You can see all the stars as you walk down Hollywood Boulevard
Some that you recognize, some that you’ve hardly even heard of
Paul McCartney did not write that, but he did cowrite one of the Stones’ very first hits, “I Wanna Be Your Man,” and Marc Maron started off asking Paul about Keith.
You should have seen his expression. With enough experience you can handle anything, nothing is new, Paul was mildly upset, he thought it should be about him, one thing you’ve got to know about Paul McCartney is he’s self-confident, he’s not like the rest of the Hollywood stars, saying it’s about luck, thanking God, it was a lot of hard work, and he’s reaping the rewards.
People who worked and suffered and struggled for fame
Some who succeeded and some who suffered in vain
You don’t have to come to Hollywood to make it, but it helps. It’s easier to stay home and play the game of woulda, coulda, shoulda. The truth is it’s nearly impossible to make it, talent is at most fifty percent, there’s desire, there’s cunning, there are no accidents, no matter what anybody tells you.
And this was the semi-annual Capitol Congress, when employees from around the world are brought to the epicenter to find out about the company’s wares, what’s coming in the coming year, what they’re gonna have to pay attention to and work.
None of them were there when the Beatles started. It’s only the artists who survive. The labels are just conduits, the business is just infrastructure, but when done right, the work survives.
But it’s rarely been done this right, in the history of time, there’s never been a new Beatles.
And Paul was one of them.
So he’s flogging a new record. Not that he thinks it’s as great as what came before. But this is what he does, he’s a musician.
And as level-headed as he may be, as much of a survivor as he may be, he has his down moods. He said “Nowhere Man” was about John himself, that by writing it he exorcised his demons, he felt better, just like Paul felt better by writing the negative songs on the new record.
That’s right, Paul McCartney is human.
But if you grew up in the sixties, you don’t believe it, even if he’s sitting in front of you, his music is a part of our lives, one of the building blocks.
Not that Paul was upset about talking about the good old days.
But the most interesting part of the presentation was the stories, musicians are founts of stories.
Yes, he stole the “oohs” from Brian Wilson. Yes, the Beatles competed with the Beach Boys, yes, “Sgt. Pepper” was a reaction to “Pet Sounds,” but even better was the story of meeting Brian Wilson in Derek Taylor’s L.A. abode. Brian came with shades, he was embarrassed to wear them inside, but Paul said it was cool.
And then Brian played him “Good Vibrations.”
You know what it’s like to hear an iconic hit for the first time. Some insiders know what it’s like to hear a legendary cut not only for the first time, but before almost everybody else! Same deal with “Ruby Tuesday,” Paul KNEW it was a hit.
Not that he’s always sure. He said oftentimes the bands are the worst single pickers, that there’s always some expert at the label, how Al Coury called and told him there were megahits on “Band On The Run” and he was gonna make them so, despite the fact that the album was floundering.
And Ringo is an insomniac. Paul never had a roommate, Ringo was the first, he was up all night, in an era where Paul couldn’t get noticed, couldn’t get laid. For twenty years he was not a Beatle, and he remembers.
But life is good now.
But unlike today’s stars he doesn’t live the lifestyle 24/7.
He took the jitney from the Hamptons to the city.
He took the bus uptown. Everybody respected his privacy except for an African-American grandmother who kept exclaiming who he was, so he had her sit down right next to him.
That’s right, he travels sans bodyguard, he doesn’t want to lose touch with the street.
And how he’s managed to be so well-adjusted and have a family life…hell, he’s got eight grandchildren!
But the best story was about making “Band On The Run” in Lagos.
Fela Kuti accused him of ripping off the black man.
Paul had him come to the studio to hear the demos, which were cut before McCartney’s arrival in Nigeria.
Fela said the music was cool, and invited him and his entourage to a party in the hinterlands. Paul felt it was too dangerous and decided not to smoke, which is a rarity. And then Ginger Baker took a toke and Fela remarked how the drummer was a true friend, he never turned down a smoke, so then Paul imbibed too.
And being told not to walk back into town Paul and Linda did anyway.
And were robbed. The thieves took the “Band On The Run” demos before they were cut for the album. Paul figures they recorded over them. Thank god he remembered the music enough to recreate it.
Let me try to explain it.
If you’re under thirty it’d be like having an audience with Steve Jobs.
But Steve Jobs is dead. And the products he created will fade, be superseded, and Paul’s work will not, at least not for a very long time.
And he laments the Beatles broke up.
He says the song people want to hear most is “Yesterday.”
That he loves when the audience sings along with “Hey Jude.”
And interspersed were Lennon stories and you had to pinch yourself, because Paul McCartney had no airs, it was like having the most famous person ever come sit in your living room and act like he grew up down the street.
And I thought it was only my generation, but on the way to the afterparty the thirtysomethings said they were thrilled too, after all, Paul and the Beatles STARTED IT!
So what a long strange trip it’s been, and it’s never gonna come back, and if it does, it’s gonna be different.
It was a generational shift. Before the Beatles our parents ruled, after them we did.
We took over everything, the radio and eventually TV.
And only we knew what was going on. Our parents and the media were clueless.
And in retrospect it wasn’t a fad, it was forever.
That’s the power of the Beatles, that’s the power of songwriting, that’s the power of melody, that’s the power of music.
You’d think you’d heard it all. Paul acknowledged that John took the line “I know what it’s like to be dead” from Peter Fonda.
But the facts were not the nuggets, rather it was the aforementioned stories. Just like you and me, only we all think we know Paul, we’re all interested.
This life, it’s so crazy, the older you get the less you know, we look for touchstones and beacons.
Paul McCartney’s music is certainly a touchstone.
But the funny thing is he’s also a beacon. He’s keepin’ on, refusing to stay still. Enjoying being in the band on the run, cracking jokes with his compatriots as they do a runner from the gig.
The songs are bigger than the man.
But the man survives.
Hopefully we will too.
P.S. I didn’t need to talk to him, I didn’t need a picture, he doesn’t need to know me, but Scott Rodger insisted we talk. And I know not to fawn, that gets no respect. So I talked to him about his ski day at Bromley a couple of years back, told him that’s where I grew up skiing. He said the snow was perfect! And that _______ lives nearby, and maybe I’ll run into him.
P.P.S. And I told him I wanted to hear “Big Barn Bed” in concert. Sure, it’s obscure, forgotten, but it’s also a favorite. He said there was a recording from the seventies he’d send me. As for “Letting Go,” they used to do it, I told him it was one of my favorites.