It is nearly impossible to scan any of Paul McCartney's lyrics without hearing the Beatles' music in the background, dictating rhythm, pace, and mood. But as Blackbird Singing
demonstrates, the effort is worth making. This first collection brings together early and late poems, along with some of Sir Paul's greatest hits (including the words to "Yesterday," "Lady Madonna," "Penny Lane," and "Hey Jude.") In his introduction, editor and fellow Liverpudlian Adrian Mitchell urges readers to "wash out the name and the fame" and examine what's on the page. If you can do this, you're in for a pleasant surprise.
True, some of the lyrics appear trite on paper--"Heart of the Country" and "Mull of Kintyre" are notable offenders. Even "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" seems naked and frail without the rousing brass section. But McCartney's deeper vulnerability comes to the surface in "Dinner Tickets," a poem about his childhood. And "Standing Stone" recounts a gutsy fable about a man using the power of imagination to fend off the enemy: he erects a standing stone, "a weathered finger to the sky" and learns to be "at peace with peace." "Irish Language" boasts a rare streak of irony as the narrator admires the way "those Irish chappies" swill the language around in their mouths and dribble it through their fingers. The song ends with a beautifully timed punch line: "The Beatles were a bunch of Micks." Blackbird Singing closes with poems dedicated to the author's late wife that are tender, sparse, and startlingly honest. --Cherry Smyth
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From Publishers Weekly
Sir Paul McCartney painter, composer and songwriter (even the Queen taps her feet to "Penny Lane") has been steadily writing poetry along with the lyrics memorized by much of the world. British political poet and satirist Adrian Mitchell (who is well-known over there, and best represented by Heart on the Left: Selected Poems 1953-1984 over here) worked as a Daily Mail pop critic in 1963 and published the first national interview with the Beatles, remaining friends with McCartney since. In consultation with Sir Paul, he has selected from among McCartney's works. There are the grand and expected songs, such as "Hey Jude," "Yesterday" and "Eleanor Rigby"; ditties like "Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da" and surreal oddities like "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window"; elegies for McCartney's wife, Linda Eastman McCartney, and for friend Ivan Vaughan; and a variety of verse, such as "To Find the Joy": "Seagulls spiral whirl/ Against the sullen oak/ No scientific thought informs/ Their madcap tribal swirl." As Mitchell writes: "Clean out your head. Wash out the name and the fame. Read these clear words and listen to them decide for yourself." (Apr. 23) Forecast: While McCartney is of a completely different cast than Bob Dylan, his appeal may be even greater than that of the latter great poet/songwriter. Expect strong and steady sales after a solid showing on bestseller lists. Mitchell's latest collection, All Shook Up: Poems 1997-2000, is due this month and includes "Gourmet Architecture, Troy, New York": "It might take a year or two/ But, with its cherry-red perfect bricks/ United by vanilla ice cement/ I could eat the Marine Midland Bank." (Bloodaxe [Dufour, dist.], $19.95 paper 128p ISBN 1-85224-513-1.-, $19.95 paper 128p ISBN 1-85224-513-1)
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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