At 16 I was trying to scrape through school, learn the guitar and get a date with a girl, which was impossible at that time. It was not good at all. I had a real lack of confidence. It’s the reason a lot of guys get into groups in the first place – girls and money. All the girls seemed out of my league and I couldn’t figure out how to walk up to someone and say, ‘Do you want to go to the pictures?’
It’s extremely terrifying. What do you do? Do you put your arm around her? Do you sit there and wait for her to talk first or are you supposed to talk first? Do you buy Maltesers? It’s a stress and strain. I think I did manage to make it to the pictures with a girl a couple of times, but even then it wasn’t easy to be as suave as James Bond.
I think later I realised the whole way I felt about girls when I was 16 was something I could actually write songs about. So I did write about experiences like that. And in fact, I looked back to those times to write about other things as well, not just romantic things.
I think that led to Eleanor Rigby, which was a song about lonely people
For instance, there were a few old ladies around where I lived in Liverpool and I got friendly with one of them. I used to go and get her shopping for her. And then we’d spend a little bit of time talking about her life. It was fascinating to speak to someone from a completely different generation. Instead of thinking, ‘It’s just an old person’, you realised, hey, they were young once and they had amazing experiences I can relate to. Doing that lady’s shopping became a very pleasant, educational experience for me. I think that led to Eleanor Rigby, which was a song about lonely people.
I met George on the bus…
I’m hopeless with dates – the Beatles experts have got them down much better than I have – but I think I’d met John and George by the time I was 16. George used to get on my bus. I was already writing songs – I wrote my first song when I was 14. So when I met John I said, ‘Yeah, I’ve got a couple of songs and some little bits and pieces’, and he said, ‘Yeah, so have I’.
It was a good thing for us to bond over; we could both learn from each other. We thought, well, if we’ve written one each, maybe we could write one together. So we did. The first songs were very simple but we gradually developed over the next few years and without realising quite what we were doing we became a song-writing duo. We became very famous as well.