Written and recorded in a single day in February 1970, ‘Man We Was Lonely’ was the closing track on the first side of Paul McCartney’s début solo album McCartney.

The chorus (“Man We Was Lonely”) was written in bed at home, shortly before we finished recording the album. The middle (“I used to ride…”) was done one lunchtime in a great hurry, as we were due to record the song that afternoon. Linda sings harmony on this song, which is our first duet together. The steel-guitar sound is my Telecaster played with a drum peg.
Paul McCartney, 1970

‘Man We Was Lonely’ was recorded in Studio Two at EMI Studios, Abbey Road, London on 25 February 1970. The basic track was recorded in 12 takes between 11.30am and 2.15pm, and was completed with a number of overdubs from 3.15-9pm. That evening the song was mixed in just one attempt.

Like several songs on McCartney, among them ‘Every Night’ and ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’, ‘Man We Was Lonely’ was inspired by the pain felt by the break-up of The Beatles. McCartney experienced depressive thoughts in the aftermath of the group, and briefly found solace in alcohol, before eventually reaching fulfillment in music and domestic harmony.

It’s nice when little words come out, like ‘And we was hard-pressed to find a smile.’ I like that line. It’s a hokey thing. I think I’m remembering it wasn’t that easy when I left The Beatles. ‘Man, we was lonely.’ I think it was a little bit of a reflection of those times.

My biggest problem was I had to sue The Beatles; I tried to sue Allen Klein, but he wasn’t a party to any of the agreements, so I ended up having to sue my best friends as a technical matter. It was the last thing in the world I wanted to do, but it was pointed out to me that it was the only way to do it.

I knew I had to get out, and I knew I would apologise to them, and I knew once I got out, they’d get out. So if I got out of prison, I’d free them. It was a very difficult call. I went through a lot of tough times emotionally, so something like ‘Man We Was Lonely’ reflects that.

Paul McCartney
Billboard, 17 March 2001

While not as soul-baring as John Lennon’s early solo works, ‘Man We Was Lonely’ exposes McCartney’s vulnerability as the Beatles dream turned to dust. The jaunty music presents his defiance to the world, and the presence of Linda McCartney on harmony vocals shows how his new partnership was shaping up to be just as enduring as his previous ones.

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