'You Gave Me The Answer' - Lily Cole Asks…

'You Gave Me The Answer' - Lily Cole Asks…

Fans will have seen that on Wednesday 19th November Paul sat down with Lily Cole and a small group of musicians from her Impossible website to discuss his forthcoming new single 'Hope For The Future' and share his thoughts about songwriting. Paul chatted with Lily and the invite-only audience for 45 minutes, taking several questions from the musicians in attendance. (Pssst – we'll be posting the full transcript from the Q&A soon!)

As you might imagine, a room made up of musicians had a great number of things they wanted to ask Paul! So after the talk finished we spoke with them and took note of a few more questions. Later that day, Paul kindly sat down with us to answer them.

Today we publish the first of these questions for November's 'You Gave Me The Answer'. To make it even more exciting, we asked Lily Cole to read out three of the questions sent in via Twitter. Watch the video of Lily asking the questions below:

Would you like to find out where the characters 'Eleanor Rigby' and 'Polythene Pam' came from? Or which lyrics Paul is currently enjoying singing on tour? Read on…


Question: Did Paul and John ever talk about the characters inside their songs and try to get them as real as possible?

Paul: "Some of them you would talk about, some of them didn’t have a provenance; we just made them up. They didn’t come from anywhere.

"But there would be all sorts of examples - like ‘Polythene Pam’ - who was someone John had known. There was a wild night somewhere and this girl was dressed in a lot of polythene [laughs], so she was known as ‘Polythene Pam’. So she was real, baby! And, you know, I'd like to have been a fly on that wall! So she came from somewhere.

''Eleanor Rigby' came from a combination of old ladies I’d known when I was a kid. It was sort of a cross between wanting to do good work, but at the same time a fascination by these older people who had gone through stuff, that I hadn’t. For some reason or another I was drawn to those people.

"There was a woman who lived near me in 20 Forthlin Road, where I used to go and get her shopping for her, just because I was on my way to the shops. I’d just drop in, I knew her. So we became pretty good friends and she was a sort of lonely old lady. But I found out things like she had a little crystal radio set, which fascinated me, because people in the war made their own little radios, "What! You can make a radio?! Brilliant!" So she would be part of the 'Eleanor Rigby' thing. I would occasionally meet other lonely old ladies, so they kind of became 'Eleanor Rigby' too.

"Some of the people – mostly they were made up - but some of them did actually come from somewhere.

'''Father McKenzie' in 'Eleanor Rigby' was going to be Father McCartney. I had [sings to the tune of 'Eleanor Rigby'] ‘Father McCartney, do do do do do’. And I said, ‘I’ve got to change that.’ And John said, ‘No, it’ll be great! Father McCartney!’ I said, ‘No, it’s like my Dad! I can’t relate to it’. So we got the phonebook out, we just went: ‘McCartney, McCartney, McCartney, McCartney, McKenzie!’"

PaulMcCartney.com: "There are many stories about where the name Eleanor Rigby came from, is that someone’s name?"  

Paul: "It’s a strange thing because there is actually a gravestone up in the churchyard of the church, St Peter’s in Woolton - where John and I met on the fateful day of the fete - which apparently says ‘Eleanor Rigby’. So the idea is, subliminally, I might have seen it because I would have walked through that graveyard, just as kids getting from A to B.

"But my theory - of what I can remember of it - was that I liked the name Eleanor, because we’d worked with Eleanor Bron, the actress in the film ‘Help’. But I wanted to have a second name. Names are very important because, you know, like school kids, all the names are authentic. If you think back to any of your school mates - Grace Pendleton was one of my school mates – it works! All those real names; and you can make up ‘Charlie Farnsbarn’ and it just, it doesn’t work as well. It’s an interesting little thing, names.

"So I was really searching around for Eleanor’s second name. And I was in Bristol, visiting my then girlfriend - Jane Asher, who was working at Bristol Old Vic - and I was wondering around waiting for her to finish and I saw this shop: ‘Rigby’. And I thought [clicks fingers] ‘Perfect! Eleanor Rigby’. A real, nice name. It’s sort of original, and yet not too far out. It just sort of fitted.

"So that’s my story. But as I say later, a guy - Geoff Wonfor doing The Beatles Anthology – said, ‘We’ve found this gravestone, what do you think about that?’"

PaulMcCartney.com: "So the name might have already been buried somewhere in your mind, and then you made that connection?"

Paul: "I wonder. I don’t know. My story, I definitely know is true. The other story’s a little bit spooky. A ‘subconscious theory’!"


Question: Do you still like all the lyrics you wrote in the past, and are there any that you don't like anymore? And, of course, I want to know why if the answer is no!

Paul: "There are lyrics I’m embarrassed by. Like in 'Rockshow' - references to ‘axe’ and Jimmy Page – they seem a little bit dated. But they are. That’s exactly what they are.

"What made me less embarrassed was when I said this to a couple of the guys in the band, Rusty and Brian particularly. I said, 'Oh my god, I can’t stand that - An axe! Jimmy Page!’. I’m going, 'Oh God, it just doesn’t seem right now, it seems embarrassing'. They said, 'No, I love that!'

"So it was great. I got their perspective on it, and it sort of made it alright that they didn’t think it was remotely embarrassing."

PaulMcCartney.com: "We know people who still call their guitars ‘axes’!"

Paul: "It’s a period thing. You don’t really call them that now. But you did then. So that was the embarrassing thing."


Question: What are your personal favourite lyrics you've ever written?

Paul: "There’s some nice things about doing the live show now. I kind of run through the lyrics - in my mind - to sing them. So ‘Eleanor Rigby’ is nice, 'Wearing a face that she keeps in a jar by the door'. I sort of think, 'Pretty good work for a 23 year old boy!' Something like that I think, 'Yeah, that’s really nice’. So I like that.

"Currently I’m liking ‘Another Day’. It’s just very sort of regular life of this girl. [Sings verse 'Everyday she takes her morning bath'.] It’s just all what a girl might do: 'Wraps a towel around her as she’s heading for the bedroom chair'. And then she goes to the office, has a coffee, finds it hard to stay awake, and it all just seems to ring true to me. But it’s just another day.

"So yeah, I’d single those two out as ones that I like."


PaulMcCartney.com will be publishing more Q&As from Paul's Impossible songwriting talk soon, so remember to keep checking back…!

Find out more about Lily Cole's Impossible website by clicking HERE!

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