The Lyrics

The Lyrics : 1956 to the Present

4.67 (88 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

THE SUNDAY TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR

A self-portrait in 154 songs, by our greatest living songwriter

'More often than I can count, I've been asked if I would write an autobiography, but the time has never been right. The one thing I've always managed to do, whether at home or on the road, is to write new songs. I know that some people, when they get to a certain age, like to go to a diary to recall day-to-day events from the past, but I have no such notebooks. What I do have are my songs, hundreds of them, which I've learned serve much the same purpose. And these songs span my entire life.'

In this extraordinary book, with unparalleled candour, Paul McCartney recounts his life and art through the prism of 154 songs from all stages of his career - from his earliest boyhood compositions through the legendary decade of The Beatles, to Wings and his solo albums to the present. Arranged alphabetically to provide a kaleidoscopic rather than chronological account, it establishes definitive texts of the songs' lyrics for the first time and describes the circumstances in which they were written, the people and places that inspired them, and what he thinks of them now. Presented with this is a treasure trove of material from McCartney's personal archive - drafts, letters, photographs - never seen before, which make this also a unique visual record of one of the greatest songwriters of all time.

We learn intimately about the man, the creative process, the working out of melodies, the moments of inspiration. The voice and personality of Paul McCartney sings off every page. There has never been a book about a great musician like it.

Each volume is 480 pp, not available separately
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Product details

  • Hardback | 912 pages
  • 242 x 330 x 90mm | 4,267g
  • Allen Lane
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 9780241519332
  • 132

Review quote

The Lyrics is a triumph. It is hugely readable, devoid of rock cliche, and full of fresh stories and opinions that even devoted fans won't have encountered before. The pictures of McCartney and of handwritten lyrics, many of them never previously published, are worth the entry ticket on their own and the quality of the boxed product makes it a tactile pleasure and fun to possess. All that, and its highly original organisation, means you never get bogged down in a period of his life you don't find interesting ... The Lyrics is McCartney at his best. -- Daniel Finkelstein * The Times * I know it all... or so I thought until I read Paul McCartney's magical treasure trove of a book ... Touching... bountiful -- Craig Brown * Mail on Sunday * His composing methodology is revealed as a kind of innocent and endless curiosity ... this mighty tome is billed as the closest thing to an autobiography McCartney will ever write. It comprises 154 songs, with hundreds of fascinating photos and handwritten lyrics from McCartney's collection, and an informal, thoughtful text assembled from conversations conducted with acclaimed Irish poet Paul Muldoon ... McCartney is a playful and brilliant wordsmith ... His book of lyrics is charming -- Neil McCormick * Daily Telegraph * Reading "The Lyrics" is like standing in a master chef's kitchen as he prepares a dish, adding a dash of this and a spoonful of that and talking to us so winningly ... there's nothing like listening to Macca (as McCartney was known in his Liverpool days) talk about the rise of a band composed largely of working-class teens who changed the world forever ... charming -- David Kirby * Washington Post * With a gravity, reverence and sense of occasion that hasn't been seen since the Levites rolled out the Ark of the Covenant, the complete lyrics of Paul McCartney are published at last ... This vast, absorbing book is studded with McCartneyisms that make you rub your eyes -- John Walsh * Sunday Times * Describing it as a book doesn't quite capture the object. It is two books, two separate volumes, in a gorgeous box. It weighs 8kg on my bathroom scales. It's a big thing of great beauty, and going back and forth through it is a hugely satisfying experience ... no matter where you start, or continue, McCartney seems to be waiting, ready to continue his warm, vivid, erudite stroll through his life and lyrics ... the life - McCartney's - seems more believable when examined in these glimpses. There is a modesty hiding in the book's bulk, and raw, gentle honesty ... There are 154 sets of lyrics in this book, and it's almost impossible to read most of them without hearing the melodies and trumpet bits. But it is well worth trying. Read, not heard, Lady Madonna is a different experience. I read it and thought of Zola's best novels. -- Roddy Doyle * Irish Times * he provides a fascinating new insight into his life at the time they were written, and the lives of his fellow Beatles ... This, then, is a book for dipping into and sampling at leisure. It allows us to see some of the most familiar songs ever written in new and surprising ways ... [it] will not only thrill Beatles obsessives but fascinate anyone who has ever sung along to a Lennon and McCartney tune. Which must, surely, include half the world or more. -- Christopher Stevens * Daily Mail * a feast for the eyes. Dyed-in-the-wool Beatles fans will be bowled over by the sheer profundity of unpublished photographs, previously unseen lyrics sheets, journal entries, paintings, and the like. Indeed, The Lyrics easily represents the finest collection of illustrations associated with McCartney's life and work. And it's beautifully rendered, to boot. Drop-dead gorgeous as books go -- Kenneth Womack * Salon * the two things it reveals - an unrelenting work ethic and the picture-painting imperative of the storyteller - are the twin pillars of his life's work, as revealed here in random reflections on 154 selected songs spanning 64 years ... it's this up-front abdication of control, of responsibility and ultimately of authorial meaning that makes McCartney's story, and his open-handed attitude to a monumental body of work, so engaging. -- Michael Dwyer * Sydney Morning Herald * Nothing comes close to Paul McCartney's breezeblock of a title ... Combine this monumental lyrics collection with Peter Jackson's Get Back and many Beatles fans won't come out again until the clocks go forward. Paul McCartney says this is as close as he will get to an autobiography and no wonder - his life is in every line of these songs. Each alphabetical entry (a smart arrangement that opens up a trove of lesser known McCartney lore) is not only accompanied by a wealth of wonderful photographs and memorabilia (the lyrics to Carry That Weight on Apple notepaper!), but also McCartney's own recollections and analysis. "Mostly, we were writing to the world," McCartney says about I Want to Hold Your Hand. The Lyrics makes it a pure joy to reach out for these songs once again. -- Victoria Segal * The Sunday Times Book of the Year * a rich, enjoyable and beautifully presented treat -- John Aizlewood * i Newspaper * To read over the words to these 154 songs is to be impressed not merely with McCartney's productivity but with the fertility of his imagination and the potency of his offhand, unfussy style ... giddy playfulness and unguarded experimentation. They're a joy to read because they exude the joy their maker took in their making. -- David Hajdu * The New York Times * The text is accompanied by beautifully reproduced illustrations, including personal snapshots, formal portraits and memorabilia. The result is a hybrid of collected lyrics, memoir and picture book, a composite form resembling the all-round character of McCartney's musicality ... The Lyrics is a rewarding portrait of an exceptional songwriter. -- Ludovic Hunter-Tilney * Financial Times * From All My Loving to Your Mother Should Know, the former Beatle illuminates a life spent puzzling how to get from the beginning of a song to its end -- David Hepworth * Observer * Paul McCartney's storied career has been a long and winding road paved with songwriting gold. Thankfully, these fab volumes do it justice -- The Sun engrossing ... reading it is like watching genius - which McCartney undoubtedly was and fitfully remains - in the process of creation, summoning something out of nothing -- David Honigmann * Spectator * The Lyrics is stunningly beautiful and a masterpiece of book design, a true joy for bibliophiles. Paul McCartney has fashioned, through the explorations of his songs with the poet Paul Muldoon, a fascinating insight into his life and creative genius. The booksellers of Waterstones are proud to celebrate this magnificent and deeply original book. -- James Daunt, Waterstones The Beatles used to chuck lyric sheets in the wastebasket after recording a song: Linda McCartney fished them out and saved them. The Lyrics is the deluxe version of her scrapbook, a ... handsome, two-volume compendium of Paul McCartney's work as a lyricist, accompanied by photos and Macca's engaging reminiscences. -- Ludovic Hunter-Tilney * Financial Times, Best books of 2021 * Sir Paul has arranged 154 favourite compositions alphabetically, with lots of glossy photos. But in the essays that accompany each song, his underlying purpose is to affirm his status as a writer ... what fan will not enjoy a meander that feels like a long private audience with one of the Fab Four? * Economist * The Lyrics is sumptuously made to a standard associated with high-end art publishers. It is lovely to hold and to touch and to look at. There are countless beautifully reproduced photographs, of McCartney - who in his younger years ravished the lens - his mother, father, brother and aunties, his wives, his children, his friends and notable collaborators. Many of the pictures are published for the first time. There are also handwritten lyric sheets festooned with doodles, scribbled diary entries, gig posters, newspaper reports, pictures of first pressings ... This book is ... more like an autobiography, done McCartney's way. Rather than publish a conventional life story, he has opted to tell this life through songs and pictures ... His eloquence is found in his art: next to the splendour of the songs ... The book showcases McCartney's lyrics ... the songs make up a larger canvas, or mosaic, that the artist himself is only now stepping back to contemplate. -- Ian Leslie * New Statesman *
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About Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney (Author)
Born in Liverpool in 1942, Paul McCartney was raised in the city and educated at the Liverpool Institute. Since writing his first song at 14, McCartney has dreamed and dared to be different. He lives in England.

Paul Muldoon (External Editor)
Paul Muldoon is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of fourteen full-length collections of poetry, including Howdie-Skelp.
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Rating details

88 ratings
4.67 out of 5 stars
5 76% (67)
4 17% (15)
3 5% (4)
2 2% (2)
1 0% (0)
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