Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Paul McCartney based ‘Eleanor Rigby’ on an old lady he visited as a boy: ‘Hearing her stories enriched my soul’

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Paul McCartney modeled the Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby on an old lady he often visited as a boy. The stories she told the singer-songwriter “enriched” his soul.

In The lyrics: 1956 to todayPaul said he knew a lot of old ladies who grew up in part through Bob-a-Job week “when Boy Scouts were doing chores for a shilling.” He explained, “You’d get a shilling clearing out a shed or mowing a lawn.”

Years later, while with the Beatles, Paul wanted to write a song that pays homage to the older women in his neighborhood, particularly one old lady he gets along with very well. He can’t remember meeting “Eleanor Rigby” for the first time, but he often went to her house.

“I found out she lived alone so I just walked around there and just chatted which is kinda crazy when you think about me being a young Liverpool boy,” Paul wrote. “Later I would offer to go shopping with her. She gave me a list and I brought the things back and we sat in her kitchen. I remember the kitchen vividly because it had a small crystal radio.

“It’s not a brand name; it actually had a crystal in it. Crystal radios were very popular in the 1920’s and 30’s. So I visited them and just hearing their stories enriched my soul and influenced the songs I would later write.”

Years after hearing the old lady’s soul-enriching stories, Paul wanted to immortalize them in song. However, he had to give her a big name.

“Maybe she started out with a completely different name,” Paul said. “Daisy Hawkins, right? I can see that “Hawkins” is quite nice, but it wasn’t right. Jack Hawkins played Quintus Arrius in Ben-Hur. Then there was Jim Hawkins from one of my favorite books, Treasure Island. But it wasn’t right.”

Just as Paul doesn’t remember how he met the old lady, he can’t exactly remember how he came up with Eleanor Rigby. He wrote: “That’s the trouble with the story, though. Even if you were there, which I obviously was, it’s very difficult to pin down at times.”

Paul may not be able to “pin down” the story of how he came up with “Eleanor Rigby,” but he also doesn’t think he named his character after seeing a tombstone. There is a headstone in the graveyard at St Peter’s Church that reads ‘Eleanor Rigby’. Although Paul often hangs out there, he doesn’t think he’s ever seen it.

“It’s like the story of the name ‘Eleanor Rigby’ on a marker in the graveyard at St. Peter’s Church in Woolton, which John and I must have wandered about and talked endlessly about our future,” Paul wrote. “I don’t remember seeing the grave there, but I suppose I registered it subliminally.”

Paul thinks he would always call his character “Eleanor,” probably because of Eleanor Bron, who starred with the Beatles in their 1965 film. Help! He claims he got “Rigby” from a shop sign he saw while waiting for his then-girlfriend Jane Asher to finish work at the Old Vic.

However the pieces fit in, Paul wrote “Eleanor Rigby” at Asher’s house, where he lived. He played it for his piano teacher shortly thereafter, but they were not impressed. However, if Paul had gotten the chance to perform the song for the old lady, she might have liked it, especially since her stories inspired many of Paul’s songs.

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