The Big Issue : Edition 550
14 THEBIGISSUE.ORG.AU 17 NOV–3 DEC 2017 YESTERDAYS COURTESYOFTHEBIGISSUEUK/@BIGISSUE.PHOTOBYGETTY AT 16 I was trying to scrape through school, learn the guitar and get a date with a girl, which was impossible at that time. It was not good at all. I had a real lack of confidence. It’s the reason a lot of guys get into groups in the first place – girls and money. All the girls seemed out of my league and I couldn’t figure out how to walk up to someone and say, “Do you want to go to the pictures?” It’s extremely terrifying. What do you do? Do you put your arm around her? Do you sit there and wait for her to talk first or are you supposed to talk first? Do you buy Maltesers? It’s a stress and strain. I think I did manage to make it to the pictures with a girl a couple of times, but even then it wasn’t easy to be as suave as James Bond. I think later I realised the whole way I felt about girls when I was 16 was something I could actually write songs about. So I did write about experiences like that. And in fact, I looked back to those times to write LETTER TO MY YOUNGER SELF » PAUL McCARTNEY doing we became a songwriting duo. We became very famous as well. My dad was a big early influence on my songwriting. He was playing piano at home and I listened to him a lot. He taught me and my brother how to harmonise together and that gave me my love of harmonies. When we got The Beatles together we loved to sing in harmony. It’s a great bonding thing – it’s why people love choirs. I remember if there was a bit of lively music on the radio my dad would stick his head round the door and – dum, dum, dum, dum – bang along to the beat with his fist. It was just one of his little habits but it’s become a very fond memory for me, just seeing his joy at the rhythm of music. And he’d tell me to listen to the very low noise coming out of the speaker and tell me, “That’s called the bass.” How funny that I turned out to be a bass player. I hadn’t long lost my mother when I was 16. Like any tragedy, if you’re lucky your mind finds a way to deal with the pain just to allow you to get through it. As a 14-year-old boy in Liverpool, I could either go under or get on with it. Music was very helpful for that. It gave me some good feelings to replace the sad feelings. And, of course, John also lost his mother when he was young. That helped us to bond, having that in common. PAUL ON HIS about other things as well, not just romantic things. For instance, there were a few old ladies around where I lived in Liverpool and I got friendly with one of them. I used to go and get her shopping for her. And then we’d spend a little bit of time talking about her life. It was fascinating to speak to someone from a completely different generation. Instead of thinking, it’s just an old person, you realised, hey, they were young once and they had amazing experiences I can relate to. Doing that lady’s shopping became a very pleasant, educational experience for me. I think that led to ‘Eleanor Rigby’, which was a song about lonely people. I’m hopeless with dates – the Beatles experts have got them down much better than I have – but I think I’d met John and George by the time I was 16. George used to get on my bus. I was already writing songs – I wrote my first song when I was 14. So when I met John I said, “Yeah, I’ve got a couple of songs and some little bits and pieces”, and he said, “Yeah, so have I.” It was a good thing for us to bond over; we could both learn from each other. We thought, well, if we’ve written one each, maybe we could write one together. So we did. The first songs were very simple but we gradually developed over the next few years and without realising quite what we were ON THE EVE OF HIS LONG-AWAITED AUSTRALIAN TOUR, WE PRESENT PAUL Mc CARTNEY REFLECTING ON GROWING UP IN LIVERPOOL, MEETING JOHN AND GOING ON TO FORM THAT BAND.