Paul McCartney gives song writing masterclass at LIPA

Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Timeline More from year 2015
Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, Liverpool, UK

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Paul McCartney was at LIPA on this day. Three students were chosen by tutors to take part in a 25-minute one-to-one musical session with him. He also took part in a song writing masterclass in LIPA’s auditorium.

From LIPA website:

LIPA’s Lead Patron, Sir Paul McCartney, returned to LIPA on Tuesday 26 May to share his unrivalled breadth of experience with students in an hour-long question and answer session.

Speaking to a full auditorium, the former Beatle shared stories and advice– from his first song and learning chords with John Lennon, to his recent collaborations with Kanye West and Rihanna.

LIPA is housed in the Grade II-listed building which was formerly the Liverpool Institute for Boys, where Sir Paul went to school. He explained that, it was while he was there, that he wrote his first song, aged 14.

Sir Paul talked about meeting John Lennon (“until I met him, I’d never met anyone else who had written any songs”) and how they began playing covers together, but progressed to writing their own material to give them the edge over other local bands. His advice for students was they should always be receptive to learning new things, explaining that a chord he picked up from a man who worked in a local music shop (which he has never learned the name for and refers to as “F-demented”) has served him well over the years. He told students, “Be open to stuff like that – sometimes it comes in handy.”

He described the rigour needed when The Beatles were recording, partly because sound technology was simpler and partly because the culture was different. You were expected to record a song in half a day.

He also talked about artists which inspire him – from Bob Dylan and Neil Young to modern acts including Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift and Kanye West.

Sir Paul talked about how he gave Kanye the melody for his track All Day. He explained how surprised he was when Kanye transformed a simple tune, which he originally whistled, into a heavy industrial sound. He commented “if you’re going to work with Kanye, then you’ve got to expect that from him. He knows he can go as far as he wants.”

During his visit, Sir Paul also held one-to-one sessions with a selection of BA (Hons) Music students who are studying song writing.

You would go to a club in Liverpool in the very early days and you’d be in the dressing room ready to sort of go on… And you’d have your little list of songs you were going to do… Covers yeah. And you’d hear the other band doing them… I used to do “Long Tall Sally”. And you suddenly hear “Long Tall Sally”…

Okay, we’ve got to do it because we haven’t got enough songs not to do it. So I’m just gonna have to do it better than he did it, but still you know, we’re repeating their act and so that’s what happened so we thought we’ve got to have something that they won’t know.

So that’s actually really why we started getting serious about writing. So we thought “if we have a couple they don’t know they can’t make them”. That’s funny, you know, you think of this start of a writing, it must have been a great muse or a great magic moment… But it was really to stop them doing our stuff.

So we did that and it just developed really you know… We didn’t want to bore ourselves so we didn’t want to make the same song twice and you know a lot of people doing records, they get a winning formula and so they repeat it… There’s probably that producer makes them do it… We always spotted that happening, you know, we go – don’t want to do that

So if you listen to a lot of Beatles stuff, the songs are completely different. It’s like – sort of, you know – Eleanor Rigby and then there’s Octopus’s Garden, and then Strawberry Fields, and there’s Penny Lane, or whatever you know… But they were all quite different, and that was only because we just would have got bored if they were all the same…

I mean you had The Supremes in Motown, Diana Ross’s group, that’s those records are very similar… “Stop, in the name of love…”, “Baby Love”… There were very similar things and we wanted to avoid that. So I think that was one of the good things for us, because we just kept on going – never sort of did the same song twice.

Paul McCartney

Last updated on August 1, 2023


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