Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Blackbird Singing: Poems and Lyrics, 1965-1999

by Paul McCartney
Edited by Adrian Mitchell

A landmark event and cause for celebration - never before collected, the poems and lyrics of Paul McCartney

To actually read Paul McCartney's poems, whether exuberant love ballads or poignant messages of deepest grief, is to revel in the sheer power of language and to appreciate the electrifying confluence of dream and song. Indeed, his words are as pure and magical as we remember them. Here, in his first collection of poems and lyrics, McCartney emerges with a dreamlike yet thoroughly mature voice that confirms his stature as one of the most original and best-loved poets of our time.

While readers will be familiar with many of the lyrics - like "Yesterday," "Penny Lane," and "Hey Jude," all of which are part of the twentieth century's most cherished songbook - this volume also contains dozens of poems never seen before, including the autobiographical "In Liverpool," and the moving tribute "Ivan," an elegy for his dear friend Ivan Vaughn, which broke the dam and inspired a torrent of original poems written throughout the 1990s.

McCartney's emotional range and brilliant wordplay remain remarkably consistent throughout the lyrics and poems. As Adrian Mitchell insightfully writes in his introduction, "Sometimes his poems are light as feathers. They can tickle or fly or delight the eye. Sometimes he writes four lines as heavy as a double-decker bus, or the heart itself."

Inspired by his late wife, Linda McCartney, Blackbird Singing gives us extraordinary access to the inner life of one of the most influential figures of twentieth-century culture. Whether commenting on the strange unpredictability of life ("Little Willow") or the heinous folly of nuclear weapons ("Chasing the Cherry"), McCartney uses language to soar above the selfishness and intolerance that can bring us down. The poems here demonstrate, against an acknowledgement of the solitariness of existence, an irrepressible belief in the power of words and music "to take a sad song and make it better."

Sir Paul McCartney is one of the most-admired contemporary poets and songwriters of the twentieth century. He lives in England.


I spent my early life in Liverpool
Something I'm not likely to forget
People blend with places
Faces that I know but never met

Upstairs on a bus behind a man
Talking to himself or so it seemed
Repeating names of old comedians
And laughing at them . . .

Down the pierhead where the preachers met
Each of them his own imagined crowd
Giving us his version of the book
That God had written . . .

In a house before they built the road
Raising jam jars for a worthy cause
Prince the dog with one eye to his name
Wants to follow . . .

By the sports field of the Institute
Lives Soft Sid the harmless village fool
Greeting kids who pass the other side
Saying Hello Children . . .

Listening to the bin man holding court
Promising to buy a brand new bike
King of little children for a day
He gives them money . . .

Walking with the boys of Dungeon Lane
Aimlessly towards a muddy shore,
Telling tales about the Chinese farm
And getting captured . . .

I spent my early life in Liverpool
Something I'm not likely to forget
People blend with places
And the faces that I know but never met

In Liverpool.


Mist the mind over
with damp's foggy dew
Slide like a tidal wave
over the rock and
Drowning in merriment
Tell me I am not alone

Hum through the carpet
Nudging the undergrowth
Call out the bad names
To curse every midgy mite
Spin me a reverie
To crack me up

And, helpless with laughter
Drop down the mount
A highland waterfall
searching for love


You've got me dancing
In a figure of eight
Don't know if I'm coming or going,
I'm early or late.
Round and round the ring I go,
I want to know, I want to know,
Why can't we travel a continuous line?
Make love a reliable covenant all the time,
Up and down the hills I go,
I got to know, I got to know.

Is it better to love one another
Than to go for a walk in the dark?
Is it better to love than to give in to hate?
Yeah we'd better take good care of each other
Avoid slipping back off the straight and narrow,
It's better by far than getting stuck
In a figure of eight.

Figure it out for yourself little girl,
It don't go nowhere at all,
It's nothing more than a tape loop
In a big dance hall.
You've got me running in a figure of eight,
Don't know if I'm coming or going
I'm early or late,
Round and round that little ring I go,
I want to know, I want to know

1 comment:

georgie said...

Pauls poetry is very different from stage,concert and cd releases.you can hear his thoughts,of a man how his mind sees everything keeps it forever.a lot of poets just want to make rude clairifications with a senseless meandering last verse point.i hope he releases another book of poetry,very very well worth the reading.i picked up on some beet generation style verses and classic poets....who he grew up reading....i didnt read chauncer until i was 30.he was reading it in his art school days.pauls poetry is great.