In the song McCartney recalls various scenes from his Liverpool past, including schooldays, going to scout camp, on the Royal Iris on the River Mersey, and performing in the Cavern Club.
People often say they can remember more from their childhood than they can from a month ago. I think that is a fact of life – I don’t know why. So all I had to do for this song was to think back. And immediately I go back to Liverpool, where there was a little place we could escape to, beautiful little woods where, come springtime, there would be these carpets of bluebells. It was a magical place. There’s something about me at the bus stop that’s a big part of my memories – going to school, coming home from school, going to the pictures, going to your friend’s house. So all of these things got in there. ‘The cellar’ is the Cavern, ‘Royal Iris’ is a ferry boat they had – they’d call them riverboat shuffles, and some of our earliest gigs were on them. So these are just exciting memories of mine, and I connected them: ‘On a blanket, in the bluebells, at the bus stop,’ Then I get into The Beatles: ‘That was me, on TV, sweating cobwebs in a cellar.’
McCartney added extra vocals during the third verse following the solo, after it was decided that the section required some additional input.
We were talking about that part needing a lift, and he said, ‘Well, maybe I’ll sing it up an octave,’ doubling the guitar line. He went out, and that’s the second pass. He kind of figured it out and just ripped it.
Mix Online, 12 May 2008
A live recording of ‘That Was Me’ from Amoeba Music in Hollywood, Los Angeles, on 27 June 2007 appears on the 2019 album Amoeba Gig.