Interview for • 2016

You Gave Me The Answer (2016)

Press interview • Interview of Paul McCartney

Songs mentioned in this interview

Dear Boy

Officially appears on Ram

Eleanor Rigby

Officially appears on Revolver (UK Mono)

Temporary Secretary

Officially appears on McCartney II


Officially appears on Help! (Mono)

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I recently heard a great cover of ‘Lady Madonna’ by Fats Domino. What’s your favourite cover version of one of your songs?

Paul McCartney: Thanks for your question, Richard. There’s an early version of ‘And I love Her’, it’s called ‘And I Love Him’ by Esther Phillips. I remember really liking that, and I like Ray Charles’ ‘Eleanor Rigby’. And I also like Marvin Gaye’s ‘Yesterday’.

Do you collect anything and if so, what?

Paul McCartney: Thanks for your question, Jacob. Do I collect anything? Besides dust?! I don’t collect records or anything. I suppose no, I don’t really… As far as collect? No, but I love horses and have a few. That’s the nearest I come to collecting anything!

What is your favourite part of touring?

Paul McCartney: Thank you for your question, Debbie. The things I like about touring are firstly, coming into contact with our audience, which often seems like a family reunion. Secondly, just getting the chance to fire up our instruments and play them!

On ‘Dear Boy’ there is some nice counterpoint going on. When you are recording your music, do you build up the vocal-harmonies intuitively, or do you arrange and write them down first?

Paul McCartney: Thank you for your question, René. I wrote the song without counterpoint before the studio. And then in the studio, I came up with the harmony parts. So the answer is that it’s a combination of both!

Just who exactly is Mrs. Vandebilt?

Paul McCartney: Thank you for your question, Ian. In America there was a famously rich family called Vandebilt. So in the song I wanted one of my characters to be a figure of authority, and I randomly chose Mrs. Vandebilt to indicate this.

How did you conceive of and create that great, rapid arpeggiated keyboard loop on ‘Temporary Secretary’? Were you intentionally trying to create a certain ‘mood / atmosphere’ for the song?

Paul McCartney: Thanks for your question, David. The truth is I was messing around with a device known as a sequencer, which – as its title implies – allows you to create a sequence of notes, which will then repeat. Whilst experimenting I came up with the notes which form the introduction of ‘Temporary Secretary’ and it seemed to me to be a good basis for the song.

Even though a recording does not change, we’ve found that our relationship to certain songs can often change their meaning as you grow up. For example, you relate to a lyric differently to when you first heard it. Do you ever find your relationship to your own songs altering from what you originally had in mind when you wrote them?

Paul McCartney: Yes, that happens all the time! When I wrote ‘Yesterday’, I was in my 20s. So my ‘yesterdays’ covered quite a small period of time. Now the significance of the song seems even more striking because of the time that has passed since writing it, and the events that have happened in my life. I must admit, I really like this aspect of songwriting and playing.

‘Listen To What The Man Said’ is a wonderful song. Who is the man someone should listen to?

Paul McCartney: Thank you for your question, Luiz. There are many answers to ‘Who is the man?’ In one way, you could say the man would be as the expression – ‘You’re the man!’ Another way to look at it is that every religion has a leader who they consider to be ‘the man’. And his teachings are generally very positive. I like the idea that I leave it to the people to decide who, in their minds, is the man…

Why did you name the new tour ‘One On One’? Is there a special meaning behind it?

Paul McCartney: Thank you for your question, Cesar. When people would talk about going to the ‘Out There’ shows, they said that even though it was a huge stadium, there was an intimate feeling about it. And I thought that was interesting really because with the big screens, we can make it a bit ‘One On One’. It’s like you watching me tell a story. So I was looking for a title that said something about intimacy, or something that summed up that feeling. Then I thought of the expression ‘one on one’ and they just looked like nice words – a good title. So that was it! It was because people had fed back this idea that the show, even though it was giant, somehow managed to communicate an intimate feeling between the audience and me.

What was the biggest – or one of the biggest – fears in your life and how did you overcome it?

Paul McCartney: Thank you for your question, Alexey. Biggest fears? When I was a kid it was just getting beaten up by a local gang. You know, that was a purely physical fear. Where I lived it was a hard estate and there were guys who if you saw them you would just go to the other side of the street. Because you knew they would just say, ‘Hey you, who you lookin’ at?’ And there was no right answer! ‘You!’ And they’re coming at you! ‘Not you!’ And they’re coming at you! Performing, it was always the idea that the audience didn’t like you and you had to prove yourself. I think that’s why a lot of people get stage fright and get nervous. You think, ‘Oh my god, I’m gonna be terrible, they hate me, and it’s all terrible.’ And so I think that was one of the earliest fears. I remember nearly giving it all up when we were doing a concert in Wembley – which was a Poll-Winners concert – in the really early days of The Beatles. And I remember feeling physically sick with a knot in my stomach thinking, ‘I should give this up, this is just too painful, what am I doing?’ I got over it. And as you can see I didn’t give it up! So that’s two different kinds of fears.

Do you still get stage fright now?

Paul McCartney: Not too bad. What I do is I always say to my promoter when a tour is coming up: ‘Put one show on sale and see how it goes.’ And he’ll ring me back and say, ‘It’s sold out! Twenty minutes!’ So I’ve got to assume that they like me. So it gives you a confidence and I think I can probably relax, they probably like me. And it means you can enjoy the show more.

Bob Dylan recently took part in a tribute album featuring your songs. If you were to cover one of Dylan’s songs, which would you choose?

Paul McCartney: Thank you Guillem. That’s a very difficult question to answer, as there are so many great songs. I mean, ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ just comes to mind because it’s something you could cover. Singing Dylan songs can be difficult because something like ‘Like A Rolling Stone’, it’s so Dylan that it would be hard to get the spirit that he puts on it. ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’ is another good one, you know. I’d put that on a list as well. Hi Paul, we’ve heard a story about you appearing on a Beach Boys song ‘playing’ a stick of celery. Is that true?

Paul McCartney: Yeah, that is true, yeah! I mean it was wild and wacky days, you know, and I just went round to the studio because they invited me. I just thought it would be fun to sit there and watch them record, ‘cause I’m a big fan. And so I was there, and then it was, I think, Brian who came over and said, ‘Oh Paul, got a favour to ask: would you mind recording something?’ I thought, ‘Oh, no! But great, I could do that!’ Oh God, I’m gonna be singing on a Beach Boys record or something, you know! I got a bit kind of intimidated and thought, ‘Okay, here goes nothing’. And they said, ‘Well, what we want you to do is go in there and just munch!’ …Well, I can do that! So, if you hear somebody munching celery, that’s me! In the lyrics at the end, there’s a line that goes: “I know that you’ll feel better when you send us in your letter and tell us the name of your favourite vegetable”. So tell us, do you have a favourite vegetable?

Paul McCartney: Do I have a favourite vegetable? I don’t know, broccoli came into my mind. And then sweet potato came into my mind too. So it’s a toss up between those two?

Paul McCartney: Yeah. And then, of course, chips. Chips comes roaring in at number one!

Last updated on March 6, 2021


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