A track on Paul McCartney’s debut solo album, ‘Teddy Boy’ was written in 1968 and was originally recorded twice by The Beatles.
McCartney put forward ‘Teddy Boy’ as a possible contender for the Let It Be album, although the light-hearted tale was clearly disliked by John Lennon. A version included on 1996’s Anthology 3 showed him deliberately attempting to sabotage McCartney’s attempts to teach it to the group by singing hoedown lyrics.
My second cousin Ted is the son of my cousin Betty Danher, who was a big influence on me musically… Ted was their first boy, so that’s partly why I refer to him as ‘Teddy Boy’. It’s an affectionate term, as I’m just over ten years older than him. But the Teddy Boys were also the ruffians of my youth, the guys who wore long frock coats with velvet collars, drainpipe trousers and crepe-soled shoes. Their shoes were known as ‘beetle crushers’ or ‘brothel creepers’. These Teddy Boys were notable in the UK for hanging around street corners waiting for a little aggro.
So, Ted is the jumping-off point for the song, but as usual, it takes its own cues and puts on its own show. The ‘tales about his soldier dad’ are pure imagination. The lines ‘Teddy Boy’s here/Teddy’s gonna see you through’ are what I imagined Teddy saying to his mum when he was trying to support her.
It’s not too much of a stretch to connect this psychodrama to two sources. One is the terrible sense of loss I still feel about my mother. Teddy is then a version of myself, trying to console myself while purportedly consoling my mother. The other is that ‘Teddy Boy’ was written during that oddly productive time we spent in India in 1968. The Beatles actually did several takes of it in early 1969 for the Let It Be film. They were mostly acoustic takes with a little electric guitar from George Harrison, but there was a bit of tension between us all and it wasn’t released until I included it in my first solo record, McCartney, which came out in 1970.
The Lyrics: 1956 To The Present
‘Teddy Boy’ was included in Glyn Johns’ first attempt at compiling the Get Back album, an effort which ultimately came to nothing. It was absent from Johns’ second mastered album, which was put together on 5 January 1970, suggesting that McCartney was already intending to re-record it. Either way it didn’t feature in the Let It Be film, so was never considered for inclusion on the soundtrack by Phil Spector.
For this remake, McCartney recorded the basic track of vocals, guitar and bass guitar on his four-track home studio at 7 Cavendish Avenue, London. It was then transferred to eight-track tape at Morgan Studios and given further overdubs, including vocals by Linda McCartney.