Paul McCartney gave three major print media interviews this summer that were generally more interesting than his usual press outings. Here are the more interesting insights we’ve gleaned from the Q&A sessions published in the Washington Post, Rolling Stone magazine and the New York Times. (Click on the live links to read the interviews in their entirety.) …
The Washington Post’s Geoff Edgers’ interview with Macca, published in July, was conducted during a tour stop in Denmark.
McCartney was asked why he held off so long performing the Beatles songs “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Love Me Do” in concert as a solo artist. “Normally, I used to resist something that wasn’t sort of my song,” he said. “I would do ‘Drive My Car,’ but then I would avoid ‘Help’ or something like that because I felt it was more John than me. But I happened to relax that theory, and I’m just very happy to just do stuff that I think is a good song. I heard ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ on the radio and thought, ‘Wow, great song,’ and I realized John and I were both so excited about the song we both sang the lead vocal. Something that doesn’t happen these days. And that chord is one of the most iconic chords in music.”
Talking about what he’s been working on the studio lately, he revealed a hitch in one of his projects: “I’m working on a film project that I’m writing some songs for. An animated film thing. The film thing, I don’t like it. Because you’re totally gung-ho and you’re doing it and somebody rings you up and says, ‘Well, it’s on hold.’ One of the characters in our film, I’d rung up Lady Gaga and asked her to sing this song. It came out really good, but we can’t do anything with it until the film gets made. You feel like sometimes you’re walking in treacle. We made a start on it and once we get the go-ahead I will finish up the other songs and record them, and there’s one more I’d like Gaga to do.”
He was asked about the genesis of his “Pure McCartney” collection and said, “What I like is that it feels like a mix tape. That was the original thought. It was like a playlist. The ideal thing is if you’ve got a three-hour car journey and you’ve got the perfect thing to listen to, he said modestly.”
For those fans who’ve questioned the song selection, and why it didn’t include any tracks from “Flowers in the Dirt,” this excerpt from the interview is particularly instructive:
How involved did you get in the song selection?
To tell you the truth, this was an idea that was put to me by one of my girls in my New York office, who I respect and is sort of a great music fan and connoisseur. She said, I’ve been listening and putting together playlists and I think it would be great to do this. So she came up with the first playlist. Then I got involved.
What’s her name?
Her name is Nancy Jeffries.
I want to lodge just one complaint with Nancy Jeffries. “Flowers in the Dirt.” I could go on and on about what’s wonderful about that album. And there’s not a song from it.
You know why, because it’s about to be reissued. It’s our next big box set. We’re working on that at the moment. So she would avoid that.
Will it be released in its entirety? There are all those songs you wrote and recorded with Elvis Costello, many of them not officially released.
That’s one of the real exciting things. Those demos. We’re releasing them as part of this package. I’m not sure I’m supposed to be telling you this. … It’s great that you’re a fan of “Flowers in the Dirt.” Cause you’ve got a real nice release coming out. We showed it all to Elvis, and he was just tickled pink.
The Rolling Stone interview, which was the cover story of the Aug. 25 issue of the magazine, was conducted in London and Philadelphia by David Fricke, who also wrote an essay for the booklet included with the new release, “The Beatles: Live at the Hollywood Bowl.”
Asked why performing is still so important to him, Macca said: “This idea of the great little band — it’s quite attractive. A basic unit is at the heart of the music we all love. It’s in the halls of Nashville, the clubs of Liverpool and Hamburg. One of the pleasures for me, when we take our bow at the end of the evening, is there’s five of us.”
Talking about his role in The Beatles, he said: “I was very much the guy who pushed it. It’s a damn good job I did. No one would have got off their asses to come out from the suburbs into the city to make Let It Be. The film turned out pretty weird, but it’s a good record.”
As for his current band, he made it clear that his his group, but “to balance that I throw it open when we’re rehearsing. Sometimes there’s things I don’t want to do. But the guys would say, ‘Gotta do it. This will work.’”
What have they suggested that worked?
“‘Golden Slumbers’ through ‘The End’ [from Abbey Road]. It was a bit of work. I was being lazy. Rusty [Anderson] suggested ‘Day Tripper.’ I didn’t want to do it because the bass part’s very hard. ‘Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite’ is the same. Those are the two in the show I didn’t want to do. But the guys said it would be great. At the same time, I’m a dictator. And nobody has a problem with that — I don’t think [laughs]. We’ve been together now longer than the Beatles or Wings. Something’s happening right. And I think we get better, because we get simpler.”
Returning to the subject of “Let It Be,” Fricke asked him if there any chance it will ever be rereleased.
Said Paul: “I keep thinking we’ve done it. We’ve talked about it for so long.”
What’s the holdup?
“I’ve no bloody idea. I keep bringing it up, and everyone goes, ‘Yeah, we should do that.’ The objection should be me. I don’t come off well.”
The Beatles and Apple Corps, he pointed out, “is a democracy. I’m one of the votes.” And, he said, it has to be unanimous agreement between him, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison. “That’s the secret of the Beatles — can’t do three to one. During the breakup was when it got screwed up — we did three against one. But now it has to be unanimous. The two girls are Beatles.”
And, his relationship with Yoko?
“It’s really good, actually. We were kind of threatened [in the Beatles days]. She was sitting on the amps while we were recording. Most bands couldn’t handle that. We handled it, but not amazingly well, because we were so tight. We weren’t sexist, but girls didn’t come to the studio — they tended to leave us to it. When John got with Yoko, she wasn’t in the control room or to the side. It was in the middle of the four of us. … My big awakening was, if John loves this woman, that’s gotta be right. I realized any resistance was something I had to overcome. It was a little hard at first. Gradually, we did. Now it’s like we’re mates. I like Yoko. [Laughs] She’s so Yoko.”
In The New York Times interview, conducted via telephone by Caryn Ganz and published in August, McCartney addressed the unchanging parts of his touring show, including telling the same stories over and over, night after night.
“If you think of it like a Broadway show, they don’t alter their lines or their jokes every night,” he said. “Once you have some idea of what goes down well with an audience, you kind of stick to it. So if I’m telling a story about Jimi Hendrix that I’ve said before, then I’ll use little phrases, like ‘As I say’ or ‘I often tell the story’ to not sound like, oh my God, he’s on auto-repeat.”
Ganz mentioned a fan down front at his recent MetLife Stadium show in New Jersey who had a sign saying he’d seen Paul in concert over 100 times, and asked, “How do you please both him and a 20-year-old seeing you for the first time?”
Answered McCartney: “You know, I’m kind of aware that there are a few people that have seen the show before. I must say the biggest question I ask myself is, how can they afford it? You’re like, in the front row, and he’s been 107 times! What I really do for both of them is try to do a show that I would like to go and see. So I first of all sit down and think, if I was going to see him, I’d want him to do this, and he couldn’t leave out that, and I really hope he’ll do this. So those songs are the starting point. And then we start to kick things around in rehearsal, and my band will sometimes suggest an idea, or I’ll hear something on the radio and think, we should do that.”
Could he envision himself playing a show of almost exclusively new songs, like Bob Dylan has done?
“I’ve thought about that a lot. Theoretically, the philosophy is good, because, well, you’re not playing songs you’ve played a lot. But my concern is for the audience. I remember when I went to concerts, particularly when I was a kid, it was a lot of money you had to save up. So I imagine myself going to my show: Would I like to hear him play all new songs? No. I wouldn’t want to do that. I would do a smaller gig and advertise the fact up front — I’d probably call the tour ‘Deep Cuts’ or something, so you knew it was going to be just really deep cuts that only the aficionados would know. I think if I did that, it could be quite fun.”