The song was inspired by a family friend whose daughter for a time chose not to speak. Although selective mutism is an anxiety disorder preventing a person from being able to speak in certain social situations, it is unclear whether McCartney’s friend suffered from it.
The phenomenon of ‘selective mutism’ fascinates me. There’s a family I got to know over the years. I saw them have kids, and I saw the kids grow up, and sometimes I’d give one of the kids a ride on my horse if I was out on my horse.
One day, one of these kids just stopped speaking. In school she wouldn’t speak or answer. The idea that one day someone would just decide not to talk – it’s kind of crazy, but it’s brave. So this is just me imagining what it might be like. ‘Not a dickie bird’ is cockney rhyming slang. We used it in Liverpool. It’s nice to come across that when the previous line is ‘Don’t say a word’…
I didn’t really talk to the girl about her silence, but I talked to her family, and then I said I’d written a song about it. Years later they told me it was just a phase. She’s grown up, and she talks now.
Just another phase, perhaps.
The Lyrics: 1956 To The Present
‘She’s Given Up Talking’ was mostly written in Jamaica in 1999, and recorded on 17 February 2001 at Henson Studios in Los Angeles.
Recorded on 17th February 2001 onto 16-track analogue tape then loaded into Logic Audio for overdubs. Paul played Martin acoustic guitar and sang the lead vocal then overdubbed Hofner bass with a fuzz effect and his own Ludwig drum kit. Abe played Roland Handsonic electronic percussion. Rusty played Gibson SG electric guitar through a Leslie pedal and overdubbed other guitar parts. Gabe played Hammond Organ. David overdubbed electric guitar.
It opens with the sound of backwards tapes, inspired by The Beatles’ mid-Sixties work.
One of the fun things about working here was because I hadn’t told anyone what we were going to do and hadn’t played them any demos, and instead came in and just said ‘right, we’re going to do this song,’ doing that gave me a little freedom and I didn’t have to finish the songs before ten minutes before the session. I’d run upstairs to the lounge above the studio and finish it quickly. I knew what I wanted for the middle – that when she gets home she talks a lot – so I just finished it fast.