Paul McCartney once called himself Percy “Thrills” Thrillington, a pseudonym he used to release the album Thrillington in 1977, which was nothing more than an instrumental version of his legendary 1971 album RAM. The British bassist hid this fact until he revealed it in an interview, in 1989, to the surprise of fans and journalists.
RAM, recorded only a year after the tense separation of The Beatles, includes a song titled “Too Many People” in which John Lennon declared to have perceived aggressive allusions towards himself and the other ex-members of the group. Paul McCartney never denied his ex-partner’s words.
Paul McCartney just celebrated 81 years of life, and the stories surrounding his figure and work continue to be discovered or rediscovered with the passing of the years and the different generations of musicians. The veteran multi-instrumentalist is a living, breathing legend who, with each album, shows us that his compositional skills are still in full splendor. As he has said: “I’m always writing songs, and I have a lot of songs I want to record.”
Here we tell you those obscure or curious anecdotes that are hidden behind some of the songs that defined McCartney’s career, one of the last surviving sacred monsters in the world of Rock n’ Roll.
“Maybe I’m Amazed” – Post-Beatle Depression
Lost and confused by the imminent separation of The Beatles, Paul McCartney took refuge in his mansion, located at 7 Cavendish Avenue, St. John’s Wood, London. With only his wife Linda and his piano for company, the musician gave life to one of his most painful and sincere songs in which he shouted: “Maybe I’m a man and maybe I’m a lonely man / Who’s in the middle of something / That he doesn’t really understand.” “Maybe I’m Amazed” is a song of despair and a cry for help and thanks to his wife, who was the only one who supported him in that raw moment. At the time of recording and producing it, the bassist took charge of all the instruments and included it in his solo debut with the 1971 McCartney album.
“Get Back” – Feelings of Xenophobia
For many years, it has been theorized that McCartney laid bare his rejection of Pakistani refugees arriving in England in this song with strong political statements. With the line “Get back to where you once belonged,” the musician invited them to return to their country of origin through a song with an upbeat and catchy rhythm that ignites the crowds at his concerts. If this theory is true, we would be facing a fully racist song, far from the spirit of love and peace that “prevailed” in 1969, the year in which the song was recorded for the album Let it Be… the last of the Liverpool Quartet.
“Hey Jude” – His Grief for Julian
Julian Lennon, the son of John Lennon and Cynthia, was five years old when his parents divorced. The romantic version says that McCartney, moved to see the pain of the boy, for whom he felt a sincere affection, composed the song with the title “Hey Jules” to comfort him: “Hey Jules, don’t make it bad / Take a sad song and make it better / Remember to let her into your heart…” However, McCartney changed the word to Jude inspired by the character Jud from the musical Oklahoma, of which he was a fan.
“Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” – Killer Instinct
This track, included in the Abbey Road album, talks about a serial killer: Maxwell Edison. He was a medical student who killed his patients with a silver hammer: “Bang! Bang! Maxwell’s silver hammer / Came down upon her head / Bang! Bang! Maxwell’s silver hammer / Made sure that she was dead.” Maxwell’s victims include his girlfriend, his teacher, and the judge before whom he was brought to trial.
McCartney wrote this piece inspired by a dark idea from his youth that haunted him into adulthood. His own bandmates were detractors of a song that does not stand out as one of The Beatles‘ best: “The worst recording was “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.” It was the worst song we recorded. It was horrible weeks. I thought it was crazy,” confessed Ringo Starr in 2008.
“Magical Mystery Tour” – McCartney and His Taste for Cannabis
“Roll up! Roll up!” is the opening refrain of this song, composed for the album of the same name in 1967, the height of the psychedelic era when The Beatles were experimenting with their music and drugs. The song’s introduction refers to the act of preparing and rolling a marijuana cigarette, which was a favorite of all four band members. Paul arrived at the recording studio with the basis of the song; later, Lennon, Starr, and Harrison began to contribute loose words and musical ideas that ended up shaping this upbeat, psychedelic track.
“Can’t Buy Me Love” – McCartney and the Controversial Story of Prostitution
Like so many other songs, this one was also credited to the Lennon and McCartney duo, but the composition is by the latter. For many years, the rumor or interpretation that “Can’t Buy Me Love” refers to a prostitute has been in the air, but its author has rejected it outright: “I think everyone can establish any interpretation about something, but when someone suggests that ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ is about prostitution, he ended up drawing a line,” said the bassist.
The song, which was part of the 1964 album A Hard’s Day Night, was composed in a session when the band was staying at the George V Hotel in Paris. For Paul, it is just a song that reflects that money can buy material possessions, but not love.
Heroes like David Bowie or Lemmy Kilmister left this world a few years ago, closing essential chapters in the history of rock. Paul McCartney seems far from saying goodbye to this world, which is a privilege because his compositions will delight us for several more years and will allow us to continue discovering that his mind is one of the most restless and brilliant in the world music scene.
This story was originally published in Spanish in Cultura Colectiva