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Matt Lauer sits down with Beatle legend Sir Paul McCartney on MSNBC’s InterNight Thursday, July 10, 1997 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET
Announcer: Tonight on INTERNIGHT, Matt Lauer with Paul McCartney. The Beatle legend reminisces about the Fab Four and talks about his knighthood, his family and his latest hit album, “Flaming Pie.” That’s Sir Paul, next on INTERNIGHT.
MATT LAUER, host:
Good evening, everyone. It has been 40 years since two teen-agers from Liverpool began writing songs together. They were John Lennon and Paul McCartney. And The Beatles went on to revolutionize rock music. The impact of The Beatles was so powerful that last year all three volumes of The Beatles’ “Anthology” hit number one on the charts. Now Paul McCartney, that’s Sir Paul McCartney to us, is out with his first album since the “Anthology.” It’s called “Flaming Pie,” with songs that remind many critics of the best work of The Beatles. Recently, I had I the pleasure of sitting down with Sir Paul in Sussex, England. And I asked him about the inspiration for “Flaming Pie” and about the timing of its release.
Mr. PAUL McCARTNEY: We had The Beatles’ “Anthology” set, which was going to be three double CDs spread over a year, so a lot of work had gone into that. The record company said to me, ‘It’s probably not a good idea for you to release, or for any of you to release, something in the middle of that,’ which is a bit awkward because I’d started to stockpile a few songs. So I thought, ‘What am I going to do with these? Wait for a few years?’ But, in fact, you know, I thought about it, I said, ‘Well, it actually makes a lot of sense. It’d be stupid to come out against The Beatles.’
Mr. McCARTNEY: I mean, Beatles–the word for me was unseemly. It’d really be, somehow, very unseemly to release your own thing in the middle of all of that big Beatle push. So I was just waiting till it was all over. So–and until I’d stockpiled enough songs so that the timing came together. Once they’d done CD three of The Beatles “Anthology,” I looked around see how many songs I’d amassed in that period. And it was just about album amount. So you–it was really that. It wasn’t a–it wasn’t a conscious decision. I just wanted to get the “Anthology” out of the way, and then come out with whatever new music I had.
LAUER: So it was more of a business decision? Because, in some ways, the story that came out was that–that–the recording sessions with George and Ringo kind of reminded you of how much fun you could have making an album.
Mr. McCARTNEY: Well, no. Well, no, that is true. That’s true, too. But you were–I thought you were talking about just the timing. No, the–looking back at The Beatles’ early material particularly sort of surprised me because, you know, it’s a long time ago and I don’t often listen to that stuff. You know, I may listen to more modern stuff or “Sgt. Pepper” or something or “Abbey Road” or “White Album.” I don’t often listen to “Revolver” and the very early stuff. So it surprised me how simple and direct it was and I was very pleased and, like, ‘God,’ you know, ‘Wow. It’s–it’s really simple, but–and yet it’s strong, it’s structured well.’ There’s not an awful lot on it, it’s not overproduced. It’s just four guys.
(Vintage footage of The Beatles performing)
Mr. McCARTNEY: So it reminded me of what fun that was. And also hearing the outtakes of hearing everybody sort of giggling and laughing, and then, ‘Oh, oh, oh, come on, come on–three, four’–and then getting serious and putting the work in. It was a good atmosphere. And so it just reminded me that the thing to do is to have fun, to have good songs.
Mr. McCARTNEY: Because when you look down a Beatle track list, you know, you got–I ca–I can’t remember where–one of them, but you get you’ve got “Here, There, and Everywhere,” “Taxman,” and so and so and so and so, “Nowhere Man,” and I thought, ‘Wow. They’re good, good songs.’ You know, there weren’t–weren’t a lot of fillers. So I thought I should do that with this album. I should make sure that I like every single song. I think they’re all strong, they’re simple and direct and all they’re all recorded with a good humor.
So so–seeing as I had virtually a couple years off, I just recorded them with good humor, sort of whenever I felt like it. And so I think it came out as a comfortable-sounding album.
(Footage of Paul McCartney video from the album “Flaming Pie”)
LAUER: But when people–and you’ve heard this, when people describe this album and they say it’s a little Beatlesesque…
Mr. McCARTNEY: Mm.
LAUER: …do you think they’re reacting to the fun they’re feeling from the songs or the simplicity?
Mr. McCARTNEY: I think both probably. You know, I think–for many years after the immediate breakup of The Beatles, I think all of us wanted to get away from that and wanted to make a kind of phase two of our careers. So I went into Wings and purposely didn’t do Beatle numbers on the show.
Mr. McCARTNEY: People would say, ‘Could you just finish the show with “Yesterday”, please?’–the promoters. We said, ‘No, we’re going to finish with “Soily.”‘ He said, ‘What?’
LAUER: It’s the new Paul.
Mr. McCARTNEY: Don’t you worry. You know, because he’d gone and got–and it all went down great, you know, it was all very good, but we shied away from all that stuff in order to not just be a pale imitation of The Beatles. But enough time’s gone by now, enough water’s gone under that bridge. And what’s happening now, which I think’s quite cool, is a lot of the younger bands are using that style. So it says to someone like me, ‘Well, why shouldn’t I?’ I mean, there was always no reason why I shouldn’t, but it’s even more reasonable that I should now.
LAUER: That doesn’t bother you whether younger bands use The Beatles’ style as inspiration, does it?
Mr. McCARTNEY: No way. No. I mean, we got…
LAUER: Because you had your own inspiration when you were starting.
Mr. McCARTNEY: Yeah. I mean, exactly, you know. Ev–everybody’s got to have some kind of inspiration. And I think–you know, my theory about vocalists is nearly all of them start off imitating someone, as a straight mimicry thing. So mine–my two were Elvis and Little Richard. My–my raspy stuff was Little Richard, my more ballady stuff was Elvis. That’s who I thought I was doing in my mind. If you actually listen to it, it’s nothing like them, but that was what I was doing. I think a lot of people did Bob Dylan. You listened to a lot of–you know, Mark Knopfler’s a–a Bob Dylan. Tom Petty’s a bit of a Bob Dylan. They’ve just got a nasal sing in their voices. And it’s good. It gets you there. It gets you into your space. It gets you somewhere right, you know? And then it develops into your voice. People say, ‘No, no. That’s Petty. That’s not Dylan,’ which I think’s great. It’s a way to develop, you know. But you’ve got to start somewhere.
(Excerpt from “A Hard Day’s Night” courtesy Walter Shenson Films)
LAUER: When you were writing songs with John Lennon, I read somewhere that most songs you two could write in, like, three hours or less.
Mr. McCARTNEY: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
LAUER: That seems very quick to the average person.
Mr. McCARTNEY: Yeah, but–well, yeah. I suppose it’s like compared to what? How many–who–how many songwriters do you know that–that take longer, you know? I mean, you–you think about it, it’s actually–it’s long enough if–we–look, we had a great collaboration.
LAUER: Right. Mr. McCARTNEY: I mean, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that, certainly from my point of view. John was like a great person to work with. He must have thought I was a great person to work with because we–we stuck together for all that time. And we read each other. We’d grown up together…
LAUER: What do you mean you ‘read’ each other?
Mr. McCARTNEY: We’d been teen-agers together. I’d been sitting in his bedroom, listening to Fats Domino, Chuck Berry. We’d been taking on the words together when we were like 16, 17. So we’d actually grown up together. So that if he said, ‘You know, we’ve got to be like Chuck Berry,’ I knew what record he meant, I knew even what line he was talking about. You know, so I–we read each other in that respect.
And so when we came to sit down to write, in the very early days we would spend s–three hours but not get much. But it was about–three hours is about boredom level. That’s probably what the three hours is all about. Your brain starts to switch off about–(mimics yawning) ‘Should we go and see the movie or something?’ You know, ‘Let’s get out of here.’ Kicks in at about three hours.
So we just learned to use that period of–of non-boredom. And from the earliest songs, like “Love Me Do,” which we’d just written in the–in the house, to songs then, like, “She Loves You,” “Fr–From Me To You,” which were kind of written on tour, hotel bedrooms and things like that. We gradually developed our style together. It was like he went off and I went off. We actually were on the same track of development. So it was–it was really good.
You know, it was very easy to write together. And we only ever had one song once, I think, to my memory, where we nearly didn’t make a song in the three-hour allotted period. An…
LAUER: Do you remember the song?
Mr. McCARTNEY: Yeah. It was “Drive My Car.” Because I had–I brought in, the melody and stuff, it was kind of my song, but it was supposed to be something about golden rings, which are always very dangerous things, you know? It was like, ‘And I can get you golden ring–mm-hmm.’ You know, it was like–mm–golden rings? And having to do all those things–and rings and things were just getting nowhere, you know.
So were starting to get bored early, even though the three hours wasn’t up. So we said, ‘Let’s have a break–break,’ and we had a sort of cup of tea and a ciggie–we used to smoke in those days. And I think–I don’t–I don’t–I can’t remember what happened, but I–I–somehow, I got on to this idea of a car and it all got very tongue-in-cheek,of a sort of LA actress starlet saying, you know, ‘Baby, you can drive my car. I need a chauffeur.’ And in the end, ‘Hey, I haven’t even got a car.’ But till, you know, it was–so once that fun lyric kicked in, we were away and it–the second half of the session, it was very easy.
LAUER: When you have a great collaboration like that, is it tough when you don’t have that collaboration any more, when you’re out there alone and you’re–and you’re sitting in a room and want to look around and say, ‘Somebody chime in here’?
Mr. McCARTNEY: What it is, is that before we ended our collaboration, John and I, we were writing separately. I’d started to do stuff like “Yesterday,” “Here, There and Everywhere,” “Michelle,” my–my stuff, “Let It Be,” kind of–John had started to do “Strawberry Fields,” “Walrus,” his kind of stuff.
So we’d started to write separately anyway just out of pure convenience. If I ha–felt a song coming on, I didn’t always want to ring him up, ‘John,’ you know, ‘are you available for the next three hours?’ It was like, ‘Oh, I–I’ll finish it up,’ you know, ‘I know enough now.’ Because we’d learned in tandem we could actually–we had enough skill to write on our own.
So it wasn’t such a shock when The Beatles broke up. I was still able to write, like, “Maybe I’m Amazed” and “My Love,” without too much problem. I didn’t have to keep looking over my shoulder for John to help me…
Mr. McCARTNEY: …because, like–something like, say “Hey Jude,” and that–that had been very much solo effort and stuff.
And–however, when–that wasn’t too bad, but then once we really started to not write together and not be available to each other, I think both of us felt a little bit of a pinch then when we really couldn’t–really because of all of the business troubles, we couldn’t really ring each other up. And I think, you know, both of us went through a bit of a hard time then.
And since he died, to me, I sti–I refer to him now probably more than I did in that sort of post-Beatle period. And then it’d be, like, ‘OK. The band’s,’ you know, ‘the band’s finished. I–I’ve got to work on my own. Got to be strong. Resolute.’ And I’d take that attitude. Since then, I think, you know, if I’m looking for something, I’m trying to see if a line is crummy or if I’m trying to find something good to say, I might, in my mind, just sort of check with John and sort of say, ‘Oh, what would he think of that?’ You know.
(Footage of Paul McCartney singing)
LAUER: How much of that do you think is nostalgia and getting older and–and kind of having a better perspective on things?
Mr. McCARTNEY: I don’t know. You’re the psych.
LAUER: I wish I were. I wish.
Mr. McCARTNEY: No, I think–I think some of it’s that and some of it is just literally needing someone to refer to. Need’s the wrong word. Wanting someone to refer to.
Mr. McCARTNEY: I don’t need anyone to refer to, nor did he, but it’s handy. You know, I was doing, “Hey Jude,” it’s an old story of mine, stop me if you’ve heard it, but I was doing “Hey Jude” and I–I had–I was playing it to John and I got to the bit, ‘movement you need is on your shoulder’ and I looked at him and sort of said, ‘Oh, I’ll fini’–you know, ‘I’ll–I’ll junk that line. I’ll fix that line later. Don’t worry.’
And he said, ‘You won’t,’ you know, ‘it’s the best line in the song.’ That was very important in the collaboration, not so much to help out, to–to sometimes not edit out a good line that you don’t understand, but he sees it objectively and says, ‘That’s a great line.’ He said, ‘I know what you mean, “the movement you need is on your shoulder.”‘ I said, ‘Well, I still don’t. But if you like it, it’s in.’
(Excerpt from The Beatles press conference, August 22, 1966, New York)
Unidentified Reporter #1: I’d like to ask you sort of a person question. Do you bring your own barber with you when you travel abroad like this?
Mr. McCARTNEY: No.
Mr. RINGO STARR: No.
Mr. JOHN LENNON: No.
Reporter #1: You have your hair cut, then, wherever you are?
Mr. LENNON: No.
Mr. STARR: Well, we usually have it cut at home, you know. Well, I do.
Unidentified Reporter #2: There appear to be a–a much smaller number of fans outside the hotel and the concert tomorrow night at Shea Stadium is far below a sellout. How do you feel about…
Mr. LENNON: Very rich.
Reporter #2: …not being quite–not being quite as popular as you were?
Mr. LENNON: It doesn’t matter, you know.
Reporter #2: You make the same money?
Mr. LENNON: It doesn’t really matter.
Mr. McCARTNEY: Well, I don’t know. The thing is, you know, do you expect us just to go on forever, you know, making more and more money, got–making more and more figures…
Mr. LENNON: Playing for bigger crowds.
Mr. McCARTNEY: …bigger and bigger, you can’t.
(End of excerpt)
LAUER: Ringo also plays on a couple of songs…
Mr. McCARTNEY: Yeah.
LAUER: …on this–on this album. When you sit–and I think it was this room right here.
Mr. McCARTNEY: This room right here.
LAUER: When you sat in this room and Ringo’s playing drums and you’re doing your thing, do you look across the room and think, ‘This is how it should be,’ or do you stop and think, ‘My God, we’ve been doing this for almost 40 years now’?
Mr. McCARTNEY: Both. I think this is how it should be for 40 years. It’s–it’s a great feeling, you know, to play with him. Before The Beatles “Anthology,” we–we were getting back together in–again in this studio to do “Free as a Bird…”
Mr. McCARTNEY: …which is the John song. We didn’t know then whether we’d be able to cut it because we hadn’t been in a studio together. We…
LAUER: Cut it technically or cut it…
Mr. McCARTNEY: We…
LAUER: …personality wise?
Mr. McCARTNEY: Both. Both. You know, we didn’t know whether we’d like each other, we didn’t know if we’d be comfortable. You know, if you don’t live together for a long time, you may get–you may need your own space, someone may say something that annoys you, you know? ‘Yes, I’ll have a cup of tea,’ you know–just the slightest things.
LAUER: What did you mean by that?
Mr. McCARTNEY: You know, what–what–why do you–you know. Anyway, it wasn’t like that. It was fantastic. We had the greatest laugh that we–any of us have ever had for years. It was hysterical, actually.
(Footage of McCartney and Starr singing together)
Mr. McCARTNEY: We made some good music. Ringo and I locked in really easily on bass and drums, which is our job. You know, we’re the kind of rhythm end of the band. So after that, I said to him, ‘You know, it’d be lovely if you–you’d play on some solo stuff.’ He said, ‘I’d love to.’ Because were just getting on great.
So the first time he came, he had flu, so he couldn’t do it. So I said, ‘Well, next time, we got to do it.’ He rang me, said, ‘I haven’t got the flu now,’ so I said, ‘I got this song called, “Beautiful Night” and I’ve just finished it up.’ It’d be hanging around for quite a long time. But it was a case of one of those songs where there were a couple of words–second verse I wasn’t happy with and I’d just finished it. So I said, ‘Have I got the song for us.’
(Footage of McCartney and Starr singing together)
Mr. McCARTNEY: And the nice thing was that it helped me write that second verse, knowing he was coming, because I–I figured that the drums would come in the second verse. It’s an old trick; piano, piano, piano, second verse–ba-doom boom–drums. ‘Yea, Ringo, hey!’ The record lights up.
So I–I then worked on the lyrics there so that it would say, ‘You and me together, nothing feels so good,’ ba-doom doom–so h–it could be talking about me and Ringo together, which was good.
So we had a great time in the studio. We loved it. Loved it so much that we had to kind of do some jams. I said, ‘Well, I can’t let it go here, you know? This is too much fun.’ So we–we tried a half hour of jams which we pulled a couple of songs and one made the album. And the other one was a B-side.
The title, “Flaming Pie,” is based on the story. John actually wrote a little article in the–in the local paper called Mersey Beat where he said, ‘When I was 12, I had a vision. And a man came on to me on a flaming pie and he said, “You shall be The Beatles, with an A.”‘ And–but when we came in the “Anthology” to answering the question of ‘Who thought of the name The Beatles?’ me and George said, ‘Well, it was John and Stu.’ So we had to fudge the issue a little bit just for the sake of compromise. But–so “Flaming Pie” became a little bit a joke for us. You know, that–that anyone could take it seriously.
LAUER: When we come back on INTERNIGHT, Paul McCartney talks about his family, launching his son in the music business and how he feels about being called ‘Sir Paul.’ Back after a news break and these messages.
Announcer: INTERNIGHT continues. Here again is Matt Lauer.
LAUER: Does it still come very quickly to you when–when a thought for a song comes–does it still come as quickly?
Mr. McCARTNEY: This album actually is–was quite quick. There wasn’t an awful lot of deliberation on the songs. One or two, you want them to come more slowly because you’re not happy with a word or a chord and so there’s no reason to rush, particularly on this album because there was the “Anthology” going…
Mr. McCARTNEY: …and doing the business. S–but a lot of them did come quickly and–and do come quickly. A little trick I have was–during this album–I did it on two songs, “Somedays” and “Young Boy.”
(Footage of McCartney recording “Young Boy”)
Mr. McCARTNEY: What would happen was Linda would be going a cookery assignment. For instance, one day it was with The New York Times’ Pierre Freenay, who is a great chef. And she was going to cook a meal with him and there was going to be an article written by the guy who was doing the article, Brian. So I said, ‘Well, I’ll drive you. I’m not doing anything.’ We were kind of out on holiday. I said, ‘Well, I’ll drive you and I’ll bring you back.’ You know, I like her. She’s great. And I’m cheap.
So I drove her there. I take my guitar in case I–there’s nothing for me to do, which there often isn’t; see that they get started, then I realize they don’t need me. So I’ll just go in a little back room and I’ll make it–make it a little sort of game with myself. I’ll say, ‘OK, I’m going to write a song in the next three hours,’ because when they’ve finished, one of them–probably Linda–one of them is bound to say, ‘Did you get bored? What did you do?’ You know?
Mr. McCARTNEY: And I’ll say, ‘Well, I–I wrote a song.’ And they go, ‘Never. Three hours? What?’ I’ll say, ‘Sure, do you want to hear?’ And it focuses me. So whereas, normally, I might leave the song with kind of one verse, an idea for a chorus, and the middle eight pretty much blocked out and a way to end it and the title–this way I’ve got to finish it all because they might ask to hear the whole song. So it’s really good. It just–it’s–it’s–it’s how I used to do it.
And it–sometimes it means songs are more complete that way. I don’t–I don’t know if it necessarily means they’re any better but those two worked out quite well.
LAUER: Well, you mentioned the song “Somedays.” Tell me about that song.
Mr. McCARTNEY: Well, I was doing a cookery thing, and you see, I’m cheap…
LAUER: No. No. I mean, what’s–what’s the inspiration for that song?
Mr. McCARTNEY: It’s always very difficult to tell what inspirations to any songs are. I–inspiration, it–it’s very difficult. I know there is an inspiration but I don’t know where it comes from. Sometimes there will be a title, a thought that will kick me off. But, in this case, it was a minor chord. I fancied–I was–I was in this room–and a guitar and I had a minorish sort of chord. So it was obviously going to be a saddish kind of song. And I just, ‘some days I look,’ and I just pulled it out of nowhere.
There’s like a vast reservoir of music out there; all these atoms contain all the music that ever was. And it’s all there for the picking. And someone like me, when you’ve learned to song write, it gives you the confidence to just reach in there and find something. “Eleanor Rigby,” tu-tu-tu-tu-tu–rice, church, picks up–oh, OK. And we know where we’re going. And I just follow.
So “Somedays”–with “Somedays,” ‘I look–somedays, I–I look at you with eyes that shine.’ I thought, ‘How am I going to get out of that?’ OK. ‘Some days I don’t.’ You know, it just flipped it–the next line. So it–it’s–often, it’s just a question of following a muse rather than being–having a particular inspiration. They say–you know, some writers will say, ‘I’m going to write a poem or a book about a one-legged guy walking up a cobbled street.’ You know, that sometimes happens to me, although, I haven’t gotten any one-legged cobbled songs.
LAUER: I haven’t heard that song yet.
Mr. McCARTNEY: No. I’m writing it as we speak. But more often it is just a thought or something that leads me. And I trust it. That’s what I’ve learned to do, is trust whatever will come next. A lot of people don’t trust. They think ‘Oh, you know,’ (mumbles) and they get panicky.
(Excerpt from “Somedays” music video) LAUER: Is “Somedays” a love song?
Mr. McCARTNEY: Yeah.
LAUER: Is it written for Linda?
Mr. McCARTNEY: Any lo–s–love song I write is litten f–written for Linda, yeah.
LAUER: What–what did she say the first time you played it for her?
Mr. McCARTNEY: ‘That’s a nice song, dear.’ No, I–what’d she say? ‘Great.’ She loved it. She loved it. I mean, I don’t kind of say, ‘Here’s a song for you, darling.’ You know, I don’t do that. It’s just like, ‘Yeah, I’ve written a song.’ You play it now–kind of thing. She likes it a lot. She likes this album a lot. It’s–I must say, you know, it was quite an easy album to make and it was a fun album to record. And I think that’s kind of got into the general atmosphere of it. And I’ve said to everyone in promoting it, I said, ‘We really don’t want to get onto too heavy a bandwagon.’ Having said that, I’ve done lots of promotion. But the good thing was it was on my own terms.
Mr. McCARTNEY: It wasn’t someone was leading me with a ring in the middle of the nose. You know, ‘Here we’re going to Washington. You’re going to see everyone there for three days.’ ‘On to Cincinnati.’ You know, it wasn’t one of those press junkets. It’s been just, ‘Well, I’ll do an interview now.’ ‘NBC’d like to an interview.’ ‘OK, well, I can fit them in on the…’
(Excerpt from “Flaming Pie” shown courtesy Capitol Records, Inc.)
LAUER: Linda sings…
Mr. McCARTNEY: Yeah.
LAUER: …on the album. The–another little piece of family affair here. Your son…
Mr. McCARTNEY: Mm-hmm.
LAUER: …James, plays…
Mr. McCARTNEY: Yeah.
LAUER: …guitar on a song. Was that nerve-racking for you?
Mr. McCARTNEY: It was a bit, actually, yeah. And he was a little bit nervous but he doesn’t show it.
LAUER: How old is he now?
Mr. McCARTNEY: He’s 19.
Mr. McCARTNEY: The engineers thought he was very cool. I knew he was a little bit nervous because his eyes were shining a little bit. You know, when people you know–and there’s nothing moving, except there’s just a sort of look in the eyes that’s slightly different from what you see when you’re having breakfast. So I could tell. But he handled it very well. Hey, listen, I’m biased, I’m proud–proud dad here.
But I–I had a section in the middle of a song called “Heaven on a Sunday” which is on the album, which is a favorite of quite a lot of people. It’s a nice sort of jazzy laid-back song. I had a little bluesy minor section in the middle that I thought it’d be nice if I made a phrase and someone answered it. And I immediately thought of him because we do that at home, I’ll play something–and because I know him so well just as my son. We have that rapport. You don’t have it with everyone. You have it with a person you’ve been in a band with happily for 10 years…
Mr. McCARTNEY: …or you might have it with someone you’re married to or your children, if you’re lucky. And he and I sit around at home sometimes playing guitar. So I knew–I thought we might have it. So he came to the studio and I played some licks and he just came off the top of them and he played electric stuff. And the st–solo you hear on the record is just a live–his live answers to my statements. So I thought he did really well, you know. It’s not everyone can do that. It’s not that easy to do.
LAUER: Are you–are you going to be the kind of dad who–who offers advice to the son who wants to go into the–the music business?
Mr. McCARTNEY: Yeah. But, you know, talking about maturity and stuff, the one thing I’m learning is that it’s very difficult to give advice. People often think you’re telling them off. I don’t know if you find that. I–I do sometimes. I’ll–out of, you know, what seems to me a perfectly good-natured thing. ‘Now, you know what? On that third phrase there, you know, if you’d have done that, it just might have been better.’ And I figure, ‘Well, I’ve been around long enough; it’s got to–hopefully it’s got to be some kind of good advice.’ But he’ll s–say, ‘Yeah, Dad, but, you know, I–I’m thinking–I’ve got my own thought on it, you know?’ And I’ll sometimes get a little bit, ‘Hey, now, come on, you know. Like if you were going to a master class or something with me, you’d have to listen.’ He says, ‘Yeah, but Dad, I’m 19.’ Ding. And the lamp goes off. I realize, he’s quite right, he’s 19. I say, ‘Ah, you’re talking about youth, aren’t you? I get it now. I remember.’
And it’s true, you know, y–he’s right. He’s right. I can tell him my thing but it’s right of him not to automatically accept it.
LAUER: Is it tough, though, if you think he’s making a mistake, to sit back and watch someone you love so much possibly make a mistake?
Mr. McCARTNEY: It’s–it’s very tough. But you got to let him do it.
Mr. McCARTNEY: It’s very tough. But that’s what I’m learning is to do that. You know, if he’s really making a mistake, I’ll pull him back before he really does it and then just say, ‘Sorry. I’m going to pull you out of this water or you’ll drown.’ You know, I’ll do that. But it’s–it’s a trick of parenthood that–that I’m only just learning, really.
LAUER: So just to be proper…
Mr. McCARTNEY: Yeah.
LAUER: …do I call you Paul? Do I call you Sir Paul? Which do you prefer?
Mr. McCARTNEY: I prefer Paul. My dad would have said, ‘Sir’–he said, ‘Do we spell that C-U-R?’ No, that’s–you call me anything you like, anything but early.
LAUER: When–when people call you Sir Paul, if they come up to you on the street, does it startle you still?
Mr. McCARTNEY: It sure does. What ‘still’? I haven’t got used to it at all. You know, it’s a–it’s such a great honor, it’s a wonderful thing for someone British. It’s the highest honor and stuff. But it is very difficult to get used to. The only kind of time I ever hear it–because most of the people I work with don’t bother.
LAUER: You don’t make them call you Sir Paul.
Mr. McCARTNEY: A complete lack of respect amongst–but I’ll go on a plane and the pilot may say, ‘Welcome, Sir Paul.’ And I’ll go–look behind to see who he’s talking to. But it’s such a great honor, you know.
LAUER: Well, take me back to March, then. You’re at Buckingham Palace…
Mr. McCARTNEY: Yeah.
LAUER: …you’re kneeling before the queen.
Mr. McCARTNEY: Yeah.
LAUER: And she takes that sword…
Mr. McCARTNEY: Yeah.
LAUER: …puts it on one shoulder…
Mr. McCARTNEY: Supposedly Edward the Confessor’s sword.
Mr. McCARTNEY: History, we’re talking.
LAUER: Takes it from the left shoulder–or the right shoulder and moves it to the left.
Mr. McCARTNEY: Yeah.
LAUER: What were you thinking at that moment?
Mr. McCARTNEY: I was just nervous, as usual, you know, like anyone who goes through those things. It’s a bit of a haze when you’re going through it. I was thinking, ‘I’m doing this thing in front of Her Majesty.’ I’ve got a lot of respect for the royal family. People who grew up in my generation, it before the kind of thing that’s happened more recently with the younger royals. So what–we–I saw the queen get crowned, and it was quite a big thing in 1953, wha–I was, like, 11. So it–it’s a special thing for me, you know, and I’ve seen her on and off through the years and talked to her a little. And she opened the school for performing arts that we have in Liverpool. So I’ve seen her on and off, you know.
But it’s still a nerve-wracking event. You’re in front of all these people, you know, it’s–it’s a–but it’s good, it’s great. And the thing that really brought it home to me was one of my kids–my youngest daughter–started crying when I was kneeling. And I couldn’t hear her but I heard about it later. All my other kids were going, ‘Gosh. She was crying.’ So that brought it home to me. You know, I thought, ‘Gosh, you know, one of the kids seeing her dad kneel before the monarch’–whereas I can tend to be a bit cynical because, you know, as you can…
Mr. McCARTNEY: …you know–we know what stuff is, you know. But it brought it home to me. I th–I thought it was great, this huge honor, you know? And the fact that she cried made it all worthwhile.
LAUER: You say you’ve got great respect for the queen.
Mr. McCARTNEY: Mm-hmm.
LAUER: D–do you–does it bother you that–that some people are tending to round that off a little bit and not quite have as much respect?
Mr. McCARTNEY: No. No. No. It’s–no, it’s just our changing times, you know. The thing is, I used the word ‘cynical.’ We were more innocent…
Mr. McCARTNEY: …back then. You were with your presidents. You know, before Nixon, with someone like Kennedy, I mean, you didn’t ever hear about the Kennedy affairs or anything like that. It was all, you know, he was a god, wasn’t he? He was to us and I think to a lot of you guys. I think times have just changed. We’re more cynical now, the ’90s. You know, we’ve been through a bit–been through the ’60s, been through the re-evaluation. And here we are, poised to go into the next century. So I think people are just a little bit more cynical.
I still think it’s a good idea for over here because we have to have a head of state. Someone pointed out to me, you know, we’d get, like, an American-style president. But someone’s got to sign off on the contracts, someone’s got to just do that, even if it’s just a titular head kind of thing. So I quite like that the queen is that and I think she’s–I think she’s good, you know. I–whenever I’ve talked to her, she’s very sensible. Sounds a bit patronizing, doesn’t it?
LAUER: See, most of us can’t even imagine having a conversation with the queen–that she would have a normal conversation.
Mr. McCARTNEY: Well, that’s the funny thing about it is, you know, I think that sometimes, perhaps, when they get with people like me, or–or other famous people, like the other Beatles, for instance, I think they can feel a little bit at home because we’re famous like they are. They’re more famous in many ways, you know, but we’ve experienced that thing so we’re kind of, in a way, a little bit soulmates. That’s a bit presumptuous of me to think that. But I–that’s my theory.
LAUER: You just s…
Mr. McCARTNEY: I mean, I went to Prince Charles once–I was just talking–because I see him on various things, he’s very into organic farming, so am I. So we meet occasionally. And I met him and I was feeling very sort of real and I just sort of said, ‘How are you?’ You know, I said, ‘How are you?’ Looked him right in the eye, it sort of took him back. He said, ‘Oh! What?’ I said, ‘How are you? You know, how are you feeling, dude?’ It was a bit that, you know. He said, ‘Oh, oh, I’m–I’m alive.’
LAUER: No answer?
Mr. McCARTNEY: ‘I’m alive. I’m still’–but nobody else does that, you know? So, you know, I–I’ve had one or two nice little conversations. You don’t get into great depth. And immediately she looks away, you’re shot down.
LAUER: That’s it, conversation over.
Mr. McCARTNEY: Goodbye.
LAUER: You just said something that kind of sparked my curiosity. You said that she’s more famous than you. I don’t know if my friends would agree with that.
Mr. McCARTNEY: Well, y–that’s what I mean. You know, it’s–I have to say that.
LAUER: Out of respect.
Mr. McCARTNEY: It’s the bloody tower for me if I don’t.
LAUER: OK. We don’t want you to go to the tower.
Mr. McCARTNEY: Not just yet.
LAUER: If the queen, your friend the queen, were to call you today and say–and say, ‘Paul, the house band at Buckingham Palace has the flu…
Mr. McCARTNEY: Yeah.
LAUER: …I need you to put together the band–the greatest band for one night’…
Mr. McCARTNEY: Yeah.
LAUER: …who would–who would you want to play with you?
Mr. McCARTNEY: Who’d be in it? The royal Grenadier Guards because they’re her favorites.
LAUER: So it would be what she would…
Mr. McCARTNEY: And they don’t play very well but they play selections from “South Pacific,” which she loves.
LAUER: Show tunes.
Mr. McCARTNEY: Seriously.
Mr. McCARTNEY: And during the investiture, you know, to get through the night and think, ‘I’m going to wash that man right out of my hair.’ And you know, has someone taken the mickey here? And then, ‘There is nothing like a dame,’ ba-ba-ba! You go, wait a minute. Should I be reading some significance into this?
LAUER: Do you have a supergroup?
Mr. McCARTNEY: Would I put together a supergroup? They’re all dead, my supergroup. Are we allowed to get them from heaven?
LAUER: Well, let’s–yeah. OK. Let’s do it that way.
Mr. McCARTNEY: Anyone?
Mr. McCARTNEY: John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Ringo; I’ll play bass; George–there’s a lot of them. There’s a…
Mr. McCARTNEY: That would be a pretty good band right there.
LAUER: I’d pay to see it. You are Sir Paul. Your home, where you grew up as a kid, is now part of the National Trust, it’s a historic monument.
Mr. McCARTNEY: Mm-hmm.
LAUER: You’ve had so much success. What do you want your legacy to be?
Mr. McCARTNEY: I don’t know, really. I–the most important things for me are values. In my case, like, family values. If people listening to me chunder on about my kids or the family and how much it means to me, see something in that they want to emulate, then that would be great for me. Then second would be music. I hope they like my music. That would be good, too.
(Video shown of McCartney’s childhood home)
Mr. McCARTNEY: (Voiceover) When we were kids, and me and John were wandering around with guitars slung over our shoulders, if you just ever said that it would be a National Trust house–I mean, the idea is still fairly laughable–fairly–because it’s only–it’s a little terraced house, you know, in that area. John and I showed my dad the final version of “She Loves You,” so that it had a lot of memories. I wrote, like, “When I’m Sixty-Four,” the tune to that when I was 15 or 16 or something.
Mr. McCARTNEY: (From footage) And I played a little sort of thing on the front of John’s song there that really gave it like a distinctive character. I think I’ve still got the flutes up on here. So this is something I did for the “Anthology” folks, you know, when they came around. But this is like–I think this is the original flutes. Something like this. (Plays keyboard)
LAUER: When you look back, at 55, what are you–of what are you most proud?
Mr. McCARTNEY: My kids. Me and Linda say our greatest achievements are our kids. It’s the most–it’s the most real, it’s the most tangible, you know. I’m very proud of the kids, I really am. They’re–they’re great people. We’re not a very academic family. Linda’s–the rest of Linda’s family is very academic and clever. Her dad got a scholarship to Harvard when he was 16. That’s smart.
Mr. McCARTNEY: Linda and I were more artistic. We always said that the kids we wo–ma–our main aim would be that they had good hearts, you know, because we knew that–going touring and stuff, it would be difficult for them to get really sort of serious. Actually, they’re all better educated than I am, and I did OK in school. They’ve all done very well, actually. But they’ve got–they’re really good people, they’re–they’re nice people to know. And they get on with a lot of people. You know, they’re not the kind of kids who don’t get on with the people in the grocery shop.
Mr. McCARTNEY: ‘Give me this!’ It’s not like that. They’re really funky.
LAUER: By all accounts, they’re very normal.
Mr. McCARTNEY: They’re very good people. They’ve got their–their heads screwed on right.
LAUER: You and Linda have been married 28 years…
Mr. McCARTNEY: Twenty-eight years, man.
LAUER: …in a business and a world where divorce is everywhere.
Mr. McCARTNEY: Unfortunately. Yeah.
LAUER: What–what’s the secret? You’re still writing love songs with her in mind.
Mr. McCARTNEY: Yeah, well, I love her. That’s–I mean, anyone who asks you what the secret is, that’s the secret. You know, we just fell in love. We were lucky. We had our ups and downs. You know, I don’t want it to seem like, you know, rosy-posy. I mean, you know, we argued–we–we argue, you know, because you’ve have got to have that. You can’t just–you know, male-female, very difficult to live together, you know.
Mr. McCARTNEY: It’s–it’s dif–as we all know…
Mr. McCARTNEY: …you know, it’s, like, not easy. But we’ve always had a good sense of humor. We’ve always been quite honest with each other, and we’ve been lucky. We spent a lot of time together. That’s the other thing. I didn’t really have one of those careers where I had to be somewhere. I al–always feel sorry for, like, a politician who can’t say, ‘I’m coming home tonight.’ It’s like, ‘Sorry, there–there’s a reading in the House.’ Or, ‘I’ve got a meeting with committee, I can’t be there.’ I think that’s got to screw up a lot of relationships, that–if you don’t have time for each other.
LAUER: You–you had a tough couple of years with her health…
Mr. McCARTNEY: Mm-hmm.
LAUER: …much talked-about, that she’s been battling breast cancer.
Mr. McCARTNEY: Mmm.
LAUER: How’s she doing, first of all?
Mr. McCARTNEY: She’s doing great. She’s doing great. Yeah. But it’s been very tough, you know, it’s not–it’s–it’s–I mean, it’s an understatement to say it’s not easy. It’s very tough, indeed. But you do what you’ve got to do and the things is, you know, if you catch this stuff early enough–I always use this opportunity to say to women…
LAUER: As you should.
Mr. McCARTNEY: …watching the show, you know, make sure you get checked, do all the examinations, because, you know, you catch it early–there’s a lot they can do these days.
LAUER: It must have brought back some bad memories for you. Your mom passed away…
Mr. McCARTNEY: Mom died of cancer.
LAUER: …from breast cancer, I think?
Mr. McCARTNEY: Yeah. Yeah. That was…
LAUER: You were 14.
Mr. McCARTNEY: Yeah.
LAUER: So you must be thinking at that time, ‘My gosh, don’t let this happen again.’
Mr. McCARTNEY: Exactly. Yeah, it’s not easy. But, you know, you get on and you do what you’ve got to do.
Mr. McCARTNEY: You try and enjoy your life. That’s all you can do anyway, you know. If you could have the greatest wish, if God could come down and say, like, ‘You’ve got anything you want,’ you’d–or, what I would want would be to like enjoy today. Because if I can go to bed and say, you know, ‘It was good,’ that’s about the best for me. So that’s what we do. That’s what we try and do. And, you know, we’re having a lot of fun.