Paul McCartney

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Paul McCartney Pencil Portrait
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Last Update : 18/11/15

My portrait of McCartney dates from 1965 but does not actually exist as an original photo. I took the facial imagery from an earlier studio portrait by Dezo Hoffman and juxtaposed it with the famous Shea Stadium military jacket, obligatory Beatle black polo necked jumper and restyled hair for historical accuracy.

A year earlier he had been interviewed live on BBC television by David Frost in which the genial host had suggested a possible 2010 retirement for the twenty one year old musician. In an era where pop stars dreamed of two year’s chart success and a subsequent business purchase the notion of such professional longevity seemed surreal yet McCartney’s apparent affability always hid a steely resolve to reach the pinnacle of showbusiness and to stay there.

However, for all his legendary status in an industry renowned for its fickleness, it remains apparent that Paul McCartney is greatly under appreciated as an artist, particularly in the UK. There will be, therefore I believe, a degree of rehabilitation in the public’s mind of both his professional and private life when he dies.

He was the “engine room” of The Beatles. Devoid of his professional promptings, the band’s oeuvre would be half the size it is. He is blessed with an unmistakable flair for melody in the best Tin Pan Alley tradition, is a passable lyricist and a great innovator on bass guitar. He is a competent all round musician playing guitar, ukelele, mandolin, piano and harmonica and has a strong work ethic. In essence he has written roughly one hundred songs that will continue to be performed around the world long after his name has been relegated to a mere entry on sheet music copies. Of those 100 songs we can pleasingly include “Only our hearts,” a newly crafted composition issued in 2012 featuring a warmly engaging melody and a majestic harmonica solo from Stevie Wonder. It’s a further reminder that an artist like McCartney can never be written off.

He is a driven man and has trampled over peoples’ feelings in the pursuit of his personal goals, so no surprises there. Record producers loathe to question his artistic judgement and being told to fuck off when they do, are not uncommon events. He’s also been professionally arrogant at times – the folly that was Give my regards to Broad street being a prime example. This was a gargantuan error, and unforgivable in light of his earlier critical mauling over Magical Mystery tour.” His belief that anyone can write a song is delusional; what he is too modest to say is that anyone can write a poor song which is precisely what many do. As for his own below par output, many of these songs seem bedevilled with some mischievous fascination with physical defects “Boil Crisis” being an obvious example.

Personally carrying into Japan a substantial quantity of marijuana was almost an unconscious effort to prematurely derail the whole “Wings” concept (the band was defunct inside of a year). Yet that piece of flagrant disregard for international law could, and would have cost him seven years of his life if he had been anybody else. As it was he chummed up with various cellmates for nine days, reportedly the only time he ever slept apart from Linda. By his own admission, he finally gave up smoking grass and nicotine in 2013; rather late in the day it must be said.

He lost his mother at 14 and her failure to see and appreciate his success is a deep regret in his life. Linda’s premature passing, her cancer mirroring so much of what he observed with his mother is undoubtedly the great loss of his life. He was able to spend quality time with George Harrison before he too succumbed to that insidious diesease, recalling an affectionate bedside moment where the group’s lead guitarist gently rubbed the inside of his hand with his thumb whilst they settled their differences. This of course leads us to the one personal relationship that will forever remain unresolved in his mind namely his partnership with Lennon. Biographers would have us believe that the two did not physically see each other in the last four years of Lennon’s life. This point has been refuted inadvertently by James McCartney, Paul’s son who vaguely recalls being held in Lennon’s arms as a three year old (Sunday times April 2012) which would place that meeting mere months before the assassination in December 1980. I think it’s fair to say they loved one another, but like all truculent brothers the lows in their relationship were really low. Perhaps, as with all men, in order to understand McCartney better, we need to analyse his relationship towards the fairer sex.

We can read about his “aspirational yearnings” as a young man, and the attraction of actress Jane Asher as a trophy girlfriend. Five years later, being caught in bed with another woman by his fiancée without taking the time to ensure the assignation took place at his secret bachelor pad was indicative of a man who didn’t really care anymore. The couple had had their previous ups and downs and getting engaged on Christmas Day 1967 was probably symbolic of all young people who have courted for several years and find themselves sucked into a familial “world of expectation.” Interviewed by Barry Miles in the mid 90’s, McCartney would admit that he and Jane had separated several times before, so the inevitability of a permanent split did not faze him.

His first marriage to Linda was greatly renowned in rock music circles, not only for its longevity but also its monogamy. Nevertheless solely attributing such positive tones hides the reality of what seemingly must have been going on within the dynamics of the relationship. Linda, by her own admission to close friends, was on a mission to ensnare Paul although she was reluctant to remarry. However, having committed herself to the relationship by falling pregnant, she might have at least expected a few years of material comfort and emotional stability as a result of marriage to the last remaining bachelor Beatle. She didn’t get them.

Within six months of her much publicised marriage, the band had ceased recording as a four piece (Paul, George and Ringo would reunite in January 1970 for one last session) and Linda would find herself on her husband’s farm dealing with her partner’s increasing sense of isolationism. With the family fortune tied up in escrow and her husband ‘spiritually redundant’ Linda watched on as McCartney hit the bottle whilst often refusing to emerge from his bed until mid-day. Even the arrival of their daughter Mary could not ease his malaise. Photographers from LIFE magazine, out to refute rumours of Paul’s death were met with buckets of cold water and some choice language. The McCartney PR persona, so assiduously honed over the years, was nowhere in evidence. When the beleaguered ex-Beatle, heeding his wife’s advice to ease off the whiskey bottle, rallied with a renewed sense of professional purpose, it was to form a touring band that would plunge his wife into periods of high anxiety and public ridicule. Not for once can we imagine the new Mrs McCartney imploring her husband to find a quality keyboard player like Billy Preston to help launch his new career, yet McCartney remained adamant he wanted a sense of innocence in the band and sold his wife on the virtues of a showbiz life.

The circumspect Wings member would experience little of this early on in her musical career, freezing at the piano live on stage in York on the first University campus tour, and being on the receiving end of frequent tongue lashings from her impatient and immeasurably more gifted husband. “He can be quite horrible at times” was her one recorded comment on this period in their marriage. Perhaps in recognition of what he’d put her through during those formative years Linda was rewarded with a secondary keyboard role on her husband’s ’89/‘90 and ’93 world tours thus affording her the opportunity to drink in the experience and to take photographs from the stage. The experience must have been in stark contrast to those early years where, as young parents, they would be compelled to take to the stage leaving behind a child with a soaring temperature. As a man, one suspects McCartney may well have been able to detach himself from domestic issues throughout the show, but as a woman and mother Linda would not have been so fortunate.

He effectively sabotaged his wife’s photographic career, a fact he would acknowledge in a number of interviews towards the end of her life and yet one senses her love for him way exceeded any thwarted career aspirations she may have had. In any event Linda was recognised for her instinctive and intuitive approach to the medium and had a number of key photographic exhibitions around the world. She also became independently wealthy in her own right with her best selling range of vegetarian dishes, a business venture assured of “perceived” initial success on her part when her husband discreetly purchased sizeable stock for onward charitable donation.

It was obvious to me how serious her health situation was when she did not accompany him to Buckingham Palace for his investiture in 1997. He looked distracted, in need of a haircut and colouring (having made the decision to dye his hair years earlier there seemed no logical explanation for his appearance that day) and good natured banter about George and Ringo addressing him as “Your Holiness” could not hide the inescapable fact that his proudest day had been tarnished irreparably by his wife’s absence. Only that previous Christmas, the couple had issued photos to the press showing Linda bewigged yet seemingly of healthy pallor and it appeared as if events had turned for the better. Sadly it was not to be, and having been widowed in April the following year McCartney repaired to his home for a year to grieve before returning to work to cut the rock’n‘roll album his late wife had implored him to make for years. Re-establishing a daily sense of purpose is one thing but immersing oneself in another relationship with unseemly haste is another. Sadly, a deadly cocktail of grief over the loss of his wife, understandable loneliness and the copious amount of stupidity that he, like every man can display in abundance where a woman is concerned, led him into a disastrous second marriage.

The link below highlights his state of mind in the weeks before George Harrison’s death. The New York DJ Howard Stern is Graham Norton and Jonathan Ross rolled into one and ‘then some’! Amidst a barrage of direct questioning, it becomes obvious that he loves the idea of being married. Equally apparent to me is his comfortability with life in the USA, and in particular American women who in general are very committed to marriage as an institution.

Paul Mccartney – Howard Stern – New York radio : October 2001\

The affair with Mills was a “romance” that was out in the open. It was no secretive and furtive liason and he was free to “do his homework.” He was taking phone calls, receiving letters and finding himself in the company of tried and trusted business confidantes/friends who all warned him about this woman. Yet he married Heather Mills, and several years later – and with his bank balance £24m lighter – he re-emerged from the High Court in London a scarred man yet how much wiser still greatly open to conjuncture since he has recently married for a third time. Empirical evidence is not on his side – 241,000 marriages in the UK in 2010 and 120,000 divorces. These are the bare statistics but for me personally I can but reflect on my own shortcomings where this high profile relationship is concerned. When news broke of the romance I actually defended the relationship during occasional discussions with my wife for after all, this was the man who had seen no need to parade his first wife on “The Parkinson Show” to prove that, contrary to widespread press opinion, she was not a gold digger but a warm caring sensitive person. He surely knew what he was doing didn’t he?

“You’re an idiot” my wife would tell me, without a hint of aggression or frustration in her voice. “I spend most of my life trying not to act like a woman, so let me outline what’s happening here.” She would then explain to me that this woman had had more men than hot diners, was clearly a congenital liar (more than one person had already come forward to refute her version of previous events in her life) and that she herself would marry Paul McCartney if he asked her.” “Would you really?” I enquired. “Well no because I wouldn’t really be in love with him but I’d be tempted. He’s grieving for a union that exceeded all expectations and he’s too young to be on his own and this one’s making him cock happy.” With hindsight I can only say that the process of grieving must distort a person’s objectivity like light refraction through a prism because he was warned by so many people within his inner circle and yet seemingly took no heed. It is one thing to be involved in a secret relationship with no ability to do one’s homework but McCartney could clearly have compiled a dossier had he so wished. Personally I would have done so in similar circumstances. Imagining being wealthy and 59 with a 34 year old “swooning over me”…I get embarrassed about my own sex. I don’t seem to have to even work at being stupid for it’s like some God given – well what would be the word for it?– certainly not talent – affliction perhaps? My wife has actually pitied me in this area but, unlike most people, I accept this sentiment because there are many things she admires about me as well.

In any event McCartney married in 2002 and two of his children were not even present at the ceremony. He only took off his wedding ring to Linda the day before. I feel for him. He really thought he knew best and he wanted to feel “important” to someone. In effect he wanted to recreate what he had had with his first wife and of course that will never happen. As Linda herself often said, “my happiest period was on the farm in Scotland without even running water but I had my husband and my children and nature all around.”

So what was Heather Mill’s “plan of action”? Initially this entailed calling off her prior engagement (warning bells should have been resounding in his ears) and then pampering the musician’s emotional needs. What the relationship ultimately did, of course, was to derail her own public image which she had earlier fostered to considerable effect via her highly commendable work in the field of prosthetic limbs. As a Grade C celebrity she would not have relished the inevitable back seat role her husband’s fame compelled her to take and reports about the courtship refer to many heated arguments ending more often than not with threats on her part to leave the relationship. It’s the oldest trick in the book to keep the man emotionally unbalanced, repentful and attentive. Unaccustomed to such emotional extremities, McCartney continued on his unswerving path to marital execution and the subsequent arrival of a daughter in 2003. Ostensibly a miracle birth after his wife’s previous ectopic pregnancies (only two are humanely possible yet the press hinted at a number of them) this event ultimately sealed his financial plight. Here now, was the legitimate claim for “lifestyle maintenance” and “security” that would underpin the high court judgement three years later. Before the marriage occurred I recall driving to a business appointment and listening to McCartney being interviewed by Steve Wright on BBC Radio 2 in which he affectionately recalled his wife’s lack of worldliness. Commenting on the broadcast of “Get Back” on the radio whilst the couple were abroad on holiday, he teasingly recalled her asking of him “Is that one of yours?” Yes she was barely a year old when the song was top of the charts, but it is for each and every reader of this commentary to determine exactly what type of impression such ‘ignorance’ would have made on any self made man.

At the time of the break up Ms Mills contended that McCartney had reneged on a pledge to give up marijuana. If that was the case then that was wrong of him. If it was a promise made without adequate forethought or something he determined in his mind as being incidental then he should have answered more carefully. He does seem to have done much to further her own career although one suspects this was out of devotion rather than any innate belief in her “latent talent.” Her temporary stint as replacement interviewer on the Larry King live show was a point in question. Poor Paul Newman evidently found the experience a painful one; that’s not to particularly single her out for criticism but most of us – myself included – would acknowledge that we’re no Michael Parkinson so what on earth convinced this woman otherwise? Clearly, marriage to McCartney was going to be a door opener for her but subsequent events would prove otherwise.

Ms Mills also hid her dubious past with men which allegedly included working abroad as a high class escort girl. Her former employers have gone on record to confirm that they have receipts and to date she has not taken them to court. McCartney was aware of her topless modelling past but seemingly little else and this leads me to the core issue of fledgling relationships.

When I was researching for this commentary it became apparent from numerous articles available on the net that more than 50% of random population samples believe that everyone has the right to hold back any information about themselves which might be construed unfavourably by a new partner. In other words, many people believe that their present day thoughts and actions should not seriously impact on any future chance for personal happiness. If we extend this view to the Mccartney – Mills marriage let us hypothesise for a moment that revelations about her sexual history were to be replaced by her new husband’s post nuptial admission of historic and consistent wife battery, now firmly under control thanks to a series of anger management counselling sessions. We can but wonder at the shock factor that Heather Mills would have experienced. Sexual activity should enjoy no such immunity since it is equally revealing about a person’s moral compass. In the final analysis one person’s piece of trivia is another’s shocking revelation. We have no right to prejudge an individual’s reaction to suit our own ends. I rest my case.

In summary, who is Paul McCartney? The general consensus from persons in his employ is that, despite the tantrums and outbursts that inevitably go hand in hand with “driven people” he is a “decent man.” The underlying message of his music has remained the same throughout the years – namely peace, love, and understanding. He has donated substantial sums anonymously to worthy causes and founded LIPA, The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, to give young people an opportunity to train for and develop careers in music and theatre. Courses are varied from pure musicianship to lighting and rigging. He is a committed vegetarian which, and whatever our personal views, cannot be interpreted as a bad thing. Unfortunately he’s also undoubtedly, a romantic fool and by the time he met Heather Mills we can safely presume that thirty years with Linda had robbed him of his “worldliness.” Before he could barely blink he was married again, and a father to a daughter whose mother was ostensibly unable to conceive due to two previous ectopic pregnancies. If Ms Mills truly did have two such pregnancies then the child can only have arrived via IVF treatment, but no such public disclosure has ever been made.

Returning to the marriage over a three year period (2002-05), did he become a termagant husband prone to outbursts of domestic violence? Only he and his ex-wife truly know. What we are able to say is that certain people are gravely injurious to our emotional “well being.” If we are accustomed to a tranquil existence (the composer Carl Davis describes the McCartneys as warmly affectionate people with lots of hugs and kisses) then the imposing presence of the new woman has a dispiritingly familiar ring to it. It is a problem that has existed since time in memoriam and men inevitably cave in for the sake of a quiet life. Since this question can equally apply in reverse (rich woman with her “attentive” suitor) I will ask it of my readers. In situations where an individual has clearly made no contribution whatsoever to a spouse’s fortune, just how on earth do they walk away, as this woman did, with £24m? That figure represented roughly 4% of the ex-Beatle’s accumulated wealth which, in percentage terms, appears a pyrrhic victory for his ex wife. But £24m is a nice lottery win by anyone’s standards. It again raises the question about how people live off the fat of a land they have failed to cultivate themselves? Would any right minded judge have determined that McCartney would fail to make adequate provision for his daughter? I fail to see how security measures for mother and daughter could amount to anything commensurate with the award, and a pre nuptial agreement was out of the question. If you think you need one of those, then don’t get married.

Several years prior to the High Court hearing, McCartney had committed his thoughts on his crumbling marriage to tape. For a man renowned for writing in the third person, “Eleanor Rigby”, Michele” etc here was a rare confessional.

You’re not aware
Of what you put me through
But now the feeling’s gone
But I don’t mind
Do what you have to do
You don’t fool anyone

I’ll tell you what I’m going to do
I’ll take a different point of view
And now that you don’t need my help
I’ll use the time to think about myself

The definition of friendship
Apparently ought to be
Showing support for the one that you love
And I was open to friendship
But you didn’t seem to have any to spare
While you were riding to Vanity Fair

“Riding to Vanity Fair” © MPL 2005

We can be confident that Ms Mills can conjure up in her mind sufficient reasons to justify the award yet she appears to have faded somewhat from public view to pursue, by all tabloid accounts, a series of vacuous affairs with younger ski instructors and fitness trainers, presumably the only type of men she can now manipulate. In terms of her own personal redemption it is unthinkable that she would hand any of the matrimonial settlement back to her ex-husband for fear that he would accept the offer. In any event she probably harbors grudges that he was not more understanding of the past she so assiduously strove to conceal. Women like this invariably turn arguments on their head by subliminally inferring that this inability reflects some shortcoming in the man’s emotional make up. Better still surely to be upfront in the first place and to leave the initial friendship as precisely that, for there is always a man somewhere with even greater emotional hangups to enact the role of saviour and Knight in shining armour. I have no desire to “glisten” in that area and nor clearly did Sir Paul.

As for McCartney, he continues to record and remains consistently one of the five largest concert draws in the world. He is very controlling of his public image and virtually no independently produced documentaries about his life are ever released. The resultant near permanent thumbs aloft happy-go-lucky Macca trotting out the latest pre-rehearsed series of Q & A’s in each television interview wears thin as a viewing experience. Even a seasoned interviewer like David Frost, who was able to elicit an apology to his nation from a disgraced former President, would make little headway with Paul. They were close friends anyway.

Perhaps most of all, I feel for him at times. Discussing Lennon’s abandonment of his first son Julian and Harrison’s inability to keep himself zipped up, it’s uncomfortable watching him in documentaries dealing with the demands of tact and diplomacy. If he’s been the most “centred” of the four, he will attribute much to the values instilled in him by his late father.

He has married again and I will refrain from any commentary because I literally don’t understand why he would feel the need to, but I wish him all the contentment he can find. As for myself, whilst reviewing these commentaries and reflecting on male-female relationships, my wife was recently moved to say that, in her opinion, whilst I still had some way to travel, I was now firmly on the road to becoming an intelligent man. Praise indeed, and an opinion worth far more to me than any investiture, Honorary Doctorate or University Degree. Amen.

Recommended listening

McCartney (1970 – remastered edition 2011)

I’ve always loved the “down home funkiness” of this record. Creaking doors and barking dogs pervade the grooves and the recording techniques deployed were primitive (an early example of direct injection particularly with the acoustic guitars) yet they worked.

“That would be something”, “Every night” (an underrated gem and a great cover by Phoebe Snow), “Oo-You” (crap title but an hypnotic guitar riff) and of course “Maybe I’m amazed.” The Faces initially popularised this number with superb vocal trade offs between Ronnie Lane and Rod Stewart. Check out “The Faces in concert” (1972) on YouTube to see and hear what I mean.

Live and let die (1973)

Opinion Polls can never reveal too much about public preferences, yet the Autumn 2012 British survey, conducted by BBC Radio 2 and ’5 live’ to mark the 50th anniversary of the Bond franchise, placed McCartney’s opus in pole position. The track, recorded by Paul and his band Wings, received more than a quarter of all the votes. Carly Simon’s ‘Nobody Does It Better,’ from The Spy Who Loved Me, was runner-up, while Dame Shirley Bassey’s ‘Goldfinger’ came third. The chosen track was revealed by film critics Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo during a special Bond edition of their regular review show on Radio 5 Live.

Two aspects of the genesis of the song lay testimony to McCartney’s compositional genius; namely 1) the complete non reference to any traditional Bondian themes and hooklines and 2) the sheer speed of creation – a reported twenty minutes after the commission was relayed to the ex-Beatle.

Band on the Run (1973)

This album was the apogee of the whole “Wings era” and undoubtedly McCartney’s most potent collection of numbers since side two of “Abbey Road.” He nearly lost his life making the record and a sense of urgency pervades every groove. Forget the odd flat note on “Bluebird,” this album works on every level and six million plus people agreed with me.

Wings over America (1976)

The whole Wings enterprise reached its zenith on the ’75/‘76 World tour. Tightly rehearsed, two recent hit albums and several chart singles fresh in the memory, Macca and his band broke with old habits to include five Beatle numbers and an acoustic segment to vary the pacing of the two hour plus show. Denny Laine contributes his old Moody Blues standby “Go Now” whilst Mccartney adds peerless bass playing and searing vocals to the overall proceedings.

Live albums are de rigeur in the jazz field, due in no small part to the improvisational skills of the musicians involved. In contrast many rock musicians cannot boast comparable instrumental fluency, and their note for note recreation of album hits can sound vaguely redundant. Listening at home they sound like strange off-centered simulations of previously issued studio material and the often inane stage chatter hardly helps matters.

Here, McCartney edits stage banter to the bare minimum and much of the Wings catalogue, culled from tape recordings of over 90 shows, benefits from a live setting. “Letting Go” is notably heavier than its studio counterpart, “Silly love Songs” suitably energised whilst a rambunctious “Jet” was even then firmly established as part of the opening act, a position the song retains to this day in the former Beatle’s stage show. McCartney was on a commercial roll, this release being his fifth consecutive American number one. Despite a modicum of post production audio sweetening, it remains a classy release and alongside “The Who Live at Leeds” and the Stones “Get yer ya yas out, amongst the best of its genre.

Tug of War (1982)

Seemingly re-invigorated by his old studio mentor George Martin, McCartney returns to a more disciplined form of writing sans Wings with every track appropriately cast for top session players in their chosen field. The title track is sweepingly majestic, ‘Take it Away’ scores in best pop fashion and ‘Get it’ recalls McCartney’s rockabilly roots with one of the genre’s key innovators Carl Perkins.

The obvious single pull ‘Ebony & Ivory,’ a paean to racial equality, is reviled for its trite handling of such a divisive subject yet the number remains popular at selected events and was a worldwide number one. The best track is ‘Here Today,’ scored for a string quartet and McCartney’s touching reminiscence of his teenage life with Lennon.

Flaming Pie (1997)

This album was an undoubted return to form and a resounding commercial success, particularly in the States. No obvious hit singles and a couple of “duds” but this collection features Macca working economically well within self imposed restrictions.

The acoustic “Calico Skies” and “Great Day,” the hauntingly beautiful “Somedays,” a rare collaboration with Ringo on the grandiose “Beautiful Night,” a Beatlesesque “Souvenir,” a wistful lament to Maureen Starkey on “Little Willow” and the grunge guitars on “The World Tonight” number amongst the highlights.

Featuring Linda’s last recorded contributions, “Flaming Pie” was critically well received and deservedly so.

Run Devil Run (1999)

Returning to the studio a year after his wife’s death and intent on honouring a pledge to his beloved Linda, McCartney cuts loose on a pure back to roots rock’n‘roll album with a freshness and vitality that renders ‘Choba CCCP,’ his previous attempt at this genre, totally redundant. With minimal rehearsal and a handful of takes, the band rocks with Dave Gilmour and Mick Green dueling cohesively on guitars, Ian Paice solid at the back on the skins, Pete Wingfield trilling and filling on keyboards whilst Macca flails at the hofner fretboard kicking ass on bass.

McCartney is invigorated, leaving behind his vocal schtick, laying back and rocking out with a set of fairly unfamiliar oldies. Only three songs “All Shook Up,” “Lonesome Town,” and “Brown Eyed Handsome Man” are radio staples whilst “I Got Stung,” “Blue Jean Bop,” “She Said Yeah,” “Honey Hush,” and “Movie Magg” are not ubiquitous standards, being known only to aficionados. This leaves room for a few more obscure numbers, such as Little Richard’s “Shake a Hand,” the Vipers’ “No Other Baby,” and the Fats Domino B-side “Coquette,” plus three terrific new songs from McCartney: “Run Devil Run,” a fantastic Chuck Berry-styled narrative; “Try Not to Cry,” a strong bluesy pop number; and “What It Is,” a catchy up-tempo shuffle. Best of all, McCartney and co-producer Chris Thomas create an appealingly out-of-time production with a heavily compressed sound cleaner than ’50s recordings and livelier, grittier than most ’90s albums. It all adds up to a dynamic, loose, carefree, and utterly infectious record, one of his best solo albums.

It’s a perennial entry on my ipod and when I don’t feel philosophical about my age, I still crank up the amp, strap on the strat and shed forty years recording straight ahead rock’n‘roll in my studio. “You’ve still got IT haven’t you babe? “Sure have” comes the reply before my wife and I crease ourselves at the testosterone fuelled fumes engulfing the house!

Working Classical (1999)

An eclectic pot pourri of Mccartney’s post Beatle work scored for a string quartet. The more recent pieces hold up well including “Calico Skies” and “Tuesday” – a twelve minute vignette for a charming frog animation film made by his MPL company. It’s the most accessible of his diverse classical excursions and demands repeated listenings.

Other album releases such as “Ram” (1971), “Flowers in the Dirt” (1989), “Chaos and Creation in the Backyard” (2005) and “Memory almost Full” (2007) have much to commend them, but equally suffer from McCartney’s facile and near insidious ability to create seemingly innocuous melodies that overcome initial listener disappointment to ingrain themselves on the brain like a leech. Nevertheless, this compositional trait cannot erase memories of his great period, when his songs would excite and inspire more than one generation of musicians.

Paul McCartney – Roger Scott (Capital Radio 1983)

Interviews don’t come any better than this. From the moment McCartney admits his current songwriting efforts cannot compare to his peak ’65-’67 period, you know this will be an exceptional one hour programme.

It doesn’t disappoint covering subjects as diverse as Lennon’s sexuality and kiss & tell biographies. McCartney doesn’t drop his carefully contrived PR mask often, and this radio show is a notable exception.

New (2013)

Let’s dock some points early on – a suspect digipack that inevitably tears at the spine whilst extracting the accompanying booklet – the sly marketing ploy of three bonus songs on the special edition for additional hard earned bucks (naturally), and the less than inspiring cover art – (bring back Peter Blake). Bitch to extreme about Macca’s intermittent weather-beaten vocals and there you have it – more than enough reasons to leave it in your local shopping mall racks.

Yet ‘New’ (dock an additional point for the bland title), top tenned throughout Europe and the US, garnering ‘Mr Thumbs Aloft’ some of his best reviews in years; strewth, even the NME loved it.

Vaguely ‘hittish’ singles remain elusive – in an era where 43,000 units can garner pole position in the UK (sales of 1m + were required fifty years ago), does anyone care, least of all an ex-Beatle? Probably not. Instead, McCartney eschews crass commerciality to engage with young-gun producers – Paul Epworth, Mark Ronson, Ethan Johns and Giles Martin (son of Sir George), whilst pushing the experimental envelope.

There’s a nod to the ’66 seagulls (backward tape loops à la ‘Tomorrow never knows’) on the maudlin ‘Hosanna,’ whilst a polymoog solo on the Wings-era ‘I can bet’ is an affectionate tribute to late wife Linda.

The stadium rock anthemic rousers, ‘Save us’ and ‘Everybody out there’ work well, whilst the commuter narrative ‘On My Way to Work,’ recalls the young McCartney’s early cog winding work excursions.

Don’t expect miracles from this septuagenarian. Whilst once perceived as a genius progressive rocker, he’s been obvious fodder for every embittered and hackneyed music journalist for decades yet there’s still an undeniable way with melodies on offer that deceptively entice, and then envelop the listener after a handful of plays. If the hairs on the back of my ‘listening neck’ no longer tingle, a new album from Macca is still a welcome event – Lord knows, the interim gap between original releases is more than long enough to endure.

Recommended viewing

The McCartney Years (2005)

This triple DVD set is the ultimate promo film collection covering virtually all McCartney’s single releases up to date of issue. I binned a number of bulky VHS tapes as a result of this purchase which pleased my wife for a couple of minutes!

Wings over the world (MPL 1979)

A Tv special that captures Wings at their zenith on the 1975/76 world tour. Recently rescreened on British terrestrial television to tie in with the release of the remastered “Rockshow” DVD, it’s still a more entertaining visual experience than the pure concert film. McCartney’s three and a half hour shows these days represent value for money, yet even this two hour show from Seattle in 1976 feels too long as a playback experience. Once the euphoria of the evening has subsided, it’s gourmet night everytime when a light snack would suffice. Purchasers of the “Rockshow” disc will watch it once to check for gremlins but thereafter drop in as tastes dictate. With its ‘behind the scenes’ supplementary footage, including intimate moments with the McCartney family, this 75 minute documentary offers sufficient variety to continually delight.

Chaos and Creation at Abbey road (2005)

An intimate recreation of McCartney’s recording techniques performed live before a specially invited audience.

Recommended reading

Paul McCartney – Many years from now (1997)

A mini pseudo “autobiography” concentrating as it does, mainly on the period 1965-68. McCartney was socially networking, mixing with Harold Pinter and Kenneth Tynan whilst partaking in afternoon tea with the then 92 year old philosopher Bertram Russell. Suitably influenced by the great man and reporting faithfully back to Lennon the pair became staunch anti-Vietnam protestors. He was absorbing culturally everything swinging London had to offer and these activities were reflected in his burgeoning song writing. No wonder the domestically stifled Lennon was envious!

McCartney remains fixated on controlling his public image to this day. Vexed by the general public’s view of his contribution to The Beatles’ body of work and especially since Lennon’s martyrdom, he remains acutely sensitive to allegations that come anywhere close to the truth, his reaction to the publication in 1983 of “The Love you make” by Peter Brown and Steven Gaines, being a case in point.

Speaking of Brown, a former assistant to Brian Epstein, McCartney was moved to recall; “He was a friend, a man I trusted. When I was going to the hospital to have Stella, I handed him my baby, Mary, to hold. I wouldn’t trust my baby to anyone but a friend. Now it’s like he doesn’t exist. And his book… well, it doesn’t matter what he wrote, because he betrayed a trust. We decided not to read it, but we heard things. We put the copy he sent us in the fire and I photographed it as it burned, page by page.”

Having aired his views in an interview with Simon Bates for BBC Radio One, McCartney contributed his further thoughts on the subject to Playboy magazine the following year; “Yeah, he told us he was going to write about the music of the Sixties, not a book about the Beatles. I took him into my house, something we don’t do; we had lunch, showed him the kids, showed him around our village. I actually thought he was a friend. so to find out that he isn’t is no big deal. But I mean, I hear he said John Lennon had a gay thing with Brian Epstein when they went to Spain together once. That’s been rumored for years. I mean, was he in the room with them? It’s probably just wishful thinking on his part. But I’ll tell you what’s naughty about it– that John’s not here to answer it, and neither is Brian. All that stuff that’s written about us, I just hope that people who’ve sort of heard of our music, vaguely, know what the Beatles, or the ex-Beatles, were… and it wasn’t what’s been written. I mean, John’s time and effort were, in the main, spent on pretty honorable stuff. As for the other side, well, nobody’s perfect, nobody’s Jesus. And look what they did to him.”

Determining the truth to the background behind this book’s publication is no easy matter. Brown obviously felt his historic connection to the band would grant him access to the (then) three surviving members, and naturally he chose to utilise this literary advantage. Whether he succumbed later to commercial pressure from his publishing house or co-writer to alter the slant of the book is pure conjecture, but what remains indisputable is that many of the printed allegations have subsequently been validated by the protagonists themselves. In 1983 though, and with the Lennon killing still fresh in the public’s mind, this particular “insider’s view” was just a little too uncomfortable to bear. As for the Spanish incident between Lennon and Epstein, it’s surely obvious to most people that John was seeking to establish his pole position within the band where future power struggles might be concerned. As heterosexual as he was, if achieving that end required him to drop his trousers and bend over for his manager, there seems little doubt that he would have done it. The world is full of people who will exploit the weakness of others for their own ends. As it was, Lennon later allegedly confided to a childhood friend that he had offered himself but that Epstein had confined his intimacy to a little manual dexterity. The finer details are irrelevant, it’s the motivation for engineering the “getaway holiday” in the first place that is the more interesting aspect to this entry in Beatle lore.

Paul McCartney - The Biography (Philip Nprman) 2016

Full marks to both subject and biographer for burying the hatchet.

Philip Norman’s biography of the Beatles, Shout!, sold more than a million copies upon publication in 1981. Arguably the first literary look at Beatledom: the book divided their career into four parts – Wishing, Getting, Having and Wasting – and told the story in gleaming prose. Nevertheless, the tome was bedevilled on several fronts; off beam hypotheses such as Epstein being a mafia like murder victim as a result of the Seltaeb merchandising fiasco, and key factual errors – the refutation that the hordes camped outside the Palladium when Beatlemania invaded London amounted to little more than a handful of spectators, and the accusation that McCartney had ousted Sutcliffe on bass during the group’s formative years. Worst of all, and throughout the chapters, there pervades a glaring bias against Paul, who is portrayed as a kind of simpering egomaniac, and largely inconsequential when compared to Lennon, who, Norman later claimed, represented “three quarters of The Beatles.” Understandably, McCartney was somewhat upset, referring to the book and writer respectively as ‘Shite’ and Norma Phillips!

Mellowing over time, Norman relayed his more generous view of McCartney to his office and was surprised to receive back his subject’s “tacit approval” with the project i.e. no direct involvement, but assistance nonetheless with sources and information.

The end result is a capably executed biography, brimming with detail and quite possibly the best one on Macca to date. The suspicion persists that Norman is no amateur musician himself, his work so devoid of any analysis of the man’s bass playing and compositional skills that we can forgive his reticence to discuss McCartney’s talent in any great detail. Understandably therefore, there is an associated failure to get to grips with the underachievement that largely defined McCartney’s later 1970s and 80s work.

The overwhelmimg impression is of an individual forever working at “doing the right thing.” Criticised for his insensitivity by Lennon’s Aunt Mimi at the time of his ex-partner’s death – he hadn’t spoken to her in years and was rather bemused that she would would have expected some contact – the ever affable Paul would thereafter call periodically throughout the rest of her life to enquire about her well being and to offer assistance. There was no such communication from George and Ringo.

Surfing

Macca Report

http://www.maccareport.com/\

A news orientated site with CD reviews, links for interviews, picture portfolios etc. Not my sort of site but ideal for younger fans.

The McCartney Recording Sessions

http://webpages.charter.net/ram71/

An invaluable free on-line resource.

If the output’s been a tad patchy, then there’s little doubting the man’s work ethic.

Paul McCartney (Official Website)

http://www.paulmccartney.com\

Paul McCartney recently relaunched his official website, PaulMcCartney.com, which now is offering fans of the Beatles legend a more expansive interactive online experience. The revamped site boasts a variety of new features, including a frequently updated area that will offer rare photographs and videos, a jukebox that allows visitors to create their own playlists, and a section where fans can remix select tunes from McCartney’s catalog.

PaulMcCartney.com also will offer studio outtakes, in-depth information about Macca’s tours and albums, and concert-ticket pre-sales. In addition, the site will let fans connect via blogs, Facebook and Twitter to share comments and reviews about all things McCartney. Many special features will only be accessible to fans who sign up as premium members at a cost of $50 per year.

“The new website is really going to be fascinating,” says McCartney in a new promo video. “It’s a great service for the fans — anyone who wants to look up what I’m doing. So the idea is to intrigue people and to bring them into our world, with new facts, new photographs, news of what’s happening…accounts of what has happened, backstage moments — all the stuff we can give that nobody else can give.”

Maybe it’s me, but all this is hard to take in for someone who used to buy “The Beatles Monthly magazine” and was thrilled to receive the group’s Fan Club Xmas flexi discs. How much money does this man really need? – a cynical exploitation therefore, of a huge catalogue, nothing more, nothing less. I would prefer instead a regular flow of self produced down home albums like his first solo LP.

McCartney seems to be exerting a stranglehold upon his presence on the worldwide web. God knows what Lennon would have made of it all; he’d have probably hacked in to leave a pithy comment!

Youtube – It’s always YouTube because that’s where it all is.