Beatles' producer George Martin called him "The Three-Minute Mozart". He was referring to Paul McCartney, of course, and to his gift for composing memorable melodies, such as "Yesterday" and "Michelle".
Even before composing these two classic Beatles' ballads, McCartney had already revealed his ear for melody, when he sang two show tunes, "A Taste of Honey", on the Beatles' debut album (PLEASE, PLEASE ME, March 1963), and "Till There Was You", on their second album (WITH THE BEATLES, November 1963).
It was on their third album (A HARD DAY'S NIGHT, July 1964) that McCartney wrote his first bonafide ballad, "And I Love Her."
After that, you could count on at least one McCartney ballad on each new Beatles' album, beginning with "I'll Follow the Sun" on their fourth album (BEATLES FOR SALE, December 1964).
Being a classically-trained musician, George Martin had an exceptional ear for music, and was deeply moved when, in early 1965, McCartney presented him with "Yesterday". Martin was so taken with the ballad that he composed an arresting arrangement for string quartet. But would the public buy it, mixing classical music instruments with a pop song? In fact, they loved it, making "Yesterday" the Beatles' biggest selling song of all time. The ballad appeared on the Beatles fifth album (HELP! August 1965).
What follows is a list of McCartney's ballads, a word about the instrumental accompaniment, and the albums on which they appeared.
"Michelle" -- (RUBBER SOUL, December 1965 ). This time Martin scored the arrangement quite simply, for guitar and piano.
"Eleanore Rigby" and "For No One" (REVOLVER, August 1966) , With "Eleanor Rigby" Martin scored the accompaniment for double string quartet. John Lennon considered "For No One" to be one of Paul's best songs ever; the French Horn heard on the bridge, and as counter-point in the final verse, was performed at Martin's direction, by Alan Civil, who considered it among his finest work in the recording studio.
"She's Leaving Home" -- ("SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND", June 1967). This time, the arrangement for small string orchestra was composed not by George Martin, but by one of his lieutenants, Mike Leander.
"The Fool on the Hill" -- (MAGICAL MYSTER TOUR, November 1967). The flute accompaniment was performed at McCartney's direction, by Ray Thomas, of the Moody Blues.
"Martha My Dear", "I Will", "Blackbird", and "Mother Nature's Son." -- (THE BEATLES, aka "The White Album" November 1968). The only instrumentation on "I Will" and "Blackbird" is acoustic guitar, by Paul, while "Martha My Dear" features piano by Paul, and a string arrangement by George Martin; "Mother Nature's Son" features acoustic guitar by Paul, and a muted brass arrangement by George Martin.
Also recorded during the White Album sessions, was McCartney's seminal "Hey Jude" featuring Paul on piano, and on the long coda, a string arrangement by George Martin Released as a single in August 1968, the song stayed atop Billboard's Hot One-Hundred for nine weeks.
"Let It Be" and "The Long and Winding Road" -- (LET IT BE, May, 1970). The title track is a gospel tune that songwriter Paul Simon considered to be the equal of his gospel masterpiece, "Bridge Over Troubled Water."
"The Long and Winding Road", is a haunting ballad that guest producer Phil Spector enhanced with string orchestra and choir. McCartney always resented Spectator's enhancement as overcooked, and strongly believed the original version was superior. In 2003, McCartney met with Apple recording engineers to remove Spector's enhancements, and return the song to its original sound, which can be heard on LET IT BE . . . NAKED (Nov, 2003).
"Oh! Darling", "Golden Slumbers" -- (ABBEY ROAD, Sept. 1969). This time, McCartney's ballads were upstaged, by George Harrison' two ballads: "Something" and "Here Comes the Sun", and by Lennon's gem for three-part harmony, "Because."
What's interesting is that most of McCartney's ballads are rather sad songs, in stark contrast to his happy-go-lucky nature.