Author: Peter Grant
Date: April 23 & 24, 2001

That Macca magic

Apr 24 2001
EVER dreamt of sitting in the same room as Paul McCartney, having a quiet chat with the most famous face in rock? For icLiverpool's PETER GRANT, it has happened more than once - and in this, the first of three parts of his most recent interview with Sir Paul, Peter asks the ex-Beatle about Wings, Linda, his new love and the future

MEETING Paul McCartney once is lucky, twice proves that dreams do come true and, as for meeting him three times . . well, who needs the lottery?

I was a Beatle fan from my schooldays and then a member of the Wings Fun Club. But now this was business - granted with pleasure.

Seeing him in his London office, he shakes my hand and, in that famous Liverpool accent, says: 'Ere, you've got a good grip on yer."

Paul McCartney, one of the nation's richest men, has earned his fame, but he has an uncanny knack of making you feel special - that he's interested in YOU.

His office is adorned with gold discs and he knows there are plenty more to come. Paul is half way through a new album in LA and says he has the taste for touring again.

The Beatles Number One album, which dominated the charts around the world, features 27 number ones and was a hit all over the world 30 years after the band split.

Says Sir Paul: "I played the album the other day in the car and I thought to myself 'How did we do that?'

"I was surprised but chuffed with the success of Number One. I saw George, Ringo and Yoko and I know they were, too."

The Beatles Anthology book, videos and album collection certainly put the record straight about The Beatles.

"We called The Anthology the 'Beatle bible'. There were people who have written books about us who had never met us. The Anthology is The Beatles by The Beatles.

"It's a good job we didn't do it five years from now - after all, we're no spring chickens. I remember piecing together stuff like the night we met Elvis. I recalled Elvis coming to the door to meet us. Ringo said that we all went into this room."

In the forthcoming film and album soundtrack Wingspan - which is why we're meeting up - Paul reveals how, as Wings Commander, he piloted his new band through mega success from very humble beginnings gong out in a van playing in universities and charging 50p entrance fee.

The film footage, collected from all over the world, is a must for any Wings fan.

Following the album and film release he will return to LA to finish off the forthcoming album due out at the end of the year.

But, Paul, who will be 59 on June 18, releases Wingspan on May 7 and the soundtrack album will sell for the price of a single album.

Paul, who is currently in New York with girlfriend Heather Mills, has been reading from his Blackbird Singing book and speaking out against the dangers of landmines.

The Wingspan film, he points out will make, 'great telly' in the US when it screen on May 11 and here in the UK on May 19 at 10pm (C4).

Three years in the making, it emerged after Paul and Linda were looking at home movies and photographs. Alistair, husband of Mary McCartney, put the film lovingly together and added some never-seen-before footage of the band on stage.

Having seen a sneak preview of the film it candidly reveals how Paul and Linda raised a young family and fronted a new band against the massive handicap of battling The Beatles legacy, a pot bust in Japan and two key releases being banned by the BBC.

It was the hardest job in rock and roll and yet, in the space of nine years, Wings soared to international success with 17 million selling-singles, five USA no 1 albums and eventually a US stadium tour that broke the Beatles attendance record at Shea Stadium.

Sir Paul says that making an Anthology of his Wings days will at last show how important Linda McCartney was in the ever-changing Wings line-up.

"When The Beatles finished it was such a shock to me and my system. Besides being out of work, to my mind I'd lost one of the greatest jobs in the world.

"Once I'd got over that initial shock I thought, ''What am I going to do now. I'm not in The Beatles anymore ... do I even continue in music now, and if I do, do I go solo or get a band or whatever'.

"We did do great with Wings. We did it big and we managed to create a few records, both of the musical type and the attendance type. Wings really allowed me to continue doing music after The Beatles that was the main thing for me really.

"I couldn't stop making music if you paid me so there had to be some way to keep doing it. I really need to do that and so there had to be a band and it was called Wings. That is the story we are telling in the film which is a very human story.

Wings set out to prove that we could do it. There was so much bitterness in the wake of The Beatles break-up that there was an element of 'We'll show you' . . .

Drugs bust that destroyed Wings

Apr 24 2001
HE can claim to be a superstar not once but twice over. When The Beatles split up in April 1970, Paul McCartney realised he had to start all over again. A new TV documentary called Wingspan details the soaraway success of Paul, Linda and the many line-ups that made up one of the supergroups of the '70s. Now, in Part Two of an exclusive three-part interview, Paul tells Peter Grant about life after The Beatles and how Stella inspired the name Wings. He recalls how the band took off and flew sky high in the charts across the world before coming down to earth after a drugs bust in Japan. Now he is solo but ready to lead a band on the run again ...

SITTING in the London office of Sir Paul McCartney is a daunting experience.

There are Ivor Novello Awards lined up on the shelf, wall-to-wall gold discs and Moptop memorabilia including a car licence plate from America that simply says 'AY JUDE'.

Framed pictures featuring The Fab Four smile down from the walls as does a photo of Paul walking across Abbey Road with his beloved dog Martha.

Before our chat he sings an impromptu verse of "Fly Me To The Moon" - but I miss out on this world exclusive chance of taping it for a rare bootleg.

Dressed in t-shirt, slacks and trainers, he sips mineral water and laughs frequently.

Here is the Macca of all trades: singer, songwriter, poet, painter Beatle and Wing Commander.

It's Wings, in all its flights of fancy that he is talking about now as well about his past, present and future.

Paul is currently overseeing a documentary film for Channel 4 called Wingspan. It is to tie in with the release of a double-album of the same name released next month.

He has a poetry book Blackbird Singing in the best-seller list. He is half way through recording a new album in L.A. and he has an art exhibition this autumn in his home town.

He's in love with girlfriend Heather Mills, too, and the former model accompanies him here, there and everywhere.Paul looks fit and happy. He is clearly a chilled-out man.

He has also revealed that playing The Cavern in 1999 whetted his performing appetite and that he would love to tour again.

He says that Wingspan, like The Beatles Anthology, was another chance to put the record straight.

After all HE should know what happened - he WAS there.

In his soft Scouse accent, the self-styled 'Scruff from Speke' explains how it all came about: "Linda and I were looking at snapshots to tie in with an anniversary. I said to her 'when do we intend to look at all this stuff?'

"We had all these Polaroids, home movies - the type of things people gather and gather but never get round to looking at.

"I didn't know this but Linda had got Alistair, our daughter Mary's husband, to put together an 'Anniversary Tape' - a video of home movies of the kids growing up.

He put music on it. Alistair did a really tasty job, too, and then after we watched it and after we cried a bit, we thought it would make a great piece for telly. "

Wingspan, the film, began three years ago.

It tells how Paul 'dared' to follow The Beatles; how he was banned by the BBC.and, in a warts and all style report, how the pot bust in Japan saw the group finally go up in smoke.

Throughout it all he has kept his family firmly together.

Family means everything to James Paul McCartney.

In the rock-umentary, Paul's daughter Mary is the on-screen interviewer.

We see Paul at home relaxing in the kitchen, enjoying a horseback ride and in conversation all of the sequences interspaced with rare footage of Wings on stage.

There's never been-seen-before-film from Wings at the height of their performances with live versions of Jet, Maybe l'm Amazed and My Love.

Paul, in one poignant flashback, is also seen sporting a Merseybeat t-shirt.

He says the experience of putting the Wings story on film was as cathartic an experience as compiling The Beatles Anthology albums, videos and book.

He says that when The Beatles split he knew he had to make music that was his job - end of story.

Now he is content that Linda's rightful place in the band's legacy will be recognised and how Michael Jackson, Elton John and Neil Sedaka have gone on record praising Linda's harmonies.

Paul also reveals how one of the world's leading fashion designers was the inspiration for the name of the group.It was dreamed up, he recalls, while Linda was having baby Stella.

Says Paul: "I was staying in hospital with her, as is my wont. I got a little camp-bed in the same room as her to keep her company and to be there to help. That left me with a lot of free time to sit around thinking.

"One afternoon I was just musing on the whole having-a-baby experience feeling very thankful and in tune with the mysteries of it all and I was thinking of angels and the 'wings' came into my head. I thought, now that's a pretty good name for a group."

The birth of the band also had humble beginnings - just like The Beatles in the '60s, from playing in the Star Club in Hamburg to The Cavern and the Tower Ballroom.

Says Paul: "I decided we weren't going to do that 'supergroup' thing again or be a pale imitation of The Beatles.

"When The Beatles split John had already said he didn't want to carry on despite my suggestion that we should get back on the road again like any little band, just like we did in the early days.

"I had a choice: do I give up or carry on in music? I decided to carry on in music and do it like we used to do it.

"I was actually competing with myself. I was thinking The Beatles was just four kids making a huge phenomenal success. And this - Wings - well, now one of those four kids has got married and has his own kids and is now going to try doing it again, but with the shadow of the Beatles hanging over him.

"I was also trying to raise a family. I wanted the band to grow organically and evolve.

"It was back to square one. We turned up at universities unannounced. I would send in a roadie and tell him to go in and say 'Paul McCartney's in the van and wants to play.

"He would say 'yeah, pull the other one, mate'. Then he'd come out and there was a me in this van - saying 'well, can we play?'.

"I remember we could never find a decent hotel. There would always be a conference on. Well, that's what they told us. Mind you, we had dogs with us as well. We didn't have expensive equipment either just small amps or we'd use their PAs. Our attitude was 'we'll manage and have a laugh', even with the scabby hotels.

"I liked the whole Wings thing because I'd never formed a group before. I joined the Quarrymen they were an already made band. So I wasn't used to all that. I had no experience.

Everyone was looking for the next Beatles. Some bands have this weight around them like Echo and The Bunnymen had people saying they were the next Beatles instead of letting them just get out there to be themselves. "

Despite their sell-out concerts from Liverpool to every corner of the world, Wings' multi-million selling albums and singles, their career ended when Paul was thrown into a Japanese jail for nine days in 1980.

He says he regrets the whole episode which left bitter feelings in the rest of the band.

"I certainly didn't intend that to happen. To this day I really cannot believe I did that. Wings were flying from New York to Tokyo and we'd been told not to take anything to Japan. We'd been told endlessly, so it wasn't like I didn't know.

"The terrible truth of it was we were into smoking pot at that time and we had this stuff that we didn't flush down the bloody toilet. I do no not know what possessed me to stick it in my suitcase

"Wings really finished then. It had sort of lost its charm; it wasn't fun anymore and the 'pot bust' had definitely cemented that. It was like 'Oh God, who needs all this?'.

"I really cannot understand certain things about my life and that is definitely one of them.

"Wings didn't fold . . . they dissolved like sugar in a cup of tea."

Looking back, Paul has his own theory on the success of Wings.

Paul looks out of the window onto London town and smiles a wide smile: "They didn't stick to any particular rules. . . there was matey-ness and companionship like in The Beatles you had John and Paul. In Wings, it was Paul and Linda.

"I thought that you couldn't follow The Beatles. Well, Wingspan is the story and the sound track of how we set out to do it.

"There was so much bitterness in the wake of The Beatles break-up that with Wings with Linda and me there was an element of "we'll show you . . ."

My love for Linda - and Liverpool

Apr 24 2001
FORMER Beatle and Wings commander Paul McCartney believes that Liverpool keeps his feet on the ground, enabling him to take his world-wide fame in his stride. Concluding an exclusive three-part interview with Peter Grant, he tells how his late wife Linda loved Liverpool and its people. He talks about his family and the future and of enjoying the simple things in life such as quiz nights in the local ...

"YOU can take the lad out of Liverpool, but not Liverpool out of the lad": Sir James Paul McCartney's Scouse accent illustrates this adage perfectly.

In interviews - whether in print, on screen or on radio - the man worth an estimated 713 million always refers to his influential hometown with great affection.

He was most recently home to sign copies of his poetry book Blackbird Singing and to make his debut reading at the Everyman Theatre along with Willy Russell.

He also popped into LIPA - his Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts - and he met up with members of the massive McCartney clan on Merseyside.

Says Paul: "It was good to do the poetry reading because the Everyman was a place associated with Alan Durband.

"He was at the Institute. I owe him because he turned me onto literature. I respected him.

"He was a teacher who was a big influence on me at school. It was a struggle but he did get us to read Chaucer - I know where all the naughty bits are.

"He opened doors which came in very handy when the Beatles were writing songs. After the Thank You Girl period we blossomed, say, on Eleanor Rigby.

"I got my only own scholastic achievement because of him - A Level literature."

Paul says every visit home reinforces just how much the city means to him and how much it meant to his late wife Linda.

Linda loved Liverpool. Oh yeah, she really loved the humour and the caring side of the people. She was funny and smart even though she didn't have a smart image. "

"She was very perceptive and strong she put up with a lot of flak in the early days of Wings and she played in band and brought up a family we did it.

"If you'd met her you'd see what I saw in her and realise what a strong woman she was.

"I remember recently having lunch with actor Liam Neeson who is not a veggie and it got a bit heated and I said to him 'Hey, you're lucky Linda's not here, mate'."

"She was passionate. Linda was so cool. I did warn her that Liverpool-Irish family dos were very friendly and that when you kiss members of the family - it's not like in New York. Oh no, I told her to keep her teeth-clenched.

"She really loved all that 'Alright girl,' stuff people would say to her. Like it is now for me in London when I am walking along the road people stop and say to me (adopts a cockney accent) 'Alright, my old son.'

"Liverpool still help keeps my feet firmly on the ground. It makes me realise who I am. I love the River I am a big fan of strong, big rivers like The Thames, The Tyne, The Hudson - yeah, the great River Mersey."

He says his 1999 Millennium show at the Cavern was OK.

The show, in the place it all began, featured songs from his Run Devil Run album with a nod to The Beatles in a raucous version of I Saw Her Standing There. It was a record-breaking success in every sense.

"We just turned up that afternoon, rehearsed and played that evening. It went well. I remember telling my office to arrange some tickets for the family. You've got to do that in Liverpool.

"And my office were over-zealous as usual. So I asked for about 30 tickets. We have a huge family on Merseyside."

And with a hearty laugh, he adds: " In fact, some are breeding as we speak- there's always a couple on the go.

"I gave the tickets to my brother Michael to sort out. Otherwise it would be like 'ere how come SHE'S going and NOT me?' - that type of family argument thing. So I lumbered Michael with that job.

"Anyway, on the actual night they let all the family in first. I didn't know about it so when I got on stage the first few rows of people standing there were all MY relatives. It was bit off-putting at first.

There was also a heckler who asked me to play 'Satisfaction' - I told him that wasn't one of ours! "

"After the show I went for a drink with Julia Baird - John's half sister. It was my first bevvie of the day, because I can't drink before a gig - I'd forget the words if I did. Then one of my cousin's kids says to me, 'Hey, did you hear that heckler - that was ME.'

"I just looked at him - not only did he get free tickets but he was heckling me, too. But you gotta laugh, haven't you? I know I did,"

The Cavern show was heard globally on mass media and on the internet and made headline news from Liverpool to Rio as well as a place in the Guinness Book of Records. He had put Liverpool and The Cavern on the map all over again.

He says playing Liverpool is and always will be special.

"The Kings Dock concert was a beautiful night. It's always good for me to go home it reminds me of where I'm from who I am, very stabilising.

"I was driving along the dock road and thinking about the old pre-Beatle days. I started to think about the places - the chip shops I used to love going to on match days with my uncles.

"I thought how great it would be to do a show by the banks of the Mersey. That night was special and I did a couple of John's songs. I knew I couldn't win with people saying, 'Why are you doing them - aren't yours any good?'

"But it was special and they'll always remind me of John.

"Another great night was in Zagreb when I sang Yesterday and the whole crowd joined in - I just let them finish it. It was like the working class spirit of Liverpool."

He says that he likes nothing better than enjoying a good pub quiz - the tougher the better.

"I love them. They are tough, though. Crosswords, too. Now I can do The Times crossword which is dead hard. In fact," he says proudly "one of my cousins compiles crossword for the broadsheets.

"That's all down to my dad, who left school at 14 . He was a very intelligent man just like Uncle Harry, who could recite Shakespeare.

"Dad used to urge me and our kid to do crosswords and we'd yawn and say 'yeah, dad.'

"I've met Thatcher and Wilson - granted, not in-depth meetings but I still say some of the most intelligent people I've ever met are my Liverpool family. I'm proud of them all - proud of Liverpool."

He says that musically things have come full circle. He recently appeared on the front cover of an American teenage magazine.

"I was chuffed with The Beatles Number One album. George, Ringo and Yoko were, too. I played it the other day in the car and I thought: 'How did we do that ... 27 number ones!'

"In America I signed a few copies of it for Steven Spielberg's kids. And one bloke told me that his eight-year old son played Number One and asked: 'What happened next?'

"Well, now I've just done Wingspan the album and the telly programme and that says EXACTLY what happened!

Paul says that, like Wingspan, working on The Beatle Anthology was a great experience.

"We called The Anthology, The Bible. It's a good job we did it now were not exactly spring chickens. Ringo and I did differ on what happened the night we met Elvis but part from that we pieced it together."

So will we see Paul on tour again? Will he front another band on the run?

"Yeah, I fancy that.

"I'm half way through an album which should be ready at the end of the year so I like to have something to promote if I'm out on the road.

"The Cavern gig whetted my appetite - not that it needs whetting.

Laughs Paul: " Hey, look at Ringo - he's out touring again and he's an old so-and-so..."

by Peter Grant