Crow Court by Andy Charman The Cold Millions by Jess Walter Build Your House Around My Body by Violet Kupersmith My Phantoms by Gwendoline Riley Boy On Fire: The Young Nick Caveby Mark Mordue And Away… by Bob Mortimer The Lyricsby Paul McCartney – edited by Paul Muldoon Barbara Throws A Wobbler by Nadia Shireen The False Rose by Jakob Wegelius — translated by Peter Graves
I’ve read a lot (just over 50 books), but I fell out of the habit of blogging about everything I finished. Perhaps I’ll get back to that in 2022.
The Lyrics by Paul McCartney – edited by Paul Muldoon
Dipping into this in between the last of the mince pies, I’m delighted by its many departures from McCartney’s well-rehearsed anecdotes and well-established Beatles lore. This is in large part thanks to the poet Paul Muldoon, on whose extensive interviews with his fellow Paul (50+ hours clocked since 2015) the whole project relies.
We learn that McCartney is mildly embarrassed by Rock Show, and has been meaning to get around to doing Rocky Raccoon live. Reflecting on And I Love her, he wistfully recalls the last time he saw his old flame Jane Asher – a chance encounter many years after their mid-60s engagement, but just a stone’s throw from the ‘garret’ in her parents’ home in Wimpole Street where he famously dreamt Yesterday. She Came In Through The Bathroom Window leads him to describe his synaesthesia, which renders days of the week as distinct colours for him and has many other ways proven ‘fertile ground’ for his songwriting.
If Muldoon occasionally nudges McCartney too far toward some lofty, literary claim — “part of what lies behind [A Hard Day’s Night] is, of course, Eugene O’Neill’s play Long Day’s Journey Into Night” being one — that can be forgiven when the book has plenty of off-kilter choices such as Check My Machine, House of Wax and Spirits of Ancient Egypt — none of them songs that McCartney would be likely to expound in any other context.
Even more surprising is the incredible depth of the MPL archive. Of course there’s a wealth of great photography, but there are also postcards, paintings, jottings on envelopes, even schoolbooks from the days before young Paul ever set eyes on the teddy boy John Lennon. A careful selection from a million-plus items makes The Lyrics a lavish visual treat.
Occasionally a particular image will leap out with special significance, seeming to capture a creative breakthrough or a major turning point in a wildly eventful life. In a 1969 notebook, underneath the couplet from The End that self-consciously called time on The Beatles’ recording career, McCartney has doodled four hearts pierced by a single arrow, in pink ink. On the facing page of the same notebook, he’s composed Every Night, a gem that turned up on his first solo album, in which he’s clearly sinking into his post-Fab depression, but is mercifully buoyed by his love for Linda.
Some of my favourite new music from this past year:
The Beths – Auckland, New Zealand, 2020 The Besnard Lakes – The Besnard Lakes Are The Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings Nick Cave & Warren Ellis – Carnage The Felice Brothers – From Dreams To Dust Helado Negro – Far In Tom Jones – Surrounded by Time Manic Street Preachers – The Ultra Vivid Lament Mouth Painter – Tropicale Moon Alison Russell – Outside Child
and a couple of excellent reissues:
John Lennon – Plastic Ono Band Supergrass – In It For The Money