July 28, 2015 -- Liverpool Echo
Sir Paul McCartney back in Liverpool for annual LIPA graduation ceremony
Among those receiving LIPA companionship's from Sir Paul were Slade's Noddy Holder, Travis star Fran Healy and Everyman's Gemma Bodinetz
Sir Paul McCartney was back in Liverpool today for the annual LIPA graduation ceremony.
The Beatles star was on hand to honour the institute's new Companions, who this year included Gemma Bodinetz, the artistic director of the Everyman and Playhouse theatres since 2003.
Among others from the arts and entertainment world receiving the accolade from Sir Paul LIPA's co-founder today were Slade star Noddy Holder and Travis frontman Fran Healy.
The other five new Companions were four-time Grammy-winning record producer Hugh Padgham, music manager and founder of Quest Management Scott Rodger, theatre designer Conor Murphy, professor of applied and social theatre James Thompson and contemporary dancer, choreographer and artistic director of Phoenix Dance Theatre Sharon Watson.
LIPA awards Companionships for outstanding achievement and practical contribution to students' learning.
professor John T Rago, who has supported LIPA through pro bono
work for the past 20 years, will also become an Honoured Friend
Mark Featherstone-Witty, LIPA's founding principal and CEO, said: "The government recognises that the creative economy generates £8.8m each hour to our economy and yet, with the second attempt to define essential disciplines for schools, does not rate the disciplines we teach as essential.
"Well, with around 95% of our graduates in work three years after leaving us, is the government trying to destroy, as it did with international students, a great British success story?"
Around 280 students from 16 countries graduated at today's ceremony, having completed either foundation certificate or degree programmes.
Sir Paul McCartney
with newly named fellow companions (left- right back row) Scott
Rodger, John Rago, Mark Featherstone-Whitty, Conor Murphy, Hugh
Padgham (left- right front Row) Sharon Watson, Noddy Holder, Sir
Paul McCartney, Gemma Bodinetz, Fran Healy and James Thompson,
ahead of the the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts graduation
ceremony at the Echo Arena, Liverpool.
July 21, 2015 -- PM.com
For Whom The Bell Tells 2015 Touring - PART ONE
As we reach the halfway point of 2015, it seemed a good time to get my tour diaries in order and share with you some of the fantastic experiences we've had alongside Paul this year. Paul has already spent a serious amount of the year on radio playlists across the world with his friends Rihanna and Kanye; travelled thousands of miles; played live to more than half a million people; visited places he has never been before; hit the front pages of papers all over the world, received five-star reviews for his sold-out shows; been branded an "international treasure" by the South Korean media; trended in many of the places he has played; had a breed of tulip named in his honour; and, phew, the list goes on. What's more, he marked the 50th birthday of his song Yesterday which remains not only one of the most-played songs on radio but is one of the most-covered tracks of all time.
It's only now, as I look through his diary so far this year, that I can get some perspective to appreciate how much he's managed to pack in to such a short space of time. His achievements for the past few months alone could be the career highlights for your average rock star - but 'average' is not a description you could apply to our boss!
So, I've tried my best to keep
this succinct and stick to the many highlights - otherwise we'd
all be here for a few days! To make this easier to read the diaries
will be posted in separate parts in the coming weeks. Here is
Part 1: 'Out There' in Asia 2015.
'OUT THERE' - Asian dates - April/May 2015
OSAKA, JAPAN (April 20, 2015)
It's 5am (yes, a bleary-eyed 5am - we have early starts in the music business too) and we're on our way to Osaka Airport in the pouring rain. I'm with the media team, MJ and Charlie, heading to meet Paul who is due to land shortly after 7am. As we arrive, it's clear the rain has done nothing to deter the fans or the Japanese press from showing up in full force, even at such an unearthly hour. Very impressive, and it says so much about their devotion you could feel the contagious excitement in the arrival area. Some of the beaming faces in the crowd have become familiar to us too, as we're now on our third trip in as many years. Many of the fans are holding signs some of them looking very cool - and are keen to show off their handiwork to us.
TV cameras and photographers wait in a polite and orderly fashion that still feels slightly surprising, even though this is a repeat visit (of course, no one will be quite as calm in the hours that follow, of course). Now we are not the only ones putting in long hours we take the lead from our boss. Just the evening before, Paul was in Cleveland, Ohio, to take part in the induction of Ringo Starr into the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame before jumping on the plane to Japan. Right on time, Mark Hamilton (our security guy) tells us Paul has landed. This message has apparently been passed to the waiting media too, prompting a flurry of activity - photographers start to focus on the arrival doors, reporters busily chat to camera in anticipation of him passing though.
It's all a bit overwhelming for some of his fans, who are in tears as they realise they will soon be in Paul's presence. And then, it happens. The arrival doors open and BOOM - Macca is back! Like the onstage pyrotechnics during a performance of 'Live And Let Die', the fans erupt and the press go into overdrive. It says a lot about the politeness of Japan that despite the tumult, the photographers respectfully call out "Sir" as they try to attract PM's attention. Now, I've been to lots of media calls with Paul over the years and I can barely remember an occasion where the snappers address him so formally. Cries of "oi, Macca" or "over 'ere mate" usually fill the air. Paul happily poses and charms them by greeting everyone - photographers, reporters and fans - in Japanese, which escalates the mania even further.
Paul proceeds through the heaving hall, shaking hands all the way. Each step he takes towards the fans is met by a surge forwards from the masses, but he takes it all in his stride, clearly moved by the astounding reception. At one stage he is handed a ukulele by a small child who wants him to sign it and Paul obligingly and happily does so. Eventually, he makes it to a lift, which whisks him clear of the arrivals area and the polite pandemonium. "Oh boy," he says, as the lift doors close. "This is a nice way to come to work."
Paul jumps into a car and is finally on his way to the hotel. What an entrance and what a welcome one that will set the tone for the huge adventure awaiting us.
Twelve hours later, Paul is arriving at the mega baseball stadium, Osaka Dome, for rehearsals, but before he gets down to business there is time for a chat with the editor of British Esquire magazine, Alex Bilmes, who is with us on the road for a few days to work on McCartney cover story (due to hit newsstands in July). Paul's shows are always evolving and there have been a few tweaks and changes that he and the band need to look at, so everyone gets their heads down to ensure everything sounds pristine.
We also take delivery of the local evening papers, which have gone to town on our man's arrival. There is much excitement about how Paul took the trouble to address the crowd in Japanese. It appears many Western visitors make little to no effort with the language. If Paul can manage, then maybe everybody should. It's been a fabulous start but the real work begins for Paul tomorrow with the first concert.
OSAKA (April 21, 2015)
On his way to The Dome, Paul calls a local radio station telling the DJ he's "happy and excited to be back". The presenter explains she cannot believe she is talking to a music God. Paul tells the station he has had the toughest massage he has ever experienced, that morning at the hotel, as well as praising his fans whom he said have always been the highlight of his previous shows in Japan. As for the show itself, it might be best for the Japanese reviewers do the talking to give you a flavour of how his opening night went:
"Wassup Osaka, I'm back!"
Paul returns with 37 songs (SANKEI SPORTS)
Thrilling his fans with a punchy greeting in Japanese, Paul set the tone for the performance with a strong performance of 'Magical Mystery Tour'. Dedicating 'My Valentine' to his wife Nancy and 'Maybe I'm Amazed' to his late wife Linda, he also nodded to former band mates John and George with performances of 'Here Today' and 'Something'. Announcing in Japanese the world premiere of 'Hope for the Future', he also brought the entire audience together in a performance of 'Hey Jude' by directing their singing in Japanese. The giant LED screens also featured live translations of his English words
Paul in fine voice with "Wassup
Osaka, I'm back!" (SPORTS NIPPON)
After the cancellation of last year's tour, 40,000 fans gave Paul a rapturous welcome last night at the Osaka Dome. Starting with a powerful performance of 'Magical Mystery Tour', he greeted the crowd in Japanese before running through some 37 songs from The Beatles period and the new album - including a premiere performance of 'Hope For The Future'. The powerful two-and-a-half-our set was done without him drinking a drop of water - and this after a 50-minute soundcheck
"I'm Back"; The voice
we'd been waiting to hear (SANKEI SHIMBUN)
Paul McCartney thrilled 40,000 fans with a fine performance last night in Osaka where he started his new tour. Greeting his fans in Japanese, he ran through numbers from The Beatles' catalogue and the new album, putting to rest the worries of fans who missed seeing him last year.
As you can tell from that small selection, Paul was back alright!
TOKYO DOME, first show (April 23, 2015)
Yesterday we shuttled between cities from Osaka to Tokyo - on the bullet train, jet lag and the results of a late night post-show beginning to creep up on us. Nevertheless everyone is in great spirits and Paul in particular is excited to be on the high-speed train. He tells me, "It's a great way to see Japan and some of the country's culture. It's really very interesting and different to the trains we go on at home and in the US."
Today, we are joined at The Dome by the Morning Bird Breakfast TV crew who are spending the day with us. It is the biggest morning show in Japan and the team are doing a special report on Paul's triumphant return. They are being given a behind-the-scenes tour backstage, chatting to Paul and seeing how an event of this huge scale comes together.
The presenter's interpreter tells me he is very nervous. Despite the programme being so successful, the host has never interviewed anyone quite like Paul before. I do my best to reassure him and explain Paul is a cool interviewee, but I get the feeling it is doing little to allay his anxiety. The stakes are high because other networks were desperately clamouring for this interview and he is feeling the pressure. As soon as Paul arrives though, I can see the presenter visibly relax as our interviewee chats happily and excitedly about being back in Japan. There is a funny moment where the TV presenter says he cannot believe he is standing next to the real Paul McCartney. Paul grabs his hand assuring him he is real and urges him to touch his face to prove it.
Interview over, we then follow
Paul to his dressing room where he has agreed a Q&A for Japanese
social networking site LINE. Forget Twitter and Instagram, over
here it is all about LINE and Paul's stats are crazy. He's even
launched his very own set of stickers (think along the lines of
emojis) which feature him speaking Japanese. Paul loves them and
before the session gets underway he is having loads of fun using
them to answer any questions that we have for him, even before
the fans take part. As his media duties wind up, we leave Paul
to get ready for the first night in Tokyo. Again, the show is
a roaring success. Our friends at Morning Bird go on to dedicate
a full 45 minutes of their programme to Paul and the tour. My
PR man on the ground, Masa, assures me this is unprecedented -
which is exactly the sort of thing we like to hear!
TOKYO DOME, second show (April 25, 2015)
On a beautiful warm and breezy Saturday afternoon, the streets around The Tokyo Dome are lined with enthusiastic fans. Some in costumes of their favourite Paul moment over the years, many in Beatles or Wings t-shirts and they are all there to try to catch a glimpse of Paul arriving. They are not disappointed either. As Paul's car hits the road running up to the venue he winds the window down to wave at the crowds, creating an unforgettable moment for everyone present. Just after 4.15pm, the car pulls up outside the backstage set-down point and Paul jumps out. "Hey, did you the see the crowds out there?" he asks. "The fans here are so cool". With that, he runs down the corridors to the stage to do his soundcheck.
A little later I grab Paul to do an interview with the Japanese Animal Rights Centre about their recent launch of a Meat Free Monday in Japan. Needless to say they are delighted - and grateful - that Paul is lending his support to help raise their profile.
When the show comes around,
it seems like the crowds just keep getting louder. The audience
is well up for it and Paul more than lives up to the legend.
TOKYO DOME, third show (April 27, 2015)
It is our last day at the Dome (yesterday was a day off) although the Japanese promoter tells us he could have carried on filling the venue for weeks to come, such is the demand. This story from a local tabloid newspaper caught my eye, and gives you an idea of how big a deal the shows are:
Dentist arrested for scalping Police arrested two men last night on suspicion of selling on a ticket for the Paul McCartney show at Tokyo Dome, priced at ¥18,000, for¥80,000. A dentist from Hyogo Prefecture and a senior member of a crime syndicate from Tokyo were detained on suspicion of infringing the anti-touting legislation by conspiring to sell the ticket in a men's toilet adjacent to the venue.
Needless to say the show goes brilliantly and I get the feeling none of us want to leave Tokyo. And indeed, although we have finished that run of shows, we are staying in the city for the next performance, merely moving on to a different venue although this isn't just ANY venue.
BUDOKAN, Tokyo (April 28, 2015)
Today is one of those days that will stay with me, and the rest of the crew, for our entire lives. There have been so many highlights over the years to pick from, but today easily ranks as one of the best. We'll be talking about this until we are drawing our last breaths. Paul McCartney is back at the Budokan, to make history yet again. To set the scene, Paul and The Beatles became the first pop act to play this martial arts venue back in 1966, a performance which, it is fair to say, ruffled a few feathers of those who did not think rock and roll was quite the thing to have in such a venerated spot. Anticipation for his return has heightened even more because Paul had to postpone his return (which had been due to take place last year) because he was poorly. But now it is all systems go. The significance of this show in Japan is huge, and in fact, its importance goes well beyond these shores to make headlines around the world.
Britain's biggest newspaper The Sun will say of the show: "His return to The Budokan was not so much a concert as a pseudo religious experience. It felt like Beatlemania had returned." There is a buzz in the air all day around this particular location all day. Fans lining the streets from the early hours, along with the media. Even those that couldn't get tickets turn up en masse with the hope of simply finding a great position to hear the concert outside the venue.
Production inside is stripped back. A show that is normally produced for huge outdoor audiences is, for one-night-only, squeezed into a venue that for most artists would be a pretty big concert, but by PM standards it is the equivalent of a club gig, with little over a quarter of the capacity of our home for the previous three nights. The set-list is trimmed back from 39 songs to 28. Mind you, that's quite an improvement on The Beatles' original performance, which stretched to just 11 songs. The atmosphere is electric and everybody feels that something special is happening. As a surprise Paul adds the song 'Another Girl' from the Help! album to the set the first time a Beatle has ever performed the track live, which makes news in its own right.
Before Paul takes to the stage,
I ask him about his thoughts from the first time he came here.
He says: "It was very interesting because we didn't know
what to expect. We'd come from the west and didn't really know
anything about the Japanese culture. We were very surprised with
things like, you'd go into a room and there'd be women sitting
there and they'd jump up and give us their chair. And we never
saw that in the west - you know, women don't do that. But the
main thing was the show and it was a great show. It was very interesting
to see the Japanese audiences, because then they were very polite.
You know, Japanese society is a very polite society and we loved
that. It was very interesting to see it. You know, they loved
what we did but they waited. They waited until we had finished
the song then they clapped very politely. It's changed over the
years, because now people are much more used to western shows
and they like to rock out a bit more. But I think we enjoyed it,
I think the audience enjoyed it just as much. It was very exciting.
Well, I wasn't there on that visit in 1966 but as a witness to Paul's 2015 show I can confirm this time round the audience did not wait until the end of the songs to show their appreciation. They were up for it - so much so, it felt like the venue was shaking with the crowd reaction. And frankly, we were all shaking with the gushing press reaction afterwards. Here's a taste:
Paul back at
the Budokan after 49 years (SANKEI SPORTS)
Paul McCartney "got back" to the Budokan last night with a special show that included a world premiere performance of an early Beatles number. He appeared moved by a wild response reminiscent of his first appearance there with The Beatles in 1966, telling the audience in Japanese that it "brought back memories". Paul McCartney returned last night to the hallowed ground with the same Hofner bass he played 49 years ago. Greeting the crowd in Japanese with "Welcome to the Budokan', his two-hour show was a legendary concert that included songs from the original set in a venue which he transformed from a martial arts temple to a shrine to rock.
It's good to
be back, Budokan (NIKKEI SHIMBUN)
Paul McCartney delighted some 10,000 fans last night in a concert at the Budokan, played some 49 years after he originally stood there on stage with the late John Lennon in 1966. The set featured several classic Beatles numbers which were greeted with rapturous cheers that shook the ground at the end of each song.
Paul revives the mania and
creates a new legend (SPORTS NIPPON)
Half a century on, Paul McCartney got back to the Budokan last night, yeah, yeah, yeah! Returning to a place he had made into hallowed ground, the start of his concert was delayed by an hour and a half due to the volume of fans all round the building, but McCartney told the audience in Japanese that it was "good to be back" as he thrilled them with 28 numbers in fine voice. The Beatles were the first ever rock band to play in the Budokan when they came here in 1966, creating a sensation with many kids playing truant to go to see them. Paul was due to play here last year but had to cancel due to illness but he made up for it in style last night with a legendary concert that delighted his fans, both of those that remembered him from before, and those that were not even born at the time.
Travel Day - (April 30, 2015)
We (the crew) leave Tokyo to head to Seoul in South Korea, but Paul is spending another night in Tokyo and will travel tomorrow for a rehearsal ahead of the stadium show on Saturday. As I land in Seoul my phone rings and it's John Hammel, Paul's right hand man. John tells me a brilliant story about how he and Paul had just been for a bike ride in Tokyo. They had managed to ride from the hotel up to the Budokan, completely unnoticed. Not only that, they left their bikes outside and sneaked into the venue as the production crew were preparing for another show that evening. John took a picture of Paul hanging out inside the venue (which you can see on Paul's Instagram). Needless to say the Japanese press went into overdrive when they saw Paul's photo online.
SEOUL OLYMPIC STADIUM - (May 2, 2015)
This is a first time visit to South Korea for Paul, but it is a trip he has been discussing and thinking about for years. Once again, the huge crowds at the airport demonstrate the excitement surrounding his arrival. It's a little less orderly than the scenes greeting him a couple of weeks ago in Osaka, mainly because this is his debut on Korean soil.
Some fans have been waiting most of their lives for this moment so you can imagine the sort of buzz being generated. They cannot quite believe it when they see Paul coming through the airport doors. As he steps through, the place is in uproar. Fans are screaming, shouting, singing, jumping up and down and doing anything they can to get a glimpse of their idol. That tell-tale electronic click of cameras chirrups in all directions. It is a completely mad arrival for what will be a mad concert.
There is extra significance with this show for Paul's tour photographer MJ Kim, who is originally from South Korea. He is over the moon, but also nervous in the days leading up to the show because he wants to ensure Paul receives a brilliant welcome here. MJ has been explaining to us for ages just how important this visit is and now we are seeing first hand what sort of impact his arrival is having.
One of the many stand-out memories of the evening is the rain. Wow, does it rain! It buckets down but clearly nothing is going to dampen the spirits at this show. As Paul says from the stage: "What if it rained? We didn't care." And they really don't care - they just want to party.
During the Asian leg of the tour, MJ shot a series of Polaroid's to feature on UK music website The Line Of Best Fit. You can check out the cool results HERE:
Over to the reviews to round off our visit to Asia:
Long live Sir
Paul! (KOREAN TIMES)
"Let me have what he had!" I was thinking to myself as I watched the show. For three hours it was like having the best non-stop music playing on the best jukebox - only better.
McCartney leads 45,000 in a
huge sing-a-long in an evening that made us feel like we watched
the show of a god " (JOONGANG DAILY)
It was a very special performance that will leave a permanent mark on the history of live music in Korea. The emotional evening was full of singing, dancing, shouting, praise and admiration. It was as if he was giving us gift after gift as he presented song after song from his repertoire. The most successful artist in history also gave a master class in fan service. Totally different from any other international artist we've had here in the past Paul obviously took time to learn about our culture, tastes and even our language. His comments made us laugh and smile whilst his music touched our hearts.
A day in the
life (DONGAH WEEKLY)
We've had many legendary visitors here before and often the hype and speculation turns out to be wrong. However, no one ever gave such an incredible and emotional performance like Paul McCartney did. I can't recall a performer I've seen that had so much passion and energy on stage. Paul gave us a day we'll never forget. The opening section of the show was like receiving continuous jabs from an expert boxer. Not only does he have the songs, but he spoke in Korean as well as having translations on the massive screens which is a first for us it really demonstrates how much he cares. Many went home after the show on cloud nine and we know many had a hard time sleeping that night with their hearts still pounding, not wanting the experience to stop. We witnessed the greatest artist of all time. We saw the history of popular music, the present and the future all in one night.
And with that we are off to the UK leg of the tour and I will be sharing the next installment with you shortly.
After a short live break since finishing the Asian leg, it was on to the UK. Of course, there has been little time for idling and even in the downtime there was still a one-off charity show in New York to play. Paul had not brought his tour to the UK for three years, so when he announced a series of homecoming shows in March there was a feverish excitement and huge demand for tickets (shows selling out pretty much instantly!). To celebrate the tour's homecoming, Paul appeared on the front of monthly music magazine Q with the headline "From writing Yesterday to collaborating with Kanye at home with a pop genius". Paul, the band and the crew myself included are still buzzing from the Asian leg when we pick it up in London.
- UK Dates - May 2015
LONDON O2 ARENA (May 23 and May 24, 2015)
The opening night at The O2 also turns out to be Paul's 50th solo show in London and half centuries clearly appear to be in the air. Before he hits the stage, he is presented with a special award by British TV favourites Ant and Dec to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the composition of his song 'Yesterday'.
Ahead of the shows, Paul spoke to London's Evening Standard newspaper about nerves and the perils of on-stage blunders, saying: "I used to be terrified, as are most entertainers, of making a mistake. Now I realise the audiences don't mind. In fact - they quite like it. You get these little 'eureka' moments - you make a mistake and go 'Christ'. I did one a few years ago in Paris. I started 'Penny Lane' with the wrong verse and I had to stop the song and start again. We ground to a halt and the audience went mad. They enjoyed it and I said, 'At least it proves we're live'. The review said it was the most marvellous bit."
For the record, I watched both London shows and I don't see any mistakes. Over the weekend, the backstage corridors at The O2 are full of famous faces including Dave Grohl, who comes on stage as a guest to play 'I Saw Her Standing There'. Paul is always keen to keep a lid on surprises like that. In an interview with BBC Radio 6 Music, he said before the show: "With the Internet, there's no surprises these days. So the minute you've done a thing, everyone knows. It just goes 'Sczhoop!" and it goes live. So, it would be nice to be able to say, here's a surprise, you know. Any surprises we've got, will be surprises."
Also at The O2 are Game Of Thrones actor Kit Harington, The Killers' front-man Brandon Flowers, Martin Freeman, David Walliams, Steve Coogan and Simon Pegg and they are all just like the rest of us huge fans of Paul.
Tweeting after the show Ant and Dec said: "Had the most amazing night seeing Paul McCartney. Just brilliant."
Radio presenter Edith Bowman was another who was there and she emailed on her way home to thank Paul for, "The most incredible night. It was thoroughly wonderful and highly emotional. I loved it so very much."
The reviews were great too, with the Telegraph, Independent, Guardian and Evening Standard giving Paul five stars each. Great, honest and accurate reporting!
BIRMINGHAM, BARCLAYCARD ARENA (May 27, 2015)
Paul arrives in Birmingham just before 5pm, looking extremely smart in a black jacket, crisp white shirt and dark blue jeans. He hotfoots it to the stage where he chats with the boys in the band - Wix, Brian, Abe and Rusty - before opening the soundcheck with a bluesy jam and ad-libs about the host city "Well, well, welcome to Birmingham," he sings from the stage. When Paul changes from his Les Paul to his Hofner, the soundcheck attendees go mad shouting out their requests. Many of the "soundcheckers" (as Paul calls them) are part of the 'Fans On The Run' group of devotees that we see at many of the shows. They are a terrific collective and always fun to hang out with. Like their idol they have boundless energy and are always up for a great time. Thanks for the badges, guys!
Much to their delight, Paul and the band play 'One After 909', a song rich in history written after he and John Lennon first met 58 years ago and first performed in the studio while The Beatles were recording 'From Me To You', and famously performed at the rooftop 'Get Back' concert in 1969.
Halfway through the soundcheck a fan shouts to the stage, "I saw you in Liverpool yesterday", which Paul hears and teases: "Did you? That wasn't me, it was my lookalike. I don't go anywhere, I just stay in a room all day." Pointing at himself and much to the amusement of those gathered around, he continues: "This is my lookalike. He (Paul McCartney) doesn't come out for concerts and things. He just sits in his room watching telly."
Today's soundcheck also includes 'Drive My Car', 'C Moon', 'Let 'Em In', 'It's So Easy', as a special request from the audience (or "A vulgar loudmouth lout" as Paul jokes), 'Hope of Deliverance', 'Follow The Sun' and 'Lady Madonna'.
I've written about Paul's soundchecks previously, but it's pretty impressive when you stop to think about it. Artists for whom I've worked with over the years will just run through a couple of songs and check the instruments, but Paul's soundchecks are almost like a concert in their own right - and often longer than The Beatles shows ever lasted!
Shortly after soundcheck finishes I head backstage to find the man who "just sits in his room watching telly" and, ahem, I can confirm that he is actually sitting in his room watching telly! But I'm certain this is actually the real Paul McCartney and not a lookalike. I have a few pictures to run past the boss for his social media. The team in France have sent me some cool pictures of Paul posters on the street of Paris and in the Metro, and he thinks these could be fun to post on his Instagram feed so we do so.
The show at the Barclaycard Arena marks Paul's first visit to Birmingham since 2003. Back then, he played an impressive 37 songs; this time he goes even further to play 40 songs.
Tonight's performance prompts the Evening Mail in Birmingham to run a piece headlined, "Six things we learned from seeing Paul McCartney live", which were as follows:
1) Paul McCartney is fitter
than you or me
2) Wings have some real fanatics
3) He still has it as a songwriter (with big props to 'Hope For the Future')
4) The Beatles are the focus of the show
5) Fans of all ages
6) 'Live and Let Die' is loud
And here is the verdict of the NME about tonight's show:
"They [the band] play with the studied perfection proper rock bands don't usually achieve, but there are fragile moments too - midway through the set, McCartney takes to a riser to perform a solo 'Blackbird', and mobile-phone torches twinkle in the crowd. He follows it with 'Here Today', his love song for John Lennon, and proves himself to be a wily assassin of an audience's heartstrings.
"The end of the main set arrives with a feeling of the inevitable: he chimes out the opening chords of 'Hey Jude' and the arena rises to its feet. Suddenly, you're just one of 12,000 people having a good old sing-song, and you get the kind of tingly, everything's-OK-with-the-world-really feeling you'd need the cynicism of Charlie Brooker to resist.
"McCartney returns with an encore that peals even more from that incomparable back catalogue, including the most mega of all mega-ballads ('Yesterday'), out-there rockers ('Helter Skelter') and a closing number to please the pickiest of Beatles heads the 'Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight / The End' segment from the magisterial closing medley of 'Abbey Road'."
LIVERPOOL ECHO ARENA (May 28, 2015)
Paul's homecoming feels like a big deal because it is a big deal. You need only walk around the city to feel that it is bursting with pride about his return, and there must have been very few people who were not aware he was playing. Huge "Welcome Home" posters are plastered across the city and overlooking the Mersey, the Liver Building displays a "Macca" flag which has been hoisted high. It clearly means a lot to Paul too. That afternoon, he says: "It's been a little while since I've performed here - we've taken this tour all over the world but there's nothing quite like rocking out with your home audience."
Prior to the show I see one of the most remarkable things I've ever seen in my entire life. After soundcheck, in his dressing room, Paul is being quizzed by the Daily Mirror newspaper about his fitness routine. He mentions to the writer, Clemmie, that his party trick in the gym is doing a headstand - yes a headstand! "No way," Clemmie says, and Paul knows exactly how to respond to such a challenge. He jumps up from his seat, empties his pockets and well, before we'd really had time to take it all in, there he is feet in the air, standing on his head. Simply astonishing; we are rendered speechless. "That's thrown you," Paul teases as he becomes upright once more and returns to his place on the sofa. Clemmie admits it takes a little time to pick up the thread of the conversation (when I tell the guys back in the office about this gymnastic feat, we all try to give it a go to no avail, except for picking up headaches and minor injuries!).
It is estimated more than 2,000 people in the sold out audience have travelled to Liverpool from all corners of the world. It certainly feels like the world is united inside the arena with flags from Japan, Australia, Brazil, Germany and many, many more places being waved. A couple from France also have a mega surprise when Paul invites them up on stage for an impromptu proposal. The audience includes Kasabian front-man Tom Meighan who hangs out backstage like a school kid about to see his idol for the first time. Paul brings out that sort of childish devotion in almost everyone.
Reviewer Jade Wright sums up how a lot of us feel when she writes in the Liverpool Echo:
"Seeing Macca should be compulsory, or at least should be available on the NHS, it's such a life-affirming, soul-warming experience." In the words of the Daily Post: "Paul is familiar and unchanging. An endearing Everyman persona but a living icon to many. For those of us who'd never seen him in person, this concert was beyond a rare privilege, a kind of epiphany. Well, you know what I mean."
Well, that's it for the UK and next we head to mainland Europe!
Last week Paul joined Ringo's
family, friends and fans in wishing him a very happy birthday.
(Ringo also shares the same birthday as Paul's father, who would
have celebrated his 113rd birthday that day!)
This week we are continuing the celebrations with a special behind-the-scenes video of Paul inducting Ringo into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.
The ceremony took place in April at Cleveland's Public Hall and included Paul and Ringo performing 'I Wanna Be Your Man' and 'With A Little Help From My Friends' where they were joined on stage by Stevie Wonder, Dave Grohl, Patti Smith, Gary Clark Jr, Zac Brown, Billie Joe Armstrong, Tom Morello, Miley Cyrus, Joe Walsh, Jone Jett, Beck and others.
Watch the behind-the-scenes video below:
Head over to Rolling Stone's website to watch Paul's full induction speech HERE!
For Paul, there was little
time to hang around after the ceremony as he flew straight to
Japan to continue delighting fans with the Japanese leg of his
'Out There' tour.
July 21, 2015 -- Macca Report News
Backstage with a fan picked to meet Paul
Carol Ann meets Paul McCartney
June 19th at the Firefly Festival in Dover Delaware when she is
called up on stage right after "Can't Buy Me Love".
Cameras follow her through the whole process. He sign read: "I've
Got Your Face Tattooed & You Siging It Is My Dream."
Paul signed her wrist and Carol Ann was at a loss for words after the close encounter and said, "I JUST DON'T KNOW WHAT TO SAY!"
July 7, 2015 -- Macca Report News
Paul gets 'Out There' in Oslo
July 7 - Telenor Arena - Oslo,
1. Eight Days A Week
2. Save Us
3. Got To Get You Into My Life
4. Good Day Sunshine
5. Temporary Secretary
6. Let Me Roll It/Foxy Lady Coda
7. Paperback Writer
8. My Valentine
9. Nineteen Hundred And Eighty-Five
10. The Long And Winding Road
11. Maybe I'm Amazed
12. I've Just Seen A Face
13. We Can Work It Out
14. Another Day
15. Hope For The Future
16. And I Love Her
18. Here Today
20. Queenie Eye
21. Lady Madonna
22. All Together Now
23. Lovely Rita
24. Eleanor Rigby
25. Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!
27. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
28. Band On The Run
29. Back In The U.S.S.R (snippet of "Silly Love Songs")
30. Let It Be
31. Live And Let Die
32. Hey Jude
33. Another Girl
34. Birthday (dedicated to Ringo and Paul's dad Jim who shared the same birthday)
35. Can't Buy Me Love
37. Helter Skelter
38. Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End
July 7, 2015 -- Paul McCartney Twitter
Paul's birthday shout out to Ringo & his dad
on this special day. It's my Dad's too he would have been
July 7, 2015 -- Esquire Magazine (UK)
By Alex Bilmes, Photographs by Tom Craig
Paul McCartney Is Esquire's August Cover Star - An exclusive interview with our greatest living rock star
By the time it reached Osaka, Japan, in
late April, Paul
McCartney's "Out There"
tour had been on the road for nearly two years. It had played
to close to two million people, from Montevideo to Winnipeg, Nashville
to Warsaw, with crowds in Seoul and Marseille and Stockholm still
awaiting its arrival. "Out There" succeeded the "On the
Run" tour, which itself followed closely on the heels of
the "Up and Coming" tour, which began at the start of
this decade. I could keep rewinding through his past in this
way to make my point about McCartney's tireless globetrotting,
but not with anything like the energy and enthusiasm the man himself
can summon for each retrospective spectacular. He plays up to
40 songs at each gig, from a catalogue that stretches back more
than 50 years. Each show lasts nearly three hours. The intense
demands this places on him would have been remarkable in 1965,
when he was 23, so it's anyone's guess how he does it now. Not
that he shows any signs of stopping, or even slowing down.
There are long breaks in the schedule, of course, and there have been years when McCartney didn't perform in public at all, but at least since the turn of the century he has been out there (if not, until recently, "Out There"), with much the same band and much the same crew and friends and associates in tow, singing the songs that made him rich and famous and adored, many of which you and everyone you know and millions of people you'll never meet can sing word for word. Really, who doesn't know the opening lines to 'Yesterday'?
McCartney's flight landed at Kansai International at 7am on 20 April, and was met with the same tightly controlled arrivals-hall hysteria he's been causing since the early Sixties. One suspects an unsparing internal investigation would be launched inside Camp Macca were the boss ever to arrive anywhere unnoticed. How would Japan learn of his presence without a minor scuffle at the airport? What's a rock star without a hyperventilating frenzy to follow him around?
It's hard to get a sense, from the shaky video clip I see on his publicist Stuart Bell's phone later that day, of the number of people who greeted him at the airport (estimates vary between 500 and 800). What's certain is that most had been waiting for him since the early hours, in heavy rain, holding aloft notably polite homemade placards YOU ARE MY SINGER; THANK YOU PAUL, YOU CAME BACK and that when he did at length appear, in the traditional manner they screamed and shook and palpitated and covered their mouths with their hands in tremulous overexcitement.
Accompanied by his wife, Nancy, McCartney stepped off the plane in his current off-duty uniform: dark jeans and a denim jacket over a white shirt, eyes hidden behind sunglasses. He was carrying the Hofner violin bass guitar that is one of his trademarks he has had this one since the Royal Variety performance of 1963 and that travels everywhere with his personal assistant, John Hammel, who has been with him almost as long. Like Hammel, the Hofner gets its own seat. (Later, backstage, a friendly guitar tech lets me inspect it and, expert that I am, I can confirm that it is indeed a guitar.)
McCartney had flown in from Cleveland, Ohio, where the previous evening he had inducted Ringo Starr into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. (McCartney: "As my daughter said when I got inducted, 'About f*cking time.'") He slept well on the plane, he said, and by the time he arrived at the Kyocera Dome, a baseball stadium where the following evening he and his band were booked to play to a sell-out crowd of 55,000, he seemed rested and relaxed.
His touring routine is well established: breakfast, a workout, perhaps a massage, then meetings with his team. If the weather's clement and security conditions are favourable, a bike ride around the locality of the hotel. If there's water nearby, he might try to get out on it in a boat. Today, he will rehearse with the band, then have a quiet early dinner with Nancy and a few friends from the touring party. Tomorrow's soundcheck will be any time between 3pm and 4:30pm. Then, as show time approaches, he will retreat to his dressing room to watch trashy American TV. After the concert, a drink, dinner, bed. And up early to travel to Tokyo for the next show.
"It's what I do,"
he told me, when I asked what kept him at it all after all these
years. "It's my life."
I am introduced to McCartney in a corridor backstage at the concert venue, on the afternoon of his arrival in the city. As expected, he is slim and spry, his handshake vigorous, his gaze direct, his movements swift and decisive; this is not a man who wants to be detained long, in a corridor or anywhere else.
Any of us should be so lucky to make it to McCartney's age 73 by the time you read this in such fine fettle. But there's a cruelty to growing old in public. McCartney was the most cherubic of the Fabs, doe of eye and cheeky of grin. No septuagenarian looks the same as he did at 20, and McCartney is not an exception. He dresses like a younger man: today, grey jeans, a casual blue shirt with the cuffs rolled back, black skate-style slip-ons. The chestnut hair is reliably ageless: flicky, collar-length, grey only at the sideburns. But the Bambi eyes are hooded now, the lips, once pouty, are pursed. His face is lined, craggy. Those high, arched eyebrows seem coolly appraising; one gets the feeling of being sized up: Is he OK? Can we trust him? Should we let him in?
The (mostly) fond caricature of McCartney as pop culture's slightly embarrassing uncle Fab Macca Wacky Thumbs Aloft, as Smash Hits famously had it seems pretty comprehensively wide of the mark. Yes, in public when the mood takes him he makes silly faces and strikes ironic poses and gives the double thumbs-up. But in private, it seems to me, there is a seriousness of purpose to him. Nobody suffers fools gladly that's a ridiculous idea but most of us do suffer them, out of necessity if for no other reason. McCartney, one guesses from his brisk, no-nonsense manner, is unwilling to suffer fools at all. He certainly has the effect on me of making me want to raise my game, so as not to irritate him, or bore him.
That said, once one is past the initial bedazzlement Jesus Christ, it's Paul f*cking McCartney! he's extremely good at putting people at ease, loose and chatty and good humoured. He asks questions, makes small talk, cracks jokes, so that it's almost, almost possible to forget that you're looking into the eyes of one of the most recognisable people on the planet.
It's difficult to write about McCartney without falling back on bland superlatives, trite truisms such as the one in the previous sentence. The Beatles CHANGED THE WORLD. McCartney is our GREATEST LIVING SONGWRITER. He's a LEGEND, an ICON, a ROCK GOD.
Not that these aren't all correct, just that you've heard it all before, to the point where it loses any meaning. You know the history, too, or you'll remember it if I prompt you. McCartney was still is, he says a working class boy from Liverpool, born in the summer of '42 to Jim and Mary, Protestant and Catholic, cotton salesman and midwife, both of Irish stock. Paul was clever: he went to the Liverpool Institute, one of the best state schools in the country, and one senses he's never quite lost the air of the ambitious grammar school boy, the sharp-elbowed striver determined to seize his chance.
The McCartney household was
a happy one, lively and musical, until 1956, when 14-year-old
Paul and his younger brother Mike lost their
mother, to cancer. The following summer Paul saw John Lennon perform for the first time, as one of
The rest is noise, and static, and flashbulbs, and spinning headlines, not to mention libraries of books and movies and documentary box sets, and articles like this one: Hamburg, The Cavern, Brian Epstein, George Martin, Beatlemania, the British Invasion, the Swinging Sixties, LSD, the Maharishi, Yoko, Linda, Apple and, in 1970, the break up of the band. (I have a friend who, whenever someone states the bleeding obvious, responds with the immortal line: "Oh, yeah? And The Beatles have split up." It's something everyone knows already, Pop Culture 101.)
There's plenty more history after 1970, of course: the recriminations; the legal wranglings; the retreat to Scotland; fatherhood; the mullet years; Wings; the murder of John Lennon; the drug bust in Tokyo; the collaborations with Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder; the Frog Chorus; the knighthood; The Beatles Anthology; Linda's death; George Harrison's death; the marriage to and divorce from Heather Mills; a third marriage, to Nancy Shevell; the unofficial position as our nation's bandleader-in-chief, duty bound to close all significant national occasions with a 'Hey Jude' singalong, to a firework accompaniment. But for all the drama since The Beatles, it is inevitably for his activities in the Sixties that McCartney will longest be remembered.
It's probably enough, then, to say that The Beatles were and will always remain the biggest pop group that this country or any other ever produced.
Popularity is not always the best measure of quality. But The Beatles were not simply popular. They were transformative, defining. Whether or not they really changed the world I don't know. Like most of you, I imagine, I wasn't there before them. What might be better to say is they created a world, a world of their own distinct from any that had previously existed a suburban surrealism, a homely psychedelia and also that they made it not just OK but insanely desirable to be a stylish, successful, smartarse British man. And to care about your hair. It's too much, perhaps, to say that they created us. But they had a hand in it, for sure.
At the risk of sounding softer
still, the qualities they promoted youth, friendship,
openness, acting the goat, staying up late, having a good time,
and, yes, peace and love remain important things to celebrate.
They were funny and sharp and they were charming and charismatic.
Which isn't to say they were or are universally appreciated. From their first mainstream popular success, The Beatles were the acceptable face of youth culture, not like those dangerous, switchblade teddy boys who preceded them or the oafish, longhaired Rolling Stones who followed. A good part of the world fell in love with them, but to an awkward squad of wannabe subversives and Velvet Underground fans, The Beatles were then and will always be, for all the drugs and the girls and the courageous trousers and the sitar-picking and the avant-garde flirtations, too squeaky clean, too careerist, just too damn cute.
And McCartney, with his good-blokeishness, his eagerness to please, appeared the least edgy of the four. He was civil, courteous, businesslike. Later, as the band broke apart and he took the lead in decision-making, an image of him as controlling, domineering even, began to take hold.
The man once described as "the most Beatley Beatle of them all" came close to a breakdown when the band split. And he has been stung, ever since, by negative commentary. A single disobliging line in an otherwise positive review, he tells me, still has the potential to darken his mood.
Like Lennon, McCartney spent years struggling to escape the shadow of his former band. For some, the rap sheet against him begins not with the break up but in its aftermath, when he took to the road with Wings. Chaotic, sporadically terrific, often critically derided, hugely successful, Wings were not The Beatles that was the idea and their uncool, vaguely hippyish, family man vibes did not always endear them to the younger and hipper. In the summer of 1977, while punk raged, Wings recorded 'Mull of Kintyre', with the Campbeltown Pipe Band. It was the Christmas Number One. Which, for some, closes the case.
In his book Man on the Run, about McCartney in the Seventies, the journalist Tom Doyle makes the case for post-Beatles Macca as a fascinating eccentric, not so much the beardie rural dad of reputation, but a musical maverick, whimsical in the most exhilarating ways, hence his decisions to record 'Mary Had a Little Lamb', his attempt to smuggle half a pound of marijuana into Japan, and his idea to disappear to war-ravaged Lagos, Nigeria to make an album. But while others were fêted for such grandiose oddness, Macca, the former Beatle, was frequently derided. He seemed a crank, popular but out of touch.
Each generation struggles to escape the shadow of the one before it. McCartney, I think, rather than an embarrassing uncle, is a sort of dad figure to pop culture, someone whose influence we can't help but acknowledge, someone we admire love, even, without always wanting to admit it but also someone to criticise; someone whose minor faults are exaggerated and whose abundant qualities are diminished or overlooked. Dads can be mortifying, and our relationships with them can be fraught. Paul McCartney, unlike Keith Richards or Eric Clapton or Jimmy Page or, for that matter, John Lennon, grew up to be a respectable family man, happily married, nicely turned out with lovely manners and clean fingernails. He is not a rock renegade. He was never a drug addict, or a womaniser, or a trasher of hotel rooms. He's a great cultural ambassador for Britain which is admirable, but not very rock'n'roll.
Whatever feelings you have about McCartney, conflicted, contradictory, or otherwise, before you file him away consider this. He wrote, among many others, the following songs: 'Hey Jude', 'Blackbird', 'Jet', 'Band on the Run', 'Good Day Sunshine', 'Yesterday', 'Penny Lane', 'And I Love Her', 'Helter Skelter', 'Hello Goodbye', 'Eleanor Rigby', 'Maybe I'm Amazed', 'Live and Let Die', 'Let it Be'. And he kept it together well enough to be able to play them to millions of people around the world into his seventies.
How to fit it all into a magazine interview? What to ask the man who's been asked everything? And, worse luck, answered it all obligingly, and at considerable length.
McCartney is a talker. He is a storyteller. His anecdotes are big productions. He does the funny voices (Scouse, especially, but also, in my presence, Japanese, American, posh English), he goes into character, he leaps to his feet to act out scenes. During a story about his father, he briefly leaves the room we're in, then reappears, poking his head around the door and drumming a beat on it with his knuckles, in imitation of his dad when the old man suspected there was something "groovy" going on at home.
McCartney's conversation is a free flowing river, gentle but unstoppable. You can put your waders on and stand in the middle of it, which is a pleasant thing to do, but it's very hard to divert its course. Unless you interrupt, quite purposefully, he will talk and talk and talk, without pause. So, as an interviewer with the clock ticking, it is necessary to butt in, quite rudely, to get one's next question in.
I met McCartney on two occasions for this story. Each interview lasted a few minutes over half an hour, and it was made clear to me that this was far more than most journalists are permitted. The standard arrangement, I was reassured, is one sit-down of 20 minutes. Plenty have to make do with a phone call.
The first interview took place in Osaka. He started by telling me that preparing to talk to me was a bit like going to the dentist. He meant it as an icebreaker (I think) but it made me slightly fearful. Then he ushered me into his "palacious" dressing room.
"Palacious? Palatial! F*ck it, I like 'palacious'. Come on! It was a long plane journey."
It wasn't palacious or palatial.
It was a functional holding pen with a collapsible table holding
bottles of wine and a fruit plate, rugs on the wall, a red retro
telephone in one corner and a big TV. We sat on a squishy chocolate
sofa, knees almost touching. And in case you wonder as the interview
progresses, the answer is yes: it is weirdly thrilling, and not
a little disconcerting to be sung snippets from some of the most
popular songs ever composed by the man who wrote and recorded
Esquire: Clearly you don't need the money and you don't need the fame. So what are you doing here playing a series of concerts in Japan, when you could be at home with your feet up?
Paul McCartney: Two reasons: I love it, and it's my job. Three reasons: the audience. You sing something and you get this incredible warmth back, this adulation. And who doesn't like that? It's amazing. Plus, the band's very good. And having said there were three answers there are now about seven. Another thing is I kind of get to review my songs, and they go back quite a way. So if I'm singing 'Eleanor Rigby', I'm me now reviewing the work of a twentysomething and I'm going, "Whoa, that's good." [sings] "Wearing the face that she keeps in the jar by the door". Ooh! And you see it all again flashing by you like drowning. In the nicest possible way.
ESQ: You've never seriously contemplated retirement?
PM: Sit at home and watch telly? That's what
people do, man. Gardening, golf no thanks. Occasionally,
I do think, "You should have got fed up by now, you should
be jaded." My manager, who I don't have any more, glad to
say, suggested quite a long time ago that I retire at 50.
He sort of said it's not a good look. I went, "Oh, God, he
could be right." But then I still enjoy writing, I still
enjoy singing. What am I gonna do? You see so many people
who retire and then immediately expire.
ESQ: Is it that you feel you still have something to prove?
PM: Yeah, all the time. And it is a silly
feeling. And I do actually sometimes talk to myself and say, "Wait
a minute: look at this little mountain of achievements. There's
an awful lot of them. Isn't that enough?" But maybe
I could do it a bit better. Maybe I could write something
that's just more relevant or new. And that always drags you forward.
I mean, I never really felt like, "Oh, I did good."
Nobody does. Even at the height of The Beatles. I prefer
to think there's something I'm not doing quite right, so I'm constantly
working on it. I always was, we always were. I mean, look at John
[Lennon], a mass of paranoia and worries about whether he's doing
it right. You only have to listen to his lyrics. I think that's
just artists in general.
ESQ: They say happiness writes white.
PM: Domesticity is the enemy of art. I don't know if that's true. You can write good happy songs. So, I don't think it's necessarily happiness. But I think self-satisfaction is maybe the enemy. It's kind of better to think, "Tomorrow night I'm gonna sing it better." There is this forward effort. It feels to me right, it feels human.
ESQ: Your shows are long: 40 songs, three hours. It's unusual.
PM: Springsteen overdoes it, too. You know
what it is? We've got a lot of songs.
ESQ: It's a retrospective, with a heavy emphasis on The Beatles. You spent many years not playing Beatles' songs, trying to escape from that. What changed?
PM: Well, that was very specifically the period after The Beatles when I was trying to establish Wings and I had to say to myself, "Yeah, you're an ex-Beatle but you're trying to do something new so you've got to leave that alone." It's a risky business because the promoters didn't like that. They said, "Can't you just do 'Yesterday' at the end of the show?" "No!"
ESQ: Presumably it wasn't just the promoters. The audience must have wanted 'Yesterday', too.
PM: That's right. But for me it was, "Too bad, I've got to do it this way. I don't want to rely on the Beatles' stuff." It was round about 1976 when Wings had a big successful American tour that I thought, "You know what? It's OK now." I felt that I'd succeeded in having a life after The Beatles. And then I was able to think what I'd known all along and you touched on there. Which is, "If I'm in an audience I wanna hear the hits. I don't want to see the Stones do their new album. I want 'Satisfaction', 'Honky Tonk Women', 'Ruby Tuesday'." I rationalised that at a certain point.
ESQ: Many of your songs are autobiographical. One of the reasons they resonate is people know what they're about: 'Let it Be', about your mum; 'Maybe I'm Amazed', about Linda. Are you thinking about those people when you play those songs? Isn't it painful?
PM: No, not always. I'm really doing them
just because they're songs. I mean, when I do 'Let it Be'
I'm not thinking about my mum. If there's one thing I know it's
that everyone in that audience is thinking something different.
And that's 50,000 different thoughts, depending on the capacity
of the hall. Obviously, when I do 'Here Today' as I do, that is
very personal. That is me talking to John. But as you sing them
you review them. So I go, [sings] "What about the night
we cried?" And I'm thinking, "Oh, yeah: Key West".
We were all drunk. We'd delayed Jacksonville because of a
hurricane. We got parked in Key West and we stayed up all night
and we got drunk "Let me tell you, man, you're f*cking
great" so I know that's what I'm talking about. I know
the night. I do think of that.
ESQ: So you don't find yourself moved, in the way the crowd is, by the emotional content of the songs?
PM: Not all the time. You wouldn't be able to sing. You'd just be crying. But yeah, there are moments. I think it was in South America. There was a very tall, statuesque man with a beard, very good-looking man. And he had his arm round what was apparently his daughter. Might not have been! No, it was, it was clearly his daughter. I'm singing 'Let it Be' and I look out there and I see him standing and she's looking up at him and he glances down at her and they share a moment, and I'm like, "Whoa!" [He shivers.] It really hit me. It's hard to sing through that. You see quite a bit of that. If I ever spot anyone crying during 'Here Today', that can set me off. I mean, on one level it's only a song and on another it's a very emotional thing for me. And when I see some girl totally reduced to tears and looking at me singing it catches me by surprise. This really means something to her. I'm not just a singer. I'm doing something more here.
ESQ: When I'm interviewing actors or writers or whoever, I often ask them to quote a song lyric that means something to them. It can be quite revealing. I'm not sure if you're the best person to ask or the worst, because you've written so many yourself.
PM: I'll have a go.
ESQ: Right then, what's the Paul McCartney lyric that means the most?
PM: "Why don't we do it in the road?"
ESQ: Nope, I wasn't expecting that one. For me it's a soppy one: "And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make." The last words of the last Beatles song. That's quite a sentiment to bow out with.
PM: That little one, it surprises me. I don't
remember coming up with it. It just sort of popped out, like
a lot of my stuff. People say to me, "How do you feel about
The Beatles?" I'm kind of proud of it, because it was generally
a good message. Now it wraps up the show, and the interview. Come
on, give it up man!
At this point I receive a Macca high-five, and am taken from his presence and back into the corridor where I tell anyone who'll listen that I need more time with him. Instead, I am put in the unusual position of watching him and his band rehearse for an hour. (Unusual in the sense that not many of my Monday afternoons are spent as the only spectator at a concert played by the most famous musician in the world; usually it's a packet of Maltesers at my desk and a gossip with Catherine from fashion, if I'm lucky.)
On stage, McCartney banters with his band, invites comment, takes suggestions, tries new things. They run through a song called 'Temporary Secretary', from the album McCartney II (1980). This is lesser-known Macca, the kind of thing that belies his reputation as a straightforward crowd-pleaser. It's weird, early electronica, and it sounds appealingly strange and awkward. They don't play it at the gig.
The next day, I watch again as the band soundchecks. McCartney is limber, whipping through rock'n'roll ('Blue Suede Shoes'), country blues ('Midnight Special'), pulling out a ukulele for Wings' 'Big Barn Bed' and then strapping on an acoustic for the lovely 'Bluebird'. It's a show in itself, but without a crucial component: the fans.
That night I watch the gig with kids in Sgt Pepper uniforms, a woman in a Union Jack kimono. A man across the aisle from me has drawn a picture of a younger and more musclebound McCartney as a samurai. Along from him a rather matronly woman holds a huge yellow sign: I'M DYING TO SEE YOU, YOU ARE MY KIND OF MAN.
Later, trying not to trip over any wires or disappear down a trapdoor, I make my way to the side of the stage for the encore "And in the end, the love you make" and stand alongside a very smiley Nancy, McCartney's wife, having spent the earlier part of the concert worrying about a woman next to me, in her early thirties, who seemed to be having an elective breakdown, seesawing wildly between wracking sobs ('Let it Be') and bouncy euphoria ('Live and Let Die').
I mention her to McCartney
that night, in the bar of the Ritz-Carlton, where he's relaxing
with a margarita. With another, more jaded performer this might
seem somewhat gauche oh, yeah, big deal, the fans were really
into it but with McCartney I have a feeling that he, more
than any musician I've met, has not and will never tire of hearing
A month later, we reconvene in a suite at Rosewood London, a grand hotel in Holborn where he has been posing for the photos on these pages. He's wearing a dark suit and a white shirt, and as we talk he munches his way through a toasted bagel with hummus, and sips a cup of milky tea. As ever, he is in expansive mood. This time I'm determined to move him along fast, to pack as many questions into half an hour as possible. This necessitates much interrupting and changing of topic, all of which he takes in his stride. In the end we get about 40 minutes, and it's highly enjoyable, at least for me. He is forthright, feisty, rude, funny, unpredictable, impassioned, exasperated and misty-eyed. And if you don't like all that in a man, frankly there's something wrong with you.
ESQ: Can you remember what it's like to not be famous?
PM: Yes. You can't get in any clubs, you can't pull any birds. It's all very nerve-wracking. You don't have any money. No! I can remember it. School, growing up in Liverpool. I remember a lot of being a kid. And then starting off with The Beatles, trying to get famous, writing letters, "Dear Sir, we are a semi-professional rock combo. We think we're very good. We've got a future"
ESQ: Was fame all it was cracked up to be, when you found it?
PM: It sort of was really, yeah. Because part of what it's cracked up to be is difficult as well as great. They'd warned that. I remember making a very conscious choice: "OK, we're getting really famous now, you've got to decide, whether or not to go for it." For some reason Marilyn Monroe came into my mind. Like: this could be horrible. It was actually after a trip to Greece. We weren't famous in Greece, and I'd hung out with the hotel band and was chatting to them: "I'm in a band, too, you know? We're called The Beatles." And I got a glazed look from them. I thought, "This is OK, if the fame gets too much we can always come to Greece." Then, of course, the next year it was like, "Oh, no, you're famous in Greece, too. Oh, God." And I remember thinking, "Do you want to do this or don't you?" And it was, "I like it too much to stop."
ESQ: Some people struggle greatly with being famous. It screws them up. You seem to have taken to fame with a certain amount of ease. You embraced it.
PM: I think to some degree that's true. What happens is, if your life goes wrong, like with the breakup of The Beatles, then fame is a nightmare because you can't escape it, and you've created it. That's when the difficulty kicks in. But what you're saying is, some people it kicks in anyway, even if they're doing all right.
ESQ: They can't handle the attention.
PM: I don't mind that. I have a joke with my daughter Mary: sometimes I won't be in a great mood and we'll go somewhere and the people will be all over me and she'll turn to Nancy and say, "He likes a bit of adulation. It cheers him up," and the thing is, yep, that is true. All my life I've been trying to win a school prize or trying to do OK in an exam or trying to get a good job. I've always been trying to do something where people go: you're good. When you get it, it seems a shame to me to go, oh, sh*t. To me it's like, this is what I wanted. I do like it, I must say. The attention's never really bothered me. I've always thought, "OK, you're famous, you've chosen that path. You can't blame anyone else." As long as you're enjoying it that's good. And when it goes wrong you're just going to have to deal with it.
ESQ: You come from a modest background, in Liverpool.
PM: It was quite poor, actually.
ESQ: Do you still feel a connection to that world? Do you still recognise its influence on you, in your tastes and attitudes and opinions?
PM: I still feel like that guy. It used to be like a religious thing where I would go up every year for our family New Year's Eve party. Particularly while all the elders were still alive. We always had a party when I was a kid. My dad was the pianist, all the uncles and aunties were there. Me and my brother would be on the bar. I have millions of great memories from then. It was a very lovely family. People sometimes say to me, how come [fame] hasn't affected you so much? And I think it is a lot to do with that. I don't do it quite as much now. Probably because the uncles and aunties have all died off. But I still do it and it always grounds me. [Thick Scouse accent] "Alright, Paul? How you doin', la'? Eh! What's up?" I always feel like, I'm one of them. That is who I am.
ESQ: We're told the Sixties created a classless society. Is that true?
PM: No. I think it helped towards that. There
was a very good period of hanging with anyone: musicians, painters,
aristocrats, playwrights. Didn't matter, really. I liked that
about it. But I think ultimately the nobs still stayed on top.
As long as Eton and Harrow are still there that'll always
ESQ: You've been knighted. Do you feel part of the Establishment now?
PM: No, not really. I don't hang out with many aristocratic people. I just don't know that many. When I was made a Sir, it did come up. I thought to myself, now probably I'll have to go to banquets with all the other Sirs. But the thing is with me, the women I happen to be attracted to really don't fancy that. They're not social aspirants, really. I sometimes say, "Maybe we should go! It could be good!" But it's like, "Nah, let's not. Let's go to the pictures." I've never really run with that crowd.
ESQ: Like it or not, you're a national treasure. That can blunt your edges, it makes you seem cosy and tame.
PM: Like Geldof. Got knighted, never sold another record. That was it!
ESQ: Exactly. Are you aware of this image of you as this rather cuddly figure?
PM: It's something I've not cultivated. But I think when you become a family man, when you've got grandkids and you openly admire them, that gets cuddly. With the knighthood, you have to consider whether you're going to accept it or not. Someone said, "There's a certain cachet in turning it down, you know?" I went [exasperated], "I know, I've read a bit, you know?" I was thinking, "Oh God, what do you do?" Then I saw Bobby Charlton. And his attitude was, "I'm really proud to be British." And I thought, "That's the one." So, I just said I'm proud to accept it. I like the Queen. When we grew up she was a babe. Oh, yeah. We were like 11, she was 21 and good looking. And she had a figure on her. I shouldn't say this about Her Majesty but we, as schoolboys, we said, "Look at the f*ckin' heave on her!"
ESQ: Have you taken the opportunity at one of your many meetings with the Queen to tell her this?
PM: No! But I say it regularly in the press hoping she'll read it.
ESQ: Flirting by proxy
PM: Listen, she was a very pretty girl. Look at the old photos. We definitely admired her physical attributes.
ESQ: Your name and John Lennon's will forever be linked.
ESQ: But it's something you chafed against for some time. Did it frustrate you, the constant comparisons between you two?
PM: Yeah. I always looked at life from a point of view of the public. I think I've got a good sense of that. The Beatles split up and we were sort of all equal. George did his record, John did his, I did mine, Ringo did his. It was as we were during the Beatles' times. We were equal. When John got shot, aside from the pure horror of it, the lingering thing was, OK, well now John's a martyr. A JFK. So what happened was, I started to get frustrated because people started to say, "Well, he was The Beatles." And me, George and Ringo would go, "Er, hang on. It's only a year ago we were all equal-ish." Yeah, John was the witty one, sure. John did a lot of great work, yeah. And post-Beatles he did more great work, but he also did a lot of not-great work. Now the fact that he's now martyred has elevated him to a James Dean, and beyond. So whilst I didn't mind that I agreed with it I understood that now there was going to be revisionism. It was going to be: John was the one. That was basically the thing. And when I would talk to mates they'd say, "Don't worry. People know [the truth]. It's OK, they know what you did." But then strange things would happen. Like Yoko would appear in the press, and I'd read it, and it said [comedy Yoko accent], "Paul did nothing! All he did was book the studio..." Like, "F*ck you, darling! Hang on! All I did was book the f*cking studio?" Well, OK, now people know that's not true. But that was just part of it. There was a lot of revisionism: John did this, John did that. I mean, if you just pull out all his great stuff and then stack it up against my not-so-great stuff, it's an easy case to make.
ESQ: There was some controversy over the fact that the songs are credited to Lennon-McCartney, rather than the other way around.
PM: What happened, when we were kids we were looking for what to call our songs. We had a meeting with Brian Epstein, John and me. I arrived late. John and Brian had been talking. "We were thinking we ought to call the songs, Lennon and McCartney." I said, "That's OK, but what about McCartney and Lennon? If I write it, what about that? It sounds good, too." They said, "OK, what we'll do is we'll alternate it: Lennon and McCartney, McCartney and Lennon." Well, that didn't happen. And I didn't mind. It's a good logo, like Rogers and Hammerstein. Hammerstein and Rogers doesn't work. So I thought, "OK". But what happened was the Anthology came out [in 1996, with Epstein and Lennon now long dead]. And I said, "OK, what they're now saying is, 'Song by John Lennon and Paul McCartney.'" I said, if you're doing that, it's not Lennon and McCartney, it's not the logo any more. So, in particular cases like 'Yesterday', which John actually had nothing to do with, none of the other Beatles had anything to do with I wrote it on my own, sang it on my own, they're not on the record, nobody is even involved with it, and they didn't mind that and I didn't mind, nobody minded, but that's very much mine so I said, "Could we have 'By Paul McCartney and John Lennon', wouldn't that be a good idea? And then on 'Strawberry Fields' we'll have, 'By John Lennon and Paul McCartney'. 'Nowhere Man', 'John Lennon and Paul McCartney'. 'Penny Lane', 'Paul McCartney and John Lennon'. Seeing as we're breaking it up, can we do that?" And at first Yoko said yeah. And then she rang back a few days later and she had this guy Sam Havadtoy who she was living with she was co-Havadtoying and she said she'd decided it wasn't a good idea and no, no, no, no. And it became a bit of an issue for me. Particularly on that particular song, because the original artwork had 'Yesterday' by John Lennon and Paul McCartney and a photo of John above it. And I went, "Argh! Come on, lads!" Anyway they wouldn't do it.
ESQ: Did you ever get to a point where you were able to stop worrying about this?
PM: Well, what happened was there was a backlash from people who didn't see where I was coming from. "Dancing on a dead man's grave" was one of the phrases that came up. "What a bighead!" "Why does he want his name in front of John's?" But it was nothing to do with bighead. It's just to do with identifying who wrote what. John did a really good Playboy interview where he did that: "This is mine, this is Paul's." So I thought, "Just use that! John said it!" I thought that was perfectly reasonable and I still do, by the way. But I don't think it's achievable for some reason. The arguments I used was these days I'll get a cinema ticket and I will go to a film called "Miss Congeni-". The "-ality" is missed off. What starts to happen is, "A song by John Lennon and-". You know how on your iPad there's never enough room? So it's kind of important who comes first. Late at night I was in a hotel room looking online and I happened to see this music book, which has got all the songs in it, and it was 'Hey Jude' by John Lennon and" and the space ran out. There's a poetry book, Blackbird by John Lennon and Paul McCartney." No! He didn't write those lyrics! So, at the risk of seeming like I tell you what, if John was here he would definitely say that's OK. Because he didn't give a damn. It wasn't anything that worried him. But I've given up on it. Suffice to say. In case it seems like I'm trying to do something to John.
ESQ: 'Yesterday', 'Hey Jude', 'Let it Be'. It is impossible to conceive of your writing anything with that impact again. Perhaps no one could now.
PM: I think that's true. When you sit down to write a song it does cross your mind. You go, "This isn't going to be like 'Eleanor Rigby'." Bob Dylan was asked why didn't he write another 'Tambourine Man' and he goes, "Because I'm not that guy any more." I think that's the truth. Some of it is also to do with the circumstances. Those songs were launched by The Beatles, the biggest band ever. If I had 'Let it Be' now, it just might not get as much attention. You might not be able to make a record as Beatle-y or as harmonious as the record we made. But it doesn't stop me trying.
ESQ: Not to diminish your achievements, but The Beatles' success came at a very specific moment. Clearly, the world was ready for it. Could a band ever have that kind of impact again or has the culture changed too much?
PM: We don't live in that culture any more,
that's true. We came out of a very rich period. But let's not
forgot, those four boys were f*cking good. It wasn't just to do
with the period. You name me another group of four chaps,
or chapesses, who had what The Beatles had. Lennon's skill,
intelligence, acerbic wit, McCartney's melody, whatever he's got,
Harrison's spirituality, Ringo's spirit of fun, great drumming.
We all played, which is pretty hard. You don't get a lot of that
these days. The noise we made was just those four people playing.
We came at the right time. We wrote some pretty good stuff, our
own material. We didn't have writers. Could that happen again?
I don't know. I wish people well but I have a feeling it couldn't.
ESQ: Do you feel lucky? It's weird, cosmically: how the hell did you four manage to bump into each other?
PM: Cosmic, man. It is! Dead cosmic. I know that. The more I go on, the more I realise. I mean, I know how I saw John. He was just a ted, on the bus greasy hair, long sideburns, shuffling around like he was Mr Hard. And I saw him on the top deck of the bus often, before I met him. Saw him in the queue at a chip shop once. And I thought, "He looks cool." Turned out my best friend from school knew him. We went and met. I happened to know this song, 'Twenty Flight Rock'. John admired that. I happened to get on a bus one stop before this kid called George Harrison. We happened to chat, because we went to the same school. We happened to like guitars. I happened to say to John, he'd be good to get in the group, even though he's young. Then we happened in with this guy called Ringo, you know?
ESQ: So what is that? Do you believe in fate, in God, or just dumb luck?
PM: I don't know. I actually just don't know. But I know it's amazing. Really amazing. Four guys from basically three different areas (me and George lived in the same area of Liverpool), who might never have met. And yet we came together and honed our thing. And we did feel we were special, from the word go. We knew we were different. We knew we were something other groups weren't. And that was it.
There was plenty I intended to ask McCartney about but didn't have time for: women (McCartney is a serial monogamist, and clearly his relationships with wives and girlfriends have been central to his life); fatherhood (he has five kids); money (£730m and counting, according to the Sunday Times Rich List) and more about the music, too. The conversation went the way it went; I hadn't intended for it to focus on Lennon and The Beatles to the exclusion of other subjects, but obviously these remain crucial concerns for him. ("You can see it's always exciting for me, talking about it all," he said as we packed up to go. "Because, you know, it's a pretty cool thing")
I left with the impression of a powerful man of energy and intelligence, by turns warm and generous but also sensitive, prickly. He cares deeply what the world thinks of him, he basks in the approbation and he finds the criticism particularly the Lennon business maddening and unfair.
(Meanwhile, I googled images
of the Queen aged 21 and I can confirm that whatever a "f*cking
heave" is, she likely had one.
But if the Q&A makes him sound a bit of a ranter, my brief exchanges with him outside the interviews showed a more playful side. Twice I found myself passing the time with McCartney, backstage in Osaka and between set-ups on the Esquire shoot. Both times he told me a brief anecdote. Both joyfully involved dancing.
In Osaka, he regaled me and a few others with details of an end-of-tour bacchanal in Brazil, late last year, at which he threw some shapes on the dancefloor. When I pressed him for details he demonstrated his quite impressive 'Gangnam Style' dance. "Oh, I can bust a move, man," he said. "Don't you worry about that."
Then, in London, when I asked if he'd been able to get out and about much in Tokyo, he told me that one afternoon he and Nancy found themselves in a park, standing outside some sort of municipal hall. Inside was a man with a load of 78 records and an old-fashioned gramophone to play them on. He beckoned them over and put on a record for them. 'The Sunny Side of the Street.' Paul and Nancy danced, just the two of them. It was one of those special moments, unexpected and all the more precious for that. It felt magical.
Seventy-three years young, skinny as a teenager, eyes I imagine ablaze, Paul sang as they moved. He knew all the words:
"Grab your coat and
get your hat,
Leave your worries on the doorstep,
Life can be so sweet,
On the sunny side of the street"
Nancy (surprised): "You know this song?"
Paul: "Oh, yeah."
July 2, 2015 -- Paul McCartney Twitter
Throwback Thursday Photo
the sun, Corfu, 1969. Photo by Linda McCartney
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