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Paul McCartney explains the secret to The Beatles “magic”

The frenzied reaction The Beatles were able to stir at their peak will never again be recreated. The sheer magnetism of their music, which wrapped the brilliance of sharp pop engineering up in a balm of psychedelic imagery and rock and roll attitude, made them stars of an unthinkable calibre. Ever since the Fab Four burst onto the scene, music has been considered either before The Beatles or after it. But defining why that was is slightly more complex than just accepting they were one the best acts of all time.

Many have tried to bottle The Beatles and what it was that made them such a singular force, a position they have well maintained after rising from the dead with ‘Now and Then’ in 2023. For all the musings on their embrace of 1950s beats and wisecracks, Paul McCartney always thought it was something more simple. From the eye of the storm, he surmised that their simplistic approach was the real charm.

“One of the things I always thought was the secret of The Beatles was that our music was self-taught,” he said. “We were never consciously thinking of what we were doing – anything we did came naturally.” Acknowledging the ease at which they could churn out hits like ‘She Loves You’ and ‘Hey Jude’ also requires pointing out that it wasn’t always as seamless as just letting the notes come to them naturally.

As you might expect from four men capable of making female fans faint just by virtue of showing up somewhere, their egos got in the way sometimes. Sessions could be tense, with the songwriting duo of Lennon and McCartney domineering. The scramble for creative control often meant Geroge Harrison and Ringo Starr were left behind, splintering the band as resentments grew.

At their best, outside of the jostles for power on album sessions, they were totally attuned to each other. They expanded rock’s limited frontiers and let their individual influences shine through their catalogue. While you can trace the impact of Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry, their core sound stemmed from their unique approach to writing hits.

“A breathtaking chord change wouldn’t happen because we knew how that chord related to another chord. We weren’t able to read music or write it down, so we just made it up – my dad was exactly the same,” explained McCartney in The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present.

Adding: “And there’s a certain joy that comes into your stuff if you didn’t mean it if you didn’t try to make it happen, and it happens of its own accord. There’s a certain magic about that. So much of what we did came from a deep sense of wonder rather than study. We didn’t really study music at all.”

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