Paul McCartney turns down offer from the National Theatre

September 1966


In 1966, Kenneth Tynan held the position of literary manager at the Royal National Theatre in London. The National Theatre was preparing for the production of Shakespeare’s comedy “As You Like It“, which would star Sir Laurence Olivier. In September 1966, Tynan approached Paul McCartney to write music for the production.

Paul politely declined the offer explaining “I don’t really like words by Shakespeare … Maybe I could write the National Theatre stomp sometime! Or the ballad of Larry O.

Dear Mr McCartney,

Playing ‘Eleanor Rigby’ last night for about the 500th time, I decided to write and tell you how terribly sad I was to hear that you had decided not to [write the music for] As You Like It for us. There are four or five tracks on Revolver that are as memorable as any English songs of this century – and the maddening thing is that they are all in exactly the right mood for As You Like It. Apart from ‘E. Rigby’ I am thinking particularly of ‘For No One’ and ‘Here, There and Everywhere’. (Incidentally, ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ is the best musical evocation of L.S.D. I have ever heard.)

Won’t you reconsider? John Dexter [slated to direct As You Like It] doesn’t know I’m writing this – it’s pure impulse on the part of a fan. We don’t need you as a gimmick because we don’t need publicity: we need you simply because you are the best composer of that kind of song in England. If Purcell were alive, we would probably ask him, but it would be a close thing. Anyway, forgive me for being a pest, but do please think it over.

Yours sincerely,

Kenneth Tynan

From book Dramatic Exchanges: Letters of the National Theatre, 2018

Last updated on November 8, 2023

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