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"Early Days"
Paul's Case Against Revisionism

Illustration from Fine Art America

"Early Days"
Paul's Case Against Revisionism

One of the more fascinating things about the life and times of The Beatles is that so much mythology has been generated by the lives of those four young men from Liverpool.

In some ways, John, Paul, George and Ringo became bigger than life. Their music was so entwined with the experiences of a generation that their fans and critics alike saw them as anything but ordinary. Every word or phrase spoken by anyone in the group instantly became a headline and the topic of much discussion, very often extrapolated into absurdity. Every line from every songs' lyrics, every deatil in every album cover was a clue to some hidden meaning or intention.

In truth, their lives were not so extraordinary, and certainly not as extraordinary as the music they created.

In a July, 2014 interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, Paul McCartney explains the purpose behind the writing of the song, "Early Days":

Revisionism. It's about revisionism, really. I know my memory has got chips in it that still can go exactly back to two guys sitting in a room trying to write "I Saw Her Standing There" or "One After 909." I can see that very clearly still, and I can see every minute of John and I writing together, playing together, recording together. I still have very vivid memories of all of that. It's not like it fades. Since John died so tragically, there's been a lot of revisionism, and it's very difficult to go against it, because you can't say, "Well, no, wait a minute, man. I did that." Because then people go, "Oh, yeah, well, that's really nice. That's walking on a dead man's grave." You get a bit sensitive to that, and you just think, "You know what? Forget it. I know what I did. A lot of people know what I did. John knows what I did. Maybe I should just leave it, not worry about it." It took a little while to get to that.

I know that I have every memory still intact, and they don't, as I say in the last verse, 'cause they weren't there. I think you'll find this in most bands, but in the Beatles' case, it's got to be worse than any case. For instance, I was on holiday once, and there was this little girl on the beach, little American kid. She says, "Hi, there. I've just been doing a Beatles appreciation class in school." I said, "Wow, that's great." I think, "I know, I'll be really cool here. I'll tell her a little inside story." So I go on about how something happened, and it was a fun story – and she looks at me, she says, "No, that's not true. We covered that in the Beatles appreciation class." I'm going, "Oh, fuck." There's no way out, man! They're teaching this stuff now.

When Sam Taylor did her film [Nowhere Boy], she brought the script round and we chatted about it. She's a very good friend. And I said, "Well, Sam, that's not really true. John didn't really ride on the top of the double-decker bus." She said, "No, but it's a great scene." I mean, the character of Mimi, John's aunt, I said to her, "She really wasn't how she's written in the script. She's written as a very vitriolic, mean old bitch, and she wasn't at all." She was just some woman who was given charge of the responsibility of bringing up John Lennon, and it was not an easy job, you know? She was trying her best. She was kind of strict, but it was with a twinkle in her eye. I said, "I used to go around there and write with John, and she was okay. You've got to change that." Some of the things she did change, but in the end we agreed that this is not a documentary, this is a film, and so she made inferences that weren't there. Like, this whole idea of the first song we recorded, "In Spite of All the Danger," being John's ode to his mother. That's not true, but in a film, it works better. I remember the session, and I remember all the circumstances around that – and we wrote it together. It did not appear to be an angst-ridden ode. We were copying American stuff that we were listening to. American songs were about danger, that's why we put it in. But, for Sam, it worked much better in the film as an angst-ridden ballad.

To get back to my original point, that's the kind of thing that happens in films, but these books that are written about the meaning of songs, like Revolution in the Head – I read through that. It's a kind of toilet book, a good book to just dip into. And I'll come across, "McCartney wrote that in answer to Lennon's acerbic this," and I go, "Well, that's not true." But it's going down as history. That is already known as a very highly respected tome, and I say, "Yeah, well, okay." This is a fact of my life. These facts are going down as some sort of musical history about the Beatles. There are millions of them, and I know for a fact that a lot of them are incorrect.

... it used to be frustrating. I've got over it. It's okay. "Early Days" has a smattering of that, but the main thing is it's a memory song. It's me remembering walking down the street, dressed in black, with the guitars across our back. I can picture the exact street. It was a place called Menlove Avenue. [Pauses] Someone's going to read significance into that: Paul and John on Menlove Avenue. Come onnnnnnn. That's what it's like with the Beatles. Everything was fucking significant, you know? Which is okay, but when you were a part of the reality, it just wasn't like that. It was much more normal.

Henry Ford once said, "History is bunk." He may have had a point, given that we tend to glamorize, and more sadly, bastardize the reality of those we admire. We want them to be these iconic beings whom we hold in such high esteem that we tend to lose sight of their mutability, their simple ordinariness.

Perhaps our misguided admiration has a selfish component. After all, if the heroes that we create can soar to such great heights, then the implication is that we might aspire to equal their journey. Unfortunately, what gets lost along the way is the truth, and once truth mutates into myth, it is almost impossible to redress.

© The Beatles On Abbey Road — Posted here on August 4, 2014.

Paul McCartney's "Early Days"

Paul McCartney's latest album, NEW, is available from Amazon.



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The Beatles On Abbey Road
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