Interview for People Weekly • Monday, July 5, 1993

Band on the Run

Interview of Paul McCartney
Published by:
People Weekly
Interview by:
Peter Castro
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Interview

In their 24 years of marriage, Paul and Linda McCartney have spent only 11 days apart–the time the former Beatle spent in a Japanese jail on pot charges in 1980. Now, backstage at the Silverdome in Detroit, McCartney sits in his dressing room recalling his stint in the slammer. “Actually, jail was very similar to a recording studio,” he says cheerily. “You sit around and do goofball things like a bunch of guys do stuck in a room together. I developed this great little trick where we’d see who could jump the highest up the wall. Now, me being taller than most of them,” he adds with a laugh, “I tended to win this game.”

McCartney is nothing if not adaptable. Twenty-three years after the Beatles’ breakup, he is still riding high, pushing a new album (Off the Ground) that has sold nearly 3 million copies worldwide since its release in February. Now 51, he is also back on the road–for the first time in three years–in a grinding eight-month world tour that will continue through October. Unlike those early Beatlemania treks of the ’60s, however, McCartney’s present trip is a G-rated family affair. “Looking for girls is just not allowed now,” he says with a smile. “Linda’s got this big rolling pin she keeps handy. But we have a great time. We have our kids.” 

And those kids are here, there and everywhere. Mary, 23, works as Linda’s assistant, helping coordinate photo shoots on the tour, while Stella, 21, an aspiring fashion designer, James, 15, a would-be guitarist, and Heather, 28, a potter and Linda’s daughter from her first marriage, play the part of a traveling fan club, cheering their father on at nearly every show. 

“Having your family with you on tour can swing two ways,” says McCartney. “You can think, ‘Hey, man, I’m rock and roll. I don’t want the family with me.’ Linda and I have our ups and downs and arguments, but we really like each other, and that goes for the kids. They’re cool people.” Mindful of her children’s safety and the fact that they have so far escaped the glare of publicity, Linda shields them from the press like a mother superior on dorm watch. Papa Paul is just as attentive, here on the road and at home on their Scottish farm, where the family has lived since 1970. “Each of us who’s got a more settled life has occasionally got to think, ‘God, I wish I could just get on my bike and take off,'” says McCartney. “But as a father, I feel like I’ve got to say, ‘If anyone needs me, I’m over there.’ Sure, I miss the other kind of freedom, but I’m not complaining.” 

Unless, of course, conversation turns to Michael Jackson, his former buddy and collaborator on the early ’80s hits “Say, Say, Say” and “The Girl Is Mine.” While money can’t buy you love, it could procure virtually the entire Beatle catalog, which is what Jackson did in 1985 for $47.5 million. “When I was 20-odd, me and John [Lennon] signed a publishing contract, which I’m still under,” says McCartney. “John and I were told we were going to own our own company, but the businessmen were much cleverer than these 20-year-old boys, and they meant we were going to own 49 percent of the company. As anyone with any mind for arithmetic knows, that’s going to get you out-voted, man.” 

As a result, the catalog became Jackson’s eight years ago when McCartney was simply too slow with the checkbook. He claims that his buying partner then, Yoko Ono Lennon, wasted precious time trying to haggle the price down. (She has denied this.) Since then, McCartney’s attempts to buy it back, and his demands for a larger cut of the royalties, have gone unheeded. Michael “won’t answer my letters, one of which I handed him personally [last year],” says McCartney, who is irked by Jackson’s sale of Beatles tunes such as “Revolution” for use in TV ads. 

Ironically, it was McCartney himself who advised Jackson to get into music publishing back in the ’80s. “He asked for some advice, and I gave it to him out of the goodness of my heart. I thought he was joking when he said [doing a squeaky impression of Jackson’s breathy alto], ‘I’m gonna get your songs.’ Turns out he meant it.” 

While McCartney wages his royalty battles, wife Linda, 50, a onetime rock photographer, has continued her own long fight for respect. Smarting over the Beatles’ breakup, many old fans and music critics treated her like a no-talent intruder when she joined Wings, Paul’s next group, as a keyboard player in 1971. She has remained a backup in his bands, but soon after their last tour, a bootleg tape of Linda, harmonizing off-key on a live version of “Hey Jude,” made the national-radio rounds, apparently circulated by people who wanted to embarrass her. But Linda isn’t easily discouraged. “I really don’t give a damn what people think,” she says with a grin. “I’ve always wanted to meet people like [the taping culprits] and stick my fingers in their eyes.” 

Linda insists she’s still having fun, but her enthusiasm isn’t as obvious as her husband’s. The band’s lead guitarist, Robbie McIntosh, notes that Paul gets charged even during tedious sound checks. At a preconcert run-through at Milwaukee’s County Stadium, McCartney proves the point while rehearsing “Magical Mystery Tour” in a driving rain. His face, lined by time and travel, still exudes the puckish delight that charmed millions back in the days of mop-top madness. But there is no crowd in the big, 50,000-seat stadium this afternoon, only his daughter Stella, sitting without an umbrella 15 rows from the stage. As McCartney finishes, she suddenly breaks into rowdy applause. Looking up, McCartney leans back toward the microphone. “Thank you,” he says happily, his voice booming over the gigantic sound system toward his audience of one. “Thank you very much.”

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