- Album This interview has been made to promote the New Official album.
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Die Welt (“The World”) is a German national daily newspaper, published as a broadsheet by Axel Springer SE. Die Welt is the flagship newspaper of the Axel Springer publishing group. Its leading competitors are the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the Süddeutsche Zeitung and the Frankfurter Rundschau. The modern paper takes a self-described “liberal cosmopolitan” position in editing, but it is generally considered to be conservative.
(auto-translated from German)
Die Welt: Mr McCartney, I would like to talk to you about how time passes …
Paul McCartney: We can try that, but I don’t have much time today. What did you bring with you?
Die Welt: A photo from my first interview with you, that was 20 years ago. They were almost 50 years old at the time.
Paul McCartney: Oh, I’m wearing an interesting sweater – and you, you have a different hairstyle than you do today. (laughs) Where was that?
Die Welt: In Saarbrücken, before your appearance in a TV show. You announced a new world tour there – and were already asked at that time if it was your last. You are now 71, multiple grandfather and give sold-out stadium concerts all over the world every year. Do you ever ask yourself how long you want to do this?
Paul McCartney: No. That’s just not what I’m doing. Have you been to one of my concerts last time?
Die Welt: It’s been a long time, 2009 in Hamburg.
Paul McCartney: Then you know what’s going on at my concerts. I am constantly asked why I still feel it. I say, you just have to look into the faces of my viewers, look at this interaction between me and my fans.
Die Welt: But you’ve known this mania for more than 50 years. Is there no habituation effect?
Paul McCartney: No. It’s overwhelming every time. Anyone who sees the enthusiasm at my concerts and does not understand that we all have a fantastic time together, I can no longer help. Writing songs, performing live – that’s an eternal fascination for me. I just let it happen as long as I enjoy it and people want to see me.
Die Welt: In your new song “Early Days” you now complain that someone could take away your time with the Beatles …
Paul McCartney: It often seems like that to me, yes.
Die Welt: “They can’t take it away from me,” sing defiantly. Who takes something away from you?
Paul McCartney: For example, your journalist, but also filmmakers, book authors or just other people who keep circulating false stories about me and the Beatles, even though they weren’t there at the time.
Die Welt: Isn’t this sustained engagement with everything to do with the Beatles an expression of an unprecedented, intergenerational fascination?
Paul McCartney: I don’t think people are aware of that now. But they map my life and tell things that are often not true. You journalists are the main culprits because you have to deal with people and their stories all the time. Sometimes you make mistakes – and yes, that annoys me.
Die Welt: Let us give you an example.
Paul McCartney: I say, “Paul McCartney wrote this or that song to wipe out John Lennon one because he had offended him before.” I always think, “What a stupidity! It wasn’t like that!” But then someone writes it off, another writes it off – and so it goes on and on.
Die Welt: The Beatles disbanded 43 years ago, there are hundreds of books about you, the band and their music. In the meantime, you seemed to have made peace with the formation of myths. How is it that this anger is now coming up with you?
Paul McCartney: The history of the Beatles has now reached enormous proportions. And because it keeps going, new attempts at interpretation are constantly swirling around it. Take the book “Revolution in the head” …
Die Welt: Ian MacDonald’s analysis of all Beatles songs, which is praised by many critics as the “Beatles Bible”.
Paul McCartney: Yes, the book is considered a knowledgeable treatise about the Beatles. I like most of it. Nevertheless, I keep finding passages here where I think, “That’s just not true.” And that was a drive to write this song “Early Days”. I wanted to hand out a little bit – to all those who think they know everything about that time, even though they weren’t there. But the real impulse for this song was another: I just thought about the past, how John and I made a pilgrimage through the record shops in Liverpool, how we heard early rock ‘n’ roll albums together.
Die Welt: For a while, you had a tense relationship with the Beatles and John Lennon. Have you become old-fashioned?
Paul McCartney: It is good for me today to remember such moments. You see, our lives are changing so rapidly today, record stores haven’t been around for a long time. But it’s good to know where you’re coming from. But there are also other moods in the song – for example, when I sing how the pain goes into laughter. This is more of a philosophical reflection of the ups and downs of life itself. Incidentally, that is what I wish everyone – that you manage to go through the bottoms and then hopefully find yourself laughing.
Die Welt: They wrote deeply sad songs at a young age – “Yesterday”, “Eleanor Rigby” or “Hey Jude”. They exchanged words with beat poets such as Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs, and heard avant-garde music by Karlheinz Stockhausen and John Cage. Nevertheless, you are still regarded as the nice Beatle.
Paul McCartney: These are projections of people who don’t really know my work. Who knows what I did doesn’t think so. Sometimes I wonder for myself what I wrote for texts when I was 20. They have depth – that’s probably one reason why I still like to sing them today. But sadness and joy are always close to each other. Then as now. Look, by and large, I’m doing great at the moment. With a new love at your side, new songs come to mind. Nevertheless, sadness always mixes in the new songs. You only get to know this after hearing it several times – for example in lines like the one of the pain that goes over to laughter. It’s like a gloomy undercurrent. Light and shadow: This is how life happens.
Die Welt: Do you sometimes wish people would listen to a new album by Paul McCartney without having this monumental Beatles past in mind?
Paul McCartney: That would be a beautiful dream if no one knew what else I had done. Most people always see a new record of me as a continuation of my complete work. But my main claim is always not to copy my past.
Die Welt: Isn’t that quite difficult? You are, after all, who you are.
Paul McCartney: In fact, I’ve caught myself writing a song once or twice, like, “I’m going to write a new ‘Eleanor Rigby’ now.” But then an inner voice comes up, saying, “Don’t do it!” I must not give in to such impulses. My past is here. But I don’t see it as a burden.
Die Welt: Let’s stay in your past, at the “Early Days”. The fact that the Beatles started in Hamburg has long been a common knowledge, which is repeatedly linked to the same anecdotes of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll in St. Pauli …
Paul McCartney: It was a wild time, yes.
Die Welt: But: The fact that English youth only traveled to the land of the hated “Krauts” for several weeks after the war was not a matter of course. What were your feelings at the time?
Paul McCartney: The Germans had bombed Liverpool in the war, the English had bombed Hamburg. John, George, Ringo and I, we were born in World War II, grew up in the post-war period. Of course, the attitude of the English towards these “bloody germans”, as we called you, was very hostile. We had just waged war against you. Then we came young guys from Liverpool to Hamburg and … it was very different from what I had feared. Sure, we also often saw German war veterans, many people with missing limbs. This made it clear that the war was not long over.
Die Welt: At that time, you befriended the photographer Astrid Kirchherr and the musician Klaus Voormann in Hamburg. Were these good Germans for you?
Paul McCartney: Yes. Like us, they stood for a new generation. Young people who themselves had no war experience. But they had heard a lot about the war in conversations with their parents. I remember this incredible feeling of relief very well when I realized, “We don’t hate each other at all. The young Germans are like us, they love music, they look to the future, not to the past.”
Die Welt: Was the basic optimism of those days a kind of blueprint for the irrepressible lust for life that still lends the Beatles’ music its radiance to this day?
Paul McCartney: This spirit of departure in Hamburg has borne us. That was, how can I say … yes, it was like a revelation.
Die Welt: Keith Richards, who has long been staged as a rival to you, has also written in his autobiography about how the post-war years shaped him and ultimately the music of the Stones.
Paul McCartney: I know I read it. But this rivalry between the Beatles and the Stones didn’t exist. We were friendly, we encouraged each other. When the Stones released “Satisfaction,” it just knocked me over. After that we had to make an effort. We released “Sgt. Pepper’s,” and the Stones responded with “Their Satanic Majesties Request.” The perception that the Stones had the blues and we had the pop wasn’t true. We followed the same tracks.
Die Welt: Richards told me that years ago, for the first time ever, you had talked and visited each other on holiday on the island of Parrot Cay. You are said to have written songs together. Will you ever publish that?
Paul McCartney: To be honest, we didn’t really write new songs. Just a little song. It was more of a jux. A children’s song, if you will.
Die Welt: Is this one of your infamous absurdly funny stories that you’ve ever come up with for the media?
Paul McCartney: No, it is true. It was just a wonderfully stupid song. I still have to laugh when I think about it. Should I sing it to you?
Die Welt: You’re welcome.
Paul McCartney: The chorus went like this (starts to sing):“Dump it here, dump it there.” Really “silly”. We thought about announcing the collaboration between Keith Richards and Paul McCartney – and then just releasing this little stupid song. We would rather have it.
Die Welt: Have you seen the Stones on the tour for their 50th anniversary?
Paul McCartney: Yes. I saw her at the Barclay Center in New York late last year.
Die Welt: And?
Paul McCartney: I didn’t regret it. The Stones played well, they were really good.
Last updated on April 10, 2021