The Beatles: Paul McCartney Was Almost Busted by the Police While Writing ‘Eleanor Rigby’

It’s not much of a secret as to how The Beatles became the biggest band in the world. The easy songwriting relationship between John Lennon and Paul McCartney created fantastic music that spoke to a receptive post-war generation of music fans. Sometimes, however, they wrote separately before collaborating. And it almost got Paul in trouble one time. The police nearly busted Paul McCartney as he wrote “Eleanor Rigby” with the songwriter Donovan.

The police could have arrested Paul McCartney as he wrote ‘Eleanor Rigby’
Though not as successful as The Beatles, singer-songwriter Donovan was a 1960s star in his own right. The Scotsman had top-10 singles in England with “Catch the Wind” and “Colours” in the first half of 1965 (per the Official Charts Company) before he helped McCartney write “Yellow Submarine” in 1966.

That wasn’t the only Paul McCartney song from Revolver that Donovan helped shape. Macca brought a tune about a person named Ola Na Tungee to Donovan’s house. Unsurprisingly, the pair got high and hashed out the song that became “Eleanor Rigby.”

Then a policeman came to the door. Donovan answered it alone.

Out front, Paul had parked his car illegally: Sticking out of its designated spot, doors open, and radio on (per 150 Glimpses of The Beatles). The officer could have cited Macca for his poor parking job. Or even arrested him for marijuana possession, too. Instead, he lit up as McCarteny came to the door. “Oh, it’s you, Mr. McCartney. Is it your car, sir? A sports car?’” the officer said as he offered to park the car in a more suitable spot.

The policeman returned with the keys moments later, and Paul got back to work turning “Ola Na Tungee / Blowing his mind in the dark with a pipe full of clay / No one can say” into “Eleanor Rigby / Picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been / Lives in a dream.”

McCartney collaborated with Donovan a few times

First it was “Yellow Submarine” and “Eleanor Rigby.” Then the McCartney-Donovan mashups kept coming. Paul saved a troubled recording session for Donovan’s 1967 hit “Mellow Yellow.” Future Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones arranged the iconic, laconic, and bright horn section. No one wanted to include it on the track until McCartney walked through the door and said he liked it. He reportedly stayed and sang backup on the song, too.

Donovan attempted to return the favor the following year. He and The Beatles traveled to Rishikesh, India, to study transcendental meditation. Donovan tried helping McCartney write the lyrics to the White Album song “I Will” there, but his contributions didn’t make the cut.

It was a miracle McCartney didn’t get in trouble with the police as he worked on “Eleanor Rigby” with Donovan. The illegally parked car was enough to get a ticket, and the drugs in the house could have been enough to be arrested. But Paul’s fame helped him avoid trouble.

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