Dating from 1956 or 1957, ‘I Lost My Little Girl’ was the first song written by Paul McCartney on the guitar.
I wrote that when I was fourteen just after I’d lost my mother. I don’t think the song was about that but of course, any psychiatrist getting hold of those two bits of information would say it was. It’s fairly obvious with a title like ‘I Lost My Little Girl’.
Many Years From Now
Although McCartney often stated that ‘I Lost My Little Girl’ was his first composition, his admission that it was written on the guitar means that it dated from after the rock ‘n’ roll era began. He is known to have written at least two songs – ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ and ‘Call It Suicide’, also known as ‘Suicide’ – on the piano in the same period.
Everyone else had right-handed guitars, but I learnt some chords my way up: A, D and E – which was all you needed in those days. I started writing songs, because now I could play and sing at the same time. I wrote my first when I was fourteen. It was called ‘I Lost My Little Girl’ – ‘I woke up this morning, my head was in a whirl, only then I realised, lost my little girl, uh, huh, huh.’ It’s a funny, corny little song based on three chords – G,G7 and C. I liked the way one melody line went down and the other went up, which I think is called contrary motion. It was a very innocent little song. All my first songs, including that one, were written on the Zenith.
The Quarrymen performed the song, although no audio recording is known. Whether it remained in The Beatles’ early repertoire is unclear, but they did perform it during the Get Back/Let It Be sessions on 25 January 1969. Curiously, this version had Lennon on lead vocals, and lasted for almost 10 minutes, although the melody was substantially different from McCartney’s later performances.
McCartney’s MTV Unplugged performance was his first public performance of the song as a solo artist, and the album Unplugged (The Official Bootleg) was its first commercial release.
Anything that I had written on an acoustic was considered. Like ‘Mother Nature’s Son’, which we also thought about for Unplugged but just didn’t fancy in the end. And ‘I Lost My Little Girl’, the first song I ever wrote, at 14, was written on the guitar. After that I wrote ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’, but that was on piano. ‘I Lost My Little Girl’ is a very innocent little song – G, G7, C – but quite interesting because the chords go down as the melody goes up; it’s a clear musical trick, but it’s also interesting to see such ideas around in my first song.
Club Sandwich, Summer 1991