The Lyrics

The Lyrics

1956 to the Present


The Sunday Times bestseller and Waterstones Book of the Year, now in paperback

‘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 ... pure joy’ Sunday Times, Book of the Year

With seven songs added for this edition: ‘Bluebird,’ ‘Day Tripper,’ ‘English Tea,’ ‘Every Night,’ ‘Hello, Goodbye,’ ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ and ‘Step Inside Love’

Spanning seven decades – from his early Liverpool days, through the historic decade of The Beatles, to Wings and his long solo career – Paul McCartney’s The Lyrics has transformed the way artists write about music, pairing the definitive texts of 161 songs with intimate, autobiographical commentaries on McCartney’s life and music.

Arranged alphabetically, these commentaries reveal the diverse circumstances in which the songs were written, how they ultimately came to be, and the remarkable – often ordinary – people and places that inspired them. Dozens of vignettes re-create the working-class Liverpool of McCartney’s youth, where delivery boys ran parcels on docks, as in ‘On My Way to Work,’ and elderly ladies in the neighbourhood inspired ‘Eleanor Rigby.’ McCartney also introduces us to his early literary influences, among them Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll and Allen Ginsberg, as well as Alan Durband, his beloved English teacher, and his mother, Mary, who passed away when he was just fourteen – and whose memory has infused his work ever since.

Yet the two most powerful presences in The Lyrics after the author himself are his songwriting partner, John Lennon, and his ‘Golden Earth Girl,’ Linda Eastman McCartney. Here McCartney describes how he met John at a church fête in 1957; their adventures with George Harrison and Ringo Starr in the early 1960s; and how, at the end of the decade, they, and The Beatles, broke up. Thus began a second act of now more than fifty years, with Linda and family life as driving forces – inspiring songs from ‘Maybe I’m Amazed,’ written just after the breakup of The Beatles, to the 2012 ballad ‘My Valentine,’ addressed to McCartney’s wife and partner, Nancy Shevell McCartney.

Edited and introduced by Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Paul Muldoon, and enhanced by more than a hundred images from McCartney’s personal archives – including handwritten texts, mementos, and photographs – and seven new song commentaries, The Lyrics is a book for the ages, and the definitive literary and visual record of one of the greatest songwriters of all time.


  • The Lyrics is a triumph. It is hugely readable, devoid of rock cliché, 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

About the author

Paul McCartney

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.
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