The first solo Beatles release, The Family Way was the soundtrack to the 1966 film of the same name.
The Family Way was a British comedy drama starring John Mills and his daughter Hayley Mills. It was based on the 1963 play All In Good Time by Bill Naughton, and was directed by identical twins John and Roy Boulting.
Its soundtrack was composed by Paul McCartney, and was produced, arranged and conducted by The Beatles’ producer George Martin. It was notable for being the first time that the Lennon-McCartney credit wasn’t used for a McCartney composition.
The directors, the Boulting Brothers, actually approached me – one of them, Roy – and he was interested in some of the music we’ve been writing. He said, ‘Would you be interested in actually writing something for film?’ I said, ‘Wow, great honour.’ And they’re very good directors, quite famous English directors, so I knew they’d be good and the film would be good, and a very good cast with John Mills and Hayley Mills and Hywell Bennett. So I said, ‘Yeah, okay!’
It was reported in the British music press in the latter part of 1966 that John Lennon and Paul McCartney would collaborate on the score, following Lennon’s return from filming How I Won The War in Spain.
When he returns from filming in Spain next month, John Lennon will help is songwriting partner Paul McCartney to score the new Hayley Mills film, All In Good Time … The picture’s alternative working title of Wedlocked has now been dropped, the producers having settled on All In Good Time. Paul is believed to be already working on the music.
Lennon, however, never worked on the soundtrack. McCartney, too, initially had little interest in the job, but was persuaded by George Martin to compose for it.
McCartney wrote 15 seconds of music for the film’s main theme. He played the piece to Martin, who arranged it for various instruments. Two weeks later, following Martin’s cruise to New York and McCartney’s holiday in France, Spain and Africa, the pair regrouped to work on the film’s love theme, known as ‘Love In The Open Air’.
I went to America for a time and, on returning, realised we needed a love theme for the centre of the picture, something wistful. I told Paul and he said he’d compose something. I waited, but nothing materialised, and finally I had to go round to Paul’s house and literally stand there until he’d composed something. John was visiting and advised a bit, but Paul created the tune and played it to me on guitar. I listened and wrote it down. It is a fragile, yet compelling, melody. I arranged it for woodwinds and strings, and we called it ‘Love In The Open Air’. It’s quite haunting.
New Musical Express, December 1966
Martin took the melody and scored it for woodwind and strings. Five recording sessions took place over three days and nights at CTS Studios in London, where earlier in the year The Beatles had taped overdubs for the Shea Stadium recordings.
The music for The Family Way was completed just two weeks prior to the film’s premiere on 18 December 1966. The pieces were arranged by McCartney and Martin in styles including a brass band rendition and a Duane Eddy-style guitar version, which were used in various scenes throughout the film.
If you are blessed with the ability to write music, you can turn your hand to various forms. I’ve always admired people for whom it’s a craft – the great songwriting partners of the past, such as Rodgers and Hammerstein, or Cole Porter. I’ve admired the fact that they can write a musical and they can do a film score.
So film scores were an interesting diversion for me, and with George Martin being able to write and orchestrate – and being pretty good at it – I got an offer through the Boulting Brothers for him and me to do some film music for The Family Way.
I had a look at the film and though it was great. I still do. It’s very powerful and emotional – soppy, but good for its time. I wanted brass-band music; because with The Beatles we got into a lot of different kinds of music, but maybe brass band was a little too Northern and ‘Hovis’. I still loved it. My dad had played trumpet and his dad had been in a brass band, so I had those leanings. For the film I got something together that was sort of ‘brassy bandy’, to echo the Northernness of the story, and I had a great time.
We got an Ivor Novello Award for the score – for the best film song that year, a piece called ‘Love In The Open Air’, which Johnny Mercer was nearly going to put lyrics to, but I didn’t know who he was. Later I realised, ‘Oh, that Johnny Mercer! You mean the greatest lyricist on the planet!’ I should have done that. Never mind – it fell through – but it was good fun doing the music.