McCartney’s ‘The Lyrics’ Wins British Book Award

Paul McCartney, no stranger to the odd prestigious award, has just won another.

His book The Lyrics:1956 to the Present has taken out the award for Best Non-Fiction Lifestyle book in the 2022 British Book Awards (otherwise known as The Nibbies):

Strangely Sir Paul’s acceptance speech (pre-recorded and played to the audience at the awards ceremony) could not be included in the YouTube clip.

Here’s some more info on the other books that were on the shortlist.

The judges wrote that The Lyrics was: “A work of art”; “a unique piece of publishing”; and a book that “belongs in a museum, not just our bookshelves.” They praised the two-volume set as a “fantastic visual diary”, singling out the original hand-written lyrics.

The book was supported by a free exhibition at the British Library and McCartney in Conversation at the Southbank Royal Festival Hall.

Publishers Allen Lane coordinated a global launch, simultaneously in 11 languages, attaining extensive broadsheet and radio coverage. Plus the book was released in multiple translations.

McCartney’s The Lyrics: Special Edition

Penguin Books, publishers of Paul McCartney’s forthcoming book The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present, have announced there’s to be a Special Edition.

It is a very limited boxed set of the two-volume compendium of 154 songs with accompanying stories, photos, drafts and artifacts associated with each song from the McCartney archives.

Just 175 copies of this will make their way into the world, though as one reader points out in the Comments section below, there have been two different signed books with the number #95 sold recently on eBay. Each had a different publishing logo (Liveright Books = US, and Allen Lane = UK) thus raising doubts on the accuracy of 175 worldwide number. Maybe it is 175 in the US, and 175 in the UK? Either way, this edition is actually signed by Paul McCartney, and comes in a bright orange textured outer binder with the words to ‘Hey Jude’ embossed in the fabric. Very tasteful.

The Special Edition is being distributed only to selected bookstores in the UK and the USA, and has a recommended retail price of US$2083.00 (or UK £1500.00), though some stores appear to be taking bids on the signed book, a bit like an auction.

The stores with the Special Edition in the UK were all listed on a Penguin Books website for a few days, but this now seems to have disappeared. Perhaps all copies have been sold already? The stores in the US are listed here.

For us mere mortals (i.e. poor people!) it joins two other more affordable editions. The one to be published in the UK under the Allen Lane imprint has this outer box and plain book spines for each volume:

And the other – in the US – will be published by Liveright Books. Their edition comes in a bright green outer box and has an image of McCartney on each spine:

The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present is published worldwide on November 2.

On Saturday, November 6 there’s to be a special event in London Paul McCartney In Conversation where he will appear live at the Southbank Royal Festival Hall along with the book’s editor Paul Muldoon. Tickets for the live event, and to join in online, are on sale here.

The official McCartney YouTube channel has also released this teaser video with Paul speaking to Bob Mortimer at the British Library about the inspiration for his song ‘Rocky Racoon’.

UPDATE: Just on the orange, signed, limited edition above – here is one very excited owner giving us a bit of a look at his US Liverlight book, number 30/175!

Paul McCartney – The Stories Behind the Songs. A Review and a Giveaway Competition

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.


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.

The Beatles Are Bigger in Britain than the US

Looking at a copy of the UK version of Kevin Howlett’s The Beatles: the BBC Archives: 1962-1970 at our favourite Sydney discount bookstore we noticed something odd.

We already have a copy of the US edition (published by Harper Design) in the collection, but this UK one (published by BBC Books) looked and felt different….

Turns out it’s BIGGER (US on the left, UK on the right):IMG_0451IMG_0447

And what is printed on the rear of the box which holds the book is different, too: IMG_0454


Lennon Legend Book

After a long time searching, I’ve finally got hold of a second-hand copy of “Lennon Legend – An Illustrated Life of John Lennon“, a book by James Henke (and designer Katie LeClerq) which first came out back in 2003. This is one of those books that you can literally delve into because as well as lots of text and photos about the life and times of John Lennon it also has a broad selection of replica memorabilia scattered throughout its pages, tucked away in little holders and pockets. For example hand-written lyric sheets like this one for “In My Life” from the Rubber Soul album of 1965:

In this regard, this book is very similar to “Treasures of the Beatles” which I wrote about here, but I think its of higher quality than that book in it’s attention to detail. “Lennon Legend” traces John’s life from the early days in Liverpool and has reproductions of a little school magazine he produced (called “The Daily Howl” from 1950) and a Christmas, 1955 report card from Quarry Bank High School when Lennon was aged 15 years and 2 months old:

You may be able to make out above that in English J.W.Lennon is “….capable of good work and has done quite well”, in Geography “…he is undoubtedly trying harder in his new form. Hope he keeps it up”, but in French John’s results are disappointing: “He is so fond of obtaining a cheap laugh in class that he has little time left for serious contribution.”  John’s headmaster notes (in red) “The best report he has had for a long time. I hope this means that he has turned over a new leaf.”

As the Beatles become better known the memorabilia in the book reflects their journey. There’s a little Cavern Club membership booklet from 1964, which contains this advice to patrons: “IMPORTANT Handbags, coats, shoes, hats, umbrellas etc. must NOT be left lying around the Club UNDER SEATS, in the toilets….or anywhere where you cannot look after them. Your property is your responsibility. USE THE CLOAKROOMS!“:

You get a set of miniature movie posters for “A Hard Day s Night”, and a replica of an original ticket to the film’s Royal World Premiere at the London Pavilion:

Moving on to when John and Yoko were in the thick of their peace campaign (combined with art “events”), on one page of the book in a small pocket there’s a small card tag (below). In July, 1968 one of these was attached to a helium-filled balloon (and there were 365 of them), and released into the skies over London to promote John’s first art exhibition called “You Are Here”:

In a similar vein is a replica sheet – a typed “Declaration” from 1973 (note the date of April 1st) of the establishment by John and Yoko of an imaginary country called Nutopia:

Along with the Declaration you get a miniature Nutopian national flag – which is simply an all-white piece of cloth with no colours or emblems…

“Lennon Legend” also comes with a CD containing 60 minutes of interviews and music. Here’s one of the interviews. John is on radio station WNEW on September 28, 1974. (WNEW was an AM station located in New York, but changed its call sign to WBBR in 1992). In this extract he’s talking about the Beatles:

The CD also contains a live version of “Imagine”, recorded on the long-running US daytime TV talk show hosted by Mike Douglas. John and Yoko co-hosted the show for a week in February 1972. You can see that version of “Imagine” here:

The book takes the Lennon history up to “Double Fantasy”, and of course his tragic murder.

This is just a small taste of the content inside. “Lennon Legend – An Illustrated Life of John Lennon” by James Henke comes in a hard cardboard slipcase and was published by Chronicle Books in 2003.

See also: “Treasures of the Beatles” here and here.

The Beatles’ Second Album – Book

What has to be the cutest little Beatles book ever:

It’s a small-format hardback book. Measuring just 12.5cm x 18.5cm (5ins x 7ins) and written by legendary music journalist Dave Marsh. This book tells, in 184 pages, the story behind this album:

Its the 1964 Capitol Records US LP release “The Beatles Second Album”, and for Dave Marsh and millions of Americans, when it came out (despite its manifold flaws) it was a paradigm shift in music.

I say “despite its many flaws” because Marsh outlines numerous arguments as to  why “The Beatles’ Second Album” was indeed flawed – from the poor sound transfers from the original UK master tapes of individual songs; the way the song running order differs from those being released on the Beatles original albums in Britain; because in it’s 22 minutes so many of the songs are not original compositions but cover versions; right down to the shoddy, slapdash cover art. However, putting all that aside, it’s an album which still had the power to turn a young teenage boy onto rock music – a passion which remains to this day more that 45 years later…

Marsh writes:

“There’s a story here. I mean to tell it. It has a beginning, a centre, an aftermath….Because of all the contrdictions of its creation, and becasue it unwittingly came closer to describing the shape of the Beatles’ musical roots than anything else they did in the recording studio, “The Beatles’ Second Album” tracks on several other levels. Also because of the response of fans now and the Beatles then to how it and its other bastard American brethren, spawned from greed and greatness in near equal measure, because of what it says about who the Beatles could have been and what they were and who we could have been and what we were, too…..What we were left with pretty much traveled on a single track: the story of the Beatles as a grand triumph of good cheer and fellowship, teen idols turned into heroic artists.”

If you want to see more the front and rear covers, plus the first chapter in full (and half the second chapter), are available online.

While it’s a cute little book, it is an odd one in that it is published by Rodale Books. Rodale, from what I can gather from the web, are the publishers of magazines like “Men’s Health”, “Women’s Health”, and “Runner’s World” etc., as well as a range of health and lifestyle books – so its unusual that they ventured into the world of popular music back in 2007 when they published this one. It definitely sounds like there’s a bit of an intriguing back story about just how it came to be published….

The Beatles – Then There Was Music

I got to go to a garage sale (or where you live they might call them “yard sales”) last Saturday morning.  I try whenever I can to have a brief look at garage sales because you just never know what people might have out for sale….and this time I was in luck.

There was only one Beatle item there, but it was a beauty:

It was copy of a large and heavy book called “The Beatles – Then There Was Music”.  This book was published in Australia by New Holland Press in November, 2007.  It was first published in the UK by Transatlantic Press the same year.

“The Beatles  – Then There Was Music”  is written by Tim Hall and it’s illustrated with hundreds of  photographs from the archive of London’s Daily Mail newspaper. The cover also says: “The complete story of four lads who shook the world. Classic, rare and unseen photographs. Memorabilia. Chronicle. Original news coverage”.

I picked this up for just $5.00. And it is practically brand new. You can see at the publisher’s official Australian website that it actually retails for $49.95.

As I said, lots of interesting photographs, and at the bottom of every page is a timeline.  For example, in August, 1964 the Beatles North American tour started when they arrived in San Francisco and played the first of 25 dates with a show at the Cow Palace on Geneva Avenue. On August 20 they traveled to Las Vegas Nevada and played two shows at the Convention centre there:

From Vegas the band traveled to Washington state, and then on August 22 they appeared at the Empire Stadium in Vancouver. The next day they played the now famous Hollywood Bowl concert in Los Angeles. You can see the ticket stubs for both these concerts in the in picture above.

Scattered throughout the book there are also small vignettes of those who were a part of the Beatles inner circle – including one for long-time Beatles minder Mal Evans, who’d been with the band from the very earliest of days in Liverpool. You can see that entry for Mal below, along with a photo of the band rehearsing for a performance on the BBC’s “Top of the Pops” TV show:

This book has lots of great newspaper photographs from the Daily Mail – including these two below.  Paul and Linda celebrating the 20th anniversary of “Sgt Pepper” with a big slice of cake, and George playing at a tribute concert to one of his rock’n’roll heroes, Carl Perkins:

There’s also a complete discography (from 1962 up to 2006) beginning with January 5, 1962 and “My Bonnie” right through to the BeatlesLove” in 2006. Here’s the page for the year 1980 including entries for the “Rarities” album, “The Beatles Ballads” release, and the Beatles Box set (UK release):

So, thats it. “The Beatles – Then There Was Music”.  A collectors item discovered at a garage sale. I always say that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Let me know of any great second-hand Beatles finds you’ve made.

See also the recent post on another similar, but probably not as comprehensive book, simply called “The Beatles“.

“Starting Over” – New Lennon Book Coming

Its the season for new biographical books. There’s a new Paul McCartney biog just released.

And now comes news of a new book associated with the massive John Lennon CD reissue release program that’s planned for October. The book is about the making of the “Double Fantasy” album which when reissued next month will contain the original recording remastered, plus a new “stripped down” version as well.

“Starting Over – The Making of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Double Fantasy” will be published by Simon & Schuster on October 19:

Starting Over - front cover

The book is written by author, musician and columnist Ken Sharp who’s previous works include whats regarded as the definitive biography of Kiss.

To quote from the PR blurb:  “Starting Over is an oral history of the making of Double Fantasy and the definitive account of John Lennon’s last days. From early demos to sessions at New York City’s The Hit Factory, from the electrifying chemistry of the studio band to keeping the project under wraps to the album’s release and critical reception, here is fascinating, insightful commentary from all of the key players involved in its extraordinary creation: Yoko Ono, David Geffen, producer Jack Douglas, engineers, arrangers, session musicians, music journalists, and even Lennon himself via archival interviews.”

The book will feature never-before-seen photos of John and Yoko in the studio, by David M. Spindel and Roger Farrington.

Thanks to Scott Segelbaum of the “Beatle Briefs” podcast for the info on this one.

Speaking of the forthcoming reissue of  “Double Fantasy – Stripped Down”, the new cover art was revealed a couple of weeks ago:

Clearly its a pencil drawing (signed Sean Ono Lennon, 2010) based on the famous photograph used on the original LP and CD covers. It also appeared in a more closely cropped version on the 45 rpm vinyl single “(Just Like) Starting Over”:

Beatles Books Abound

I came into the possession of two more Beatles books this week.

I wasn’t actually looking for them – they came looking for me. As I’ve posted earlier, we’ve recently visited Vietnam. It was my wife’s birthday this week and so I thought a Vietnamese cookbook might be popular. I went along to my local discount bookshop – but no Vietnamese cooking books were to be seen. However, in the Music section (a frequent haunt) I found these two Beatles “picture” books, both by the same publisher, both in the same format, and both only AUS$7.95 (US$7.28) each. Who could resist?

The first is “The Beatles – The Illustrated Biography”. It’s a small-format book – about 17.5 cm (7 inches) by 17.5 cm square. Here’s the front cover:

The Beatles - The Illustrated Biography - front cover

The sub-title reads: “A Unique Collection of 200 Classic, Rare and Unseen Photographs”, and that’s pretty much what this book is. It’s a photographic step through the career in photographs. Part One is called “Four Lads From Liverpool”. Part Two is called “The Long and Winding Road”. Text is provided by Tim Hill, Alison Gauntlett, Gareth Thomas and Jane Benn. It’s published by Transatlantic Press in Britain in 2009.

The Beatles - The Illustrated Biography - rear cover

These sorts of books abound – with many of them published in a variety of formats and all using the Daily Mail library of Beatles photographs. This book is no exception. The photographs are all credited to Getty Images, but I suspect they are all pretty much from the Daily Mail archive – just re-packaged. I must say though that this one is nicely presented in black-and-white and in colour, and worth having in the collection.

Here is a random open page from the book:

The Beatles - The Illustrated Biography - open page

What you can see is a series of two colour shots taken on location in May, 1965 during the filming of the movie “Help”. Clearly the group are in downtime, waiting no doubt for a scene to be lit or some technical problem to be sorted out at Cliveden House in Buckinghamshire. The text talks about the Beatles the previous evening having attended Royal Albert Hall in London to watch a performance by Bob Dylan, whose song-writing was proving to be a big influence on John Lennon at this time.

This little Beatles book is accompanied by what is clearly a companion publication by the same publisher (Transatlantic Press) –  a book called “John Lennon – The Illustrated Biography”:

John Lennon - The Illustrated Biography - front cover

This is in the same format (about 17.5 cm (7 inches) square) as the Beatles book above, and was also published in 2009.

It’s sub-title is “200 Classic, Rare and Unseen Photographs by the Daily Mail” – so clearly it is a re-packaging of many previous books along the same lines. Here’s the rear cover image:

John Lennon - The Illustrated Biography - rear cover

A happy moment (albeit public) between John and his then wife Cynthia Lennon.

The text for this book is by Gareth Thomas, and all photographs are copyrighted to the Associated Newspapers Archive (read: “Daily Mail”), and to Getty Images. Unlike the Beatles book, all the images in this one are black-and-white. Here’s a random open page from the book:

John Lennon - The Illustrated Biography - open page

The photographs here were taken in August 1966, and the text says: “Before leaving for Chicago, John and the boys were taken on a relaxed tour around London airport, including a visit to the new police facilities….However, by the time they had reached their destination [they’d learned about] the seriousness of the “more popular than Jesus” debacle they were facing. John’s anxiety levels were at an all-time high…as he prepared to apologize for his supposedly anti-Christian remarks at a televised press conference….”

Two nice little books to have in the collection

UPDATE:  Another Beatles related book (released in August 2010) is Howard Sounes’ “FAB: An Intimate Biography of Paul McCartney”.

The Penguin John Lennon – Plus a Couple of Other Things

Had a trip to Canberra, Australia’s national capital, this weekend and a chance to browse some second-hand book and record stores.

The trip turned up a couple of unexpected items – but that’s always the way with these things, isn’t it?

While in Canberra itself I found a CD/DVD store in the downtown “Civic” area advertising “20% OFF ALL STOCK”. That is just too good an invitation to walk past. Didn’t find a lot of interest to the Beatles collector in me – except for a heavily discounted, brand-new copy of  “All You Need Is Cash”, a film by Eric Idle’s Beatles parody group The Rutles. I’d never seen the film, and for A$6.40 it was a bargain. More on this soon in a separate post….

Also, strolling past a newsagent shop in the Canberra suburb of Kingston, I saw a table outside with old magazines that they were just throwing out – for free. Buried under the pile was a copy of “Q” magazine from July 2007, with a feature article for the fortieth anniversary of the release of the Sgt Pepper called “It Was Forty Years Ago Today….Sgt Pepper Celebrated”:

In it the likes of Bono, Brian Wilson, George Martin, Dhani Harrison, Jeff Lynne and others take one track from the album and write about why they love it, when they first heard it, or what it means to them. The magazine was still in its plastic outer wrap – and so in absolutely perfect condition. Not bad for free! Also with “Q” in the pile was a March, 2007 copy of a magazine called “Sound On Sound”, which on the front cover describes itself as “the UK’s biggest selling music recording magazine”. I’d not seen this title previously, but the front cover carried the photo below and an extensive article on the making of the Beatles “Love” album:

That’s George Martin and his son Giles, and they take the magazine through the detail of producing the Beatles‘ 2007 release “Love” (see this post, and this post for more details). If you’d like to read the article, “Sound on Sound” have now published it here in full online. The magazine is also in perfect condition. Not bad for free!

And finally, on the way home we stopped in the town of Berrima, just outside of which is a legendary second-hand book store called Berkelouw. They call it the Berkelouw Book Barn, and thats just what it is – a huge barn of a place absolutely filled to the rafters with shelf after shelf of pre-loved books. In the music section, I found (on hand and knee – it was of the very bottom shelf!) this little book to add to the collection:

The Penguin John Lennon

It is “The Penguin John Lennon”, a paperback (or soft cover) which gathers together in one volume John Lennon‘s two humorous prose works “John Lennon In His Own Write” (from 1964), and “A Spaniard in the Works” (from 1965), plus some great original line drawings by John. I believe this edition above (with this cover by David Nutter) came out in 1973, but “The Penguin John Lennon” has been out since about 1966. You may have seen it with this cover:

The book has an Introduction written by Paul McCartney, who says at the bottom of the page: “P.S. I like the drawings too”.  He must have, because one of the first drawings in the book was used for the cover of the Beatles “Free As A Bird” CD single – thirty years later in 1995: