Ever find yourself listening to one of Paul’s songs and hearing a word or phrase you don’t recognise? With hundreds of songwriting credits under his belt, Paul is no stranger to sneaking in some Liverpool slang, playing on words, and even making up words entirely! But what do they actually mean?
We dug through the archives here at PaulMcCartney.com and spotted a few ourselves, from the famous run-out groove on _Sgt. Pepper_’s Lonely Hearts Club Band to ‘Mumbo’ on Wild Life and ‘cranlock navel, cranlock pie’ in the Blackbird Singing poem ‘Ivan’. We chatted to Paul via Zoom to find out exactly where these unusual phrases come from…
Paul: When you are kids you make up silly things, and what’s great about it is you and your friends all know those silly things… So, they don't have to mean anything! We had a few words and phrases that, if one of us said it, would amuse the others because it was like a secret code. So ‘cranlock naval, cranlock pie’ doesn't actually mean anything.
But I suppose at lot of this came from The Goon Show, a comedy show on the radio. Peter Sellers was in it, along with Spike Milligan, Harry Secombe and Michael Bentine. They got laughs from saying things like, “Netty, oh Jim boy!” And other nonsense, so ‘cranlock naval, cranlock pie’ fitted in with that era. We just used to say absolutely silly little things.
PM.com: Was ‘cranlock pie’ used in any particular context, or is it just something you would say to make each other laugh?
Paul: That was something that our friend Ivan would say. He’d be imitating stuff that John would say, and then everyone would just make up things together.
There was a thing in Liverpool that us kids used to do, which was instead of saying ‘f-off’, we would say ‘chicka ferdy!’. It actually exists in the lyrics of The Beatles song ‘Sun King’. In that song we just kind of made up things, and we were all in on the joke. We were thinking that nobody would know what it meant, and most people would think, ‘Oh, it must be Spanish,’ or something. But, we got a little seditious word in there!
Well, we’re big fans of nonsensical lyrics, from ‘The Ying Tong Song’ by The Goons, to Stanley Unwin’s ‘Unwinese’. For more from Paul’s catalogue, check out the Beatles welcoming us to ‘Slaggers’ in ‘You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)’, right up to ‘she got matching teeth’ from _Egypt Station_’s ‘Caesar Rock’. What are your favourites?