Interview for Beatlefan • November - December 1995

McCartney on the 'Anthology' - The Inside Story on the Film, Album and Reunion

Press interview • Interview of Paul McCartney
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Interview by:
Allan Kozinn
Timeline More from year 1995

Album This interview has been made to promote the Anthology 1 Official album.

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The Beatle who most wanted the ‘Anthology’ project to come off talks about the pleasures and the tensions that resulted when he got together again with Ringo Starr and George Harrison…

Allan Kozinn talked with Paul McCartney at the River Cafe in Brooklyn on Oct. 3…

I wanted to trace the development of the whole project from the time it started in 1969 or 1970. I have a [New York] Times clip from February 1970 that actually mentions it. It was two months before the official breakup date of The Beatles. So it must have been a difficult time for you all but were you involved in it in any way?

I mean, we probably were talking about it then, but I don’t think we were seriously thinking of getting it together. It was really only when all the business problems finished with The Beatles, which was a while ago, when do you say, eight years?


’89, yeah. Six years.

But Neil [Aspinall] made a cut, a 90 minute film.

Yeah, that’s right. We had talked about it. Neil had put some stuff together and we’d always talked about doing our own definitive version. But it got sidelined by the business troubles. So it was something we were going to do but then it all fell apart. And then we got back together again. We started to kind of regroup and get friendly again. We said maybe we should do something [puts on corny voice] as a sign of our new friendship. So, um, we said, we could do this definitive story of The Beatles then, you know? It was going to be called “Long and Winding Road” and we said, yeah, it could be quite good. We could answer some of the questions that people sort of feel are unanswered and stuff. Lots of people have been writing books and we figured maybe we could put our own point of view. So we started talking about doing that then.

We ended up writing off to 10 film directors, kind of like a form letter, which is the wrong way to do it, really. It should have been all very personal and phone calls and stuff.

But we wrote to people like Spielberg, Scorsese, Michael Apted, Ridley Scott – just a lot of people who were sort of big, making big movies at the time. And we just wrote off and said we want to do this Beatles anthology, would you have have any interest in it, maybe you’d like to do it? And a lot of people were put off, I understand, by the fact that it was a form letter. We just didn’t understand how to do it, you know, a bit naive as to how to approach the film world. And George [Harrison) was just getting into HandMade, so after a few months, he said, you know, that was really the wrong way to do all this.

Anyway, the one person who did ring up is Steven Spielberg, who was just making a film called “E.T.” And I said, “E.T.,” what’s that about? And he said “Extra Terrestrial.” So it’s that long ago. And he said, I’m not really the person for this but Marty Scorsese is.” So that became the next sort of dream, that someone like Marty would put it together. And in the end, we really just decided to put it together like The Beatles might have in the old days, which is kind of through Apple. If you think about it, we never used really important directors. Even Dick Lester, who’s quite an important director now, it was his first movie. [“A Hard Day’s Night” actually was Lester’s third feature film.] So we never really went for the big, big people.

So it seemed a bit, seemed like it made sense to just actually start putting it together, see where it led. So we started in on a few interviews. And we got this guy Geoff Wonfor, who actually shot the Oratorio for me, he did the video of that, so I knew him through that. And he was a British. music filmmaker. So I knew he was a good guy. and that’s how it started. He started to put it together. We did a lot of interviews and then the three of us finally sat down on camera together, which we hadn’t done for many years. Tried to remember all these events.

Of course, memory is our memories were terrible, which is actually why we wanted to do this thing. I think we could note the slippage and say wait a minute. We sat down to talk it was hilarious, really. We laughed a lot. It was just kind of enjoyable. But we found none of us could remember any of the stories the same. Each one of us, after all those years, has a slightly different story.

So the director would say to us, well, how about when you met Elvis Presley. I said, oh, it was great, we went up to Bel Air, and he was renting a house. He looked great, and he answered the door, and I remember had, the first person I’d ever seen with a switcher for the television, a remote control.

And Ringo says, oh no, Ringo said no, I remember he never stood up all evening. I said, never stood up all evening? You’re crazy. George is saying no, we played pool and stuff. So we had all these…

Was this in the interviews you did separately or together?

We did this together. So we’re kind of panning across and nobody’s remembering the same story at all. And this is supposed to be the definitive, authorized thing. But you know, it’s actually the truth of life, which is that you and your mother don’t remember things the same, even though you were both there. You went to uncle so-and-so’s party. But she’s remembering the cooking or whatever it is, and you’re remembering the girl who was there or the terrible time you had, or whatever. And the director was almost suggesting that that’s how we should finish the series. He never did, in the end. He said, I should pull back and a long pullback with you three just disagreeing about everything. So it was quite amusing.

We’re talking about a chauffeur who was in Paris, who’d come to Paris just because he could speak French. And the joke of the story was that it turned out he couldn’t speak French really. So he was saying things like “can I park ici”. And we’re, wait a minute, we could have done that, we thought he was fluent French. So Ringo starts off the story, the three of us on camera, and he said, we were in Paris and George had a sore throat. The camera pans round to George and George. said, no, it was Paul who had a sore throat. It pans over to me and I said, No, it was John who had a sore throat.

And you can’t go much further from there.

Well, I worked it out. It’s my theory that if Ringo thought it was George, it wasn’t Ringo, if George thought it was me, it wasn’t George and if I thought it was John, it wasn’t me, therefore it was John. I remember it crystal clear that it was John who had the sore throat, but that’s the beautiful thing about humans and memories.

Is there much of that in the show? 

Yeah, there’s a little bit of that in the show, I think. I actually haven’t seen the final two, which most of that would be in. I’ve only looked at the first two hours.

The way they described it was that they first interviewed you all separately, and then it was only at the end that you were interviewed together.

That’s right, that’s how it was. You know, even though we kind of made up and stuff, we were just never in the same place. Ringo would be in L.A. and Monte Carlo or somewhere; I’d be in England, London, wherever. George would be somewhere else. And there was a little standoffishness, too. We’d never done it for all those years, so it was like, I’ll do my interview here, you know. But in the end, we thought, well, it would be good to get the three of us on camera and talk and just see if it works or if it doesn’t. And it was quite funny.

I guess for the 19 years before that settlement, it just sat there and Neil…

Yeah, Nell put together a rough of it all; he just put together the story from newsreels. 

In 1989, the settlement was in November and by December, you were already talking at news conferences about not only getting together and doing the show but also the possibility of doing some music. It seems that you were the most keen to get this going. Was there resistance from the others?

Not really, no. I think it was just because I was on tour that I seemed the keenest. I think had one of the others been on tour doing press conferences, they would have seemed keener than me. No, it was a group decision. We sort of said we should do something. George and I said we should write together. We’ve never written together, ever.

And you still haven’t.

And we still haven’t, no. It just didn’t work out like that. That was the first thought, though. Let’s all get together, this is fun, now we’re being friends! Let’s really cooperate, this could be great! And the plans were a little grander than what actually happened. But in the end the Beatle things always worked like that. You had a plan that you’d aim at, and it would be eroded by various means until you actually ended up with what you got. And then that was it. That was “Magical Mystery Tour”. You know, the plan for “Magical Mystery Tour” is quite different from what happened. And there wasn’t a lot of a plan, either. But no, it wasn’t so much that I was keener, it was just that I was there. I was talking to the press more than they were. No, we were all as keen as each other to do it. 

And what about the idea of incidental music, did you ever attempt that?

Mmmm. I was going around the world on my tours. I was doing the two world tours and the inevitable question was [in combination Spanish/Japanese accent] “are The Beatles getting back together again, Mr. McCartney?” And I’d say, we might get together for some incidental music. It might be an instrumental; we’ll see how it goes. In actual fact, as we were warming up to do that, it was two years ago, New Year, when we said, “we’ll go in and we’ll do something,” we’ll use my studio because it was quite private and up to speed, it was technically up to speed because I’d been using it. As we were getting closer and closer to the date, I just started to think, wow, three Beatles. Am I interested in a piece of music with just three of The Beatles? Is it as good as four Beatles? It was like, no, it isn’t. And I just started to think, even if we hit something really great, it’s still just George, Ringo and myself, and it’s not quite as much fun as if somehow John could be in it.

I knew Yoko had some bits and pieces of tapes, because she’d been doing things with them on her own. So I happened to ring her up at New Year. Not this year, the year before, ’94. And I just said “Happy New Year.” She was a bit surprised to hear from me. “Why are you ringing?” I said, “Happy New Year!” I said, I know in our political machinations it must come as weird but I’m really just ringing up to say Hi. I’d been up north and I’d had a really good New Year, full of bonhomie and we’d all been loving each other and I’d come back filled with “Everyone’s great! People are good! Humanity’s okay this year!” So I rang her. I thought that would be a good move. Anyway, we started to chat for a couple of weeks. We rang each other a lot, talked a lot, got quite friendly, feeling good. It suddenly just occurred that it would be really terrific to have John on this record. And, in fact, it solved all of the problems.

Was it your idea or her idea?

Um…I think it was…our idea. The Beatles’ idea. I’m very loathe to claim credit for ideas, because then someone reads this and George says, “it was my bloody idea” or Yoko says no, I… So I think, I allege – allegedly, it was my idea but I’m not sure. So I rang the other guys and said, look, if we could get hold of a cassette of John’s or something, if there’s something interesting around, would we be up for that? And it was like, oh yeah, maybe. So I came over for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame where I was inducting John as a solo artist, so then things warmed up a bit then, and Yoko said, well, I’ll play you the track when you come over for that. So that was good. I went over to the place, the Dakota, sat up late just jawing and drinking tea and having fun and stuff. And she said, I should play you the tapes. And she played us three songs: “Grow Old With Me”, “Free As a Bird” and “Real Love”. And I liked “Free As a Bird” immediately, I just thought, shit, that is really I would have loved to have worked with John on that. I liked the melody. It has kind of strong chords. It just really appealed to me. If John had played me those three, I would have said let’s just work on that middle one first. 

So it was good. Really emotional. I warned Ringo to have his hanky ready when he listened to it. So I took the tapes back, got copies made for the guys and they liked it. And we said, okay, we’ll get it… The great thing about it was, he hadn’t finished it. And so he’s in the middle eight and John’s going, “what ever happened to, the life that we once knew [scat singing on unintelligible syllables]… as you do when you’re blocking in lyrics when you haven’t got them. You just use words… ma-da-mim-some-DAY…you just throw in something that will fit the syllables.

“The movement you need is on your shoulder.”

Yeah, well, that’s right. It’s true. You’re blocking it out, you know? But his were very vague. You couldn’t actually make them out. And Yoko had sent a sheet of lyrics. But we tried them and they didn’t fit. So it was quite good then, because it meant okay, we’ve got to come up with something now, which was good, because now I was working with John. George and I, on the song, were actually writing with John. He hadn’t come up with the lyrics, gave us an in. Which was more satisfying than just taking a John song, which was the second one we did, “Real Love”. It worked out great, but it wasn’t as much fun because we had more input on “Free As a Bird”

So, we took it and I decided that I needed an attitude. People would say, why are they doing this? They shouldn’t do this; this is like sacred; they shouldn’t mess with the past; this is a real bad idea. I think it’s because they thought that the three of us were going to do an incidental piece of music. But we got in there and I’d run into Ringo and said, “Let’s pretend John’s gone on holiday, and he sent us a cassette and said, finish this up, I trust you, just do your stuff on it, finish it up for me.” So that meant we could be a little sacrilegious in the studio. We could say, wouldn’t you just know it’s out of time. He’s always bloody out of time, that Lennon. And we could laugh about it and feel that John was actually there. John would have made those jokes had it have been my cassette. So, we felt free. . .

What’s the writer credit on it?

The writer credit, I think, is going to be song by John Lennon, Beatles version by the four, or something. It’s basically, George and I put words to it and Ringo helped with various little things so it seemed the fairest thing to do.

Why did you end up using Jeff Lynne instead of George Martin?

Well, George Martin did the whole of the “Anthology”, but George is a very noble guy, and he’s old now, and he will tell you that his hearing’s not as good as it used to be. So when it came up as to who to work with, George Harrison brought up the fact that George Martin’s hearing wasn’t as good as it was. So George Martin was okay on all the old stuff. But perhaps for new stuff it required someone who’s hearing was 100 percent. I would say, well, it doesn’t really matter: the engineer will be the ears, George will be the producer. But George Harrison wanted Jeff Lynne. I was a little worried, ’cause I thought it might be the old team: they did the Wilburys, I thought it might end up sounding like the Wilburys or something. But Jeff was very fair. I ended up liking his production a lot.

Although we had a couple of moments where I said wait a minute, you’re just going to steamroll me into decisions here. I felt at one period early on like I wish I had a few people on my side in this. But as I say, Jeff was very fair, and when it came to do it, it just all fell into place. So we had a laugh in the studio. He was very good, he was very thorough. It didn’t turn out to be him and George were a team. You know, it was all of us doing it. And Ringo had said, it might be very joyous – that’s Ringo’s word – this ancient Ringo language, it might be very joyous. And, in fact, it was quite a pleasant experience.

George and I had a little tense moment or two on the lyrics. Because I’d brought in a few and he didn’t like them. And you know when you’ve been writing a long time you hope people will like your lyrics. He was right but it was a little tense for a moment. But we threw them back and forth and came up with something that worked. So it was really good…

Technically, we had to do quite a job to get John in time. That was Jeff Lynne’s area. But he did all that. So then we all worked around that. It became very good and very fulfilling. We put guitars on it. I copied John’s piano that he’d been playing, because we both had similar styles – we both learned that “DO-do-DO-do” “I Am the Walrus”, that kind of thing. So I played quite similar to what John had done. Jeff and I kind of researched the minute detail of the chords he’d used, ’cause it was just a mono cassette – you’ve heard it?


Just John’s piano and voice in there. So we finished that one. Then we came together again this February, same time a year later, and did “Real Love.”

And now you’re doing “Grow Old With Me?”

No. I don’t think so, no. We’re not that keen on that one.

Is there going to be a third one? 

There’s one other piece that I like the beginning of, but we’d have to do a hatchet job on it. So we did the two that were the two favourites. And there is one that we’ve done a little bit of work on but I’m not sure we’re going to bother with that one.

What’s the title?

Yeah, what’s it called – I don’t know, it didn’t really have a title [Sings: “You know/it’s true; it’s up to you…] That beginning bit’s great and then it just goes a bit crummy. We all decided that it’s not one of John’s greatest songs. So that we’d have to manipulate all of that, which is just a little bit more difficult. “Free As a Bird” was easy; it was obvious what John was trying to get in the middle eight, so we could kind of fill it in just like a coloring book. “Real Love” was real easy, because lyrics and everything was there.

Technically, it was very hard; there was a buzz that went through it, an electronic buzz goes right through the tape if you listen to it. I hadn’t really noticed it because I don’t listen to things like that. But Sean actually pointed it out to me when he was playing it to me. He said, “What are you going to about the buzz, man, you know there’s a big buzz there.” So he gave it to Jeff Lynne who took it to L.A. with a computer. They Sonic-Solutioned it and then they got rid of the buzz and found all the clicks, which were hiding behind the buzz. Then they had to do a big job on that. But once they’d done that, that was very easy to do. And it’s a little more bland. But on listening to it, it insinuates itself, and it’s so hookey, “Real Love.” It grows on me. I think “Free As a Bird” is slightly my favorite song. I think Yoko likes “Real Love” better. You can hear John’s voice a little clearer on “Real Love”. We were stuck with the kind of technical limitations there; we had to do what we could with what we had.

In the interviews for the “Anthology”, how frank were you guys about the touring years? John was always very explicit about how wild those years were.

We were pretty frank. We’re not brutally frank. The thing that emerged out of it all is that people tend to remember The Beatles with a pleasant feeling. Even though all the shit that went down, all the arguing at the end, that’s rather like the sad period. The energy is in the happy bits. It’s like a bad holiday; you forget the rainy days, you just remember the fun bits.

So, we were quite frank. But there were one or two things that surprised me that people wanted to just take out, which I was actually against. Because a few critics accuse me, occasionally, of whitewashing The Beatles’ story – you’ve heard that word in regard to me. There’s one guy in England in particular who accuses me of that. So I was very keen to not whitewash anything. It actually came from other directions. So he’ll probably think it was me, whitewashing.

I was quite frank, particularly about the breakup. It was hard to talk about but I gave my version. But there were one or two things that people just thought, do we need to say that? Do we need that? You see, for instance, the drugs. To be brutally frank, you’ve got to really just lay it all open and tell exactly what drugs we were having on exactly what album, what effects on this and exactly what…We’ve all got kids now. Nobody really wants to come out now at our age and say, jeez, man, those drugs were great! That was the feeling in the’60s because we felt it wasn’t quite so harmful. Now we’ve seen crack, heroin and we know how harmful it can be. So there were considerations like that that came in. I don’t think they harm it. I don’t think it makes it any less interesting. But it’s not a kind of raw, “Hard Copy” documentary kind of thing. It’s a little softer than that, which I don’t think hurts it. So you come away from it with a pleasant feeling rather than a “Jesus Christ, what were those guys into?”

I would imagine that the four of you had at least eight different opinions about the breakup.

Yeah, well, I think we have. We’ve got different opinions. The guys particularly – it was strange, actually, to talk to George and Ringo and to realize they still didn’t know facts from my side of the case. Because we hadn’t really seen a lot of each other in the intervening years. So they just had their story, and I had my side. My reasons, for instance, for kind of suing The Beatles was to save the money. They still thought it was just bad vibes or something. To me, it was that Allen Klein was about to have it all. And it was absolutely the only thing I could have done. And, in fact, I do think that if we ever hadn’t have done that, none of us would have any money at all today. We’d be wandering around with little begging bowls, unless I’d been successful, or somebody’s been successful in the interim.

Not that you haven’t.

No, but those elements were kind of hard to deal with. And it was very difficult. There were strange little things thought and you really just have to kind of just think, okay, that’s life. He sees it differently; I see it differently; he sees it differently – we’re going to have to compromise here. It’s not the Yoko story; it’s not the Paul story or the George or Ringo story, it’s The Beatles’ story. So we’re going to have to find the common ground, which I think we’ve done. I think it’s reasonably successful that way.

But there were certain things that I could say, Jesus, I never thought that would happen, or I never thought she’d say that, or I never thought George would want that taken out. But I don’t think I should be specific. We’ve reached compromises. And it’s a good show; it works well, I think.

One hears these things that filter out from England, that even though you’re supposed to be friends, there are still tensions. For instance, that there were a lot of politics about the “Baby It’s You” single; that it was chosen because it wasn’t an original and wasn’t any of the three surviving guys singing. And the fact that the title was changed from “The Long and Winding Road ” , which made a greal deal of sense, to the “Anthology”, which actually makes no sense whatsoever.

I think those are analyst’s comments, which as far as I’m concerned… somebody rang me up and said “Baby It’s You” and I said fine. I promise you it was no more than that. In actual fact, I hate to tell you, I wasn’t awfully interested. Because all that old BBC stuff, I wasn’t actually interested what the single was. I didn’t feel like there was a single on it. But record companies being record companies, it’s good to get your radio play, etc., there wasn’t certainly any of those things. But you can see all that. It’s like when I released “Mary Had a Little Lamb” after being banned with “Give Ireland Back to the Irish”, the automatic thought was, he’s done that to sort of stick a finger up to the people who banned him and saying “try to ban this; it’s a children’s song.” It actually wasn’t like that. It just happened that I had this daft little children’s song, which I used to sing to my daughter Mary, but I didn’t put the thought into it that the analysts would quite naturally put into it. So sometimes you find that it’s been overanalyzed. And certainly with “Baby It’s You”, that’s the case.

“Long and Winding Road”, I don’t know why it wasn’t called “Long and Winding Road” in the end. I think there may have been… We had an end. The director had an end for this that George didn’t like because he thought it was too McCartney. And it was, it was very McCartney. It was me ending the whole “Anthology” with “Hey Jude,” “Let It Be” – the director was crying, he was loving it. He was crying into his handkerchief; it was such an emotional end. And it’s a pretty good end, those are pretty good songs but someone like George said, no, no, no, no – excuse me, we can’t have The Beatles’ thing suddenly become a McCartney bandwagon. So I had to bow to things like that. ‘Cause it’s right. I had to remember I’m back in The Beatles. It’s not just me on my tour. If it’s me on my tour, I’d argue for an end like that because, in actual fact, my argument would have just been if the director thinks it’s a good end, then I’ll go with it. But you know, an analyst would say yeah, because it’s four of your songs.

Well, George has, in radio Interviews when people have asked him about “The Long and Winding Road”, immediately objected to the title. He said, “We want it to be a bit broader than that,” which you would have to take to mean that the title wasn’t acceptable because it was a McCartney title.

No, it’s true. We had some commercials for the Red and Blue albums. This is nothing new. This is The Beatles at work. Geoff [Baker] came to one of the sessions, our publicity guy for you listeners or readers and he couldn’t believe how it worked. There’s a strange politics that work and people will just…I have to be ready for my ideas to just mean nothing. And I have to subjugate myself to the common good. That’s how The Beatles worked. So you know, George definitely has had a problem with a couple of things that it’s just too McCartney. As I say, we had commercials, TV commercials for the Red and Blue albums and both of the commercials, which were done by independent video houses, ended with “Let It Be”, which is a damn good end to a commercial: “Let it Be… Yeah! Beatles! I’ll go and by that album, it’s got that good old song on it!” But George didn’t like it; he objected.

Moving on to the CDs.

So I gave in. Just before we move on, I gave in. And I let him have his way, because it’s a democracy; a very strange democracy.

Have you been the most involved in the CD selection as well?

No, really that’s been George Martin’s work, and then we’ve all been going in occasionally, into Abbey Road. The three of us in Abbey Road No. 2 – it’s like a time warp. It’s quite frightening. And we’re looking back at all these tapes. 

Have you done it together?

No, some of them we could make together. The first few, we made together but then Ringo. said I can’t be at that one, I’ve got to be in Monte Carlo, then it tended to end up separately, just when each of us had a free day. I’d go in on a certain day. George would just wait till he had a bit of time and he’d come in. So we’d been working with George Martin, but it’s mainly been his baby. But if there’s been anything we’ve hated, that’s mainly when we’ve butted in. But George has done it all.

The shocking thing for me was just looking at the old tape boxes and listening to this music. And the three of us were sitting thinking, “I hope I don’t make a mistake.” We were as terrified as we were on the initial playback, and we’re looking at each other saying, “it doesn’t matter now!”

Are there touch-ups in cases where you did make a mistake? 

No. It’s all as it was. But it was just strange to still be sitting there thinking, I hope I don’t make a mistake on the bass. And then I do, and I’m as embarrassed as I was then, which should be, you know. We’ve had a huge success with this group! I should be able to sort of sit back and say it doesn’t matter.

When we spoke a few years ago, we spoke about bootlegs and you said, “I have no problem with them” but your concern was that if these things get into the official canon, people might become confused. 


Obviously, you’ve gotten over that. 

Yeah, we’ve taken some of that on the “Anthology”. The early stuff is bootleg stuff, but then there’s a lot of alternative takes. For instance, I don’t think the bootlegs have got the first take of “Yesterday”.

What I meant was, as you put it last time, if we picked take 6, we didn’t want takes 1 through 5 out and if we put out 1 through 5, people who didn’t grow up with The Beatles might get confused about which one was the finished one.

That’s right, yeah. Well, at that time, that’s when EMI were trying to do an album called “Sessions” [Not really – “Sessions” was long a dead issue by the time of the 1990 interview referred to.] And we weren’t really keen on the idea of them just sort of doing it. We figured if we were going to do it, it had to be something we all wanted to do. So when this came around, we did that. We just looked at all the alternative takes. So you’ve got things like “And Your Bird Can Sing”, where John and I just giggle through it. And then you’ve got the first take of “Yesterday”, you hear the engineer say “take 1.” And we only ever did two takes. The second was the one we overdubbed the string quartet on, so this is without the string quartet. And then there’s like George’s original version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, which is very nice, because Eric Clapton’s not on it, none of us are on it, it’s just George and a guitar, acoustic guitar. So there’s quite a lot of interesting stuff that way.

What do you expect to come of this whole project, audio and video? Do you all have solo projects lined up? There’s also the obvious question of a tour, which will probably never happen.

No, I don’t think we’re going to do the tour. The thing about the tour is, it’s the Threetles, as someone neatly named it recently. But we’ve had huge monetary offers for that, to do 10 days in the States. But I just think it would be a joke. I don’t think we should do that. 

Strangely enough, now you’ve all been on tour…

Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.

…playing shows several times longer than The Beatles’ shows… 

And it would work. 

…with equipment that people can hear you through. 

It would work. We could do it. We could do it. But I don’t think it’s seemly, really, I think all The Beatles’ work is a body of work and John was included in it. In these CDs and the “Anthology”, John is there. We don’t even deal with John’s death, ’cause it wasn’t in The Beatles; it was after The Beatles. So I think a tour or anything like that, that just involves the three of us, is not a very attractive proposition to me, anyway.

So what do you desire out of all this? 

So what are we doing? Well, to me it’s good fun because the record company said to me, this year, we don’t need an album from you this year. I was quite affronted at first. Oh yeah? Well, there’s a marvellous loyal record company, isn’t it! But, of course, they were right that you can’t come out… it would be very wrong to try to come out against The Beatles. So I’ve got some stuff that I’ve been doing this year, so I probably will end up having an album next year. I’m not really thinking of it as “the release after The Beatles thing” but inevitably it will be. And George might do something, I think. And Ringo’s done his tour this year. I don’t think anyone’s really thinking immediately beyond this year and the release of the “Anthology”. We’re all in The Beatles this year. We’re back in the group.

So is the motivation simply to get the story as you see it on the record?

Yeah, to see if we could finish this project up. As you said, we said millions of years ago it would be a good idea to do. We did this with it; we did that with it and finally it’s just culminated in this year that it’s all done. So it’s now just getting it out of the way. Get it finished. Have a bit of fun doing it and releasing it. I’ve been enjoying watching it back. I’ve just signed off on the first two and it’s a nice show; it’s quite a pleasant experience watching it. And, of course, my thing is, Jesus, how young we were. I’m looking at the tape boxes and I was 22 when I did “Yesterday” and I’m on the “Ed Sullivan Show”, with 73 million listeners, singing live and I’m like 22 or something, which to me is young now. And I’m just surprised how good we were, really. I should know that, you might think. But you don’t always know it. And when you look at the history, the memoirs, there it is, your life. My life in four hours, laid out in front of you. So it becomes slightly more obvious. We say, geez, did we really do that? Look at those young kids playing! My God, they’re good! Look at them, the nerve of them, to climp up on that stage in front of all those people, they don’t appear to be the least bit nervous. So that coupled with how young we were was my overall impression of it all. Pretty good stuff.

Ringo has always taken the view in his Interviews that “only we were The Beatles and therefore only we can tell the story.” You mentioned that your memories were very fallible and…

It’s a good job we did it this year; let’s just put it round.

… and I’ve heard radio shows where Ringo said you opened Shea Stadium with “I’m Down”, which so far as I can tell was written to be a set closer. It functions like “Long Tall Sally” and you’ve never opened a set with it…

Yeah. It’s no wonder we really don’t remember it all, though. You think actually the chaos we were going through. When you watch the “Anthology”, you see the chaos we were going through. That’s one of the things, ’cause it’s all condensed into quite a short period.

So the question is, having done it now, and having seen that your memories are fallible, do you think of it as necessarily definitive? Is a person necessarily his own best biographer?

Well, yeah, I know what you’re saying. I think it’s as definitive as you’re going to get. Most of the stories that have been put out that were untrue have been corrected, here and there. We’ve tried the best we can. But the truth is, there is no such thing as definitive. From us or from anyone else. This is life. And life is not definitive.

Last updated on August 15, 2023


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