- Album This interview has been made to promote the New Official album.
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SOME of the greatest love songs are credited to Paul McCartney and John Lennon… Love Me Do, All You Need Is Love, PS I Love You, And I Love Her. For The Beatles, songs like these secured a special place in the hearts of millions. Our collective infatuation with the Fab Four endures to this day. But, after 50 years on the world stage, Sir Paul confesses he was scared to tell new wife Nancy he loved her.
“It can be quite hard to say ‘I love you’ to someone,” he says. “I felt this with Nancy but to say it wasn’t that easy.”
Bruised by the loss of his beloved Linda and his ill-fated marriage to Heather Mills, McCartney decided to show his feelings to the New Yorker he wed in 2011 through the medium he knows best… music. Hidden away at the end of his latest album, New — and not mentioned in the credits — is a beautiful, unadorned piano ballad called Scared which opens with these touching lines:
I’m scared to say I love you
Afraid to let you know
That the simplest of words
Won’t come out of my mouth
Though I’m dying to let them go
Trying to let you know
“There are a couple of tracks about Nancy and Scared is one of them,” he reveals before discussing more secrets of his best and boldest album in years.
Scared follows a McCartney tradition of songs inspired by his lovers including And I Love Her for Jane Asher, My Love for Linda and a song simply called Heather.
At an impossibly youthful-looking 71, it seems McCartney has no intention of slowing down and has all the energy of a performer half his age. His new songs sound vibrant and forward-looking. It feels as if their creator has found peace, harmony and happiness in his life right now. I suggest his enthusiasm for his craft remains as undimmed as the day he first stepped into the fabled Abbey Road studio with John, George Harrison and Ringo Starr in 1962.
“Yeah it is,” he replies. “It’s crazy because I expect at any minute to be fed up and jaded and hate the whole thing but I don’t. One way or another I’m just motivated to try to do something new.”
It is no coincidence that the album is named after the Beatlesy song New yet McCartney still finds time to dwell on his extraordinary past. On My Way To Work, for instance, is a fascinating glimpse of the fresh-faced boy from Liverpool and what life might have been like without superstardom. He calls it a collection of memories all morphed together.
“It’s about me going to my first job, before The Beatles took off, which was working on a lorry for a delivery company called Speedy Prompt Deliveries… SPD.”
McCartney needed the modest wages to help pay his keep at home and he recalls the simple pleasures of his journeys to and from work on the council-run green and cream buses. This extended to having a peek at the pin-up magazines of the day, like Parade, or avidly collecting the wide array of discarded, empty cigarette packets from the top deck.
“I’d go on the bus to work at some unearthly hour of the morning,” he says. “I might buy a magazine and look at the nudies. I was too young to be interested in the news.”
It is quite a thought, imagining Macca and his mags. He brings it to his listeners’ attention with typical humour in the song:
On my way to work I bought a magazine. Inside a pretty girl liked to water-ski. She came from Chichester (is
that a nod to his home in Sussex?) to study history. She had removed her clothes for the likes of me.
As for his humble hobby, McCartney says: “Instead of football cards or, like in America, baseball cards, we collected cigarette packets. We just ripped off the front then me and my mates would go round with a wad of them and do swaps. It was like, ‘I’ll swap you two Craven A for a Woodbine’. Then there were the more sought-after ones, the posh brands, because this bus route came from the centre of Liverpool to the outskirts. Obviously there were some very posh people who’d get off the bus halfway. They would be smoking Passing Clouds or Sobranies (elegant black
Russian-style cigarettes). Packets of those were very prized.”
Another of his new songs, Early Days, deals with his annoyance at the mythology around The Beatles, how fact blurs with fiction to create wild distortions. McCartney describes it as his attempt to reclaim his real history. “I’m very
grateful that people still bother about The Beatles, because we certainly wouldn’t have predicted that in our early days. What we did has assumed legendary status and, in doing so, the stories get distorted because they’ve been told a thousand times. It’s like Chinese whispers. Unwittingly people steal your history, your personal history. You know some
people say, ‘Oh yeah, John punched you out. I remember it in Nowhere Boy (the Lennon biopic). And I say, ‘No, he didn’t’.”
If I dare compare a Beatle to a member of One Direction, Paul was the Harry Styles of his day. “People say George is the quiet one and Ringo the funny one. I got pigeonholed as the cute one, which was not the greatest of pigeonholes. We used to joke about it all and say, ‘You don’t look very cute today’ or ‘I’m not sure John’s at his absolute razor-sharp wit’ when he’s falling over having had a bad night. The truth was much more believable because it was four very similar guys but each was given a specific edge to their personality which tended to take over in people’s minds. So, in my new songs, particularly Early Days, I’m trying to say, ‘Hey listen guys, I was there. It was me sitting in that room. It was me walking along the street. You’re going to have to listen to me about this, even though your other story might seem more attractive.”
Another connection with McCartney’s youth comes with the exuberant glam-rock stomp of Queenie Eye, which references a childhood street game.
He recalls: “It’s what we used to get up to before video games and that whole home entertainment thing. Someone would be elected to be ‘the one’ or the ‘queenie eye’. We’d all stand behind that person and he would throw a ball over his head and one of us would catch and hide it. Then we would all chant, ‘Queenie eye, queenie eye, who’s got the ball? I haven’t got it. It isn’t in my pocket… !’ Then he was allowed to turn around and try to guess which of us had it. You know, simple entertainment for simple minds but it was great fun. The thing that attracted me was the rhythm of that chant. We put down the drums and it had a contemporary feel, even though it was from God knows when, 1940s Britain.”
I ask McCartney if he minds the lilting song New being compared to The Beatles. He replies: “I accept that. With the piano sound and harpsichord mixed into it, I suppose it was inevitably leaning towards a bit of a Beatles sound. No matter how much I try to think outside the box, it is me in there. You can’t escape that“.
“Interest in The Beatles seems even more than ever. We may be long gone but we’re continuing to influence people, including me!”