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FORMER Beatle and Wings commander Paul McCartney believes that Liverpool keeps his feet on the ground, enabling him to take his world-wide fame in his stride. Concluding an exclusive three-part interview with Peter Grant, he tells how his late wife Linda loved Liverpool and its people. He talks about his family and the future and of enjoying the simple things in life such as quiz nights in the local …”YOU can take the lad out of Liverpool, but not Liverpool out of the lad”: Sir James Paul McCartney’s Scouse accent illustrates this adage perfectly.
In interviews – whether in print, on screen or on radio – the man worth an estimated £713 million always refers to his influential hometown with great affection.
He was most recently home to sign copies of his poetry book Blackbird Singing and to make his debut reading at the Everyman Theatre along with Willy Russell.
He also popped into LIPA – his Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts – and he met up with members of the massive McCartney clan on Merseyside.
Says Paul: “It was good to do the poetry reading because the Everyman was a place associated with Alan Durband.
“He was at the Institute. I owe him because he turned me onto literature. I respected him.
“He was a teacher who was a big influence on me at school. It was a struggle but he did get us to read Chaucer – I know where all the naughty bits are.
“He opened doors which came in very handy when the Beatles were writing songs. After the Thank You Girl period we blossomed, say, on Eleanor Rigby.
“I got my only own scholastic achievement because of him – A Level literature.”
Paul says every visit home reinforces just how much the city means to him and how much it meant to his late wife Linda.
“Linda loved Liverpool. Oh yeah, she really loved the humour and the caring side of the people. She was funny and smart even though she didn’t have a smart image. “
“She was very perceptive and strong she put up with a lot of flak in the early days of Wings and she played in band and brought up a family we did it.
“If you’d met her you’d see what I saw in her and realise what a strong woman she was.
“I remember recently having lunch with actor Liam Neeson who is not a veggie and it got a bit heated and I said to him ‘Hey, you’re lucky Linda’s not here, mate’.”
“She was passionate. Linda was so cool. I did warn her that Liverpool-Irish family dos were very friendly and that when you kiss members of the family – it’s not like in New York. Oh no, I told her to keep her teeth-clenched.
“She really loved all that ‘Alright girl,’ stuff people would say to her. Like it is now for me in London when I am walking along the road people stop and say to me (adopts a cockney accent) ‘Alright, my old son.’
“Liverpool still help keeps my feet firmly on the ground. It makes me realise who I am. I love the River I am a big fan of strong, big rivers like The Thames, The Tyne, The Hudson – yeah, the great River Mersey.”
He says his 1999 Millennium show at the Cavern was OK.
The show, in the place it all began, featured songs from his Run Devil Run album with a nod to The Beatles in a raucous version of I Saw Her Standing There. It was a record-breaking success in every sense.
“We just turned up that afternoon, rehearsed and played that evening. It went well. I remember telling my office to arrange some tickets for the family. You’ve got to do that in Liverpool.
“And my office were over-zealous as usual. So I asked for about 30 tickets. We have a huge family on Merseyside.”
And with a hearty laugh, he adds: ” In fact, some are breeding as we speak- there’s always a couple on the go.
“I gave the tickets to my brother Michael to sort out. Otherwise it would be like ‘ere how come SHE’S going and NOT me?’ – that type of family argument thing. So I lumbered Michael with that job.
“Anyway, on the actual night they let all the family in first. I didn’t know about it so when I got on stage the first few rows of people standing there were all MY relatives. It was bit off-putting at first.
“There was also a heckler who asked me to play ‘Satisfaction’ – I told him that wasn’t one of ours! “
“After the show I went for a drink with Julia Baird – John’s half sister. It was my first bevvie of the day, because I can’t drink before a gig – I’d forget the words if I did. Then one of my cousin’s kids says to me, ‘Hey, did you hear that heckler – that was ME.’
“I just looked at him – not only did he get free tickets but he was heckling me, too. But you gotta laugh, haven’t you? I know I did,”
The Cavern show was heard globally on mass media and on the internet and made headline news from Liverpool to Rio as well as a place in the Guinness Book of Records. He had put Liverpool and The Cavern on the map all over again.
He says playing Liverpool is and always will be special.
“The Kings Dock concert was a beautiful night. It’s always good for me to go home it reminds me of where I’m from who I am, very stabilising.
“I was driving along the dock road and thinking about the old pre-Beatle days. I started to think about the places – the chip shops I used to love going to on match days with my uncles.
“I thought how great it would be to do a show by the banks of the Mersey. That night was special and I did a couple of John’s songs. I knew I couldn’t win with people saying, ‘Why are you doing them – aren’t yours any good?’
“But it was special and they’ll always remind me of John.
“Another great night was in Zagreb when I sang Yesterday and the whole crowd joined in – I just let them finish it. It was like the working class spirit of Liverpool.”
He says that he likes nothing better than enjoying a good pub quiz – the tougher the better.
“I love them. They are tough, though. Crosswords, too. Now I can do The Times crossword which is dead hard. In fact,” he says proudly “one of my cousins compiles crossword for the broadsheets.
“That’s all down to my dad, who left school at 14 . He was a very intelligent man just like Uncle Harry, who could recite Shakespeare.
“Dad used to urge me and our kid to do crosswords and we’d yawn and say ‘yeah, dad.’
“I’ve met Thatcher and Wilson – granted, not in-depth meetings but I still say some of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met are my Liverpool family. I’m proud of them all – proud of Liverpool.”
He says that musically things have come full circle. He recently appeared on the front cover of an American teenage magazine.
“I was chuffed with The Beatles Number One album. George, Ringo and Yoko were, too. I played it the other day in the car and I thought: ‘How did we do that … 27 number ones!’
“In America I signed a few copies of it for Steven Spielberg’s kids. And one bloke told me that his eight-year old son played Number One and asked: ‘What happened next?’
“Well, now I’ve just done Wingspan the album and the telly programme and that says EXACTLY what happened!
Paul says that, like Wingspan, working on The Beatle Anthology was a great experience.
“We called The Anthology, The Bible. It’s a good job we did it now were not exactly spring chickens. Ringo and I did differ on what happened the night we met Elvis but part from that we pieced it together.”
So will we see Paul on tour again? Will he front another band on the run?
“Yeah, I fancy that.
“I’m half way through an album which should be ready at the end of the year so I like to have something to promote if I’m out on the road.
“The Cavern gig whetted my appetite – not that it needs whetting.
Laughs Paul: “Hey, look at Ringo – he’s out touring again and he’s an old so-and-so…”