Study Says Paul McCartney ‘Misremembers’ Writing ‘In My Life’ Music
In Many Years From Now, Barry Miles’ 1997 biography of Paul McCartney, the Beatle recalled writing the melody for a set of John Lennon lyrics that eventually became “In My Life,” the immortal meditation on memory that Lennon sang on Rubber Soul.
Now, a pair of academics claims that statistical analysis proves there is less than a one in 50 chance of McCartney having written the music to the song.
“As I recall, he didn’t have a tune to it,” McCartney told Miles. “I said, ‘Well, you haven’t got a tune, let me just go and work on it.’ And I went down to the half-landing, where John had a mellotron, and I sat there and put together a tune. … I recall writing the whole melody. And it actually does sound very like me, if you analyze it.”
Harvard’s senior lecturer in statistics Mark Glickman and Jason Brown, professor of mathematics at Dalhousie University, did analyze it, and they disagree with Macca’s memory.
As NME reports, the pair used Beatles songs written between 1962 and 1966 for comparison to “In My Life,” analyzing melodies and chord transitions and frequency. These became data points they used to examine “In My Life” and to determine whether the music was written by one or the other musician.
“The basic idea is to convert a song into a set of different data structures that are amenable for establishing a signature of a song using a quantitative approach,” Dr. Glickman said. “Think of decomposing a color into its constituent components of red, green and blue with different weights attached. ... The probability that ‘In My Life’ was written by McCartney is .018,” he concluded. “Which basically means it’s pretty convincingly a Lennon song. McCartney misremembers.”
This assessment is in line with how Lennon remembered writing the song, with some assistance from McCartney, but not nearly as much as McCartney recalls.
“Now, Paul helped write the middle-eight melody,” Lennon told writer David Scheff. “The whole lyrics were already written before Paul had even heard it. In ‘In My Life,’ his contribution melodically was the harmony and the middle eight itself.”
The middle eight in “In My Life” includes producer George Martin’s piano solo, which many mistake for a harpsichord.
McCartney has offered no response to the study’s findings. He is preparing for the release of his new album, Egypt Station, on Sept. 7, and a tour in support of the record.