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Paul McCartney always seemed to be able to create a song from thin air. Anyone who watched The Beatles: Get Back saw Macca pull the song “Get Back” out of thin air. He proved his genius as a songwriter when he wrote “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” based solely on a slang phrase one of his friends uttered. When inspiration struck, Paul arranged one gentle Sgt. Pepper song without producer George Martin.

George Martin (left) and Paul McCartney attend a Cirque du Soleil tribute to The Beatles in 2006.
George Martin (left) and Paul McCartney | Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Paul McCartney could write songs quickly

Paul once said writing songs with John Lennon was easy because they had a pleasabt back and forth relationship (at least for a while). That allowed them to work quickly. Yet Paul also wrote rapidly on his own. The supposedly wistful Get Back sessions and “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” weren’t the only examples of his songwriting prowess.

Macca wrote Let It Be opener “Two of Us” while on a date with Linda. He pulled a similar trick several years later. Paul wrote the song “Picasso’s Last Words (Drink to Me)” on the spot and put it on a Wings album when Dustin Hoffman asked him to. Paul famously churned out “Wonderful Christmastime” in a few minutes during the sweltering summer heat.

When McCartney had a creative itch to arrange strings on “She’s Leaving Home,” he started working on it without George Martin.

Paul worked on ‘Sgt. Pepper’ song ‘She’s Leaving Home’ without George Martin’s help

George Harrison once said about half of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’s songs were just average. He was especially critical of “When I’m Sixty Four” and “Fixing a Hole.” The tune “She Leaving Home” avoided his criticism. John earned writing credit, but Paul had the initial spark of inspiration.

The orchestral tune required string arrangement, but an inspired Paul didn’t have time to wait for Martin. According to The Trivia Book of The Beatles, The Beatles’ producer had to work on a Cilla Black song and couldn’t break away. So Paul forged ahead without Martin. He teamed with arranger Mike Leander to write the string arrangement. Macca later admitted it was unreasonable to expect Martin to pull away from the Black session to work with him.

Martin didn’t harbor any ill will when it came time to record the song. The Trivia Book of The Beatles writes he slightly revised the arrangement and conducted the orchestra but otherwise left the song intact. 

Paul couldn’t wait for Martin when he felt inspired to work on “She’s Leaving Home,” but it all worked out in the end. NME placed it at No. 35 in its ranking of greatest Beatles songs.

Macca wrote several of The Beatles’ No. 1 hits


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George’s opinion of some Sgt. Pepper songs apparently didn’t matter to Beatles’ fans. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified it gold (500,000 copies sold) less than two weeks after its June 1967 release. It’s since gone platinum, trailing only Abbey Road and The White Album in sales, per the RIAA.

The Beatles never released “She’s Leaving Home” as a single, which makes sense. The slow song doesn’t scream chart-topping single. By that point in their career, the album-focused Fab Four could afford to be more selective about the tunes it released in the short format.

Paul and John wrote many of The Beatles’ No. 1 hits, with Macca writing a few more chart toppers (10 against six). He followed suit as a solo artist. The longevity of his post-Beatles career, songwriting talent, and penchant for collaborating with equally talented artists (including Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder) helped him score the most No. 1 solo singles of any Beatle.

The so-called cute one routinely proved his songwriting talent with The Beatles and worked quickly when inspiration hit him. The impatient Paul McCartney worked on a Sgt. Pepper song without George Martin, but the end result wasn’t tarnished by Macca’s impulsive decision to forge ahead without the fifth Beatle.

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