(Credits: Far Out / Bradford Timeline)
The Beatles undoubtedly changed the world. How many musicians in history can you say that about? It’s a feat that places four working-class lads from Liverpool among the greatest artists in human history. Since then, Paul McCartney has continued to blaze a trail of booming liberation.
We can all be thankful for this blessing because McCartney has never been unaware of the power that comes with his particular pedestal. He proved this in 1967 when 200 million people saw The Beatles play ‘All You Need is Love’ via a ground-breaking satellite link-up. At the time, that wasn’t far from one in 16 people on the entire planet receiving a message of unified peace in one fell swoop of sonic beauty.
Capturing such an audience was an untold feat in human history, and amid tempestuous times, the Fab Four broke through clouds of uncertainty with an assegai of hope and exultation that basked blue skies and Godspeed over a flowery movement we are still positively reeling from to this day. Over half a century on, McCartney asserts: “I still believe that love is all you need. I don’t know a better message than that.”
This typifies the sense of profundity he looks for in the music of his peers, too—if one thing ties together the music he adores, then it’s a sense of ebullience. With that in mind, we’ve decided to curate a list of all the songs that have inspired a legend. From his favourite tracks in the Fab Four’s vast arsenal to his love for the likes of ‘God Only Knows’, these are all the tracks that McCartney has afforded his lauded praise.
And we’ve even wrapped the songs up in a playlist at the foot of the piece. Enjoy.
Paul McCartney’s favourite songs:
The song Paul McCartney calls “the greatest song ever written”
The Beatle once decreed: “‘God Only Knows’ is one of the few songs that reduces me to tears every time I hear it. It’s really just a love song, but it’s brilliantly done. It shows the genius of Brian [Wilson]. I’ve actually performed it with him, and I’m afraid to say that during the soundcheck, I broke down. It was just too much to stand there singing this song that does my head in and to stand there singing it with Brian.”
Of course, things may well have unravelled very much the same if ‘God Only Knows’ didn’t exist, but in the lineage of its legacy, you would have to say that without the song, there would be no Sgt. Peppers and it wasn’t only McCartney who called it the world’s greatest song; even Lennon said when it was released that the “world perked up”. And as Jackson Browne said with a smile, “Imagine a band influencing The Beatles!”
The three songs Paul McCartney wishes he had written
When you’ve written and released over 500 songs, and a fair chunk of them have gone to number one, there can’t be many others you wish you were behind, but when he was asked just that, McCartney commented: “I don’t really want to have written anyone else’s songs, but, as a fantasy question, I love ‘Stardust’, by Hoagy Carmichael and Mitchell Parish,” he shared. “It’s a beautiful song. And I remember thinking that Billy Joel’s first hit, ‘Just The Way You Are’, was a nice song, I’d like to have written that one too. ‘Stardust’ first, though.”
And for good measure, he added a classic ballad to the English countryside by Sting into the mix. “I liked Sting’s ‘Fields Of Gold’, and I thought, ‘Y’know what, I should have written that’,” McCartney said. “How dare he?‘ I told him: ‘You stole my song.’ I thought that was a nice one, y’know?” So much for apparently not being the soppy one.
Paul McCartney’s favourite songs by The Beatles
Of all the fellows in the band, McCartney was undoubtedly the biggest fanboy. While his writing partner, John Lennon, got the claws out at any occasion for a spot of self-deprecating, Macca is always keen to point out, ”There’s a lot of songs that I love of the Beatles”.
He rattled off a string he holds dearest to Zane Lowe, explaining: “I think ‘Strawberry Fields’ is a great song; I think ‘Hey Jude’ worked out great. I’ve got a lot of favourite songs: ‘Blackbird’ I love, ‘Eleanor Rigby’ I love.”
But he isn’t prepared to just stick to the classics as he also stacks his memories alongside the tracks. “I always say ‘You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)’, which is a zany, zany little B-side that nobody knows – but we had such fun making it. It’s like a little comedy record. And I just remember the joy of making it,” he explains in a manner indicative of how he fondly looks back at the band. In fact, over the years, he has cited 20 separate tracks as his firm favourites from the band, and we’ve curated them below.
Paul McCartney’s 14 favourite songs of all time
In 2004, Uncut compiled a cover feature on McCartney as he geared up for the release of 2005’s Never Stop Doing What You Love. Therein, the bassists rattled off a list of his 14 favourite tracks of all time. In typically eclectic fashion, he placed old jazzy standards alongside classical music, pop, and even a rarity from his old bandmate.
However, perhaps more notable than the actual inclusions is that his list didn’t feature anything from his personal ”hero”, Bob Dylan, or the man he calls a ”genius”, Stevie Wonder. On the other hand, James Taylor was always expected, with Macca once saying, “I went to see James Taylor once and started blubbing because it was just so lovely! I was thinking, ‘Oh, I love this guy’ — I’m getting emotional even now!”
The song that first inspired Paul McCartney
The novelist Graham Greene once wrote: “There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in.” For many modern musicians, that Promethean juncture, where the surface of the world unzips and reveals a sense of depth and identity beneath, occurred at the hands of Elvis Presley. And when he got to meet him, he recalled: “Often I think, ‘Oh my God, I really met Elvis Presley. I was really in his house, and it was a moment in time that really happened.’ That’s all there is to it. It just happened. Sometimes I pinch myself and think, ‘Was I really on the same couch as Elvis, talking about this stuff?’ I want to remember it three hundred per cent more; I want to bring it back: ‘Were we there, was it real?’”
However, one song, in particular, proved most moving for McCartney. “It was Elvis who really got me hooked on beat music,“ he said. “When I heard ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ I thought, this is it.”