Paul McCartney admits he and the Beatles can’t read or write music

Sir Paul McCartney speaks and performs with 20 lucky fans at the Regal Theatre on November 30, 2017 in Perth, Australia. James D. Morgan / Getty Images

Legendary musician Paul McCartney sat down with 60 Minutes correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi for an in-depth chat about his new album, Egypt Station, and he revealed something rather contradictory: he is unable to read or write music, and neither could any of his Beatles bandmates.

Despite his songwriting success, the 76-year-old admitted he was embarrassed about the fact that he doesn’t understand music theory.

“I don’t see music as dots on a page. It’s something in my head that goes on.”

Sharyn Alfonsi’s 60 Minutes interview with Paul McCartney aired Sept. 30, 2018, on the CBS Television Network. John Paul Filo / CBS via Getty Images

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How does one of the world’s most beloved and respected musicians get to the summit without knowing how to read or write music? McCartney said that while it would be nice to be able to, the music just came to him and his bandmates John Lennon, Ringo Starr and George Harrison.

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“None of us did in the Beatles. We did some good stuff though. But none of it was written down by us. It’s basically notation. That’s the bit I can’t do.”

The Beatles: (L-R) Paul McCartney, George Harrison, John Lennon, Ringo Starr. Central Press / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

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The Liverpudlian lads were clearly doing something right. Their songwriting techniques are what made The Beatles unique in an era where everybody was copying everybody.

Fans expressed their shock when Macca referred back to the 60 Minutes interview via Twitter.

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McCartney confirmed that he and the late John Lennon were very competitive when it came to writing sessions and it wasn’t until later on in their careers that they admitted it to each other.

“We were competitive, yeah. He would say, ‘Hmm, that’s a bit good, right, here we go, come on.’ If he’d have written Strawberry Fields [Forever], I would write Penny Lane. You know, he’s remembering his old area in Liverpool, so I’ll remember mine.”

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When asked if the two praised each other, he said, “I would tell him his stuff was great. You’d normally have to be a little bit drunk. … It helped.”

But when it came down to Lennon praising McCartney’s songwriting abilities, there was only ever one occasion: for Here, There and Everywhere. McCartney joked, “John says just as it finishes, ‘That’s a really good song, lad. I love that song.’ And I’m like, ‘Yes! He likes it!’”

Here, There and Everywhere came from Revolver — what many consider a turning point for The Beatles’ musical style. The album shifted further and further away from their original pop roots.

Paul McCartney performs at Suncorp Stadium on Dec. 9, 2017, in Brisbane, Australia. Marc Grimwade / WireImage

McCartney and his band are on the road right now for the Freshen Up tour. The 2018 tour hit Canada in September.

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The band are celebrating the release of Egypt Station, which is Macca’s 18th studio album. You can listen to it now an all streaming platforms.

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