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‘Like Dreamers Do’: the early song Paul McCartney wrote that set The Beatles apart

As one half of the driving duo behind the sonic creations of The Beatles, Paul McCartney has earned his place as one of the greatest songwriters of all time. In collaboration with John Lennon – and in the band’s later years, without him – the Liverpudlian lyricist wrote some of the most outstanding and enduring compositions in music history, works that still permeate lists of the best songs ever written.

From the placating ‘Hey Jude’ to the melancholic ‘Yesterday’, McCartney’s hits would storm to the top of the charts, his lyrics would find a permanent place in people’s hearts, and his songs would change music forever. However, even the most accomplished and acclaimed songwriters had to start somewhere, so McCartney began at the Cavern Club.

The Quarrymen, and later, The Beatles, frequented the now-iconic Liverpool venue in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The Cavern Club had a transformative impact on the band in their early stages, not only introducing them to their manager, Brian Epstein, but also allowing them to try out new material. One of the earliest tracks they tested out under those curved walls was ‘Like Dreamers Do’.

As McCartney recalled in Many Years From Now by Barry Miles, the band performed what he considered to be a “weak arrangement” of the track at the club, but they still managed to attract the attention of their audience. “Certain of the kids liked it because it was unique,” the songwriter suggested, “none of the other groups did it.”

McCartney’s full vocals drive the early rock and roll track through declarations about the girl of his dreams. “I waited for your kiss,” he sings over sharp twangs and rumbling drums, “waited for the bliss like dreamers do.” Though it’s nowhere near as catchy or as complex as some of McCartney’s later songwriting efforts, it was early proof of his talents. It wasn’t necessarily the song itself that had captured the audience, though.

Rather, it was the band’s decision to perform the track that was unique. According to McCartney, it was “actually a bit of a joke” to try out your own original material. “For you to write it yourself was a bit plonky,” he stated, “And the songs obviously weren’t that great, but I felt we really had to break through that barrier because if we never tried our own songs, we’d just never have the confidence to continue writing.”

That decision to break through the barriers, to try out early material like ‘Like Dreamers Do’, no matter how “plonky” it seemed, certainly served McCartney and his bandmates well in the long run. Beyond the attention of Epstein, they won over audiences aplenty that would come to extend far beyond the four walls of the Cavern Club. By the time ‘Like Dreamers Do’ was finally released on record in 1965, they were the biggest band in the world.

The band would continue to break barriers in their songwriting and their production, as well as in the music industry on a wider scale. Six decades later, they’re still considered to be the most innovative and influential band in the world. From the moment they opted to play original material in the Cavern Club, they refused to follow the orthodox ways of doing things, and it was this attitude that secured them such a reputation.

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