Reviews for The Lyrics: 1956 To The Present

by Paul McCartney

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Closing in on 80, the iconic musician looks back on a long career and reveals how his songs came about. “The best comparison I can think of is an old snapshot album that’s been kept up in a dusty attic.” So writes McCartney of this gathering of his lyrics, which, though overall less poetic than Bob Dylan’s, still read well on the page. This is true even of his earliest songs: “Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you / Tomorrow I’ll miss you” pretty well says it all, but McCartney’s extensive commentary places it in the context of his life, his band’s trajectory (“The thing that strikes me about the ‘All My Loving’ recording is John’s guitar part; he’s playing the chords as triplets”), and the pop-music tradition generally. Studded with photographs and featuring an introduction by editor Muldoon, the book is a gold mine of Beatles lore and reminiscence. Among countless other intriguing bits, McCartney notes how Allen Ginsberg called “Eleanor Rigby” “a great poem.” While it’s well known that “Yesterday” started with the placeholder lyrics “Scrambled eggs,” it will come as news that “it was almost recorded as an electronic avant-garde song” until George Martin decided to add a string quartet and make a sad song even sadder. McCartney airs some dirty laundry—e.g., why John Lennon was so nasty to him after the Beatles’ breakup—but he allows that none of his musical backing afterward came close to his Beatles band mates. Even so, he includes plenty of Wings material, as well. Some of the omissions are odd (“I’m Looking Through You,” “Little Lamb Dragonfly”), while some of the songs are largely attributed to Lennon, notably “A Day in the Life” and “Ticket To Ride.” The odd curiosity aside, though, what emerges here is a portrait of a songwriter constantly searching for the elusive tune. A delightful, surprising treasure trove that no Beatles completist should miss. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist De Visé (Andy and Don) offers an extensively researched biography of B.B. King, the immortal King of the Blues. Former New York Times music critic Horowitz investigates the crucial issue why classical music in America has remained white despite Dvorák's Prophecy that a "great and noble" school of American classical music would emerge from the Black music he had heard while visiting America. Edited by novelist Cameron, Solid Ivory ranges from fabled director Ivory's first meeting with work-life partner Ismail Merchant through his memories of Satyajit Ray, Federico Fellini, Vanessa Redgrave, George Cukor, Kenneth Clark, Bruce Chatwin, and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala to his winning the Academy Award at 89 for Call Me by Your Name. Edited by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Muldoon, who benefited from dozens of interviews with McCartney over five years, The Lyrics presents the definitive texts of 154 McCartney songs with personal commentary; look for an international press conference on Facebook event upon publication. The grandson of Gandhian freedom fighters and immigrant parents, Penn ignored advice to do something practical and, as he chronicles in You Can't Be Serious, became a leading actor; he also served as President Obama's Liaison to Young Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and the Arts (125,000-copy first printing). Readers travel with influential rapper Raekwon the Chef as he ascends From Staircase to Stage, from performing on Staten Island stairs to cofounding the Wu-Tang Clan to making a platinum solo debut (75,000-copy first printing). Author of the New York Times best-selling The Beatles, Spitz now documents the ferociously successful Led Zeppelin.

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From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Nearing 80, McCartney has never written an autobiography, but this comes pretty close, and in some ways, it is much better. He annotates the lyrics to 104 of his songs, written before, during, and after the Beatles, but here the word “annotates” means not only writing about the genesis of the songs, but also detailing the memories they conjure up, the lessons that he learned, and, perhaps most distinctly, the lovers and friends who were with him on his journey, some of whom left all too soon. Certainly, John Lennon and McCartney’s first wife, Linda Eastman, who died at 56 from breast cancer—the same disease that killed Paul’s mother when he was 14—are strong presences here. Because the arrangement of the songs is alphabetical, the book skips around in his life, yet there is also a strong thread throughout, depicting a person who loved his family, was moved by his hometown of Liverpool, England, and is still surprised and grateful for the life he has been able to live. Even the most fervent of fans will find new things here: insights, anecdotes, and never-before-seen photographs. Interest in McCartney and his music never seems to wane, and this extraordinarily handsome offering goes deep and wide as Paul brings his story full circle. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The legions of Beatles fans will pursue this lavish, personal, two-volume set offering hundreds of photos and reproductions of memorabilia and thousands of memories.