In 1997, two years after the Beatles Anthology documentary was released, McCartney released an autobiography covering his youth and the Beatles era called Many Years From Now, co-written with longtime friend Barry Miles. No doubt the Anthology process produced surplus memories that couldn’t fit in the group version of the story. Some critics of the memoir complained McCartney was obsessed with correcting the image that Lennon was the avant-garde Beatle by portraying himself as the group’s original radical artist who created the tape loops in “Tomorrow Never Knows,” among other experiments. But regardless the book is a terrific account of what it was like to live such a charmed life. Some of the most compelling passages come when he describes his life in mid-‘60s Swinging London. On a day off, he’d make a bunch of wild tape loops, then go over to a friend’s place, light a joint, have a glass of wine, listen to all the fantastic music everyone was discovering, old and new, and talk into the night.
McCartney released Flaming Pie the same year as his memoir, and its opening track, “The Song We Were Singing,” is the aural equivalent of such reminiscences. McCartney and disciple Jeff Lynne play all the instruments, including — for that “We Can Work It Out” touch — a harmonium, capturing the intimacy of Rubber Soul songs like “Norwegian Wood.” McCartney and friends talk about composers, the cosmos, and how to fix the world, but always come back to playing the guitar and singing more songs. It captures those heady nights when anything seemed possible and the hip young actually changed the trajectory of the world.
One almost craves more lyrics, but looking back over the classic early Beatles songs (and even the late), they’re often made up of only a few lines (see “I’ll Follow the Sun”). Thus in its structure it further fits its subject matter.