Interview for Record Collector • October 2005

Yesterday and today - MACCA His Biggest Interview In Years

Press interview • Interview of Paul McCartney
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Record Collector
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Wvgn.ieewetawercl rhoe tiismsmerSeeu ,an tosIstam oex utorsttbsouceldhdmieod th e,ueabltteuindtgainsutpwereMcCartney has simply run out oftime for a face
to face, so we have to talk on the telephone.
Given that your correspondent is feeling utterly
sick with nerves at the prospect ofspeaking to
him, it may actually turn out to be a good thing.
Having recently completed work on Chaos And
Creation In The Back Yard, his first album in four
years, his 20th studio recording since The Beatles,
and arguably his best set ofsongs since l 989’s Flo111m
I The Dirt, this afternoon he has to finish offsome
pre-production work for his forthcoming tour.
In a few hours, McCartney is due to catch a flight to the US, where he will
be playing for the next three months. Ir is his fastest-selling concert tour ever.
The legend nor only lives on, bur seems to be growing as the years roll by.
Ch11os And Creation In The Back Yard was recorded in London and Los
Angeles over the course of the past two years, and it is a return to basics for
McCartney. It is the sort of record that his fans have been waiting for for
years- a set ofmemorable, melodic, deceptively simple songs about love, loss
and the passing of rime.
McCartney plays most of the instruments himself(drums, guitar, bass and
keyboards, not to mention less traditional instruments, including flugelhorn
and harmonium) and having enlisted the services ofNigel Godrich —
best known for his groundbreaking work on Radiohead’s OK Computer –
as co-producer, the album has an organic sound reminiscent ofsome ofThe
Beatles’ later work and his 1970 lvfcC11r111ey set. Among the many highlights,
there is a song entitled Jenny Wren, which he describes as “daughter of
“hen Paul and I got together we had a commong oal,” Godrich explains.
“\'<le warucd to make a great album that was true to Paul. I think that’s exactly
what we did.

The new album sounds like the warmest, most personal and intimate music
you’ve recorded in years. It’s very reminiscent of the 1\1tC,1rt1uy album, an<l
at times, it reminded me of some of the White Alb um as well.
That’s great to hrar, man. That’s a prctt)’ heavy comparison. I mus~ sa>:• it’s
an album I’m very proud of, so it’s great to hear that other people like it.
I just did what I always do, which is just to write a bunch of songs about
wha tever grabs ml’ ar the time. I was vowing to my self that il’ w.1s !!,Ollll;t be a
good record, LH.’CHISC I knew I’d he going on tour, and l w,Hlll’d to be able to
play it proudly among the rest of rny soni;s on tuur.
Did you make a conscious decision to go hack to hasics~ .
Yeah, kind of, and that sort of just evolved really. I didn’t \\”,till to rush this
album. I think it was w orth the wait though. The music became more mnte
t·s1111 . g over 11·11\L’, amJ I’m n..·a JI)’ prolll I of wha· t we did · W,· ,111.,d,· a lot of . it up
, +4.. Af·· didn’t work Id try something
as we went along. l d try so11w1 1111g, ,IIH 1 11″ ll ‘ .
else until ir did. It w.ts lik,· 111:1ki11g .1 go-k.111 i11 rhe lu,
I-low did you end up picking Nii;cl Godrid1 •” prnducrr_?
Wha t happened was that l rang up G eorge Martin and sid: who do you

recommend as a cool producer these clays’ And after a
bit ofthought, he rang back a couple ofclays later and
suggested Nigel. So we met up and starred talking.
We both agreed that we both wanted to make a really
good record.
He said: ‘I think it really has got to be you.’ which
sounds obvious, but it gave it some son ofdirection.
Then we just started working together, and he started
liking to hear me play drums, playing guitar and so
on. So we starred to build up a mulritrack that way,
and we started to layer various rakes ofme, which
then starred to create the kindof feel you’re t.ilking
about… like the feel ofthe original MeCarmey
Did you know chat that was the foci he had in mind for the album?
I didn’t have any idea we’d be going along those lines. but I think at the back
ofhis mind, he did. So seeing as he was producing. I thought l”d hear him
out and get the benefit ofhis opinion, and ifat any point it just gets too sort
ofboring or annoying, then !”II just have to cop out and tell him I don’t want
to do that. But it actually went the opposite way, and it got quite intriguing.
You know, I started to think- oh. that’s not a bad noise. And the great thing
is, Nigel is a very good engineer.
You mean he’s actually good at the technical aspects of recording as well as
the more creative elements?
Yeah, he actually operated the board. Sometimes you’ll get an rnginea and a
producer, as in George Martin’s case. But Nigel actu.tll)’ operat,·s che faders
and twiddles cite knobs, so chat was good. l was starting to be very pleased
with the kind ofdirection he was going with the sound, which .ts ,·ou sa\’, w.ts

very org anic, very str.tiglHfurw ard anJ. vc..:ry ~trong.
h’s a very edgy sounding n.:corJ, isn’t it?

I think .’\o, I think we t.’111.:m11.1gL’d c..:,h.:h othL’f 10 tlu our best work. I mt.II\, OllL’
of the things they say about someone like me who has had success and therefore who’s made money is th.u you run out of things t o write about. ou
know, you’r1,,.• nor a young kid any IHOfl’, and }’lllt’r1,,.• IHll on tltl.’ \lrl’l’IS ,II\
more, so you’te not meeting up face to face with real people. There is some
~on uf Sl’IISl’ in th.u. hut in ,lL’llu l t:u.:t. I ~,ill do .1 llH uf th.11. You k 1t()W, l et
on a bus in New York or I get on the tube, and Ill just chat to the people.
Do )’OU g,·ncr:illy g,·t lcli alurw?
Well, the funny thing is, when you think about the tube, everyone gets left
alone , Nobody talks to anyone on the tube, and so with me , people wil l sort
o! go: nah, it can’t be. l can getaway with it if l fancy it. The point being
I still like th at kind of cont act. Some people who I know won’t move any
whl’l’l’ without., ikl.’l nf hodygu.1nl.,.
But then presumably yo u can’t live any kind of life if you do
\nd that’s not my idea of fun. H lead a pey taeto face life with the public.
So what lm sing is that l think there’s still plenty to wite about. On this
album, instead ofjust looking at the pleasant side ot everything Lalo look at
the duket side for that reason. l j ust say: well, what haven’t l written about
recently? l’s not as it d.tker things don’t happen to me; they happen t o
everyone lut it’s whether ou choose to examine it and then epres it.

I only realised when I’d finished the album that there’s
a certain honesty in a song like Riding To Vanity Fair.
which is a kind ofdark song about the rejection of
friendship. You know. you want to be friendly, someone rejects you, and the hurt that it causes. Instead of
just bundling that away and ignoring it, this rime
I decided to write a song about it. So a bit more of that
crept onto this album than might otherwise have
happened. Then there’s this song, At The Mercy, and
once again, I could see the way we were going, because
I wrote that probably about halfway thro ugh the
Co uld you see what direction the album was going
pretty early on in the recording process?
I could sec where Nigel was headed, in this kind of organic way, and I could
sec what kind of songs we needed on the album, and the standard of integrity
we were reaching. So I could then start to write songs with that in mind, and
At The Mercy was one of those. I just wrote it on a weekend off in LA, and I
wanted to come into the studio the next day and son ofsay: hey, Nige, listen
to this. I just wanted something really fresh to present that fitted in with the
album and what we’d recorded so fur

Wh en you were recording with The Beatles, you would often come in with a
song and immediately play it to the others, wouldn’t you?
Ye-ah, exactly. Well, you know, it’s always a nice way to do it, because it’s fresh
for you, and it’s fresh for other people. There’s something exciting about
recording a piece that’s only just been constructed. It’s just like a really hot
meal. You know, it’s straight out the frying pan. Bang! Right – eat that. You
know, you’ve j_ust arrived in the studio, you’ve got a song, and you go: right,
le, s look at thi s, and you hardly even know it.
Would you say that this is an intensely personal album? How much of it was
informed by the loss of Linda and your marriage to Headier?
I think it’s about a lot of things that have happened to me… loss ofJohn, loss
ofL,nda: Im, ofGeorge, marrying Heather, living in a completely new situation, loving another woman after losing such a great woman … I think all of
that roll LIJ> into a ball, and yo LI find yourself drawing I f 1 ff
. . . • ‘ on a or o t 1:u st u . As
l was saying earlier, I think a lot of people feel that when
,, :. a ew yougettomystage
of the g;unc, you ve got notlung left to draw on but ,1,er•· I· f I ·
. . . . • are a 1ot o t 11ngs
like that that arc personal, quite intense things that J’ . d r I
, · Ve r.m!Jl on mr 1 1c
album. Often, I 1•e actually drawn on them unintentionally.
Would you say a lot of the more personal themes of th , •
~u bconscious? . c songs arc quu c
Yeah, subconscious, ‘cos I don’t son ofcr:tft ., lj•ri , J I · d
I d . . . c .111, t ll.’11 )H own ·111d cr·1ft
a melo dy. I just sit down and ad lib. I find things and keI; [L, ‘
. . • • II ta c mes ike, and I
mess around and change a line and do this and ti . I . 1· .
f I . d , I 1.11. sun o sna1ch tlnng, out
ot the air an just try a lot of stuffuntil something appeals to n.
re you conscious ofwhere your songs come from?
If I’m lucky , the song just stars to kind ofwrit+ I£, A1:
. d’ :. tenselt, an c j ust see where ‘+’
[going an jump on its back and ride it. I’m w ee al] . ereits
. never really c on sciou s of ] I’
getting this from. Somewhere at the bad if id, where ‘m
, o my 111111 ‘ I Jrnow where I’m

pulling it from. You know, I might do a line and think –
ah, ye-ah, that was that incident, but then the next line
might fit with it, although it might remind me ofa
completely different incident. So it’s kind ofhard to
analyse the songs for me

Do you get quite self-conscious writing such personal
I do get a bit self-conscious, but then you go- hey, come
on, I’m an artist. Don’t be self-conscious. You do at first.
The person in you gets a bit self-conscious and you
the writing was … ” think, oh, I’m really opening myself up here. Bur then
you realise you’re an artist, you’re doing something chat
requires that kind ofhonesty, and so it doesn’t rake long in the wririna of the
line to persuade yourselfthat this is the right thing to do. Just follow rhc track,
and don’t worry about it. If it’s too intensely personal, you’ll change it. You
know you’ve always got the freedom to do that, although I hardly ever find
myselfdoing that. Nearly always, I think, yeah, well, it’s honest, it’s intense,
it’s personal, but then again, so arc some of the great novels I read. You know,
that s a strength, not a weakness

Would you say that ifa song doesn’t have that personal quality, then it loses
its heart?
It can do. I rhink every thing you d · d • d ,
. • , o Is root In you, an you can t escape it.
So for instance, you II sec a novel where the author is a man, but he’s writing
from a woman’s point of view, so you can’t apply logic to that. You go, well,
hoI w can ,he talk like a woman? Bur I mea • n , it’s a • rt , a • nd I1c, ·1s d om· g t h’IS rh’mg
wher e he’s pretending to be this woman, but at the same time, it’s still him
wmmg It, and he’s drawing on his own experiences. There’s no wa l .
get away from it, even ifhe pretends to be a woman. I’n “””
• , · very aware o tha t.
Can you elaborate on that?
Well, I paint a bir, and for years, J couldn’t paint because I had this block
about, you know, what IS it gonna be about’ WI . I .
I • . . . . . · · ‘1at Is t 1c mcamng? \X’hat is
nu s pa1tung going to signify? But then I realised that every little line
make, every little smudge, every time •o I . . . . you
book, where I’m son ofsav . ” ‘eres a me Ill my Paintings
‘I don’t 10101v Lo ‘– J’k ymg tol de Koon,ng, what is chat, Bill? He said:
• OKS I c a couch h I , , \ dl
yeah OK N I’ ‘ u ‘·. 1 n It cw 111)’ mind. It was like –
· · ow m gonna buy canv as B , I
but whether you intend to d , ,· ~ses. ccausc I ,ink that’s really true,
o something or not som ·ti . ‘II I I
will have some kind f .’, ·r, , , . , ‘ ‘ e ling WI tappcn t tat
OI igmuticance, ‘cos it’s you that’ A.:. ·. [
freeing, J>anicularly · · . . · . · ‘·11 s ‘mng It. I md that wry
• Ill pamung or Ill music.
Do you often gee too preoccupied with . I’
l talk to people occasionally onelune or a word within a song ?
• · · Ya >0 111 songwm mg ·md r I d
to find was getting hung up a +4 on «qq,1. P Hase or a ” word .mntuIe mid. 1dl 11e of1· a song.
One IC 1111 ions of times, d • • r
when I wasn’t entirely strai+h i N p,, ,”an d t mig ht often have been
. ,ng It. ow, on t do th II I I I
straight now. I just find i+, f4 a. completely write really
, l I sn sort o c t•·1r ·tn<l . t’ . I ,
In fact, in The Bentle,, 4,, “·i s Just the easiest way to do it.
whIat happened durin’· g m”y· s<oVncrytp11 p, 11,g,J,ohn a “nd I J’d was sort of f’ straight. But
• ‘ wot tuuy’ period would b 4 TH[e.,q
m walking down the road, p, . aethat ‘d kind of go:
«a, m gettingon a… bus? OK, [. .:
· ··· mgc.:111ngona

trolley?’ Oh no, should it be bus or trolley or whatever? It’s a silly example, but
you find that you just spend about halfan hour on this word bus, whereas
now, I would just go: ‘Rolling down the road, I’m getting on a bus, I’m sitting
behind a lady in a funny hat.’ De de de de de, and I just keep going.
So you mean you just become less self-conscious without the drugs?
Yeah, definitely:
The album is so vibey, it actually sounds like you’d had a few joints, and yet
I’d read that you stopped smoking marijuana when you got together with
Yeah, I can hear that. Well, that’s the thing. Like I say, you can’t help it.
You know, you arc what you arc

Would you say that drugs have helped or hindered your creativity over the
You know, generally, I’m not sure they have helped. I think you think they’re
helping. And I know a lot of people now who write high, and I keep wanting
to sort of ring them up and say- try one straight, ‘cos I think it will be better.
And as I said, the great thing was, you look back on it, John and I, all our
writing, even in the middle ofSgt. Pepper and all that, it was
all straight. I mean, we weren’t, but the writing was.
We were always straight when we sat down to write, bur
because the period was so sort ofstoned, then other things
would rake over socially and whatever. Also, it’s a kind of
difficult subject to deal with these days for me. You know,
having kids, you want to be able to give them the right
advice and say to them that, generally speaking, drugs arc
only gonna mess you up. They’re not that cool. Bur they’ve
found their way into society.
I have quite a liberal view, but I find that I prefer to be
straight. I think, also, you grow up, you know? But I’ve
talked to people who’ve said: God, your conversation is so
clear these days. It all used to be a bit hazy, man. And you
thought you were having a great rime, but I’d prefer to keep a little bit off that
subject ifyou don’t mind, because I find that a little bit private these days

At what point in The Beatles did you realise that your life would never be
the same again?
I sort of remember the exact incident . People were always sort of talking about
fame and the price of fame and all ofthis. We were getting famous in England,
and in one or two places like Paris, and maybe Spain, but we still used to be
able to go off. Ringo and I, particularly, used to be able to get off to Greece,
because it was far enough away for nobody to know who you were.
And I remember hanging round with the hotel cabaret band and watching
them rehearse, trying to persuade them that we were in quite a decent group
back in England. You know, yeah, me and the other guy who’s at the swimming pool, we’re in this band called The Beatles. Well, they had no idea, so
I always thought that no matter how famous we get, I can always come IO
Greece and they’ll never know who I am.
And then, ofcourse, we got to No. I in Greece, and I suddenly thought,
OK, we’ve now reached the point of no return. I’ve actually got to make a
decision now. Either I don’t want to be world famous and I want some prvacy, or c 111·s t I1m· g •ts J·USC coo s.trong c0 res · ist , bcc-·m sc I want 10 be in mu si.c this
had. And ofcourse, you k now wIt·cnJ cIc·ct·st .·on I ma· de.· Th . at was the point at
whIi•chI I J.ust sort of rca1·1scd c I1ar c Iit:, bloltho le…s were closrng down .
Did you find it frustrating that the public perception was that it was John
who originally brought the avant-garde clements into The Beatles, ye you
were the one who was listening to Stockhausen?
Yeah, I did at the time. ActualIIly, no, “1 1 I”• tim’,· it did11 i botherIme,I but tas
,. J I I ll then ,here ,,a,,,c, to >ca 111 o
rime went on an d actu :tll)’ ah er O 111 w as 5 u · · . I
‘ . . • I . st l\lt’ You know. pt·opk· st;trtl'<. to a reassessment, and it started to weigh agams ‘. , . I J I J • cool one. and l’aul ‘””” I. sort of say, oh well, yeah, Io tn wast lt: t ‘· . . r • • • r+ Hile r u me up and said: ‘Wait a minute, That was actually why Barry Miles rang . v. ,, even b efore Joh n did th is, yo u were tuIts·., ·atv ml l’Vl’lt hdort· \ oko c.tnH: .. · , ‘]ea edl d ica, an d you were into along you wcrt dmng d11s. \ 011 ,I,lflct · I I I .” BE Look, you’ve got to puta book togetuet, Stockhausen and all 1h:11 son ol Slit · ,o : > I . ,.’. , , hn om,·
and even if peop le only readI . .., z0 y,e,as.. tlllll’·”‘It k.i~”t t tlll s +h ut tll hat bo- o{
•4, fhins’ So we put togetet 1 “
record of what yo u did on that tde o 1 !,· · ‘ Tl . , I ‘I · 11 about B.atty
Many Years From Now, just to remind ourselves. he good HA”’ ‘
was 4, that I he was thhere, as h he was wweorking’! for Appl e :. [[li] .]
• • ·.· ” h u saving I did this, a md did tu1a t.
You know, you don’t want to be the!”, 1didn’t want to,
lr’s too immo dest and a bit sort of unseemly

particularly in the light ofJohn not being there to answer for himself. So that
was the reason behind the book, just to set it down from our point ofview.
Then people could believe it or not, but at least there was a chronological
record ofwhat came first. And obviously John became a great sort of figure in
the avant-garde world, but there was just that feeling creeping in that I had just
learned it all off him. So Barry suggested – and I agreed with him – that we
ought to correct that, just for posterity.
Ir was so exciting when you played Helter Skelter at Live 8.
Hey, rhar’s great, man. I tell you, a lot of people were excited about that. It was
really good, because we’ cl done a soundcheck, and we knew the newspapers and
the media were all going to be there, so ifwe’d just soundchecked exactly what
we were gonna do, they were gonna give away our setlist. So we did too many at
the soundcheck, so out ofthe five or so that we were gonna do, we did them, bur
then we did another IO around them so that they wouldn’t quite know which
ones we were gonna play. On purpose, we didn’t do Helter Skelter, so even the
people who’d been there at the soundchccks didn’t expect it, so it was great. We
were able to just pull it right out of the hat.

Did you enjoy the gig?
I really did, actually. I was there all day, and I knew
it was gonna be a really memorable day, and it was
for such a great cause, so I felt that historically it
was going to be something re-ally important in time,
particularly ifthe GB pull their fingers out and help
and do what people have asked them to.
And musically, playing with U2 was great,
be-cause I admire them. I hadn’t spent that much
time with them, so it was really cool to just hang out
in the trailer with the guys, just chatting about this
and that. I hadn’t done that for a long time. lt was
cool, man, and the nice thing is, it was their idea

I think it was Bob and Ilona who said: ‘We’d like you to open up with
Sgt. Pepper’. You know, ‘le was 20 years ago today’. So I said great, sounds
like a good idea to me. That was a dirill. Then I hung around all day, just
kicking around, and then fin_ally being pare ofthe closing, and doing The
Long And Winding Road clung, and as you say, slipping in Helter Skelter.
It was a great day

Docs it give you a thrill that you have got a whole new generation ofpeople
discovering your music now?
le does, yeah. From the word go, when you’re semi-professional, you’re trying
to do well. You know, you’re trying to do a good gig, and ifpeople respond
in your audience, then it’s a thrill. Right through The Beatles when people
responded incredibly well, then during the early days ofWings when we had
to work at it, and then when Wings got really popular and we were getting the
response, and right through my solo career.
But now, we’re in a new sort ofphase, because I’ve got all of chat track record
that people can listen to, The lleades and Wings, and Flaming Pie and all ofthe
newer stuff. Now I’ve got a new band, and we’ve done Glastonbury, we’ve done
the Superbowl, and we played to halfa million people in Rome. So we’re doing
things that I’ve never done before. You know, I mean, hell, we played to a lot of
people with The lleades, bur never halfa million. And then
Live 8, again, for great reasons, so you’re not only just having a
thrill playing, you’re actually saying somethingpolitically, so
that adds co the thrill quite a lot.

Is leaving behind a legacy important to you, or do you not
really care what people mink ofyour standing in musical
Nah, it’s great. I mink you have co be lying for anyone to
say it didn’t matter. I mean, why do you get into chis thing?
Like I said before, you gee into this to do well. Why docs
anyone get into anything? You get into any work or any
pursuit to do well, and it doesn’t matter what form char
takes – whether you just want to make the greatest paintings
ever or the greatest poetry ever. I can’t sec anyone ever getting into it and going: I really wanna do badly. Everyone who takes on any
kind ofjob just wants co do well, so for me, having a good legacy is a thrill.
I could already stop and have a great legacy, but I’m nor counting, you
know. I’m not crying to add co the pile, bur then, say, look at chis year, and I
did Live 8, so suddenly that’s added another little story to the thing, and it’s
kind ofexciting. I’m really looking forward to going on tour in America

Do you think the songs you’re doing now can stand alongside your previous
work without looking out ofplace? ..
Well, chat’s the nice thing. That was why I said at the beginning of tins
album, getting involved with Nigel, I said: I’m determined to make a good
album, because I like the idea chat you could be doing some new stuff that
would fie in. I did a little show in Abbey Road the other night just some of the new songs and pIaym· g ar0,111d with some of the old songs,
and I did feel good chat they kind of matched up. Ir’s prelt)’ wild

Do you remember writing your first song? . . . . , .
I wrote a I.1rt I c song caIIccl I Lost My Little Girl when I was I_a, a1n· dI the· n ,d,cn
I was abour I 6 , I wrote. cl1e turn.: ‘°11or When I’m SixtJ•-Four, so I, ll q1111c a
little bit ofstuffearly on.
Arc you amazed at thIe endun•ng po”,cr of •a song like Yesterday? ..
I woke up one morning wi.t I1 tIie. tune. r,or Ycesterda’ y in my h.ead. It waIsI Jlust I
f[Eli ‘ magic and stufl, I say, wel, have
there. So when people ask me 1 >e ,eve 111 · · · I I • •
. . . , l .. . I· lbv over :J000 people and l 1,1\’c
to, because there 1t IS and It s 1ccn recur< c< ) · I • . ‘ · ‘ I I wol·c up ·md I had ts tune 111 111)’ no idea how I wrote that 1unc except tuat ·” , . I .. . · : ][ ·salad I remembered it, bee.ate I head. And I got to the piano, alll 111 )11’1 g’ . . 1 . . . . … would haw been a litule bit ofa pt. .y to f,orgc’I it · Oni;11n· ll)’ ,h,· yn. o. \ . er. e. f ‘Scrambled eggs, oh my baby, how I Iovc )”HH IL'”bs ”. ·•uul • th:ttr w as Jll·.S kl …, .s rort .. u litule joke to help me rcnu:n1bcr t I 1c tune. . I P ut lyrics to It a ,cw wn s .1 u:1 that and then recorded it. 4.line when a song is : ~, , h eta very strong tee ‘ I knew it was a 111cc song. ou uo vi.:. • I • . ,·rill •n it Yo 11 · :., dinary song when you ve ‘ good. It feels diOcrcnl to JUSI “11 1″‘ 1 ,’ · I . II · “”·” 1<·.ilh• wlw11 know, you can teII , Y011 J.USI go – cl,.:H S . ‘I 1o’0.0( nlll:. 11Ill ll., ,rtll(lll>’.lll. 11.,h,
George Martin suggcSll’lL1.l. ti .
it that I thought, oh dear, this rs some ·

idea that 3000 people would be interested in it enough co record it.
The truth is, and I often chink this, but that one achievement is enough for
anyone’s lifetime. Right there. So, I mean, how lucky am I? Because I’ve got that
achievement, then I’ve got me guy who wrote Lee It Be achic-vement, and then
I’ve go1 the ‘he was in The Beatles’ achievement. It’s pretty staggering.
Given your place in musical history and the weight ofexpectation mac
surrounds every album you make, would you say chat you can over-chink
Yeah, I think that it’s probably easy to have chat happen, and it is something I’m
very aware of. I’m always a little bit aware mac people might be intimidated by
that when I meet them, so I’ll always make a point oftrying to put everyone at
case, including myself, ofcourse. I do that so that we just gee on a real one-10-
one basis pretty soon in me conversation, and it’s the same in music.
I sometimes realise, and I chink: OK, everyone in mis room knows I’m
famous. Or ifI’m gonna meet someone in a meeting or something, and he
knows I’m famous, and I don’t know chis guy from a bar ofsoap, as my
Australian manager used to say. I come into me room, and instead ofjust sort of
sitting there and letting things unfold, I’ll get in the person’s face and say: right,
what shall we do? Lee’s have a cup oftea

I do it in me street a lot. I was on a bus in New
York, and I got on mere, and some black lady says:
‘Hey, you Paul McCartney? What arc you doing on
this bus?’ And so I go: I don’t wane any trouble off
you, love, alright? Never mind me, what arc you
doing on this bus? Stop shouting and come and sit by
me. And they all sart giggl ing. I’ll do mac sort of in
your face kind ofthing. I’m aware chat people might
gee intimidated, although certainly not mis black
lady. She wasn’t gonna gee intimidated by anyone.
So I’ll come forward rather than sort ofbeing the
shrinking violet. I’m also very aware of chat in music,
so rather than be someone who just rests on his
laurels and says – oh, I’ve done a lot ofgood stuff.
and that’s enough — I would try and get in my own face and say, yeah, but why
not do another one and sec what you can do? I find clue more interesting, it’s
more human, and it’s more real life.

Wh en did you last meet someone chat didn’t know who you were?
It tends to happen in places like India or Jamaica, for instance, where the
person in the record shop will know who )’OU are, but the people on the street
don’t know who you are, because they don’t live that kind of life; they haven’t
got a television, they haven’t got a radio, and if they’ve got a record player, it’.
to play Indian artists or reggae artists.
And do you quite enjoy that?
Oh yeah. le’s great. The nicest example of 1h:tt was quite a few )’Cars ago nuw.
I was in Jamaica, and my kids had discovered some little puppi,·s behind a stall
in the market. There was this nice Jamaican lady there running the market
stall, and my hair was a bit long. and she said: ‘Ate you Amcri<~n,?’ And ls.aid
110, I’m British. \nd then she said: ‘Oh, you are a subj,·ct tuu’. Ami I 1hough1,
you’ve got me in one, baby. That’s it. I love 1hat. Yon know, that’s all lam–
subject of the Queen. So those kind 11f’pl,,cl’s, I don’t get rerngniscd, but I
tend to in urban areas. In London or New York. I’ll g,·t rl'<ogni,c•d .,II thl’
time, Anywhere in Britain tends to be like that, just ‘cos most people have got
telly’s and radios and they read newspapers.
And they’re quite likely to have a few ofyour records as well.
They might l’\’l”ll h,t\ll’ Mlllll’ of my fl’Co, hmnrnt.
Do you care wh at the media says about you and your music?
l don’t actually read it. Ive kind of given that up. What used o happen a»,
people would say: oh, there’s a gteat revie w in so and so, and there would just
be one sentence Id hate, so l just thought, you know, I don’t nee d that. ou
know these people don’t know you, and so they can take such strange angles
on some of these thins you just feel weird. So l don’t really bother too
much, ‘Someone might say: that was a weird article about you the other d.a,
and then it temi nd s me of why I didn’t read it. You know, your legend au
iu get bigger than you could ever possibly be, and it just walls ahead ol you.
I think that’s what’s frightening.
I kno w who la m, and know what le d one , and I know th at a lot of it’s
been rood, because Iv e been told it’s been ood. Alo, Iv e pot my own o pinion,
and I think a lot ot it was good

The main thing for me is that Ill be walking down the street, and someone will just come up to me and very quickly sort of say: ‘Excuse me, I really
don’t want to bother you, but l’ve just got to thankyou for the music. You
know, you’ve helped me our ofsome terrible times’. And that is like the big
pay off. Ive read this thingthat your biggest fans are the ones you never see,
because they digyou, and they get it so much that they would never come
up to you in the street. I think it’s true.
l remember a great story about Joyce Grenfell and this woman that wrote to
her for about 40 years, and they were the most intimate of pen pals. The woman
happened across Joyce at a book signingonce, and after all ofthis 40 years of
pen pals thing. she saw her, and she got within about 20 yards ofher and decided not to say hello. It was just roo much. She couldn’t do it. you know. I think
that’s kind ofcool in some ways- that there’s just so much respect, you can
write to each other, but you don’t want to sor ofbreak the spell.

They say you should never meet your heroes just in case you’re
Yeah, well. You know, cos you’ve got an image in
your mind

Did you feel like that when you met Elvis?
Oh yeah. No, but itwas great. I still can’t believe I
actually met Elvis you know. ‘Cos when I think of
all the time gone by now, but I did. I did! It’s on
record, and I remember it, but the funny thing is,
when we wen: doing the Amhology, me, George and
Ringo all remembered differently how we met Elvis.
I remember driving to his house in one of the
canyons in LA, and I remember him coming to the
door. letting us in and sitting us down on a big
couch. He had a big bass guitar nearby and he was
playing it. I also remember him looking great, and
all of us thinking: this is Elvis! It’s like being in the presence ofGod, you
know. It was wonderful, but scary.
And then he pulls out this contraption, and the channel changes on the
television. It was a remote, but we’d never even seen one. Then be was playing Mohair Sam all evening on his jukebox, and there was a pool table at the
back. But Ringo remembered him never getting up off the couch the whole
evening, so you never know who remembered it right. But it was fantastic,
and I’m a major fan of his. Ir’s really just like a dream now… it really is just
like some dream I had once

Do you find the modem obsession with youth frustrating? Ifyou were a
painter, an author or a classical composer, your age wouldn’t even be
Oh yeah. I think it’s always been there though, ifyou think about it. You
know, there’s always been teeny-bopper type things, and you’ve got to remember, Sinatra was a slip ofa lad when he first started, and I don’t think it’s very

different from that. thun! ts mte ‘ .
depressing. but there’s always been lousy groups with pretty faces.
When Th1e B eatl1es ” tirst st1artcd were you aware that you made a lot of the
old guard look redundant overnight? .
Yeah, I know. I remember the first big famous one who felt like that was
Benny Goodman. He sort ofcomplained that, ooh, these crappy new groups
were knocking out all this great talent, but you know, you ve got to hold
your own. We always liked him, and we didn’t want to knock anyone out of
tie water, I’ ma 1huge. 1r.a,n ofN·itt ‘King’ Cole Fred •Astaire,• Smarra … I love
all those guys now more than l ever did. In a way, it was kinda good,
because we were young, up and coming, and it was a competutuon we were
in, so we were glad to win it. Bur at the same time, we didn’t want to knock
anyone out of the water, so we were a little saddened by that, actually.
It must depress you when you think that it’s only you and Ringo left now?
Err, it doesn’t make me too happy. eah, it’s true, man. Well, you know,
halfThe Beatles have gone to the happy hunting
grounds in the sky… awa’the noo. Bur ofcourse it docs.
To have lost two ofyour best mates is, um, very sad

Do you think about them all ofthe time?
Yeah, sure. I think, you know, I’m very lucky in one
respect. I think ofgreat moments with them most of the
time… nearly always. I don’t sort of think of the more
difficult moments, those tend to go like rainy days
on a holiday. You tend to sort of forget about them.
I remember the great, great, great things, and there are
so many of those

What is your fondest memory ofyour time in The
Oh, I don’t know really. I mean, just one comes to mind
there; we were driving north on the motorway in the early 60s, and it was
freezing, and it was fog and ice and snow and everything. And I think a brick
or a stone hit the window of the van that Mal, our roadie was driving. So we
had to knock the window out, so it was even more freezing. And so my classic
memory ofThe Beatles – it just happens to come to mind there – was Mal
continued driving, and we: just lay on the back scat on top ofeach other in a
Beatie sandwich to keep warm. It was the only way the four ofus could keep
warm, and we had quite a giggle.

What are your main motivations now? What keeps you going?
Just my love of music, love ofwhat I do, love ofaudiences. I like my job, you

Beats working, right?
Beats working for a living, man.
And how would you like to be remembered?
I’d like to be remembered with a smile

From Record Collector Music Magazine UK Release 315 October 2005 | Etsy France

Last updated on August 14, 2022


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