Interview for • 2018

You Gave Me The Answer (2018)

Press interview • Interview of Paul McCartney

Songs mentioned in this interview

Back In Brazil

Officially appears on Egypt Station


Officially appears on Help! (Mono)

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What are your favourite American television shows of all time?

Paul: “Thanks for your question, Louisa. Well, you know it depends what genre. I mean, if it’s a series then I liked ‘Breaking Bad’ a lot. And then game shows? I like ‘Family Fortunes!’” (AKA ‘Family Feud’ in the US!) “We’ve seen you watching that on tour!”

Paul: “I nearly always have that on in the dressing room before a show because you don’t have to think too hard and it’s not depressing. You know, whereas if you’ve got the news channel something could come on that can makes me think, ‘Oh, my God!’ And then you’ve got to try and do a show!

“So, I like Steve Harvey in America doing ‘Family Fortunes’. I just like guessing at, you know [does impression] ‘100 men, were asked what…’ And I like trying to get the top answer! I just think it’s a fun show, you know. So that’s nice and light. And then as I say, series probably ‘Breaking Bad’ and I like ‘Veep’, with Julia Louis-Dreyfus. She’s very funny and I think it’s a hilarious look at her being the Vice President. It’s very like the British series ‘The Thick of It’.”

With all the touring and travelling you do, you must be an expert in dealing with the consequences of flying long distances. What’s your advice to avoid jetlag?

Paul McCartney: Thank you for your question, Oliver. Yeah, it’s true I’ve done it a lot so I have ways to hopefully avoid it. If I’m flying from the UK to America for instance, I try and stay up. I don’t sleep on the plane. Instead, I try and watch about three movies between here and New York and I may sort of doze a little bit, but I force myself to stay awake so that when I get to somewhere like New York, I can then pretend that it’s early evening – even though in my body it’s probably one in the morning! So, I just stay up! You know, watch movies, get there, and have a normal evening – go to dinner, etc. So by the time I go to bed that night, I am well and truly knackered, and I sleep like a log. “So you don’t do that, ‘Oh, it’s this time at home’ thing, and keep an eye on both time zones?”

Paul McCartney: “No, I just try and swap to the new time zone straight away. But for that I do try and stay awake. And then coming back I try and take a night flight so I can actually sleep. The longer the journey coming back – coming from west to east – the better. When it’s just six hours as it is from New York to London, it’s not really enough because by the time you sort of get yourself ready you’ve only got about four hours. But yeah, I just go with the flow and you know the next day I’m normally a little bit dazed. I try not to have anything very important on the next day so I can just try to enjoy the dazed feeling!” “What would be a good theme song for your life?”

PM: “The Long and Winding Road.” “Okay, I think you can just mic-drop that and walk out!”

PM: *Drops mic*

You’re known to experiment with musical genres. Have you ever thought of exploring some of the Latin American genres like son, rumba, salsa, merengue, tango, samba, etc.?

Paul McCartney: Thanks for your question, Yvonne. And yeah, once or twice! You know I’ve done something along those lines. My new album actually has something which is decidedly Latin. But I don’t know if it will make the cut. You never know with these things, but I think it will and people will understand what I’m talking about when they hear it. But I love Latin rhythms and have often experimented with them, but not a definitive thing like a tango or a salsa. It’s more the general rhythms of the country that I love.

Do you believe in destiny or fate?

Paul McCartney: Thanks for your question, Ted. I believe in a mixture of fate, destiny, luck, magic and hard work! And the reason is that so many things have happened to me that are not easy to explain. For instance, the fact I dreamed the melody to my song ‘Yesterday’. I woke up one morning and remembered this dream and this beautiful tune was playing. And I thought, ‘I love that tune’. And I couldn’t think what it was but I happen to have a piano by my bedside. So I sort of laid it out and to help remember it. I would ask people for the next few weeks, ‘What’s this? Have you heard this?’ First of all, John would say ‘I dunno’. And George Martin would say, ‘I don’t know’. And I asked various people who I thought might know. So after a couple of weeks, they said, ‘It’s yours! You’ve written it!’ And I didn’t write it. I woke up and it was in my head. So, you know, I see that as what I said in the opening sentence of the answer: it’s luck, it’s fate, it’s destiny, it’s magic and somewhere there’s hard work. But, in that instance, I don’t know where! Well, you wouldn’t have been able to get pen to paper if you didn’t do the hard work!

Paul: Well, I did have to record it and make more of it so… But yeah, those kinds of things happen to me a lot. I often think ‘How did The Beatles get together?’ Four guys that lived in a city in the north of England, but didn’t know each other at first. And then gradually, bit by bit, they got to know each other. And then they happened to be good playing together. And then they happened to have the will and the… Well, you know, all the things that it needed to make it into something huge! Do you ever think: If I hadn’t been in that place and at that time then perhaps this wouldn’t have happened? Do you believe you would have got there anyway? Or in a different way?

Paul: I don’t know, and that’s the mystery! Would it have happened in another way? I happen to have a very good friend at school, one of my best friends at school who knew John. So he introduced us. But if I didn’t happen to know my best friend, I wouldn’t have known John. I had a bus route that George also shared. So if I hadn’t had gotten that bus route, or he happened to not live nearby and taken that bus route… So there are all these small things that had to happen to make it happen. So it’s nice and I think that there is some kind of magic! “How did The Beatles keep up with sixties fashion and were any of those outfits you had to wear ever uncomfortable?”

Paul: “Thanks for your question, Jake. Well, we were slightly – you could call it arrogant or confident – in our own sense of fashion. We basically just knew what we liked. It all started in Liverpool with Rock ‘n’ Roll fashion. The hair dos all swept back into a quiff, all that kind of thing. The trousers got narrower – we called them drainpipes – you know, from the old school trousers. And then as time went on we went to places like Hamburg where we were influenced by friends of ours out there. And we found their style of dress was very interesting because we were still rockers and were sort of into leather jackets and things. We were trying to be like Gene Vincent, the American Rock ‘n’ Roll singer, who was one of our idols.

“So we came back from Hamburg and the next phase was that John and I had our hair cut when we were in Paris, by one of the guys. A guy called Jürgen [Vollmer], who was a photographer, had been part of this crowd. So now that was kind of the next stage in our ‘look’. We came down to London and spent a lot of time just looking in shop windows. You would go along the King’s Road and you’d see a great shirt, or a great jacket or something. By now we were starting to earn money, so you would buy those things and then you’d see guys in other groups who would be like, ‘Where did you get your shirt man? Cecil Gee? Ah right, OK!!’ You’d trade information. But the thing is, it wasn’t so much that we were following fashion, so much as being part of it. It wasn’t like we were following a trend; we were in the trend.

“So that was kind of a good feeling, and then as things developed we started to actually set trends – not meaning to – but we would just do certain things or wear certain things. I’m not saying me personally, or even The Beatles personally, but our group of friends. It might be The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, and all those kind of people around at that time. So, it didn’t feel like we were having to ‘keep up’ – it felt like they were having to keep up with us!

“It was good fun! We just kind of wore what we liked and then as time went on we got into the psychedelic era and we met some people, a collective called ‘The Fool’. They designed clothes and would custom make them for you. And those were very much the sort of psychedelic brightly coloured things that still, to me today, when you look at those clothes – they look like clothes from the future! They don’t look like clothes from the past! Those pictures, if you look at ‘Magical Mystery Tour’, something like ‘I Am the Walrus’. Those are basically made by those people. They were Dutch kids – students – but they made clothes. Again, we were part of the trend rather than following it.

“The whole Beatles thing was very fast, from A to Z. The amount that we packed in, it’s just about ten years. But the amount of music, fashion knowledge, writing, that happened in those ten years was phenomenal!”“Was fashion something you were always interested in?”

Paul: “I wouldn’t have thought of it as fashion. If I thought about fashion, I would have thought about Vogue Magazine and models, plenty of whom were on the scene and who we knew, like Twiggy and Celia Hammond. I didn’t feel like we were part of that. I felt like we were developing alongside that, on a kind of parallel track. And to some degree, I think we were setting the trend.” “We’ve been wondering whether or not you are a sports fan? What sports do you like to watch?”

Paul:“I do like to watch sport on TV. I think because my wife Nancy is American, and my first wife Linda was also American, I’ve got into sports I perhaps otherwise wouldn’t have gotten in to. Like American football, basketball. And college basketball, that’s really pretty interesting. But my main interest is watching the athletics, or as the American’s would say: track and field. I like that, that’s really my favourite.

“I also like English football. I like all the big events really! A few weeks ago the Liverpool team played Real Madrid in Kiev, so I was really into that. That was a big match for me, of course, coming from Liverpool. Now the thing is my family are actually Everton supporters because my dad was born in Everton. So we’ve always traditionally been blue. But years ago I met Kenny Dalglish who was first a player and then a manager for the Liverpool team. And he was a bit of a fan and he used to bring the team to a few of our shows, so I got to know him and like him. So I thought, ‘You know what? I’m going to support the Liverpool team as well!’ So it’s sacrilege really because you’re not meant to support both, like Chelsea and Tottenham. But because they are both Liverpool teams and I have allegiances to both, so my football teams would be Everton and Liverpool… or Ever-pool!”“Do you have a message for the England team for the W­­­­­­­­orld Cup?”

Paul: “Please win the World Cup, England! That would be a bit good. I’ll be crossing my fingers like the rest of us and hoping for the best!”

Do you have any summer reading? And which albums do you think you’ll take on holiday this year? And why?

Paul: Yeah, I’m reading something very unsummery at the moment which is ‘Grant’ about Ulysses S. Grant the American president. There’s no hint of summer in that! It’s all very war and politics, but I like it and I’m interested in knowing about him. So it doesn’t matter really, I wouldn’t buy something to read that was to do with the time of year, I’ll just buy because it’s something I’d take on holiday. And it might be just a big book, like ‘Grant’ is a fat volume: I’d buy it just so I have plenty to get through.

That’s where ‘Hamilton’ [the musical] came from. The guy who wrote this is Ron Chernow and he wrote a book on Hamilton in the same vein. Lin[-Manuel Miranda] bought the ‘Hamilton’ book to go on holiday with him. He read it and got fascinated. And thought, my God, this is hip-hop even though it was American history. The attitudes were very hip-hop. So that’s what lead him to write the musical ‘Hamilton’. So we should be expecting a musical from you soon?

Paul: Oh no, not about Grant! So I’ll just be looking forward to the weather, getting outdoors a lot and the reading will be whatever I kind of fancy, but it wont really be summer related. For music, I immediately thought of ‘Pet Sounds’ by The Beach Boys. And then I thought of Neil Young. But I’ll be playing my new album… [Paul winks and nudges] Plug! Plug! The album of the summer!

Paul: Oh yeah, the album of the summer… let me tell you! [Laughs] Why did you use the Japanese word “Ichiban” in ‘Back In Brazil’? 

Paul: Well, I originally blocked in that little phrase with ‘hechibam, hechibam’ thinking that later – when I went to Brazil – someone would say ‘Oh, that’s very similar to * a proper Brazilian word * ‘ I was getting a massage in Brazil – and it happened to be by a Japanese lady –  and somehow the word ‘Ichiban’ came up in conversation. I said, ‘That’s  Japanese, isn’t it?’ and she said,’Yeah it is! It means great, fabulous, number one!’

I thought,’Oh wow, that’s it! That’s the word! And the rationale for it was that the largest population of Japanese people – outside Japan – is in Brazil. So I said to her, ‘Have you got a group of mates that could  sing, who could help? I’d like to just record that word ‘Ichiban’!’ She said, ‘Yeah, I could probably …’ So I asked,’Do you think they could come to a studio tomorrow?’ as I was about leave the country. She said,’Sure, I think I can get some people together!’ So I said, ‘About 6 o’clock or something?’ as I was due to leave at around 8 o’clock. She said,’No, no, they’ll still be working.’ So I asked ‘7 o’clock?’ and she said, ‘Yeah!’ So I organised a little studio on the way out to the airport, and managed to arrange for her  friends to come! So, I came in and told them what I wanted to do, and we had a lot of fun! It only took about half an hour or so, and I got them to shout ‘Ichiban! Ichiban!’ and we had to try and get it in time, and accurate. But that’s what happened – crazy story! But that is how the Japanese word ‘Ichiban’ happens to be in ‘Back In Brazil’!

Last updated on April 7, 2021


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