Fifty years as a solo artist, and as a member of the band Wings, has seen Paul McCartney produce an absolutely enormous catalogue of songs. Picking the eyes out of that extraordinary post-Beatle career and giving us the lowdown on how some of the most memorable of his solo compositions came about is the task of a new book about to hit stores near you.
It’s called Paul McCartney: The Stories Behind the Songs and in it author Mike Evans dives deep into 50 key songs across a recording span of fifty years. The territory he traverses here ranges across 26 solo and Wings albums, from McCartney (1970) all the way through to McCartney III (2020). It also includes key single releases that never made it onto albums – and let’s face it, there are so many of these (especially in the early days) that are absolute classics. No book about McCartney’s output over this period would be complete without songs like ‘Another Day’; ‘Live and Let Die’; ‘Helen Wheels’; ‘Mull of Kintyre’; and rarer items like ‘(I Want To) Come Home’ from 2009 – to name but a few.
With last year’s McCartney III being included it’s refreshing to have book that is so current. It’s also refreshing to have a book that contains a discography, not one but two indexes, and that has a bibliography up the back. That is testament to thorough research and so helpful when seeking out information on particular albums and songs. It makes it so much easier to go straight to what you’re looking for, especially when dipping in out. And this is probably the way most readers will use this book: it’s the sort of reference you’ll keep coming back to as curiosity about different albums, songs and singles take your attention.
Each album and single in the book includes full session details, personnel lists and chart data and is described in detail, from original inspiration to the final release. Quotes from co-writers, session musicians and studio personnel bring the making of every song to life, alongside a wealth of related photographs in and out of the studio.
Just what to put in and what to leave out must have meant many a sleepless night for author Mike Evans. He says himself that he’s opening a pandora’s box: “The final list of inclusions is inevitably subjective and some readers are bound to ask, “Well, what about…?” Such exclusions include ‘Give Ireland Back to the Irish’ and ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’, both singles from 1972, and ‘We All Stand Together’ (with the Frog Chorus) from the 1984 Rupert Bear animated film Rupert and the Frog Song.” We’ll go out on a limb and support him wholeheartedly on those choices.
Likewise he’s decided not to include music from McCartney’s five volumes of classical recordings, the instrumental projects he released under the psuedonym The Fireman (though he does include a song from 2008’s Electric Arguments), and two singles featuring Kanye West (plus one with Kanye and Rihanna).
Conversely, Evans explains in his Introduction the inclusion of a few non-original compositions: “‘Walking in the Park with Eloise’ from 1974, written by Paul’s dad Jim McCartney; ‘No Other Baby’, a UK skiffle record from 1957; and the old gospel song ‘Light from Your Lighthouse’, (which is actually credited to McCartney on the recording). Along with his three albums of mainly non-original material – 1988’s “Russian” rock ’n’ roll release Choba B CCCP, the similar Run Devil Run collection from 1999, and the 2011 “standards” album Kisses on the Bottom – all of these songs reflect the essential influences that informed McCartney’s musical taste during his teenage years.” Fair enough.
As we said earlier, this is a book you don’t have to read cover-to-cover if you don’t want to. You can dip in and out as the mood or interest strikes. It is well-researched and well worth it.
Paul McCartney: The Stories Behind the Songs is published by Welbeck on September 2.
BOOK GIVEAWAY COMPETITION
Now, for our readers in the UK and Europe we have a treat.
Thanks to the kind folks at Welbeck Publishing you can win one of three copies of Paul McCartney: The Stories Behind the Songs. All you have to do is to be the first to correctly answer this question:
‘Jenny Wren’ is one of the many memorable songs on the 2005 album, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard. It features an evocative solo using an ancient Armenian woodwind instrument called the duduk. Who was the player?
The first three people to correctly answer will win a copy of the book.
Remember, this is only for our readers in the UK or Europe!
The answer to who played the beautiful duduk solo on the song ‘Jenny Wren’ was Pedro Eustache.
No more entires please. We have our three winners. They are Michael from Germany, Fin from Ireland and Chris from the UK. Your books will be in the post to you shortly. Thank you to the lovely folks at Welbeck Publishing for providing the prizes.
Thanks for the book review. It sounds great!
The answer to your question is Pedro Eustache.
Sent from my iPhone
Is there any book detailing the musicians who play on each song recorded by Paul as solo artist ? I mean who play what on the recording. I assume the Mike Evans book does so only for the 50 songs covered in the book, not for the complete Paul’s discography
Good question. Yes, the Mike Evans book only deals in detail with 50 songs. There is a great book (held in very high regard) by Luca Perasi: https://www.amazon.com/Paul-McCartney-Recording-1969-2013-McCartneys/dp/8890912219 However, it only goes from 1969 to 2003 at this stage. There is a good website with heaps of information called The Paul McCartney Project: