- Published by:
- Evening Standard
- Interview by:
- Ray Connolly
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Paul McCartney seems to have an unfortunate habit of upsetting the BBC, because this week, for the second time in less than a year, his latest record has been put on their restricted play list. It’s called Hi, Hi, Hi and, apparently, it’s a bit rude. So, with Mary Whitehouse getting hot under the collar about Chuck Berry’s Ding-A-Ling, it’s been decided that McCartney smut will not be sullying our Yuletide listening.
‘The BBC got some of the words wrong,’ he says. ‘But I suppose it is a bit of a dirty song. If sex is dirty and naughty. I was in a sensuous mood in Spain when I wrote it. To me it was just a song to close our act, and since it went down well when we toured the Continent I thought it would be a good single.’
We are meeting in a London pub: Paul, Linda and a funny looking dog which is a result of cross-breeding an Old English Sheepdog and a Dalmatian. The last time we spoke for any length was nearly three years ago when the Beatles were breaking up and he was in a very low mood. After that he lost much of his momentum and direction, spent a lot of time on his farm in Scotland and made a couple of albums by himself. Then, last year, he decided to form Wings.
All his troubles had sprung from the disintegration of his career and the realisation that he would have to go out and find some new musicians to accompany him. After working with the same band for more than 10 years that wasn’t easy.
He’s well aware that most of the Press reports about him since the Beatles have looked bad, but suddenly it looks as though the in-fighting is over. ‘I think it’s all going to get sorted out pretty soon,’ he says. ‘At the time when Klein came in I just had to dig my feet in because I just knew where he’d take me and I didn’t want to go there. Friendliness will solve everything.
‘A few months ago John asked us to do a concert with him at Madison Square Garden and it’s a pity now that we didn’t do it. I didn’t want to do it at the time but we will do things, I’m sure. I don’t see any reason why all four Beatles shouldn’t be on stage at some time all playing together and having a good time.
‘I don’t think you’ll ever get the Beatles reforming, because that’s all gone. The Beatles were a special thing in a special era and I really couldn’t see it all coming together again. But I think it’s daft to assume that just because we had a couple of business upsets we won’t ever see each other again, or that if John has a concert some time we won’t go and play on it. John’s great. He tells the truth all the time, that’s why people think he’s a bit crazy. He doesn’t try to hide anything.’
A lot of the early criticism of Wings is likely to evaporate, but the McCartneys seem to have acquired an ability to ride through the nastier moments of life, like the bad Press Linda got during their Summer European tour. Throughout our whole conversation she sat contentedly at Paul’s side.
‘We’re still just putting the band together,’ Paul says. ‘Of course, it hurts when we’re criticised, but we’re brave. When we did our first concerts we obviously weren’t going to be as good as the Beatles, but the Beatles had to start somewhere. I remember Brian Epstein coming back from London saying, “Sorry lads, they don’t want you.” Well that hurt, too. Lot’s of things in life hurt.’
Soon he will be taking Wings on a tour of Britain. What would happen if there was a negative reaction to the group, and if Linda (who was not formerly a musician) was heavily criticised?
‘Well, it’s not as though I’m taking over,’ says Linda. ‘I’m just one of the band, and I actually don’t do that much.’
Says Paul: ‘Nobody in a band normally takes it very seriously, they just do it to have a good time. And it’s only when you get to be a Beatle that you start laying down about Vietnam or some crap like that about which you know nothing. Now Linda helps the band out by playing some simple keyboard and doing harmony. We’re not thick enough to give her half an hour by herself. She’s getting pretty good. It’s simple, but she does things I couldn’t do.
‘Honestly, I don’t think it’s going to go wrong. It was very difficult for somebody in my position to start a new band from scratch, but we either sat around and moped or got on with it.’
Why does he find it necessary to hide himself behind the name Wings? He can’t escape being Paul McCartney and doesn’t the enormity of his reputation upset the balance of his new group?
‘Well, to me it would be a slight put-down of the group if I didn’t play myself down a bit personally. I want to give Wings a real chance. It’s nicer and fairer. Obviously, it may be a little unrealistic at times, but I’m not hiding behind the group.
‘The first stage appearance I ever made was at Butlins when I was eleven and I went up with my guitar and sang Long Tall Sally. But I had to haul our Mike up on stage with me, although he had a broken arm in plaster and was just wailing along with me. Maybe I’m shy or something, but I work better with someone on stage with me. To me, I don’t care what the band’s called. If you want me to call it Paul McCartney and Wings, well, all right.’
At this point Linda pointed out that younger people, children like their little girl Heather, just accepted Wings as another group, and didn’t know anything about any other band Paul may once have been in
One of McCartney’s bones of contention recently has been the intrusion of the media into his personal life, especially when he went to live on his farm in Scotland. He wasn’t a hermit, he says. He just liked being up there.
‘Jackie Onassis wants to sun-bathe nude, but I’d say that’s going to be very difficult for her from now on, which is a bit tough, I think,’ he says, referring to a recent paparazzi photograph of her. ‘Maybe she really digs being nude. I do and if you get the chance – fair enough. We’ve all got one! But she’s going to have trouble in future, although it is her island. Well, we like to live our life our way. And we’re having a good time, too. We’re not hermits.’
Next year we’ll be hearing the McCartney theme for the next James Bond film Live And Let Die. ‘I know I’ve been criticised for doing this, because writing for a James Bond film is supposed to be uncool or something, but I don’t see it that way. I think I’ve written a great theme for it and I know you’ll think so, too.
‘After all the trouble I was too touchy about my earlier songs to sing them on stage, but now I think I can do some of the Beatle songs I wrote. Denny Laine was a real Beatle fan and he’s always coming up to me and reminding me of the old songs I used to do, so it’ll be nice to perform some of them again.
‘I can understand that a lot of people didn’t think Mary Had A Little Lamb was that good, but the children loved it, and really the only barometer you have is sales. If people buy your records then they must like the music you’re producing, which is all that matters. The thing I’m in isn’t like art, where Van Gogh could struggle all his life and only be recognised after he died. I’m in a very immediate type of work.
‘I have written songs I haven’t been that happy with afterwards, but I try not to let it bother me too much. There are a lot that I could improve on. Dylan once told me that he thinks of his records sometimes like demo discs which could always be improved on.
‘Obviously, at times I worry if I can’t finish something, but I’ve found that, working in the relaxed way we do now, I can knock off and try again the next day. We really work in a nice, casually disorganised way.
‘To me, I’ve always seen writing as a job. I’m happy that way. If I thought I was an artistic genius who had to keep on turning out brilliant things the pressure would be unbearable. For me it’s just a matter of writing songs, and if people like them, then that’s fine. I love to be given the task of writing to order. I mean, I’d like to write jingles. All I’m concerned about is having a nice time with Linda and the family and the band and writing nice music.’
At that point, and with perfect timing, a girl walked past us and dropped a note into Paul’s hand whispering instructions that he didn’t read it until she was out of the building.
It said: ‘Would you believe me if I said thank you for all the good times and that words are inadequate. Love and peace to you all …’
Last updated on May 7, 2022
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