- Published by:
- Club Sandwich
- Interview by:
- Alan Grimadell
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As trailed in Club Sandwich no. 40, an interview recorded by Paul for hospital radio has been enlivening the daily routine of wards up and down the country. (“Hold that bed bath will you, nurse? I’m tuned in to that McCartney fella.”) The encounter – with Alan GrimadeH of the National Association of Hospital Broadcasting Organizations – took place on 6th December last and was produced and edited by Mark Stone into Paul McCartney – The Man. The questions ranged from straightforward to really rather deep and we thought you would enjoy some highlights.
The uplifting sounds of “The Man” play us in and soon Alan is asking Paul about his Dad’s musical influence.
“He was a pianist himself, he’d learnt by ear – think it was his left one – and I always said ‘Teach me to play’ and he said ‘No, I don’t want to teach you, ’cause you’ll learn wrong. If you’re gonna be a musician, I’d like you to learn it right.’ But I never got round to it, I ended up being like him, someone who just picked it up myself on the piano.”
The Beatles’ beginnings are recounted, wherein the young George Harrison impresses Paul by his ability to play “Raunchy”, a popular ‘fifties instrumental featured on the interview tape – how Paul impressed John Lennon similarly by reeling off the words to Eddie Cochran’s “Twenty Flight Rock” is well known. But even Mr. McCartney, the veteran interviewee, has to scratch his head to think when he first met Ringo Starr.
“I must’ve first met him down the Cavern: we used to see their group [ Rory Storm and the Hurricanes] and admire the drummer – we thought he was the best drummer around. They played places like Butlins, so they were a bit the stars – for a musician to have a whole season at Butlins was great. That was his great claim to fame.”
We then leap to 1965, as Paul is asked to choose a song from Rubber Soul and plumps for “Michelle”. Murmurs of contentment from patients everywhere. Staying with Paul’s romantic side – his left, I think – Alan enquires: was there a special story to “The Long and Winding Road”?
“I was in the country and in the view I happened to be looking at – it was in Scotland – there was a road sort of stretching off up in the hills, you could see it go for miles, and I thought of calling it ‘The Long and Winding Road’, I don’t know why. I know when I wrote it I had in mind Ray Charles, hoping that he might record it.”
Alan: “I read that ‘All You Need Is Love’ was performed before a TV audience of over 400 million in 24 countries. Would you say that was a special record to you?”
“Oh year… it’s a bit like a Live Aid thing… I think this was the very first time they’d actually hooked up all the television networks all over the world. We had this song ‘All You Need Is Love’ and we thought that’d be the perfect one to use… He [the director] gave us quite a free hand, so we invited all our friends round to the studio. We thought, well if it’s the people of the world meeting the people of the world, we might as well have a great big crowd there and just show ’em what our … crowd is like at the moment… They were all very nice people – probably looked a bit weird to some people, ’cause all the fashions were a bit weird.
“We had the orchestra there and we’d rehearsed it a couple of days before… eventually it came to it. They cued from another country – ‘from America to London, England’ – the music started and we started singing this thing. We got through it: I’m surprised nobody panicked. It was a fabulous thing… it’s rare when the world gets together over something like that. I think the majority of people do care: they’re great when they’re asked to give… I think everyone would like to see it more. [There’s] this feeling that people do have, like in things like hospital visiting. I think people are great: they do look after each other… all the nurses looking after the patients now and stuff.”
What did Live Aid mean to Paul?
“I started the day at home on the telly, like most people. Then I drove towards London and I could see people with the windows open, everyone was watching it – it was a great kind of feeling that we were all together. It was amazing driving towards it thinking ‘God, I’m gonna be on this thing!’ So we got into Wembley and it was great. Bob was there, gave us a big hug – me and Linda, y’know – and put us at ease. “Next thing I knew I was watching the Who. I was up on the side of the stage and they sounded great from where I was. Eventually came time for me to go on and I said ‘Where’s the piano?’, ’cause it wasn’t a rehearsed thing. I got out there and the audience was just unbelievable.”
Then came the notorious Mike Malfunction: “I thought ‘If I stop, what if it’s on telly? What if they’ve got it on telly and it’s just my sound here that isn’t working?’… I get to the bit where it goes ‘There will bean answer/Let it be’ and the audience goes ‘Yeahhhl’ – turned out that was the only words they heard!
“The other thing was, I had to wait till David Bowie, Alison Moyet, Bob and Pete Townshend came on to finish the last chorus with me. I thought ‘I’ve got my back to them, but I’ll know when they come on because I’ll hear the crowd shout’. During the verse when they were supposed to come on, there’s no crowd noise. I think ‘Heck, what’s happening?’… Luckily I said ‘Well, one more time’ and then they finally all came on… The great thing was the event itself. We sang ‘Feed the world’ and the spirit of all those people on the stage and in the audience was so great that you just felt uplifted.”
What influence was Paul on John Lennon?
“Gosh, you’ve got some good questions today, haven’t you?… I think my influence would mainly be musical: each of us was searching for how to write a song, I was searching alongside him, so when we came together… I’d say’Well how’s about we do it this way’ and he’d say ‘Maybe’ or ‘No’ or ‘Yeah, definitely’. Personally, I don’t know really. I know easier his influence on me… seeing someone who was able to do it: it’s a nice confidence-builder when someone can write the song with you… there was a kind of mutual strength.”
What are his projects for 1986?
“I’m making a record with Hugh Padgham, who’s co-producing it with me… That’ll be the big thing for me.”
“No, not yet. I always wait till I’ve finished the LP and I can listen to it and think ‘Yeah, that’s what that one is’… That’s just me being fussy about titles.”
Any more films?
“I got involved with Rupert and the Frog Song with a friend of mine and Linda’s called Geoff Dunbar, who’s a very good animator… I’ve always wanted to do something like a Walt Disney feature with Rupert, I think it really could be great… But imagining it and getting it together are two different things, so we wanted to do Rupert and the Frog Song to see if we could do it, to see if it would be a success. It was a huge success, so it’s given us the feeling that we really should try and make the big feature. That’s a very hard job: if you talk to anyone who knows about animation, that’s a very big job you’re taking on. “All people know great cartoons when they see them. The secret of why it [Rupert and the Frog Song] was so successful was the backgrounds. The foreground stuff wasn’t too hard, but if the backgrounds looked a bit cheap it made the whole film look cheap. We discovered that to make these really detailed drawings which the characters could move against was the huge secret. We decided that instead of doing it like the stories in the middle of the annuals, [we’d do it like] those great endpapers which Alfred Bestall often did…. If you put Rupert in front of something like that, it gives it that great quality you’re talking about.” (Cue “We All Stand Together”.)
What influence has Linda had on Paul’s life?
“Oh, you’re coming up with the good questions today… She’s very kind and considerate – sounds as though the violins should come in! – very much an animal lover. I was very much an animal lover as a kid, but I got into show business and tended to forget a lot of that stuff. When we got married, we got back into a bit more of that kind of thing.
“She’s great with children, so that as a mother she’s great. Influence on me? Maybe making me know that it’s important to be kind and considerate: you can lose sight of that… you can forget your values.”
Linda’s musical contribution?
“Mainly harmonies, really. She was in Wings and used to play keyboard a bit, but by her own admission she’s not a very accomplished player. She played little riffs in ‘Band on the Run’ and things like that – really good, but very innocent.”
Would Paul choose a favourite Wings track?
“Red Rose Speedway is a nice memory for me – a romantic period, folks! – and ‘My Love’ is the song I’d like to choose, ’cause it was written with Lin in mind. You don’t often get directly soppy like that, but that one was. Here you go: ‘My Love’.” (More blissful sighs along the wards.)
Ever thought of writing a book?
“I’ve thought about it… If you are ever going to write a book, you’ve got to wake up one morning and think ‘I really want to write a book’ to give you the strength to follow the whole thing through. I’d love to put the record straight on certain things… you think ‘If only they knew how it was, it was much more ordinary, much more like real life in that room’ – we were real people. I’m waiting for the inspiration to write: only trouble is, by the time I get the inspiration I’ll have forgotten it all!”
How does Paul cope with the pressures of long-term success?
“I don’t really believe it, in a way…Then there’s my wife and kids who keep me straight if I get too big a head-kids certainly will keep you nice and down to earth. The other thing is, I don’t really mind it too much: most people spend their lives trying to get famous, so I try and think ‘Well you’ve gof there, it’s stupid to just go on moaning. It’s what you wanted! And I do enjoy it.
Following Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson, is there anyone else he’d like to duet with?
“There’s a lot of people I admire, but after having done a couple of duets people were starting to say to me ‘Now who’re you gonna do next?’, so I thought for now I won’t do any more. But I don’t rule it out – there are millions of people I’d love to sing with: the problem is, other people’s perceptions of it. If I was to do it… I love Gladys Knight’s voice – I’m talking off the cuff now – I love a fellow called General Johnson…”
After Paul’s views (favourable) on the current music scene, the single version of “Let It Be” leads him into his own memories of hospital.
“I was in when I was about eleven, in Olive Mount Hospital, Liverpool. I was in there for well over six weeks and at first I didn’t really like it. After a while, as I started to recover, I got to really like it… So I hope you can find all the nice things about the hospital – I mean, those nurses, they’re pretty rough but they’re good old skins really… Hope it makes you feel better hearing me natter here. I’d love to send all my family’s love and my best wishes for your speedy recovery. All the best from me.” (Cue “The Man”.)
This was the second time Alan had interviewed Paul, describing him in the NAHBO’s On Air magazine as “a great supporter of hospital radio”. Paul also signed autographs and asked to be kept up to date on the NAHBO’s progress.
And that’s not all… On 27th October 1962 the Beatles were interviewed at Hulme Hall in Port Sunlight on the Wirral by Monty Lister, who broadcast Music with Monty and Sunday Spin to local hospitals at Cleaver and Clatterbridge. The seven-minute tape has now emerged in flexidisc form, free with Mark Lewisohn’s book The Beatles Live! (Pavilion, £8.95), and makes fascinating listening, with Paul answering many of the questions.
Asked what they do in the group, John gives harmonica as his first instrument, while the ever-modest Paul replies “I play bass guitar and, er, sing – I think”. When George says “lead guitar”, Monty asks if that makes him leader. “It’s solo guitar,” Paul explains. “John is in fact leader of the group.” Ringo reveals he’s been with them nine weeks and shows off a pair of named drumsticks given him by a fan ” ’cause we’re going away”. Monty asks where to. “Hamburg.”
Paul gives the background: “We first went there for a fellow who used to manage us, Mr. Alan Williams of the Jacaranda Club in Liverpool, and then we went under our own steam afterwards. We’ve just been going backwards and forwards and backwards and forwards.”
Monty: “You’re not dizzy at all?”
“Yes, actually. It’s my left leg, y’know – the war.” (It’s all Paul’s left side today!)
Malcolm Threadgill, a 16-year-old apprentice hospital DJ, asks about their German recordings. Paul replies. “First of all we made a recording with a fellow called Tony Sheridan… ‘My Bonnie’, which got to number five in the German hit parade. But it didn’t do a thing over here. It wasn’t a very good record…”
Malcolm: “Who does the composing?”
“It’s John and I, we write the songs between us. We’ve signed contracts and things” – John: “So we get equal shares” – “…yeah, equal shares in royalties.. .We both write most of the stuff. We’ve written about 100 songs, but we don’t use half of them.”
John: “We did record another song when we were down there, but it wasn’t finished enough.” (“Love Me Do” had recently made the charts; the other song was “Please Please Me”.)
Monty: “Did any of you come over this side before you were famous?”
Paul: “I don’t know what you mean by being famous… We were here about two months ago.” Discussion of local friends and relatives dissolves into laughter: “I’ve got a friend in Birkenhead.” “I wish I had.” “I know a man in Chester.”
Peter Smethurst, a second teenager: “I’d like your impressions of your first appearance on television.”
Paul: “Strangely enough… it was much easier doing the television than it was doing the radio, because there was a full audience for the radio.”
“We hope we’ve got a full audience in both hospitals,” concludes Monty. “Over at Cleaver, a certain record on Parlophone – the top side has been requested…”
Paul: ” ‘Love Me Do’.” John: “Parlophone R4949!”
I hope the patients appreciated the following day’s broadcast. Footnote: Anyone wishing to join the 15,000-odd people already involved in hospital radio should contact their local hospital. There are over 300 independent stations covering about 90% of Britain’s hospitals, so there should be one near you. However, in case of difficulty please write to Alan Grimadell, 5 Portreath Drive, Allestree, Derby DE3 2BJ, enclosing a SAE.