The Beatles

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Macca’s gems: Early Days

One of the most beautiful and striking songs on the album New (2013) is Early Days, in which McCartney is remembering him and John Lennon when they were just two kids, before they’d started The Beatles and before they got on as songwriters. It’s about them, dressed in black, walking on Menlove Avenue in Liverpool, about visiting record shops where they would go and listen to new imported records from America. 
When I write songs I don’t always think I’m going to make a statement. On the day I wrote the track Early Days I was thinking of the past, particularly me and John in the early days in Liverpool, so I just ran with that. I started to get images of us in the record shop listening to early rock and roll and looking at the posters and the joy that gave me remembering all those moments. So that song just evolved around that.”
Video: Paul talking about Early Days

Although not planned at first, the song does contain a statement. Even a strong one. The chorus is all about revisionism, a dig at people who say they know the history of the Beatles, without having experienced it by themselves. There are lot of stories going round about the band and loads of them just aren’t true, but nevertheless they are going down as history. While promoting the album New in 2013, McCartney reveals that he often got confronted with this ‘unwanted legacy’, and how frustrating this sometimes is; like with this example he gave in one of the interviews at the time:
I was on holiday once and there was this little American girl on the beach. She says ‘Hi there. I’ve just been doing a Beatles appreciation class in school’. I said ‘Wow that’s great’ and I think ‘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’. 
It’s a constant niggle. The fact is, there’s only a given body of people who really know inside out what goes on, and other people analyze it and that’s fine. But when they get it wrong, you just have to live with it. 
Paul McCartney

What makes the song really remarkable, are Paul’s vocals. For the first time, it is clearly audible how McCartney’s voice is aging. He himself, 69 years old at the time, was also not satisfied when he recorded it, 'a bit croaky, wobbly' he called it, and therefore he wanted to redo the recording. But the older voice fits perfectly with a song in which an older man looks back on his youth. Producer Ethan Johns convinces him to leave the voice for what it is:
He thought it was too rough sounding. I had to persuade him and say ‘Paul, the vocal sounds great, it’s really powerful because it’s not perfect’. In my role as producer, that’s what I wanted to hear from Paul; a sort of beautiful imperfection.”
Ethan Johns
Video: Early Days

Almost a year after the release of NEW, a music video for Early Days is released. The story of the attractive, black and white video is inspired by the first meeting between John Lennon and Paul McCartney in 1957. In the video their story is not located in Liverpool but in the Mississippi of the 1950’s, because that period of early rock 'n' roll and Mississppi Delta Blues has been an important source of inspiration for the Beatles.  
Their story at its core is a universal one, two young kids who bond over their passion for music and form a band and friendship. This video is about them, and every band, and every kid who has suffered the ups and downs of starting a band, whether or not they became successful. 
Video director Vincent Haycock

Not for the first time, American actor Johnny Depp has a cameo in the video.

Video: McCartney & Depp, behind the scenes

The video ends with a blues jam with McCartney, Johnny Depp and seven blues musicians. That jam session was recorded during a separate day of filming in Los Angeles and lasted a couple of hours. A memorable experience for director Vincent Haycock: 
Paul’s scene was incredibly fun to create.  It was just him, some blues players and Johnny Depp jamming on set all day. Patti Smith also turned up on set and hung out, which made the crew very happy!  One of my favorite days of filming ever.”
Vincent Haycock

Even before the release of the Early Days video, an almost half-hour summary of the amazing jam session was published in July, 2014.

Video: Blues Jam

Related posts:

Macca’s gems: New
The Beatles Urban Legends Quiz

André Homan

André Homan is a Dutch writer and journalist.

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