Maybe I'm amazed • 1989

Maybe I'm amazed

Interview of Paul McCartney
Interview by:
Paul Du Noyer
Read interview on
Timeline More from year 1989

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He never expected to be doing this when he was 46 — “We thought 25 was the end of the line” — but Paul McCartney has stoutly refused to give up his day job.
Engaged in rustic rehearsals for his first British tour in 10 years, and with a fresh solo album on offer, he’s preparing once again to be public property.
With mixed feelings, as Paul Du Noyer discovers.

“I sometimes hear myself in interviews going, Well I’m just a sort ordinary guy. And I think, Will they go away thinking, Did he really say he was an ordinary guy? ‘Cos there’s a lot of evidence to the contrary. No ordinary guy is as famous as I am, or has got the money I’ve got, so it’s difficult to claim I’m ordinary.

“But inside I feel ordinary, and inside is where I come from. That’s what’s speaking, not the exterior. So I go back up to Liverpool. and I really like the earthiness: A’right Paul? Bloody ‘ell, don’t like yer jacket. I’m comfortable there. I’m not as happy with, (cool, snoot accent) Oh, hello Paul, what a super jacket. Paul Smith is it? I just don’t seem to get on as well with those people. So that’s this obsession with ordinariness, I’ve never really round anything mach better. I’ve looked, believe me.

“Are people disappointed when they find me so ordinary? Oh yeah! And you shouldn’t drive ordinary cars to premieres, and you should dress up. But I’m not living my life for other people. The truth is that what people liked about The Beatles and all that shit, was this refreshing honesty: Don’t like thatm don’t like yer tie . . .

“I’ve got this memory and I swear it’s true, but unfortunately it’s getting a little bit long ago, and with these things it’s. No, we couldn’t have done that. But I swear to God that we as The Beatles met Nureyev in Madrid, Brian brought him around to meet us and it was a little bit late at night and we were all tired as newts, and we were sitting in this Madrid hotel room all bored out of our skulls, wondering what to do for a laugh. And I swear we met him with our swimming cosutmes on our heads. Ha ha! (Mimes a Quasimodo figure shaking hands) Very pleased to meet you! Outrageous, but not in a tough way. Not like biting a pigeon’s head off.”

A couple of things strike you after an hour’s conversation with Paul McCartney. One is how often he’ll trail off into a reminiscence about The Beatles, or explain what he’s doing today with a reference to The Beatles. It’s funny because he spent so many years, after their less-than-jovial split in 1970, shuddering at the very mention. Nowadays he’ll bring them up without you even asking.

Maybe he thinks that’s all that people really want to hear. But his talk will turn to John Lennon, in particular, with such regularity that it suggests it’s more of a need with him, an abiding determination to sort those matters out, both in his own mind and for public record.

Another is the number of references to his father, Jim McCartney, a Liverpool cotton broker and part-time musician who brought Paul up after his mother’s death (when McCartney was 14), and who died himself in 1976. One song on McCartney’s new album Flowers In The Dirt, is called Put It There, after a favourite phrase of his Dad’s. Another track, Motor Of Love, invokes his “heavenly father”.

And then there’s Paul himself. In the olden days when folk were admitted into the Fab Presence, they used to come away with a dreamy look in their eyes, saying he had a way of talking to you as if you were the only person in the world that mattered. So the cynics’ line was, well, McCartney’s a manipularor, a PR schemer — not like honest-to-goodness John, the acid-tongued debunker of bullshit.

So far as this interview goes, at least, the real-life Macca was coming on like your actual Regular Bloke. Within 30 seconds of my meeting him he’d identified the common ground — in our case, similar Liverpool upbringings — and he would refer to it, in a double-strength Scouse accent, almost constantly. And he has a flittering knack of appearing more curious about you than you are about him.

Up to his old tricks, then? McCartney the professional charmer? Or just a friendly, every-day technique, learned through years of dealing with starstruck strangers? It’s hard to say, of course. But if it’s an act, it’s still a pretty skillful one.

It was revealing in this respect to watch him film a French TV interview, which he did just before it was Q’s turn. He was irritated by the questions (especially one suggesting he’d given his recent rock ‘n’ roll LP, Choba B CCCP, a USSR-only release because it “wasn’t good enough” for the rest of the world. “Bloody ‘ell!” he shouts a cross to me, tooking for an ally. “Yer try and do something nice for the Russkies and this is what yer get!”). He didn’t like the production crew for shunting him around — stand over here, say this, do that — and made no effort to pretend he was enjoying it. If nothing else, you could see that he isn’t always Mr Thumbs-Aloft, smile-for-the-camera.

High on a windy hill, in the countryside of Sussex, there sits a little windmill, which happens to have been converted, at some stage in its long and useful life, into a recording studio for Paul McCartney, resident of a nearby village. Next to this windmill there stands a black barn.

Nearing this rustic construction, we hear the muffled thud and bump of a rock band, “jamming” casually on a version of the old rock’n’roll number Don’t Get Around Much Any More. Somebody opens a little door, set inside the barn’s bigger door, and you clamber through, out of the cold sunlight and into the warm, muggy gloom of a small rehearsal room.

Before your senses have entirely adjusted, somebody’s sitting you down on a folding wooden chair, and the next thing you know vou’ie positioned in the middle of the rock band. Linda McCartney and her keyboards are under your nose, and — yes, you dimly recollect that face — Paul McCartney is standing three feet away, registering your arrival, mid-song, with a welcoming wink and a cheery, chubby smile.

The next unsettling sight to confront you is a bass guitar, propped just by your seat. It is, indeed, a Hofner “violin” bass — an object that’s acquired, for many of a certain age, the status of a Magical Thing.

Four hours pass, the rock band “jamming”, you on your folding wooden chair. And it’s all rather wonderfully diverting. McCartney leads his team — who are Linda, as ever, and a chap called Wix on keyboards, Hamish Stuart (ex of the Average White Band) and Robbie McIntosh (formerly a Pretender) on guitars, and Chris Whitten on drums — through a repertoire including stuff from Flowers In The Dirt, old rock standards, things by Wings, and a few songs by The Beatles. Even now Paul McCartney is looking right atyou, from across his piano — the eyebrows arched, the sad, sloping eyes that open so widely in a look of soulful hope — serenading you personally, with a beautiful rendition of Fool On The Hill.

He’ll be facing larger crowds when he and his still-nameless new band (“We thought of calling ourselves Lumpy Trousers, but then I thought That’s just silly”) go out on tour, a little later this year.

A little later this afternoon, meanwhile, where rehearsals are over and truculent TV crews have been sent packing, McCartney sits down to talk. A greyer and paunchier Paul than formerly, he shuffles about in sloppy pink T-shirt and saggy black Levi’s. Phone calls interrupt him all the time — new LP and tour aside, he’s still the head of a company, MPL, which oversees the copy rights of everything from Buddy Holly’s catalogue to musicals like Grease, though not The Beatles’ own songs, for which he was outbid by one-time collaborator Michael Jackson. The only call he takes, however, is from America, from Elvis Costello, who wrote a batch of songs with Paul, two of them on Costello’s Spike album, and four more on Flowers In The Dirt:

“They’re a bit more wordy than they would have been if I’d written them, ‘cos he’s very into words. He’s a very good foil for me, and I think we foil each other fine, y’know. I foil fine. Occasionally I found he used too many chords for my opinion. I’ve found in writing music over the years that it’s often really cool to cut your chords in half and make do with one chord, leave all your melody the same but really space out what’s behind it. So I remember doing that once with Elvis, saying, Look, if you just go from C to A minor and lose all the chords in between . . . And he came back in the next day and said, Yeah, I’m really glad you said that. So we were buzzing off each other.

“I think he’s very opinionated, but I like that. With Elvis it’s, you’re opinionated, narrow-minded and fun of yourself — I like that in a guy! I actually do, he’s upfront, there’s no two ways about it, he’s Elvis, and I enjoyed that. Where it didn’t work was when we carne to co-produce some of the songs, our opinions were really too different, but funnily enough a lot of the stuff I suggested, that Elvis didn’t want to do, by the time we finished, he was doing. I don’t know if he became a little more receptive to those ideas, but I definitely think we had an effect on each other.”

As to the whole of the album, first impressions suggest that it’s the best he’s done in years. He says he has no instincts about its worth, himself, only other people’s reactions. “And then you’ve got sales. That’s why I always feel it’s funny when people say, Oh, it doesn’t matter whether it sells, you don’t look at that aspect. I think that’s what does matter, the people out there with their little pennies, going to the shop and spending them. I think that’s a big move, to spend your money on someone. So that’s what I tend to look at, if people will buy it. Some people think that’s just crass commercialism, but I think its the public’s vote.”

Among his own favourites, though, is Put It There, a light acoustic-and-strings job. “It’s very much what you might expect me to do. It’s something my dad used to say, Put it there if it weighs a ton, a Liverpool expression. He had millions of mad expressions, my dad, a great guy, and like a lot of these Liverpol guys you never think about it till years later when you’ve grown up and you think, What did he mean? We were living on a little estate in Speke (a mostly overspill district in the Liverpool suburbs) — God does that seem like a million miles away from now, from Speke to mega-ness— and we’d be talking about a kid on the estate and he’d say, You know the one, his dad’s got a little black penknife. They’re all full of that. You’d say, Why Dad? Why do we have to do this? And he’d say, Because there’s no hairs on a seagull’s chest. I love all that, It’s why I love surrealism so much.”

The line about “heavenly father”, on Motor Of Love, seems to have the same double meaning as “Moiher Mary comes to me” in Let It Be, half personal, half religious.

“I don’t like religion as such because there’s always wars with every bloody religion. There used to be some guy on the Pier Head. I’d go down to get the bus actually, ‘cos the bus was always full, I had to go about 10 stops back, there was a thousand kids at my school, the Institute, so come four o’clock I’d go to the Pier Head which was the terminus, and I’d walk through town, clocking everything, and there’d be all these preachers there. The Catholic faith is the only true faith! And then you’d hear another one. The Protestant faith is the only true faith! Don’t listen to him! And you’d be going, Oh bloody hell, I wonder if any of them know, I’ve got a nasty suspicion they don’t.

“But with life and all the stuff I’ve been through, I do have a belief in, I don’t know what it is, in goodness, in a good spirit. I generally think that what people have done with religion is personified good and evil, so good’s bccome God with an ‘o’ out, and evil’s become Devil with a ‘d’ added. That’s my theory of religion. But don’t get me started! I waffle on for hours about this.

“So, Heavenly Father, it’s like Mother Mary, my mother was called Mary and it’s just something I find myself doing, like a dirty habit. In Let It Be it was ‘Mother Mary comes to me’ and that was true, I was going through my dark hour, it was a fairly trippy period for me, there was a lot going on and it was just a bit strange occasionally, and there was a lot of drugs about too . . .And during these tough things I’d have a dream about me mum and it was very comforting, she died when I was 14, it was very comforting her sort of coming saying, Hello son, how are you? Oh you’re there! Bloody ‘ell, I thought you’d died!”

Another new song is We Got Married, the tone of which is not completely sentimental. “Once in America I was sitting around with Lorne Michaels and Paul Simon, cos I know ’em both, it was late one night and Lorne was talking to Paul and said, Why don’t you write about your own experiences? I think it was before Graceland. Paul was wondering what to write about, so Lorne said, Why don’t you write about your own life? You’ve got a punk son, who goes on stage with The Dead Kennedys and stuff, that’s a really great thing, you’ve got this young son, no wife, you’re bringing him up, what are those problems? Write about that, it’s a great subject, real life.

“And I don’t know if Paul ever did, but I took that to heart and thought, Well that’s not a bad idea really. In We Got Married I took the idea of celebrating marriage, because I don’t want to shy away from it, I think there’s millions of people who are well into it and if you’re lucky it’s something that should be celebrated, but also there’s this slightly cynical edge to it because it isn’t all that sweet.

“To me it’s all very what happened in the ’60s when we were all in Liverpool, John and Cyn (Cynthia Lennon, his first wife), the first verse is very John and Cyn: ‘Going fast, coming soon, we made love in the afternoon’, ‘cos they were like art students and it was the first time I’d ever heard of anyone making love in the afternoon. I was about 16, and fairly ‘Whaaat! In the afternoon? Whoo! It’s like a French film!’ I was fairly naive.”

In another song, Distractions, he ponders the problems of balancing career and personal life: “It’s a question for me, some people ask me this. Why d’you do it, man? Why bother with the distractions? You’re rich. ‘Cos I think everyone’s little dream, ccrtainly mine when I was at school was, what you’ll do is get a lot of money and then you’ll go on holiday for ever. Just go off on a boat. But when you grow up you realise it doesn’t work. A year of that, maybe, is dead funny and a great groove. But after a year you think, What do I do in life again? Sail around the world in boats? Surely not. Oh dear.

“I don’t mean to put down anyone who does that, but for me I know that after a year I’d start to wonder, I’d pick up a guitar. Actually John did a lot of that. He had periods when he renounced the whole thing, and I remember him phoning me to say, Look lad, it’s the most difficult thing to renounce our fame because we’re so hooked on fame, but it’s great, you should kick it over! And I’m going, Hmmm, do tell me.

“So I kind of listened to him, but after a year of that, he was back, and what was his famous line? This housewife wants a job. Ha ha! He’d done the role reversai bit and now his line was, This housewife wants a job, luv.

“This is sort of what went on the ’60s a bit. You thought, Well if I’m going to go with this person for the rest of my life, like John and Yoko or me and Linda, I really ought to look them in the eye all the time. And John and Yoko really did spend a lot of time (stares manically). And it got fairly mad, they’d sit there looking at each other, going It’s gonna be all right, it’s gonna be all right. After a couple of hours of that you get fairly worn out.”

McCartney’s 1989 tour will be his first in 10 years, and the first full-scale outing since 1976. He’s reached the point, he says, at which he thinks it’s now or never again. Was John Lennon’s murder, in 1980, something that’s kept him out of public circulation?

“That must have had something to do with it. It was mainly after my bust in Japan, that was what really put the kybosh on it. I thought, I’d rather stay at home, And you find a million people will sympathise with that one. If you didn’t have to work, and could just hang about at home and just dig the kids. A lot of people would go for that one.

“So it was something to do with John’s thing, but it was like Mohammed Ali said, When God calls me I’ll go. It’s gonna get you one of these days. We had a lot of scares like that with The Beatles, and yeah, I know on the eve of the tour I’ll go, Oh dear me, am I kidding, going out on tour? But you’ve just got to live your life. It’s like when people used to talk about living in the shadow of The Bomb. Well it’s true, but what good does it do to think like that? You’ve just got to get on with it. We’re all in the shadow of something, and I’m not the only person out there who might get mugged or might get shot at.

“You’ve just got to cross your fingers and touch a lot of wood. So I’m fairly fatalistic about it. I don’t think it’s a good idea to hide away: I’ve never been a great one for that. I’ll go on a bus or I’ll go shopping in London, and people say, You’re mad! You’re walking around on your own in London? What are you doing? Bloody hell, expected you to have about five bodyguards. Yeah, but I’d be walking around with five bodyguards then, wouldn’t I? You’ve just got to make that choice. Sometimes you’ve got to do that security thing, and on tour it’ll be fairly tight, which I won’t be pleased with, but it’s just realities of the modern day.”

Apart from the ongoing deluge of Beatle books, there have been a few McCartney biographies published in recent years. He mentions having been asked by a neighbour to autograph Chet Flippo’s book the other day. It happens a lot, apparently. “And I think, wait a minute, this is a silly book, why am I gonna kind of endorse it with my signature? It’s like signing a bootleg. I just read a couple of bits this morning. It’s so funny: how do you explain to people who you are? If someone says I’m a megalomaniac. I mean, I think, well I bet I’m not.

“All those stories that somebody put around about me trying to get Stuart (Sutcliffe, who was in an early Beatles line-up) out of the group to become bass player. I got lumbered with bass player. I had to ring George up recently, George Harrison, and say, Hey George, what d’you remember about me? Did I push Stuart out of the group? He said. No, you got lumbered with bass ‘cos none of us would do it. Ah, that’s what I thought it was.

“You’re constantly trying to remember if you’re OK or not. I hate justifying myself. I remember looking at George Martin once and saying, George, are we really gonna have to keep justifying ourselves? He said. Yeah. Forever. You never can rest on your laurels. And it’s just as well really, I don’t want to rest on them. It’s probably why I’m touring and making new albums.

“I don’t actually want to be a living legend. I came into this to get out of having a job, and to pull birds. And I pulled quite a few birds, and got out of having a job, so that’s where I am still. It’s turned out to be very much a job, a bloody hard job the way I do it, running a company and stuff, but I do like it, and if people think I’m a megalomaniac or if people think I’m mean — it’s difficult to know what to do about that, really.

“I just blank it. I know what I’m about. It’s like. Is Cliff Richard a homosexual? I don’t bloody know, I don’t care, I wouidn’t think so, but there’s always gonna be people whispering it. So you’re in that position, there’s always gonna be someone who’ll detract from what you do. Jonathan King slagged off Live Aid. We know it wasn’t a perfect show, but it earned millions for those starving bloody people, and some pranny like Jonathan King, Mr Everyone’s Gone To The Bleeding Moon, Mr University — that’s the only reason they love him at the Beeb, because they love anyone who’s been to university at the Beeb, you check it out – I don’t go for his opinion.”

It’s noticeable how those books compress his whole career since The Beatles (19 years, now) into a chapter at the end. He’s philosophical about it. ‘”I’ve met enough journalists and seen enough people having to get articles that are winners, to know the game. I know the game, which is, He was a Beatle. Any book on John Lennon they do the same, condense the Yoko period into, Oh yeah, peace chants, he wore funny hats and a lot of sunglasses and he was militant, and then he slept around a lot with Yoko in bed. It compresses fairly easily.

“But what I like about the music I’ve written in that period is, I kind of think it’s undiscovered: it’s really been just blanked. No, he didn’t write anything since The Beatles. But once you start to look, I mean, commercially there are definitely things that outsold anything The Beatles did, like Mull Of Kintyre. But critically people don’t consider that.

“They didn’t like Ebony And Ivory, the critics, and I can see what they’re talking about, but I liked it, I think it was good. I had a black sax player in LA, Ernie Watts, and he thanked me. So why am I gonna listen to some critic after that? And it sold OK, and I got to sing with Stevie. I think if you’re gonna damn it, it wasn’t the greatest coming together of me and Stevie, ‘cos he’s a giant, and I can be fairly gigantic, so the two of us could have been mega-giants. But for Christ’s sake it was Number 1. You find yourself justifying your successes; it’s a funny state of affairs.

“And they just dismiss Linda, which is interesting because she’s not that dismissable. She’s actually a very talented girl. She’s a very good photographer for one. Everyone automatically dismisses her singing: She sings out of tunc doesn’t she? I had a period when I started listening to them, thinking, Maybe they’re right. I know she’s not the world’s greatest singer, she’s not a front singer, but I liked it when we sang together, we seemed to blend. So I started to use more session singers where there was no question of whether they were any good or not, and I just didn’t like it, it just sounded like session singers to me. So I’ve come back to Linda.”

In the years that Wings were together, from 71 to ’79, the group was noted for its changing line-ups. Why might that be?

“The thing is, what do you do, stay stable with a bad group? That’s the alternative. I just wasn’t happy with the people, so you try and do better. In fact I’ve only had about three line-ups of Wings, it’s not that many.

“It did get me the reputation, Ooh he’s difficult to work with, but you can look at it another way — they weren’t that good maybe. Either I’m a sod or whoever it was wasn’t that good. I’m not sure which it is, but I can remember why we broke up in each instance. Once I was trying to get a guitar player to play something and he said it can’t be played. Oh dear, it can you know. It got to be one of those.”

The McCartneys don’t, by most accounts, indulge themselves in luxury to any great extent. To the more jaundiced observer, such as their one-time colleague Denny Laine, who sold his story to The Sun, their plain living is a sign of meanness. For others. it’s good old Paul being down to earth.

“l’m not very into luxury,” comes his own explanation. “I’m not very impressed with it really. I think luxury is a transition phase between not having much money and having a bit of money. The first thing you do is get luxury, a big car, ‘cos everyone’s into that, you get a Roller — yeah! After a while you find you’re getting seasick going round bends, and you think, I’m not into this car. I liked me Ford Classic — that’s going back a bit, that was me first car. So I’m not that keen on a lot of luxuries, but I like comforts and all that stuff.

“The thing is. you’ve got to remember when I first got money with The Beatles, it’s quite a long time ago, so I’ve had a lot of time to adjust and to pace myself, and get sensible with it all. And this is what I think is a sensible way to live with money, which is not have it rule you but really take full advantage of it. And it comes in very handy if someone gets ill for instance. You’re not one of those people who’re saying, Well I’m waiting for me hip replacement. So there’s instances with friends and relatives and people who work in the company where I’m able to kind of say, No sweat, let me treat you.

“I take luxurious holidays, ‘cos I’m into that. But I’m not into luxury. I think it’s where I’m from, they’re always dead suspicious of too much, too far, too soon. It’s, Now look son, keep yer head on yer shoulders, moderation in all things. My dad was always like that. I’ve tried to meet people who were better and groovier and had better opinions, but I never really met any. I met people who were more far out, but in the end some of those basic things like, Oh you won’t find your happiness there, luv, turn out to be true.

“I’ve tried a lot of luxuries: tried live-in couples, hated it, tried the big house in London, didn’t hate it but grew out of it. The example that always sums it up for me was John, when we first all got loaded, he moved out to Weybridge, very near a golf club and it was very much the landed gentry kind of thing. And you could have anything you wanted, kind of, in the first flush of success. He went mad on Jaffa Cakes! He went insane about them, gimme gimme gimme. And about a week later he couldn’t look at one. For the rest of his life it was, Don’t talk to me about Jaffa Cakes.”

With a few temporary exceptions, he’s had his children educated at ordinary schools: “State schools! (Adopls a sort of Wigan magisirate’s accent) It was good enough for me, it’s good enough for them! I always feared the day they’d come back from a posh school saying. Hello Pater, and start to look down on me, which I’ve seen happen; it’s a fairly regular occurrence with the working-class parents who make good. The first thing they say, and you can’t blame them, God love ’em, He’s gonna have everything I never ‘ad. I still know millions of public school-kids who want to slum, they wanna groove, they wanna get their feet on the ground, man. ‘Cos they suddenly realise that’s what’s important in life, to be really solid with a few mates, or to care deeply about anything. And that’s what we learned anyway, from being knocked around a bit. So I’ve always been keen on that. I always thought if the kids are really smart they can get to universities from state schools. So that’s roughly what we’ve done, and they seem OK for it.”

How do matters stand between him and George and Ringo nowadays? One had the impression they were growing closer, until last year it was announced he wouldn’t be joining them at a “Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame” ceremony in America, because of “business differences”.

“I’ll tell you what that was, I hate that thing ‘business differences’. You know Apple still isn’t sorted out, it’s only 20 years later. We’ve all got our sides of the story; my story is that I just want us to divide it in four and go home. And then be nice to each other. But all the advisors say it’s not as simple as that, so it goes on forever. At present, one of the levers George and Ringo have against me in negotiations is a lawsuit that’s about something I wasn’t supposed to do – I think I was allowed to do it, they think I wasn’t — it’s just a difference of opinion. I rang them up.

“What happens with Apple is that you do it all through Neil Aspinall, our guy, he’s been our roadie since the Tower Ballroom (New Brighton days, he used to drive us through the Mersey Tunnel in a little van. So Neil is like a very strong guy from the past, he’s great. We haven’t done his health any good, he had a heart attack last year, he’s only our age — ‘only’ our age, ha! And I rang up and said, Look, l’d really love to go to this Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame thing.

“‘Cos we keep talking about this film we want to do, The Long And Winding Road, the definitive Beatles story, where we get our heads together and we say, This is how it was, and c’mon Ringo, you narrate that bit, in your own voice, instead of (big US annouucer’s voice) ‘And then the fabulous Beatles blah blah blah’. It’d be, (in a Ringo drone) They said they were gonna shoot us and a firework went off in the audience and I did get a fright. Get it all in the real words.

“‘But I keep saying to everyone, we’ve got to sort out our problems. We can’t move forward in harmony while you’re suing me. So I wanted that to be the reunion night, and I said, If you can drop this lawsuit guys, or just nearly drop it, show me something that says you love me, give me a sign, a wink. And it just went and went, I kept ringing. George was in Hawaii, I got a message back from him, sit tight, don’t rock the boat, don’t worry. But that wasn’t good enough.

“So I had to ring him up and say I couldn’t go to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame, no way was I standing up on stage going, Yo! United! when I know they’re suing me, I just couldn’t do it. So that got watered down as ‘business differences’.

“It’s bloody embarrassimg because I’d have liked to have gone along, and my thinking was, It’ll be great, we could hold hands, and they’d take a picture which would go around the world, and we’d use that as a jumping off point to do our movie. Great! But it just wasn’t to be.

“But one of these years it’ll get sorted. This film could be very interesting, ‘cos we’ve all got private footage. I’ve got some of us in India, with us all being very Swami indeed, black and white footage of us wandering around with funny things on our heads. joss sticks in our hands.

“We could extend it into a real nostalgic piece where we The Beatles try to set the record straight. Why did you say you were bigger than Jesus? Well bloody ‘ell, John just mouthed off, that’s all. Isn’t it allowed to make a mistake? John got the fear of God put into him. Boy, if there was one point in John’s life when he was nervous… Try having the whole Bible Belt against you. We tried to laugh it off, but it wasn’t so funny.

“So, yeah, one of these days we’ll sort it out. It could be a great film, we could mess with the records if we wanted to, take orchestras off if we didn’t want ’em, maybe Long And Winding Road, pare some stuff back. ‘Cos I think Let It Be was a great album with nothing on it, the originai Glyn Johns mix before Phil Spector got it. I was a great fan of that, but everyone considered it too daring and bare, ‘cos it was just a little four-piece group playing. I think people would have loved it, myself, it was just us in the raw. But (Wigan magistrate again) Klein didn’t like it and he was a powerful figure at the time so he brought in Spector, and poor old Phil was stuck in the middle not knowing what to do. Hectic days.

“So that’s the pian, to do all that, get friendly, maybe do some songs, that’s the other big interesting area we could really get into. ‘Cos George has been writing with Jeff Lynne, I’ve been writing with Elvis Costello, so it’s natural for me to write with George, and we’ve never actually done it, ever. And we’re both quite interested in that idea, so if only we could get the shit out of the way and get a bit of sense happening…”

Will he be doing any of John’s songs when he goes out on tour?

“I don’t know. I had an idea to do something. I was going to do one of my songs ealled Here Today (off the 1982 Tug Of War album), it’s about John. It’s just a song saying, If you were here today you’d probably say what I’m doing is a load of crap, but you wouldn’t mean it, cos yer like me really. I know. It’s one of those ‘Come out from behind yer glasses, John, and look at me’ kind of things. And it was a kind of love song really, not to John, but about John and my relationship with him.

“It was trying to exorcise the demons in my own head, ‘cos it’s fairly tough when you have someone like John slagging you off in public, ‘cos he’s a fairly tough slagger-offer. Like he said my singing was like Engelbert Humperdinck, which I quoted somewhere, and Engelbert rang up, he got really annoyed. He thought I’d originated it, and I said No, John said it, about me. And he says, John Lennon would never have said that.

“That was all fairly hard to live down, so I wrote this song to try and come to terms with it myself. and I had thought I’d do that on stage, but then someone suggested, Why don’t you do one of John’s, that’d be really poignant. And it would. I don’t know if I’d be able to get through it, you’ve got to deal with the emotion of something like that. But it’d be nice to make a nod, or a wink, to the lad. He was, great, a major influence in my life, as I suppose I was on his.

“But the great thing about me and John is that it was me and John. End of story, That’s the one great thing I can think, whereas everyone else can say so-and-so, so-and-so, That’s the nice thing. When we got in a little room it was me and John sitting there, it was me and him who wrote it, not all these other people who think they know all about it. It was me, I must know better than them. I was the one in the room with him.”

And how does his own work, solo and with Wings, seem to him in retrospect? “There are some people who like the sillier side of what I do, and there are some who won’t accept it, the kind of people who hated Within You Without You, on Pepper: ‘Oh I don’t like that, is that George? Oh dear he’s gone all Indian, sounds like a bunch of Indians to me.’ There’s a bit of rubbish too, I’m not saying everything I’ve done is great. I hear some of them and I think, Blimey, you should finish that one some day, son. Like my dad would say if a girl was revealing too much, That’ll be a nice dress when it’s finished. And some of them are a bit, That’ll be a nice song when it’s finished.

“You can’t win them all. I’ve done so much. there has to be an element that doesn’t make it. I don’t know how many songs I’ve written, but I have had a fair share of success … he said, shying away modestly. Every dog has his day — God, the metaphors are getting funny here! — but that’s what it is. ‘I’ve done great for some scruff from Speke, ‘cos that’s all I am. Well I wasn’t that much of a scruff, we were quite well off really, I thought. We never had anything, we didn’t have a telly, didn’t have a car and that kind of stuff, but it was great. And I must say, in truth, I’ve never met anyone better than those people I grew up with, and I’ve met a few, including the Prime Minister of this fair country, and a few other fair countries. Not any of them has ever come anywhere near some of those people, from where I’m from.

“I feel pretty good about it. I feel amazed that I can still sing, ‘cos I’m 46, I never expected to be doing this when I was 46. We used to think 25 was the end of the line. I really do get off on doing it. Jamming is what I really love. Who’d have ever thought I’d still be messing around with electic guitars?”


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