Interview for Melody Maker • Saturday, September 14, 1968

You know what I'd love to do? Produce an album for Elvis!

Press interview • Interview of Paul McCartney
Published by:
Melody Maker
Interview by:
Bob Dawbarn
Timeline More from year 1968

Master release

Songs mentioned in this interview

Hey Jude

Officially appears on Hey Jude / Revolution

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THERE SEEMS to be a big cloud of anti-Beatle matter hanging around at the moment,” said Paul McCartney. “But it usually works itself out – and the fact that the record has gone to number one proves it.

We were discussing the seven-minute “Hey Jude” which, despite a somewhat guarded reaction from critics, had reached number one in the MM Pop 30 within three days of release.

The chief criticisms seem to be that this represents something of a step backwards for the Beatles and that the ending goes on much too long.

I asked if Paul thought these were valid points. “Steps back are fine,” he retorted. “If we can really make a record as good as, say, ‘Great Balls Of Fire,’ we will be delighted. It’s only phony intellectuals who want to step forward all the time. We felt it was time to step back because that was what we wanted to do. You can still make good music without going forward. Some people want us to go on until we vanish up our own B-sides. As far as the ending is concerned we were faced with the choice of fading it out early, which was the obvious thing to do. I know people think we are a bit thick, but we do know that if you are to make a record commercial, you must make it nice and short. But we liked the end – we liked it going on. The deejays can always fade it down if they want to – like a TV programme. If you get fed up with it you can always turn over. You don’t have to sit through it, although a lot of people enjoy every second of the end and there isn’t really much repetition in it.

I asked how the new album was going.

We should finish it next month,” Paul told me. “A lot of the tracks are done and we always speed up toward the end, doing tracks in a day or so.

Are there any unusual tracks?

There will be a couple that people will talk about,” he agreed. “People seem to think that everything we say and do and sing is like a political statement, but it isn’t. In the end, it is always only a song. One or two of the tracks will make some people wonder what we are doing – but what we are doing is just singing songs. This business of people taking everything we say as an important pronouncement sometimes gets me down. Then I realise it doesn’t really matter at all and I don’t really mind. The knockers don’t really upset us. Once you go to number one, you can’t go any higher. You are only faced with the possibility of coming down. That sort of thing doesn’t worry me – though I suppose it could. I remember Brian Matthew reviewed ‘She Loves You’ and said it was utter drivel and the worst record we had ever made. He said it would never be a hit. It was a fantastically ‘anti’ review and we were all worried about it. Of course, it turned out to be one of the biggest ever. The reviewers have been proved wrong so often we don’t worry anymore.

Paul said nothing was happening yet about the projected third Beatles feature film.

Asked about Apple, he commented: “Things are going a lot better now than they have done. And we have got two hits – ours and Mary Hopkin’s.”

I wondered if he was interested in the American underground scene and whether he might see Doors or Jefferson Airplane while they were in London.

I might,” he said. “I don’t plan these things, really. I like that scene and I saw Jefferson Airplane in San Francisco. They are nice people. But, really, I’d rather see Elvis. I’ve never seen him and that would be nice. I saw a great TV show he did with lots of rock things in it. You know what I’d love to do? I’d love to produce an album for Elvis. His albums haven’t been produced very well and as I am a fan of his, I think I’d be able to produce him well. I’d try and get the same feel as the first couple of his albums had. It would be great!

“I heard of Mary first in Liverpool. Justin and Twiggy had come up in their new car… showing off again… you know how it is. Well, we were eating our pudding later that evening and we talked about Opportunity Knows and discovery shows generally and I wondered whether anyone ever got discovered, I mean really discovered, on discovery shows.

Then Twiggy said she had seen a great girl singer on Opportunity Knocks and (luckily as it turned out) this was the time we were looking around for singers for Apple Records.

When I got back to London next day, several other people mentioned her, so it began le look as if Mary really was something. Twiggy’s not soft.

So I got her phone number from the television company and rang her at her home in Pontardawe somewhere in Wales, and this beautiful little Welsh voice came on the phone and I said, “This is Apple Records here; would you be interested in coming down here to record for us?

She said, “Well. ‘er, would you like to speak to my mother?” And then her mother came on the line and we had a chat and two further telephone conversations, and later that week Mary and her mum came to London.

We had a nice lunch and went to Dick James’ studios in Oxford Street and I thought she was great.

But at the same time, I thought she was very Joan Baez – a lot of Joan’s influence showed. However, Mary said she could do other things and I agreed that there was no limit to her possibilities. There couldn’t be a limit because she was very together Wallas.

Well… a long time early, maybe a couple of years ago, I’d first heard “Those Were The Days” when Gene (Raskin) and Francesca, American singers, sang it in the Blue Angel in London and I’d always remembered it.

I’d tried to get someone to record it because it was so good. I’d hope the Moody Blues might do it but it didn’t really work out and, later in India, I played it to Donovan who loved it, but didn’t get around to doing it.

We rang Essex Music, the publishers of the song, but they didn’t know anything about it other than that they owned the song. They had no lead-sheets, no demos. But David Platz of Essex, nice man, sent to America and we got the demo and everything.

I showed Mary how I thought the song should be done and she picked it up very easily — as if she’d known it for years.

At first though, she was singing it as if she didn’t mean it which was strange for Mary, very strange.

But it was her first time in the studio and it can be frightening. After a few tapes, I kept showing her the way she should sing it and generally worked on it and suddenly she got it and we just put a tambourine on it and went home.

She really is the girl next door — the real thing; kind and quiet and she blushes and smiles shyly.

It’s like when she says, “Yes – I go out with boys but it’s just kissing.” Great. It’s due to her background. Normal.

Her parents are good solid Welsh parents, her father works for the local council and her mother is a very intelligent woman, so we are going to look after Mary and make sure no harm comes to her.

Work starts on her album soon and we are going in all kinds of directions as she’s capable of singing anything.

I’d like to hear her shout. That would be good. To hear her really shout. I know she can. Everyone can.”

Last updated on August 1, 2023


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