“Teddy Boy” is the simple acoustic tale of a boy named Ted with serious mother issues. Ted’s mother cries when talking about his soldier father, but later remarries, incensing Ted so much that he runs away. There is also a double meaning in the fact that “teddy boy” was common British slang in the 1950s. It was used to describe teenagers who wore “Edwardian”-inspired clothes and acted in a similar fashion to the “punks” of the 1980s or the “greasers” of the American 1950s.
Because former bandmate John Lennon had a similar childhood experience and was thought to be a part of the teddy boy subculture, it is believed that the song was a dig at him. However, the Beatles themselves originally recorded “Teddy Boy” during sessions for what eventually became their Let It Be album. There are several different bootleg versions floating around, but in one particular version Lennon is heard in the background laughing and making up extra lyrics, so I doubt that it was intended to offend. While it was never completely finished by the group, the two most notable takes of the song were edited together and put on 1996’s Anthology 3 album.
McCartney takes the sole writing credit on the song, as he started writing it during the Beatles’ 1968 trip to India. In 1970, he started recording his solo version at home, but he finished it in London’s Morgan studios. Like all of the songs on McCartney, Paul played all the instruments (bass and acoustic guitars) himself, with the background harmonies sung by him and Linda McCartney.
“Teddy Boy” largely remains a “deep cut”, but it is memorable amongst Beatles aficionados and McCartney fans. Strawberry Walrus, a Beatles tribute band, named its 2008 album after the song. Also, actor Tom Leavy recently hinted at his role in the Lennon biopic Nowhere Boy, by stating on his YouTube page that he plays “a teddy boy” in the movie.
// Notes from the Road
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