Valuable documents from Paul McCartney’s personal archives, including the original handwritten lyrics of songs such as Hey Jude and Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five, are on display to the public for the first time at the British Library.
Paul McCartney: The Lyrics, which is free to the public starting Friday, celebrates one of the world’s most famous songwriters and performers.
Lyrics, printed photographs and original memorabilia spanning McCartney’s career reveal the process and the people behind some of the most famous songs of all time. Highlights include unreleased lyrics for Pipes of Peace, Jenny Wren and Tell Me Who He Is, an unrecorded song found in a notebook in McCartney’s archives and accompanied by additional material suggesting it was written at the end. from the 1950s. The lyrics, written in Biro Blue on lined notebook paper, begin: “Tell me who he is, tell me you’re mine not his, he says he loves you more than me, tell me who he is.
All material has been impeccably preserved by McCartney. The exhibition coincides with the release of his book, The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present, which chronicles his life and his art through the prism of 154 songs from all stages of his career.
Also on display is an original McCartney drawing for the single Put It There, a list of Beatles songs, a postcard from The Beatles in Hamburg and George Martin’s score for Yesterday. Other highlights include a selection of printed photographs taken by McCartney’s brother, Mike, his late wife, Linda, and daughter, Mary. This is all tuned to audio from the British Library’s sound archives to accompany each spoken word on display.
Andy Linehan, Curator of Popular Music Recordings at the British Library, said: “The British Library is more than books; we also have one of the largest collections of popular music in the world. It’s great to be able to showcase some of our handwritten lyrics and sound recordings alongside previously unseen material from Paul McCartney’s own archives in this exhibit.
“The handwritten sketches of song lyrics have a special quality – they show that initial spark of creativity – and it’s a chance for everyone to see the workings and learn the stories behind the songs from one of the writers.” -the world’s most famous composers and performers. “
Linehan added that he hoped the display would inspire new audiences “young and old”.
Other McCartney and The Beatles lyrics, including a draft of A Hard Day’s Night scribbled on the back of a birthday card, can be seen in the permanent treasures of the British Library, alongside works from some of the inspirations literary works of McCartney, including William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and Virginia Woolf.
McCartney, who has been busy promoting the lyrics for the past few weeks, said writing the book “kind of turned into a therapy session.”
In the book, he talks about his songwriting process and compares it to solving a puzzle. Each song, he explains, “would illuminate something that was important in my life at that time, although the meanings weren’t always obvious on the surface.
“A lot of songwriters just take their inspiration from their daily autobiographical thoughts, but I like to take whimsical flights. It’s one of the great things about being an artist of any kind. I love songs and poetry that take off in unexpected ways.