sort of avant-garde music and I ate whole stuff crazy ideas and I came up with this idea.
I said to the orchestra you should start all of you in which they're all looking at me puzzled we've got a real Symphony Orchestra and London who were used to playing your Beethoven and his mates and this crazy guy out of a group and I'm saying all you gotta do is you saw everyone start on the lowest note your instrument could play and work your way up to the highest at your own pace just if you want to go look up that's final good you know that was too puzzling for them they're all looking at me and orchestras don't like that kind of thing they like it written down and they'd like to know exactly what was supposed to do so George Martin the producers realized that you kept the random aspect but he said to the people you should be well this note at this point in the song and then he should have got to this note this note and he left the random thing so that's why it sounds like a chaotic to the squirrel you know yeah no that was that was an idea based on the sort of avant-garde stuff that I was into at the time Hey Jude don't make it John and his wife Cynthia had divorced and I felt a bit sorry for this son who was now a little bit you know a child of a divorce I was driving out to see the Sun and Cynthia one day and I was I was thinking about the boy whose name's Julian Julian then and I started this idea hey Jules don't make it bad so it couldn't be okay you know.
it's like a reassurance song so that was the idea that I got driving out to see them I saw them and then I came back and worked on the song some more but I like to name Jude I didn't realize it meant Jewish she does actually I nearly got into trouble because we we put it up on on a window of our shop we had a little shop because we were into fashion would you believe for a while on the shop window we put Hey Jude so that people going by on the buses would see what's that you know intriguing ah and then it was all right well I got this furious phone call from this guy mr. lamb who was Jewish they said what are you doing how dare you do this is also Hey Jude because in Hitler's day in the Nazi thing Juden raus meant Jews out so and I didn't connect is I actually heard the name first in in one of the musicals and I like the name anybody rings me up when he's furious how he's doing this you know making followed the chose we got enough for I said no no no no wait a minute I swear to you it's nothing like that he said I'm gonna send my son around to beat you up I said hey baby it's cool it down nothing to do with that said you'll hear when you hear the record it's just a name in a song and it's all cool but of course I you know it suddenly was
alerted to the fact that it would have caused him a lot of problems because his family will have experienced that you know firsthand probably anybody calmed him down he was cool and his son didn't come round to beat me up whenever I do a new tour I think well I'll just switch up all the songs but then I go I've got to do Hey Jude because it is such fun and it's great handing that over to the audience you know and you know what the greatest thing is you feel this sense of community and in these times when it's a little dark and it's people are sort of separated by politics and stuff it's so fantastic to see them all come together singing the end of Hey Jude so I'm very happy about that so I keep it in the show helter skelter yeah I heard it on the car radio the other day did say wow you know it is I could see why people would think it was the precursor of heavy metal how it came about was I had read in a music paper that the who had had done a really heavy track and Pete Townshend of the who was quoted saying it this is that we've just made the dirtiest loudest filthiest song ever so I was kind of jealous I didn't hear their song I still don't know what song he was referring to but I went in the studio said guys we've done it to a song cos dirtier and filthier and louder than the WHO and think about the real stuff was that when I look back on or what we've produced there's no two songs that are alike whereas you know a lot of record artists will find a great formula and they the next three singles are kind of the same song you know.
but we just were young guys and we would have got bored doing that under the worst thing ever seen as we're allowed in the studio allowed to play guitars and things the worst thing ever would have been just to sit around bored so we we always changed whatever we were about to do and did something different so I had this helter-skelter thing and we did that and yeah it is pretty raw you know it's pretty screamy it was good to do we did a lot of takes on it so it was hard on Ringo you know I'm one of the I'm one of the takes you can hear him right at the end he says I've got blisters on my fingers she'd been drumming so hard and so loud you know that well yeah I wonder whether you know heavy metal bands heard that and thought that's the way to go like you know loud rock and roll basically and I know the ac/dc guys and they're loud have you seen them live Oh baby that's that's one of the joys being in a band is you get to plug in electric guitar and turn it up just as loud as you want and it's such a sort of cool feeling that I could see why you'd form a group based around that idea Blackbird I was sitting around my acoustic guitar and I'd heard about the civil rights troubles that were happening in the 60s in Alabama Mississippi Little Rock in particular so that was in my mind and I just thought it'd be really good if I could write something that if you ever reached any of the people going through those problems.
it might kind of give them a little bit of hope so I wrote Blackbird and in England a bird is a girl so I was thinking a black girl going through this you know you now's your time to arise you you know set yourself free and take these broken wings one of the nice things about music is that you know the lot of people listening to you are going to take seriously what you're saying in the song so I'm very proud of the fact that the Beatles output is always really pretty positive and there's hardly anything in there that sort of says goon screw your parents or whatever you know it's always pretty let it be Hey Jude so it's hopefully a good message I particularly like that and you sometimes around writing songs I will think there's people out who were going through some problems and hopefully people out there will listen to it and think oh yeah it's not just me alone going through this you know this is something and also something that I can fix that was another dream song actually I'd been overdoing it you know it's the 60s and we were just getting crazed and stuff a lot of the time and so I went to bed.
I wasn't feeling too great inside in myself and in the dream my mother came into me in the dream and she died maybe 10 years previously and so when someone who you've lost comes back to you in a dream it's a miraculous moment you know because you you with them and you your mind doesn't say wait a minute you shouldn't be here you just with them and so it was really nice you know cuz there's my mom very emotional and she seemed to realize is this all going on in my mind of course but you know forget that she seemed to realize that I was going through struggles and she said it's gonna be ok it's all really gonna be ok she said just just let it be I would I felt great and woke up with her was that what I remember the dreams of what did she say let it be and then I sat down the piano and wrote the song it had a lot of emotion because of who'd said it and my situation so that kind of translated to the record and I think that's why a lot of people like it they feel somehow that kind of magic comes through I don't know you know just sometimes you just sit down at a piano and sometimes there isn't a piano so you play the guitar it's not like a formula it's just what you fancy at the time and that particular song there was a piano in my room so I just sort of wrote it on the piano and it still is a piano song when I do it live it's a piano song those times after the 60s were pretty high and you know a lot of people were getting high so to me it's just like a fantasy song hey girl come on let's get high now I must admit it could get a little bit embarrassing because I got grandkids and he's be gone yeah so when do we do it in life I kind of go let's get high on life disclaimer there you know but at the time it was just about the times and multicolored band and it's a it's very much a period piece but it goes down well and one of my guys rang me up said hey you know this we've got a problem, what , oh the BBC just banned hi hi they won't play it why not well it's drug-related and they're pretty straight-laced you know one of my two band records I you know I can see why and if I say I read after John died they'd been a lot of talk about who did what and who liked who did the Beatles argue and or I was almost buying into this idea that me and John was sort of fighting all the time.
But I I just remembered it wasn't true so I wrote this song about you know if you were here you might say this or those but I know better I know I remember well some of the things we did I was really it was really for me thinking about John and just thinking you know what we we had a great relationship and like any family there's always arguments there's always disputes but in the end you know we loved each other and I wanted to do I wanted to make a song where I actually said I love you too John and so that was that song again it's quite emotional you know because it came from a real feeling about him and wanted to correct the record kind of in my mind as much as in anyone else's mind and there are some photos from that period which are really beautiful and there's just him and me working and you can see we loved each other so but you know when she wants all these rumors go about you almost playing into them yourself anyway so that song can I help me set the record straight [Applause] I was in Excel writing moved and it was up in Scotland I just thought okay I just gotta go somewhere and try and write a song and we happen to have a little pony did was called jet on the farm I was on a farm in Scotland and actually took my guitar and hiked up this great big hill I just kind of find myself a place there which is in the middle of nature and to satyr and just started making up a song you know it's not one of those songs that I even when I sing it now I don't kind of know what where all the words came from I know where jet came from and I like the name the words are I cut probably about me and my father-in-law you know early days of getting married and when your father-in-law is kind of a nuisance and you kind of hey so he's probably the major in it but you know it's only a song so you kind of work you work you things out that one was written halfway up a mountain in Scotland then record recorded in Nigeria yeah I was wondering where to record and I fancied getting out of England so I asked my record label which is am I to supply me with a list of all the studios they had around the world I knew they had a lot and one was in China what was in Rio de Janeiro one was in Lagos Nigeria so our yeah later come on because I like African music a lot.
I love the rhythms of African music and so I chose that not realizing that it would be really basic little studio and we kind of built half the studio they didn't have a vocal booth you are you're going to booth to isolate your voice they didn't have one so we had to explain to them you take some Ward and you do this and you get some glass and you put it in like that so we built the vocal booth but it was kind of nice I like the primitive aspect of it and being in Africa was pretty interesting experience if you got three hours out about it [Music] I don't know is the one that opens the album and it's much more angst-ridden again you know you you sit down to write a song and you think oh I'm not gonna write anything that's like too sad or desperate people are gonna think I'm desperate but but you go know people like that I like that so I'm gonna write something you can often take a moment you remember where you had like at let's say an argument and you think you think of that situation and you work it out in the song so just by saying the opening lines I've got crows up my window dogs at my door I don't think I can take any more that makes you feel better and you suddenly oh it's a song and you you're crafting it into a vehicle that kind of puts all those thoughts in there or all your kind of troubles and woes so you kind of work you work your things out and songs one of the great things about writing songs it's almost like a therapy you can go in kind of angry or sad and you put all of that in the song and it kind of makes the song better because it's real feelings in it and when you finish the song you feel a lot better
Irish folk song lyrics, chords and a whole lot more