Paul McCartney in Conversation with David Frost • Monday, November 3, 1997

Interview of Paul McCartney
Interview by:
David Frost
Timeline More from year 1997

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A 9:26 edit of the interview was released on the 2020 Flaming Pie Archive Collection.

About John Lennon:

Paul McCartney: ln public, his front would come down. I never needed it, because my family in Liverpool were quite comfortable, so I was always comfortable around people. But John was always having to fight. He had this acerbic wit, so they call it, as a defence mechanism. When we were in private, he had no need of that. I could just as often be the baddie in a situation, and he could be a real soft sweetie, you know. He took everyone by surprise there.

Paul McCartney: lt’s not that John’s home life wasn’t happy: it was the circumstances – not living with his dad, then his uncle dying, and then his mum being run over when she’d come to visit him and his auntie, who was a lovely lady called Mimi. They were more middle-class than any of us other Beatles had ever met. We thought of John as quite posh. Later, the image was – oh, the Working-Class Hero! Power To The People – which he was, and which he believed. But his upbringing was quite posh compared to us. We’d live in council houses and they owned their own house. How posh can you get?!

Paul McCartney: Aunt Mimi used to take the mickey out of me. She’d say, ‘Your little friend’s here, John’, and l’d say (in meek and mild voice), ‘Thank you’ – that was me. But she didn’t like George at all – she thought John was scraping the bottom of the barrel there, for some reason!

About America:

Paul McCartney: When we got to America, the first question was, ‘Who does the words, and who does the music?’ Everyone had always done it like that. And we said, ‘Well, he does them some days, and I do them others. lt depends, really, we’ll swap around.’ Then they’d say, ‘What’s your formula for hits?’ And we’d say, ‘We never find one. lt would get very boring.’ The other thing we’d say is that (if we could find one), we’d bottle it!’

About Bob Dylan who introduced the Beatles to marijuana:

Paul McCartney: lt wasn’t actually Bob, but it was a friend of Bob’s. I think he gets annoyed being loaded with that
rap, you know. We were at a do at a hotel, and it was his friend who introduced the ‘jazz cigarettes’. We were interested to see what was involved because we were really drinking men before that. But it changed quite a lot of things, it heralded a new era for us.

About drugs:

Paul McCartney: Even booze is not that great. But the society we live in has booze as one of its constituents, and cigarettes. Prohibition didn’t work, people kept doing it, so they had to come to some arrangement. I feel that it’s a bit that way with pot these days. I feel a liberal attitude isn’t a bad thing; l’d favour the decriminalisation of it. But if my kids did ever ask me, ‘Well, what about it?’, I’d say, ‘Well, there’s these bunch of drugs, and this one is probably the least harmful. There’s a hit-list – you can go up it until you hit heroin, which is impossible for some people to get back from.’ So l’d say to them, ‘That’s the facts of life, but if you want my advice, don’t do any of them’.

About Linda:

Paul McCartney: [It was] a terrible shock. Anyone who’s dealing with a life-threatening disease, you don’t know what’s hit you. But it changes your priorities, focuses you on the things you think are important in life. That’s the only good thing you can say about it. lt does stop you messing around.

When I talk about it in interviews, I always like to try and remind anybody at home to get themselves checked, because the sooner you diagnose something like.that, the better your chances. But it was very scary. We’ve got a great family, the kids rallied round like nobody’s business, and Linda is amazingly positive – so even though we had a couple of
scary years there, touch wood, she’s very well.

David Frost asked if this experience changed his views on religion:

Paul McCartney: I don’t know about changing my feelings, but it makes you talk to God, or It, a little more often. There’s a thing in alcoholism – we have a few friends who are reformed alcoholics – called the 12-step programme, and that’s very helpful. When everything is on top of you, and you’ve really got nowhere to turn, hand it over, give it all up and
say, ‘This is too much for me, l’m going crazy, l’m crying, l’m weeping, l’m frightened’. Linda and I both found that very useful, the idea that there’s someone to hand it over to. I think that unless you’re very religious, you live your life not thinking that there’s anyone you can hand it over to. That was quite a blessing for us.

About life after death:

Paul McCartney: l don’t know. When we were kids, we always used to say, ‘Whoever dies first, get a message through’. Stuart Sutcliffe was the first to die, and I never had a message, and I don’t think any of us did. Then when John died, I thought, maybe we’ll get a message now, because I know he knew the deal, and I haven’t had a message from John. Now, I don’t know if you can get messages back. Maybe you’re living, but there’s no postal service!

About the break-up of the Beatles:

Paul McCartney: We had come full circle. We’d gone as far as we could go. We all knew it. There wasn’t really anywhere else to go, except what I suggested, which was to go back to square one, and go out and work little clubs. l thought that might re-energise us, give us an idea of where it was really at – which was the four of us playing music. But to blame any one person, I don’t think that’s right. I think we all shared whatever blame there was going round.

After the break-up:

Paul McCartney: I started to think, oops, l’m losing the plot here. I had to work my way back, with the help of Linda. She was very encouraging – she said, ‘All is not lost. You’ve got more to do’ – because I think I just felt worthless. lf I wasn’t in the Beatles, I was worthless. Which is sad, really, because it wasn’t all of my life. So I found my way back – I didn’t
stay in bed, I didn’t drink all day, I started to think, well, there’s other things to be done.

Frost asked : would the world have been different without the Beatles?

Paul McCartney: ln a word, yeah. But we were lucky to be in the right place and time, when our generation was finding its feet. The chemistry of the four of us was very special. I always think of it as four corners of a square, you couldn’t do it without any corner. People say, ‘Oh, Ringo was just the drummer’, but he was much more than that, and still is to this day – a very witty, clever guy, with no education whatsoever, because he was ill when he was a kid.

George was also a huge influence. l’ve seen books saying, ‘Ah, George, standing around with his plectrum in his hand waiting for a solo’. That’s not it. He was much more involved, we all were. We made the Beatles what it was, by being those four personalities. lt wasn’t just John, it wasn’t just me – though John and I were obviously the songwriters, except when George started to write really great things. He wrote Frank Sinatra’s favourite Lennon/McCartney
song, ‘Something ln The Way She Moves’. He used to introduce it like that!

About the favorite song he has written:

lt’s just too difficult to answer that. l can make a glib answer – I always do give a glib answer, but it’s glib… ‘Here, There And Everywhere’, Dave. But then I think, well, ‘Let lt Be’ was alright, and ‘Fool On The Hill’ was quite good, and ‘Lady Madonna’ and ‘Long And Winding Road’… They’re like your children, you don’t have favourites. Or you don’t want them to know you have a favourite. They get jealous of each other, the songs!

l do like ‘Here, There And Everywhere’ very much. ‘Yesterday’ has a certain magic and I dreamed it. But ‘Here, There And Everywhere was very pretty. I enjoyed writing it and recording it, and I still like it now.

Last updated on September 20, 2020


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