Carlos Bonell

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From Muso Mirror Interviews: Classical Guitarist Carlos Bonell, February 6, 2021:

Carlos Bonell was born in London, but to Spanish parents. He grew up speaking Spanish. As a teenager in the 1960s he would go to Spain on holiday to visit his aunts and uncles. “All the local children would be in awe of me because I had come from England,” he says. “They would ask me ‘Do you know the Beatles?’

Being a mischievous youth with a British sense of humour, Carlos’s response was natural. “I would really lead them on,” he says. “‘Yeah, course I do, course I do!’”

By some quirk of fate, 20 years later it was true. Carlos played guitar on Give My Regards to Broadstreet, a little known Paul McCartney album from 1984. He also played at Paul’s wedding to his second wife Heather Mills, and later helped the Beatle in composing a concerto for classical guitar. […]

Carlos has recorded a number of albums himself, including classical interpretations of Queen and the gorgeous Magical Mystery Guitar Tour, an album comprising covers of 13 Beatles songs. His version of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ is enough to make you forget there’s a pandemic on. When he recorded the album around 2012, he sent some tracks to Paul McCartney, who replied immediately to say he really liked them. (Incidentally Carlos picks out ‘The Fool on the Hill’ and ‘She’s Leaving Home’ as his favourite Beatles songs.) […]

Like all of the Beatles, McCartney never learned to read music, quite a contrast to Carlos’s esteemed classical style. “It’s not fair,” says Carlos. “Every time he would strum a chord for me it made the most beautiful sound, and the voicing on it was absolutely perfect. If he wanted to bring out the melody note, it would come out absolutely first time. If he wanted to bring out a middle not — which is much more difficult, he would bring that out too, first time. So he’s intensely, intensely gifted and musical… He doesn’t need me to say that, but I mean since you’re asking me, that’s my impression.”

He speaks highly of McCartney, praising everything from his sense of humour to his work ethic. “I always thought that the musical engine behind the whole of the Beatles enterprise was Paul. I just had that feeling. He was the lyrical one, you know. John was the acid one, the one who poured a little bit of cold water on certain ideas and then turned them into something a little bit more biting. But Paul was the one I felt who really loved the whole idea of performance. And I think that was actually confirmed when I got to know him.” Carlos adds that he saw McCartney as deceptively shy. 

 Despite beginning in 2006, McCartney’s classical guitar concerto is yet to be finished. Carlos says a lot of work has gone into it and speaks fondly of how it sounds. “It’s a mixture of bits which you go ‘Oh that sounds like the Beatles’, bits which sound like baroque music, and other bits which sound like Spanish music,” he says. “I hope that if you write this up, it’s a good message to Paul: Paul, where is that guitar concerto? Shall we pick it up again? That’s the message.” 


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