Interview for • Monday, November 12, 2007

Paul Du Noyer Interviews PM

Press interview • Interview of Paul McCartney
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Paul Du Noyer
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Paul Du Noyer Interviews Paul about the McCartney Years DVD

Can you tell us how the project for The McCartney Years began?

PM: Someone noticed we had all these videos that had never been released and the fans themselves had written in asking when they are we going to see such and such a video. So we decided to put them all together in a box set and make them all available.

This particular set, it’s a complex little business. They’re three ways into it and every time you think you’ve got it sussed, you come across something you didn’t know was going to be there so above and beyond the collection of videos, what was the idea behind making it as interactive and tricky as it is?

PM: Once the project began we then realized that we could go beyond the usual DVD idea and that we could do more interactive stuff. The director Dick Carruthers and I came up with more and more ideas and thought OK, on the menus let’s have little hidden things for fans and let’s have a cover of this hidden there. It’s much more than just a collection of DVDs, much more than just a collection of videos. It’s now kind of the world of McCartney.

The advent of the video was a big change during the course of your career, late 70s 80s. That transformed the music business. Did you see this as a promotional necessity?

PM: The advent of the music video was kind of a double-edged sword really because in one way it was exciting, making a little film. In another way it was not what we did. The only reason we’d been on film was live, covering a live show, or TV shows. You hand’t ever really made little films, you’d been in Hard Day Night or something like that.

So it was kind of good and it was bad. Sometimes you’d think oh god we’ve got to do a video for this! But sometimes if the idea was good, you’d get into it so for instance something like Pipes of Peace were wondering what are we going to do here, and I was sitting round with the director Keith McMillan. And suddenly Im not quite sure who, one of us came up with this idea, we said remember that old film that they used to show on the BBC when on Christmas Day you got the German soldiers and the English soldiers all coming out of their trenches and they had a game of football didn’t they, Christmas Day? And we said OK that’s it, there’s the idea.

Once you had that idea, it was like, it was just manufacturing the video and that was fascinating, looking for the regiments who actually were, had been there. I thought there going to be some old geezers who were there, who are still surviving and they’ll probably see this and you don’t wan’t them writing up saying the Lancashire Fusiliers were not there because I was one of them and we were at Dieppe or somewhere you know.

So we tried to get it actually right and that became a fun process but the secret was getting that idea. Once we got the idea we said OK now this is just fascinating trying to portray that idea so I think that the answer really. If the music videos had a good idea that drew you into it, then you enjoyed making them. If they didn’t, it was a bit boring.

So how does that individual video thing kick off? Do you expect the director to have an idea or do you have an idea and you find a director?

PM: In the very early days life was so uncomplicated. You would just, you know you’d have a record and you’d just say well well all just stand there and well like sing it. Yeah that a good idea! So it was almost like live, just a fake live. Then things began to develop and it became like a short film so it became a bit of art and what would happen is there’d be a preamble so you know you’d be singing, walking down the street, and the little streets twinkling on the Embankment of the Thames, then and you’d go into a musical.

And then you started to require people who worked in that field, so then that spawned millions of young directors who were now music video directors who these days have gone on, a lot of them, to become film directors. It’s kind of quite a good learning ground for them.

You’d look at people you thought might do a good job and you’d actually say here the song, what idea would you put to this? My idea is roughly this but have you got a better one? And so they would send you a script: I see you walking by the Thames at night with a funny hat on. You go ‘don’t like it!’

Or I don’t see that at all, I see you in the countryside you know in a boat. Oh alright, and so you know that was it really. You just read the script and if it caught your imagination you’d ring them up and say OK let discuss this further. A lot of the time though I was lucky to work with directors I knew and once you liked a director, you kind of held onto them.

So Keith McMillan did a lot of stuff with me, he did Pipes of Peace and Ebony and Ivory, Coming Up. We did quite a lot of work together and Keith’s a very enthusiastic guy. He’s great to work with so the team got the hang of it. We got the hang of it together so that wasn’t so much him presenting a script. It would be more just him and me getting together and trying to work it out.

So there were various ways it happened but the main thing was to get to a director and say what do you think?

There are several videos in which you don’t appear at all.

PM: Those are the ones I like. 

Is it a kind of relief sometimes when a good idea comes in that doesn’t involve you?

PM: Yeah, I like that. I remember the video for Put It There which is about a father and his son because the song came about because it’s an old expression of my dad. He used to say it, put it there if it weighs a ton and he’d shake hands. Put it there if it weighs a ton and those things, you just remember when you grow up.

I didn’t even think about them when I was a kid but then you go – oh that was nice what he said, oh yeah put it there if it weighs a ton and you see a significance in it so you go oh that was my dad and when he’s no longer here, it becomes an emotional thing so I wrote the song based on that. The director who directed it said I don’t see you in it, I see a father and a son as two actors.

Another really nice aspect of this collection is apart from the videos themselves the menus come up which is practically another collection in itself. Some of them really strange things I’ve never seen where did that come from?

PM: Yeah, when the whole project was mentioned, I think everyone at first just thought well take the videos, clean them up. There a lot of them, well put them sort of back to back, well present them, that’s it. But as you started to get into that, Dick Caruthers and Ray particularly, started to say well you know if I was a fan watching this, when the menus come up, it would be really good if we have a little bit of that film that no one ever seen before. We can’t really use it as a full video but we could use it there.

So every little nook and cranny that was available to them, they’ve packed it with stuff for the fan or for the viewer and I think they’ve done a fantastic job because as you say, there is stuff I didn’t even know existed. I should know most of it existed but it’s like oh, I didn’t know they filmed that. Oh yes, we found that in an old tin somewhere.

And so the exciting thing about the whole exercise was them occasionally ringing me up, guess, you’ll never guess what we’ve found you know, and I’d go alright wait, save it, so when I’d come they’d say look here, what about this for the third menu and we’d like to put this in. So yeah there are some lovely things.

I liked them finding them. I did a little thing called Backyard which we just very early days, we got a video camera and I was just sitting out at the back, back door of Abbey Road. There’s a little area there, just one of the Studio 2 where we used to work, it goes out to the back of the building. I just sort of sat there, got my guitar and just sang, just remembered all sorts of Eddie Cochrane, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry songs from my teenage years and just sang them and we just called it Back Yard.

We never really did anything with it, it was one of those, ‘well what do you do with something like that?’ You cant ring up you know television companies, we’ve got a five minute thing of Paul. Here suddenly was the place where we could use all of that so they did a brilliant job in working all that stuff in. It’s really jam-packed full of goodies.

Let’s go through some of the individuals if you don’t mind. One of my favourites is the one Shirley Temple did for you, called Beautiful Night, Linda is in it and so is Ringo.

PM: Yeah the song Beautiful Night was one that I didn’t have a particular idea for, so that was led by the choice of director. I wanted to work with Julian Temple really, probably because he’d done the Great Rock and Roll Swindle with the Sex Pistols and I just thought well that’s pretty good you know provenance whatever you call it. So I rang him up and I said I’ve got this song, do you want to talk about it?

He was interested and he came up with the idea but then the great thing was we had Ringo in it so it was lovely to have him back on the team and Linda was in it. It a kind of emotional one for me.

I think, I think Julian did a great job, it’s real, it’s a proper little film with the strange lady who ends up going in the water at the end. Pretty strange but then you’ve got the opportunity to be a bit surreal in a music video. You don’t really have to explain it, it not like a proper film where well you can be surreal there as well but most of them you’ve got to sort of set up the idea why has it all gone a bit funny? In a music video you don’t have to. It has a loose story, a loose thread but you can goof around a bit more.

You just mentioned Ringo, he’s in a few of the DVDs. He so natural in front of the camera.

PM: Yeah he, Ringo is a film star. He always was. He the kind of guy who’s got that in his own personality. He is very contained in himself, he’s very sort of content with himself and they found that out when we were all doing Hard Day’s Night. The director Dick Lester wanted a scene with Ringo in it and apparently Ringo told the story that he’d been out clubbing all night and he arrived on the set after virtually no sleep, and Dick sort of just said well you know stick this hat on him and stick an old raincoat and could you walk along the banks of this canal please?

So Ringo said yeah OK so he started doing things, kicking cans, and then a little boy comes up, but it’s just Ringo natural personality, he sees what required of him and he just, he can deliver it you know. He’s natural so he’s always good to have in a film. He just knows what he’s doing you know. He’s good at that.

A full third of the whole thing is live discs. You’ve said to me
many times in the past how you used to miss the reality check of
getting back in front of an audience and seeing the whites of their
eyes. Is that why you’ve included such a big live element in this?

PM: Yeah a lot of the live stuff hasn’t been available to
people and it’s also a big side of what I do. We thought we’ve never
seen this before or this hasn’t been released, this ought to be in the
collection and once the whole thing was called the McCartney Years
then you had a wider brief. I really like the live stuff. It gives the
other side of what I do really, there is me writing records and you
see that in the videos but I think in many ways it a more true thing
of what I do.

In may ways it more true to me the live stuff than music videos are
because music videos are not what you do. You’ll find that with a lot
of bands. I know quite a few guys who just won’t do them. Oh no you
know, what acting! Not doing that you know dressing up into soft gear.
They prefer to just be a guy in a band and if you want a music video
you can just do us live.

I think that is a strong element of what we do. So we’ve included
quite a lot of live material in The McCartney Years.

It also allows you to get some Beatle stuff in there as well,
doesn’t it?

PM:It is true that it does broaden the music selection because
it brings in songs that we don’t have music videos for and allows me
to include Beatles songs which I used to be very shy of doing
particularly early Wings days. I thought no we’ve got to establish a
new thing I cant just keep harking back to my past, this is a new band
and I want to not do Beatles stuff.

But then as time went by you started to think, well I like these
Beatles songs the people in the audience like them and now I’ve
established Wings and we’ve had hits like Band On The Run and Live And
Let Die. I can now loosen up a bit so I started to include a lot of
Beatles songs and I now do quite a lot of Beatles more than ever before.

You cant deny people like them. Lot’s of it’s good stuff because it
was done by the Beatles and it also very well known so people have a
nostalgia and then even people who weren’t there like that stuff. It
was nice to be able to include that in this package.

The Glastonbury stuff, did it look like a challenge?

PM:Since the 60s Id always wanted to do Glastonbury because I
was there when they thought it up. Festivals just didn’t happen
before. Now they’re kind of part of our life so I’d always wanted to
do it or get involved in it. Id thought maybe it too much of a
challenge maybe not. Michael Eavis would actually ask me oh Paul
Glastonbury next year, come on and I’d go yeah and then never rang him.

A friend of mine who had been the year before was just telling me
about the great atmosphere at night and he said and I remember walking
back and they were all singing Beatles songs. And Im going oh well
that’s good okay, I could do that! So that actually spurred me and I
thought I should do it. I rang Michael and he said Yes, it’d be great.
We weren’t on tour so then the next thing was to try and do some gigs,
you don’t want to arrive at Glastonbury not in playing mode because
everybody else is going to perform that probably come right off tour.

So we did a mini tour before it just to get up to speed which was
good. Glastonbury was our final date on this mini tour and we were
feeling good about it and it was raining and it was wellies and mud
everywhere! It was the perfect Glastonbury and we felt great about it.
It was so exciting to finally be there and to me the other thing about
Glastonbury that had always fascinated me was all the lay lines and
you know they’re very 60s dude!

We’d spent hours in the 60 staying up late just looking maps of all
the lay lines so the confluence of the lay lines is where Glastonbury
happens so you know that aspect was kind of in the back of my mind the
sort of cosmic aspect of playing it I was kind of into. We showed up,
we were playing good, did a lot of Beatles songs and then on top of
that there we were sitting on these lay lines and this fantastic
audience, which is big, they’ve got all the flags so it looks like you
know Agincourt or something you know it quite an amazing mediaeval
thing to be looking at. And of course their enthusiasm even in the
rain is very infectious so we just had a great evening.

I remember looking back at the approach road and seeing people
who’d liked stopped in their cars and had got out and were listening
as I was doing Let It Be and I could see them and it was like really
wow, they’ve stopped you know they’re listening to this, to my concert!

It was a really great buzz so Im glad we have included Glastonbury
in The McCartney Years.

What about the Live Aid appearance of course you’ve revisited that,
haven’t you?

PM: I was asked by Bob Geldof to do Live Aid but I said I
haven’t really got a band together Bob. He insisted that it didn’t
matter and he can talk you into it fairly swiftly the young Bob.

So thought I could just do Let It Be on the piano. I got up there
that day and I knew nothing about it I’d had no rehearsal, no sound
check or anything. I was at the side of the stage and they told me
You’re on. It was like there was a curtain and a piano I went whoa! On
nationwide worldwide television and I thought way okay. I couldn’t
hear my monitors and I thought oh well it okay, they’re plugging in my
monitor, so it’ll all be okay.

In actual fact it turned out it was Queen roadies and they were
unplugging it so I was monitor-less and I had no idea whether my voice
was going out or not. I couldn’t hear a thing. I couldn’t really hear
the piano, I couldn’t hear me but I thought I’d trust that all was
going to be okay.

Suddenly in the middle of it I hear a big feedback thing going oh
no, no, this is wrong and I thought of stopping. You think of
everything in the middle of that but then I realized that stopping
would have looked stupid and I just carried on.

Wrong! I should have stopped and say excuse me everyone we’ve got
to get this right at one point during the lyrics I go, There Will Be
an Answer Let It Be and suddenly I hear a feedback and I thought Sing
Paul, sing. It in a nanosecond it was a nightmare, Im there oh god and
this is my only song on this massive global event…but then luckily
the dear old audience helped me out and they started singing it. So I
just braved it through and then I saw it back that evening and sure
enough I wasn’t on but the crowd was singing it so that was sort of alright.

So I just said look is there any way we can fix this because you
are going to show this again and again and again so can I just
re-voice it just for posterity? I did it. I just sung it again which
was how it should have come out on the night. The actual real live
version was not there and it was a complete nightmare that I’m trying
to forget. This is therapy, right?

How was the whole experience of compiling the materials for The
McCartney Years for you? It must have been like your life running
before your eyes, sitting there watching a little bit of half your
life at least. At the same time it must be quite an emotional time
for you?

PM: As you say there is that feeling of drowning, just seeing
all these images from your life flashing by and some of it is very
emotional, obviously seeing Linda in a lot of the work. In a way it’s
lovely and it’s very happy memories but the fact she’s no longer here
is very sad so it’s mixed emotions.

That was always going to happen if we were going to put together a
collection of old videos. She was in them and I knew that would be one
of the factors that I would have to deal with the emotional side but
it actually was kind of pleasant process like going through old snapshots.

It’s sad but it’s great because you’re looking at these great
memories and you’re thinking oh we did this and when Im doing the
commentaries, I’m remembering little things about it so in the end it
was actually very pleasant, although emotional.

Last updated on March 9, 2019


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