You Gave Me The Answer - ‘McCartney: A Life in Lyrics’ Podcast


When Paul’s New York Times bestseller and award-winning book The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present was published two years ago, it gave us a glimpse into his creative process revealing the stories behind some of our best-loved songs. Now, we’re about to learn even more thanks to the new podcast series, McCartney: A Life in Lyrics!  

The Lyrics was a collaboration between Paul and Pulitzer Prize winning poet Paul Muldoon with their recorded conversations totalling more than 50 hours of audio. Highlights from their conversations now form the basis of this exciting new podcast series which focusses on one song per episode.  

Episodes of McCartney: A Life in Lyrics will be released weekly. They are a combination of master class and memoir and the first two episodes will be available on your podcast platform of choice from Wednesday 4th October. Season One features timeless favourites such as 'Eleanor Rigby', 'Let It Be', 'Live and Let Die', 'Magical Mystery Tour', 'Too Many People' and many more.  

With this fascinating new series on its way, it felt like the perfect time to revisit our Q&A with Paul from November 2021, when The Lyrics first arrived on bookshelves. Here are three of our favourite answers, where Paul revealed how the book came about, how he decided what songs to include, and what songs he would use to define different eras of his career… 

Excerpt from You Gave Me The Answer – The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present Special This question came from ‘McCartney Vinyl’ on Twitter: Why did you decide to create The Lyrics and how long did it take to put together? 

Paul: It was suggested to me by my brother-in-law John Eastman, and by the publisher of my Blackbird Singing book Bob Weil. They thought of the idea of putting together lyrics and associated material, and I liked it, so we put things in motion. Then it was suggested that I could work with the poet Paul Muldoon and give him loads of information, as much as I could remember about each song, and that was that. It took forever! I think it took about five years in total to create the book. 

I had never met Paul before, but he’s a great guy and I was very happy to work with him. We first met up to have some initial chats when I was in New York, and then we did some Zoom calls once everywhere went into lockdown with Covid. We just talked and went through a whole big bunch of songs, and they’re all the songs that ended up in The Lyrics. Rory on Facebook asks: When you were deciding which songs to include, did you go through it chronologically, in order the songs were written? 

Paul:I never worked out Paul Muldoon’s system, but he would appear with a sheet of paper and would say, ‘Let’s do these today!’ It was always good fun, because really it was just a couple of friends sitting and talking. And the more we got to know each other, the more we talked about the act of writing, what with him being a well-known poet. We had a lot of things in common and were always asking each other, ‘How do you start a song?’ Or, ‘How do you start a poem?’ And I would tell him what I did and he would tell me what he did. The next question is from James on Twitter: If you had to pick only one song from your Beatles days, Wings days and your solo days to best showcase each band to curious aliens who had no idea and wanted to learn about you, which ones would you choose? 

Paul:It’s always very hard to narrow down favourite songs, so what I do is just make a guess. What comes to my head for The Beatles would be ‘Yesterday’ – I’d say that was an important moment. But then again, my inner voice says, ‘What about ‘Hey Jude’? What about ‘Let It Be’…?’ So, it is a very difficult question to answer. But I’ll plump for ‘Yesterday’. 

For the Wings period I’ll go for ‘Band on the Run’, although I’ve just heard recently the song ‘Arrow Through Me’ is really getting all sorts of attention, so maybe the aliens would like that! I always liked it myself as a song, but it’s obviously been played somewhere recently and people are going mad on the streaming. That’s another lovely aspect of writing songs - you do something and think it’s of its time, and then years later it gets put in a film soundtrack or something and there’s suddenly a big uptake. I remember ‘Blackbird’ was in the film Boss Baby - it’s an animation film for kids - and parents would come up me and say, ‘You know my kid’s favourite song of yours? It’s ‘Blackbird’!’ It is great that this young generation is getting into the song. I wrote it so long ago and it’s resonating with them now – it’s quite amazing, it’s very gratifying. But anyway, that aside, let’s say ‘Band on the Run’ would be my choice for Wings.  

Then for my solo period I would go for ‘Coming Up’ fromMcCartney II

New episodes of McCartney: A Life in Lyrics will be released weekly from 4th October on iHeartRadio, Apple, Spotify, and wherever podcasts are available. Pushkin+ subscribers will be able to binge the entire season on the very first day. Listen here. 

And don’t forget, The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present will also be published in paperback on Tuesday 7th November and features seven new commentaries!

⁠Pre-order your copy of THE LYRICS: 1956 to the Present paperback in the UK
Pre-order your copy of THE LYRICS: 1956 to the Present paperback in the US