Exclusive: A First Look At New Podcast, ‘McCartney: A Life In Lyrics’

Today (October 4) iHeartPodcasts and Pushkin will debut the much anticipated McCartney: A Life In Lyrics podcast. The 12-part series, based on the best-selling book, is hosted by the poet Paul Muldoon, who explains in the first episode, which I was given exclusively for first listen, “We worked together on a book looking at more than 150 of his songs. And we recorded many hours of our conversations. This is McCartney: A Life In Lyrics; a master class, a memoir and an improvised journey with one of the most iconic figures in popular music. Each episode is centered about the writing of a particular song and the circumstances surrounding it.”

Episode one, premiering today, focuses on the song “Eleanor Rigby.” But before that, McCartney offers some insight into his love of writing. An aspiring poet who was friends with the iconic poet Allen Ginsberg (“Howl”), McCartney exclaims at the outset of the 19-minute episode, “Oh my God, I wanted to become a person who wrote songs. And I wanted to be someone whose life was in music.”

Throughout the conversation between McCartney and Muldoon they reveal many fascinating tidbits about one of The Beatles’ most beloved songs. For starters, during the segment when they discuss McCartney’s friendship with Ginsberg it is shared that the Beat poet edited many of McCartney’s poems. So Muldoon asks McCartney if Ginsberg edited “Eleanor Rigby.”

“He said, ‘That’s a great poem.’ So that’s a great review,” McCartney shares.

Then they discuss where the song’s iconic title character comes from. “I wanted a character who summed up all the little old ladies I knew. And looking back on it, I knew quite a few,” he says, explaining in detail how he met a lot of older people doing odd jobs as a kid.

So it was from the older people he knew the idea for the character came from. But he admits, he is not 100 percent certain on where the name itself came from.

“There is a grave which John [Lennon] and I wandered around endlessly talking about our future. And there is a grave there [with the name Eleanor Rigby]. I don’t remember ever having seeing that gravestone but it’s been suggested to me that psychologically I would have seen it,” he shares.

The show is filled with interesting bits, some surprising, like how the song “Eleanor Rigby” was influenced by the music of the composer Bach and the score for the Alfred Hitchcock classic Psycho. And some are just funny, like the explanation behind the line, “Wearing a Face That She Keeps in a Jar by the Door.”

“My mom’s favorite was Nivea and I love it to this day. It kind of scared me a little that women used quite so much cold cream, and it was my dread, when I got older and got married, that I would marry someone who would [wear a lot of cold cream] and put one of those big shower caps on and the curlers and have masses of things… So that played on my mind quite a bit, so she’s wearing a face that she keeps in a jar by the door,” McCartney says.

He also reveals that while the song is classically influenced, he was not a fan of classical music at first or piano lessons. “Everyone in my generation, all of us groups, John, George [Harrison, Paul, and Ringo [Starr], Mick [Jagger], Charlie [Watts], etc. I don’t think any of us can read music,” he says. “And now, I will teach a kid how to play piano how we learned it and I’ll show them a couple of chords to get started on and if they’re musical, they’re off. You get C, D Minor, E Minor, F, G, A Minor, right there, that’s like most of the Beatles songs. That’s more than you need to know.”

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