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October 1964 • From Beat Instrumental
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THE McCartney residence in St. John’s Wood is hidden away in one of those spots which you are quite sure isn’t there until somebody points it out. The street is about a 100 yards long, fairly wide, with lots of large trees hiding the big Victorian houses. Paul’s house is halfway down on the left, coming out of town. You can spot it by the big black gates. If you can’t find the gates, then just look for the bunch of fans, patiently waiting in the hope of getting one of Britain’s famous signatures in their autograph books.
Once you have rung the bell and been passed as a bona fide visitor by a faint Irish voice and allowed into the courtyard in front of the house, you are struck by the unchanged exterior of the Victorian building before you. Most of the work that Paul has had done on his house, during the past year, has been done inside.
A different looking moustached Paul stood waiting in the hall to greet me. He was in his favourite casual dress of tight trousers and plain fawn jumper. “Come and look at the music room”, he said, and we mounted two storeys, clutching on to the mahogany banister, whilst we trod up the thick wall-to-wall stair-carpeting, into his specially-designed music box.
All the Beatle homes have a lot of browns, blacks, reds and greys in them, and Paul’s room is no exception. But, instead of a large and varied selection of guitars, jumbled up with strings, odd drums, percussion instruments, that I had expected, there was one little mini-piano, sitting in the middle of the room, opposite Solo. Perhaps I should explain that Solo is a piece of metal sculpture, which sits against one wall and looks like a five-foot high letter ’H” The tops of each column are made up of what appeared to be motorcycle engines, with their filled in valves looking at you. The whole effect is of a metal monster with four eyes. Solo stares straight at the mini-piano and Paul plays, staring straight back at Solo.
‘POP ART’ PIANO
The piano is extraordinary. It’s painted with an incredible pop-art design using about every colour of the rainbow. The three guys who helped Paul to design and work out the rest of the other rooms of the house were also responsible for painting the piano. The room is L-shaped and the piano and Solo take up the bottom part of the ”L”. Behind Paul is a series of shelves and cupboards, housing his singles, LPs, tapes, tape-recorder, etc., and on the wall, to the right of Paul – not hung yet – is a triple portrait of a girl – yes. that’s right — with red hair.
Near to Paul, his piano and Solo, is a cupboard, the contents of which were one bass, one tuba and large piles of guitar strings.
Paul McCartney can’t resist any instrument. Immediately he entered the music room the piano was too much for him. And when I asked him to play a tune, he was in the chair doing just that in one-tenth of a second.
The McCartney piano technique is different. It’s mostly designed to eliminate the use of the thumb. But the dexterity of the other fingers, which move in a system calculated to bring horror to the eyes of any piano teacher, produce sounds which would justify 15 years of concentrated practice. He plays naturally. And with feeling.
His opening number was not ”A Hard Day’s Night”, “Eleanor Rigby” or any other Beatles tune, but ’’Tea For Two”. This was followed by a long repertoire of songs that no one has ever heard, belonging to the past. “This one”, he said, swinging into a Nelson Riddle rhythm, ”I wrote during my Sinatra period.” And he went through many other old tunes that obviously brought back memories. Paul told me that, as he sits at the piano and plays, other instruments automatically come into his head and take over parts of the melody. He played some of the theme music that John and he are writing for the new Hayley Mills film, “All in Good Time”. And, whilst he played the accompaniment on the piano, his voice immediately became a French horn. It’s a neat trick, but Paul is one of the world’s great mimics. He has a tremendous facility to search for, and find, exactly the right sort of note that he wants in his voice.
We started discussing today’s Top Ten.
“Do you think, for example, the Beach Boys have copied anything from you?”, I asked him.
“Certainly”, he said, “and we’ve taken lots of bits from their stuff, too. Everyone does it.”
“Do you think you will be doing another British tour, or for that matter, any tours in the near future?”
“It’s very difficult to say at the moment”, he said, “because there are so many things that have got to be done, and the most important one really is to get the next film right. We are all very interested in that.”
’’And what about your immediate plans?”
“I am going on holiday myself for a few weeks, that’s why I have grown this moustache. Sort of a disguise. I don’t know whether I’ll keep it or not, as I don’t particularly want any photographs taken at the moment. When I come back from holiday I’ll decide whether I want to make it permanent or not.”
Paul is obviously concentrating hard on songwriting. The Beatles have done everything over the past four years; records, films, tours, television, radio; you name it. they’ve done it, and now, more and more, they are starting to only do those things which they really want to do. Anyone who stands a short time with Paul, in his “music box”, realises very quickly that there’s no need for BeatIe fans to fear that Paul is going to stop writing songs. l’ve seen him strumming away on guitars in dressing-rooms and in corners of theatres, film studios, working on material on pianos in hotels and underneath stages, and now he’s got his own personally-designed little thinking-room, into which he can retire and work on songs, many of which will undoubtedly be sung by millions all round the world.
Last updated on September 21, 2023