The rich canon of The Beatles may well date back to 1962 on records, but their time as a songwriting partnership had begun almost from the very moment they met at a village fete in 1957. The two teens were so enamoured and impressed by one another that they almost instantly began penning tracks next to each other, something they would later describe as writing “eyeball to eyeball”. It means that while McCartney may have been 20 years old when the band finally got themselves off the stages in Cavern Club and Hamburg and into the studio, they had been working in cahoots for some time prior.
Naturally, having met in high school, that meant some of the band’s most beloved early tracks were written while the two men were in comparative diapers. As simple, spotty teenagers, the songwriting duo would not only set the foundations for one of the greatest bands of all time but also, while skipping school, write their biggest early hit.
‘I Saw Her Standing There’ is one such song. Written in the throes of adolescent rebellion, the track is given extra impetus when one understands that the people behind the song were merely hot-blooded teenagers of their day. While Lennon is naturally credited with the song, as per the majority of The Beatles’ compositions, the track is most keenly attributed to Paul McCartney. “That’s Paul doing his usual job of producing what George Martin used to call a ‘potboiler,’” confirmed Lennon. “I helped with a couple of the lyrics.”
McCartney, speaking in 1988, remembered the track’s composition slightly differently: “I wrote it with John. We sagged off school and wrote it on guitars. I remember I had the lyrics, ‘Just seventeen/Never been a beauty queen,’ which John… it was one of the first times he ever went, ‘What? Must change that!’ And it became, ‘you know what I mean.’”
The songwriter offered some more thoughts on the writing process in 1994: “Sometimes we would just start a song from scratch, but one of us would nearly always have a germ of an idea, a title, or a rough little thing they were thinking about and we’d do it. ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ was my original. I’d started it, and I had the first verse, which therefore gave me the tune, the tempo, and the key. It gave you the subject matter, a lot of information, and then you had to fill in. So it was co-written… and we finished it that day.”
It can feel strange to have a song which has been so neatly woven into the fabric of pop culture be reduced to such a flippant moment of writing. However, there is something wholesome and touching about the thought of a young and scruffy songwriting partnership jotting down ideas for songs while their teachers were left red-faced, wondering where their students were. Featuring on the group’s first album Please, Please Me, the song has lasted the test of time and is regularly thought of as one of McCartney’s best.
Listen to The Beatles’ ‘I Saw Her Standing There’, the song Paul McCartney wrote while skipping school, below.