Paul McCartney recently penned an essay for The New Yorker about writing “Eleanor Rigby.”
The Beatles’ beloved song was inspired by “an old lady” that McCartney helped out while growing up.
“Hearing her stories enriched my soul and influenced the songs I would later write,” he said.
Paul McCartney offered a deeper look at his creative process in a new essay for The New Yorker, titled “Writing ‘Eleanor Rigby.'”
The beloved song by The Beatles was released on August 5, 1966 as the second track on the band’s seventh album “Revolver.” It was conjointly issued as a double A-side single alongside “Yellow Submarine.”
The song’s titular character has long been a source of intrigue for Beatles fans. It’s widely assumed that McCartney was inspired by a grave marked with “Eleanor Rigby” at St. Peter’s Church in Woolton, where he met John Lennon as a teenager in 1957.
McCartney has said this wasn’t the case, and reiterated in the essay that he doesn’t remember seeing the grave, though admits he “might have registered it subliminally.”
Instead, the 79-year-old rocker attributed the song’s inspiration to “an old lady that I got on with very well.”
“Growing up, I knew a lot of old ladies – partly through what was called Bob-a-Job Week, when Scouts did chores for a shilling,” McCartney wrote. “You’d get a shilling for cleaning out a shed or mowing a lawn. I wanted to write a song that would sum them up.”
“I don’t even know how I first met ‘Eleanor Rigby,’ but I would go around to her house, and not just once or twice. I found out that she lived on her own, so I would go around there and just chat, which is sort of crazy if you think about me being some young Liverpool guy,” he continued.
McCartney said he remembers running errands for the woman, like picking up groceries, and listening to her tell stories in her kitchen.
“I still vividly remember the kitchen, because she had a little crystal-radio set,” he wrote. “So I would visit, and just hearing her stories enriched my soul and influenced the songs I would later write.”
McCartney also explained how he came up with the name “Eleanor Rigby,” which wasn’t the real name of the woman he described.
Though he originally used the name Daisy Hawkins, he felt “it wasn’t right” for the song. Instead, he landed on the name “Eleanor” after working with actress Eleanor Bron on The Beatles’ 1965 film “Help!”
As for “Rigby,” McCartney said he remembers seeing the surname on a shop sign while wandering through Bristol, England.
“I thought, That’s it! It really was as happenstance as that,” he recounted. “When I got back to London, I wrote the song in Mrs. Asher’s music room in the basement of 57 Wimpole Street, where I was living at the time.”
McCartney had previously said he was looking for a name that sounded “natural,” according to BBC.
In 2008, a Liverpool hospital payroll sheet from 1911 with the signature of a scullery maid named “E. Rigby” was sold at auction for nearly $177,000. The auction house claimed the signature belonged to the same woman buried in the graveyard at St. Peter’s Church.
“If someone wants to spend money buying a document to prove that a fictitious character exists, that’s fine with me,” McCartney said in a statement, according to the Los Angeles Times.
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