When I started to work with Ethan Johns I came in with the song, which I had already written, and it’s basically a little acoustic thing and it’s me remembering, basically me and John when we were just two kids, before we’d started The Beatles, before we’d gotten on as songwriters, so you know, I’m really going back to kind of very early days. The joy for me was: I was one of those two. It’s not me talking about two other guys. It’s me talking about me walking along the street with a guitar on my back. So I brought the song to Ethan and he said ‘Great, let’s just do it!’ So I just sat in the middle of the studio and sang it and he said ‘great.’ I said ‘okay, now let’s kind of look at the vocal, because it’s a little bit, you know: like you said, ‘vulnerable.’ I would have said dodgy, a little bit, maybe it’s not the greatest vocal. And he said, ‘no, no, no, you got to leave it. That’s what’s good about it. It’s just you,’ and I said ‘I didn’t sing that word too well, you know I’m doing a falsetto, a bit croaky or something.’ And he said, ‘It’s OK man, that’s how this song has got to be sung’. Thankfully I listened to him and thankfully you like it.
I started the song with ‘They can’t take it from me, because I was there’. Then I do just go back in my memory and I think it is a really interesting period because it is pre-Beatles, so I can see as if it’s a little black and white film. Me and John walking along with guitar over our backs, we’re dressed in black and I know exactly what I’m talking about, it’s Menlove Avenue in Liverpool. So we would often be walking there. We would try to get people interested in our music. That’s that. And the next verse is about the record shops. We would go and listen to these great new imports from America and that was a very exciting time and by the time I got to the last verse I thought, you know what people are always telling me… There were four people in the Beatles, so in the back of that van, in that Austin Princess, in that dressing room in Hamburg, in that dressing room anywhere in the world, there was just four of us. So those are the four people you got to talk to give you the real truth of what went on. So there is this feeling that you want to put the records straight.
The video for ‘Early Days’ was filmed on 5 April 2014. It was premiered on the Rolling Stone website on 7 July that year.
It was directed by Vincent Haycock, who spent a month scouting for locations in Natchez, Mississipi, and Faraday, Louisiana. Local actors were cast for the main storyline, which was set in the American South in the 1950s. Haycock also filmed a jam session between McCartney and some special guests in Los Angeles.
I happened to ring Johnny Depp. I said, ‘Come along and we’ll sit around and jam with these blues guys.’ He said, ‘Yeah, OK, count me in, man.’ I knew it was an offer he couldn’t refuse.
It’s getting to be a running gag. He’s like the Alfred Hitchcock of my videos. And he’s good! He used to be a musician before he was an actor, you know. One of his old bandmates actually organized getting me that cigar box guitar that I played with Dave Grohl on ‘Cut Me Some Slack’, that we ended up getting a Grammy for. So I knew he could play.