PAUL MCCARTNEY TODAY
'I don't want to be a living legend'
Linda McCartney was twenty-three and living in Arizona when 'Yesterday' was released in America in 1965. Separated from her first husband, and living with her daughter, Heather, nearly two years old, in a semi-detached house, Linda recalls visiting her friendly neighbours to watch the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show on 12 September 1965.
'I remember thinking "Yesterday" was so poignant and so meaningful. I loved it. Everybody was going: "Wow; it isn't just their looks any more." It was their music. I was never a fanatical Beatles fan. I was always more into it for the music. The song was meaningful to a lot of people because, while we always think we won't look back, we do.' Linda ordered her copy of the 'Yesterday' single by mail order from New York. 'Why I didn't get it in Arizona, I don't know.'
An artistic spirit, Linda had a family background steeped in music, like that of Paul. In a parallel with Paul's musical inspiration from his dad, Linda's introduction to the entertainment world came from her father in the pre-rock 'n' roll years.
Linda's father, Lee Eastman, was the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants to the US who had met on Ellis Island. He had married Louise Linder, whose Cleveland family was independently wealthy, owning department stores. Linda has an older brother, John (who is now Paul's lawyer) and two younger sisters, Laura and Louise.* Graduating from Harvard, to which he had won a scholarship at age sixteen, Lee Eastman had first joined a New
* - When Linda was eighteen her mother died in a plane crash. Her father died of a stroke in New York Hospital on 30 July 1991, aged eighty-one.
York law firm and specialized in divorce. He hated that and, with a love of music, headed for the world of entertainment, striking out with his own firm. At the start of the 1950s he began his meteoric rise to success as one of the world's top show-business lawyers. His early clients were bandleader Sammy Kaye, a bandleader/clarinettist who had a 1964 hit with 'Charade'; Tommy Dorsey, in whose band a singer named Frank Sinatra would serve a crucial apprenticeship; leading jazz pianist Joe Bushkin, a star soloist who also starred with Benny Goodman and Bing Crosby; songsmith Jerry Herman, and a host of influential songwriters and musicians who made their mark on the music map in the 1940s and beyond.
The songwriters and musicians who would visit the Eastman house socially were legends. Linda grew up hearing the family piano being played by such friends of her father as Harold Arlen, composer of a huge list of evergreens including 'Stormy Weather', 'I've Got the World on a String', 'It's Only a Paper Moon', 'Over the Rainbow', 'Let's Fall in Love', 'Come Rain or Come Shine', 'Blues in the Night', 'That Old Black Magic' and 'The Man That Got Away'.
Another family friend was Hoagy Carmichael, the writer and singer of classics including 'Stardust', 'Skylark', 'Rockin' Chair', 'Georgia on My Mind', 'Lazy River', 'Lazy Bones', 'How Little We Know', 'Baltimore Oriole' and 'The Nearness of You'. Yet another was Jule Styne, the British-born lyricist who worked with Sammy Cahn on such perennially popular songs as 'Three Coins in the Fountain', 'The Party's Over', 'Just in Time', 'People', 'Don't Rain on My Parade' and 'Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend'.
The songwriter Jack Lawrence was also an Eastman client. When Linda was two, Lee suggested he wrote a song as a dedication to his daughter. That song, 'Linda', co-written with Ann Rohell, was included in the Robert Mitchum-Burgess Meredith movie The Story of GI Joe in 1945. Recordings of the ballad were made by Buddy Clark (a highly rated former singer with the Benny Goodman band) who had great success with the single in 1947; Perry Como; Charlie Spivak and his Orchestra, and Jan and Dean, who had success with the song in 1961 before adapting it to the surf sounds that made them popular. In Britain, 'Linda' was recorded by two popular 1950s crooners: Jimmy Young, now a Radio 2 broadcaster. And . . . Dick James.
Against this family background of a passion for songs and the people who made them, Linda remembers: 'I used to go to all the Broadway shows. My father put together the E.H. Morris publishing company for Buddy Morris; everybody in the music business who was friendly with my father would come by our home.' Though she was raised as a child in suburban Scarsdale, the Eastmans later had an apartment on Park Avenue, Manhattan, and a house in the Hamptons.
Linda's home must have been alive with beautiful music. Lee Eastman, astute and respected though he was as a music publisher, also loved great art and amassed a priceless collection of works by Picasso, Rothko and De Kooning (whom he represented) . That was the foundation on which her future union with Paul would flourish, for while Jim McCartney's financial status was very different, he adored the kind of melodies, and the non-materialistic characteristics, which were among the characteristics of his daughter-in-law.
Contrary to myth, Linda is not related to the Eastman-Kodak name, and her successful career as a photographer was established before she met Paul. Her early love of standard popular music merged with the arrival of rock 'n' roll. Linda was attracted by the energy of rhythm-and-blues as well as by the melody of the Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly and the Crickets. This was a precise parallel with her future husband, who was similarly stimulated by youthful rock and straight pop, enabling him to come through with beautiful ballads like 'Yesterday'.
Linda's first rock photograph was of the Rolling Stones at a press reception aboard a ship cruising the Hudson River in 1966. As she became an habitue of the New York clubs, she empathized with the lifestyle of the musicians she photographed. She hung out with them and knew their music in exhaustive detail. An upwardly mobile photographer throughout 1966, she caught the spirit of the era skilfully with seminal photographs of such Sixties icons as the Doors, the Who, the Cream, Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, Buffalo Springfield, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Otis Redding. She was an accepted part of the music crowd and her career was in orbit. The artists, in turn, had found a kindred spirit in the press, someone who understood their muse.
At the New York home of a friend of Linda's, Brian Epstein would join the throng for parties. Visiting London, Linda impressed Epstein with her photographs of him and Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones. He bought them. Now she was 'in' with a tsar of Swinging London, and Epstein invited her to the party on 19 May 1967 at his Belgravia home to launch the Beatles' epochal album Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Her pictures from that night, particularly of a smiling Paul shaking hands with John, were among her brilliant evocations of the decade.*
Visiting a London club with some musicians, she met Paul again. Their eyes connected. A year later, when he was at a New York press conference with Lennon to launch Apple, they met again and their romance blossomed in California before she came at his invitation to London. Witnessing the slow disintegration of the Beatles, in and out of the recording studio, she continually took photographs, demonstrating what Lennon called her 'eye for an eye'.
Her first attraction to Paul was cerebral when they discovered mutual interests in the arts. 'He was into Magritte,' Linda remembers. 'She knew all those Broadway songs; you could never catch her out on that,' Paul smiles. Linda believes their mutual love for the older music helped to pull them together: 'We used to sing a lot driving around.'
Paul's breadth of knowledge of music impressed Lee Eastman. 'When I was going out with Paul,' Linda says, 'I remember we were sitting on my father's porch with John Barry [the film composer who scored the music for the James Bond films Dr No, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger and Thunderbalt]. And my father said: "Oh, my daughter's going out with one of the Beatles.'" John Barry was able to assure Lee Eastman that Paul was not a raucous rock 'n' roller. 'John Barry really respected Paul so that made my father feel quite good,' Linda says.
Lee's knowledge of music and its people, shrewdness in entertainment law and properties, came to be a prime influence on the future of Paul McCartney as a businessman. 'My father believed that artists should own themselves,' says Linda. When Eastman became Paul's lawyer as well as his father-in-law, he asked how Paul wished to invest his money. In music, Paul answered. Lee Eastman agreed, pointing out that it was wise to deal with a subject Paul understood, rather than putting money into, say, oil or
* - Her book Linda McCartney: Sixties/Portrait of an Era was published by Reed in 1991.
industry. And so he set about acquiring for Paul what stands today as one of the most glittering catalogues in music publishing.
Paul was thrilled that he was able to become the copyright holder of many of the songs he had always admired. The current list of copyrights and productions held by Paul's company MPL includes the work of his beloved Buddy Holly, Jerry Allison, Harold Arlen, Sammy Cahn, Hoagy Carmichael, Ira Gershwin, Marvin Hamlisch, E.Y. 'Yip' Harburg, Jerry Herman and Jack Lawrence, Frank Loesser, Johnny Mercer, Norman Petty (co-writer of some of Buddy Holly's smashes), jazz giants Jelly Roll Morton and Bessie Smith - which would have delighted Paul's jazz-conscious father - Jule Styne and Meredith Willson.
Totalling about 1,000 songs and including the acquisition of the E.H. Morris publishing company, which Lee Eastman had originally helped to set up, this makes Paul the proud copyright owner of such classics as 'Peggy Sue', 'That'll Be the Day', 'True Love Ways'; Hoagy Carmichael's compositions 'Skylark', 'My Resistance Is Low' and 'Hong Kong Blues'; Ira Gershwin's 'The Man That Got Away; Jack Lawrence's compositions 'All or Nothing at All' (Sinatra's first hit), 'Tenderly, the classic recorded by Nat King Cole and many others 'The Poor People of Paris' . . . and that song 'Linda'; and Frank Loesser's big list of songs, including 'Luck Be a Lady', 'Spring will Be a Little Late This Year', and 'The Most Happy Fella'.
There is a substantial collection of soundtracks from shows, including those from Annie, A Chorus Line, Grease, Guys and Dolls, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, La Cage Aux Folles, The Most Happy Fella, and The Music Man. Paul is especially touched that publishing the music to this last-named show brings under his roof 'Till There Was You', which he sang on so many Beatles concerts. He clearly revels in being a music publisher. Since he had lost the copyrights to his 'babies', he said, the precious catalogues which he bought, and which did phenomenally well for him, were effectively his 'adopted children', bringing some consolation for the loss of his and John's songs.
The Beatle who wrote 'Yesterday' so intuitively yet painstakingly thirty years ago has changed remarkably little. Some who have known him since the 1960s talk of a growing benignity with his realization that the enjoyable job of Chief Beatle is his for life. He has added layer upon layer of activity to that role, vigorously assuming a solo career and other projects.
The twin spirits of the Gemini, which he recognizes, are transparently evident. He has retained the core of his 1960s hippie philosophy but is diamond-hard in business. From the ruggedness of 'Long Tall Sally' to the gentility of 'Yesterday' is quite a leap but he validates both songs, and the differing facets of his tastes, as fine creative works. He respects both effort and success in every genre of the arts and espouses primitivism, debunking rules for artistry: 'I've been painting a lot for the last ten years. I have never had a lesson but I love that fact, because I'm working it all out myself. I identify very closely with the caveman who painted on the walls. I'm sure he didn't go to art school, but he had a passion, and he did it.' He sails a small boat, too. 'I'm out there with just a piece of cloth and me against the wind. I have a huge love of that. The primitive aspect appeals to me.'
His father's suggestion that he should get proper piano tuition, an idea Paul rejected, has found an amusing repetition with his own son, James. 'I'm telling him he should get piano lessons, but he doesn't want them, just as I didn't. It must be in the genes.'*
Like many artists, Paul is able to tap into at least three separate aspects of his consciousness, creatively working on his art, dealing with his business interests, while alternately enjoying the role of father and family man. Though he relishes his history and knows that his hits of yesteryear, when he and John Lennon were, as he says, 'mining gold', cannot be surpassed, he will probably never stop songwriting. These days, he carries a notebook with him regularly so that inspirational thoughts are not forgotten. When he accompanies his wife to business meetings for her food enterprise, or when she goes to take photographs for her cookbooks, he takes his guitar. T say: "How long are you going to be?" She'll say: "Two or three hours." I'll go into the back room and see if I can come up with a song in that time. Childish, really, but people need goals, deadlines. It's a little game I play with myself: "How long have I got here to come up with something?'"
* - The McCartney children are Heather, born on 31 December 1963 in Linda's first marriage; Mary, born on 28 August 1969; Stella, born on 13 September 1971; and James, born on 12 September 1977.
Because he defies categorization, and especially does not wish to be merely a rock 'n' roll person, he confuses critics who, since the 1970s when the word rock became generic, classify the Beatles as a rock group. As Paul insists, they were something wider than that. He straddles rock, pop and vaudeville quite comfortably, but some see that as a debit or a problem for him. In May 1976, for example, Robert Palmer, reviewing a Wings concert at Madison Square Garden, wrote in the New York Times that rock singing was 'only one of Mr McCartney's many disguises. He is just as convincing as a crooner on "You Gave Me an Answer" or as a straight pop balladeer on "Yesterday".' The problem, insisted Robert Palmer, was precisely the ease with which Paul changed roles. His facility had 'also prevented him from ascending to the most hallowed heights of rock greatness'. Twice Robert Palmer absurdly invoked the Rolling Stones as a comparison. Wings aspired to the Stones' brand of hard rock, he asserted, adding that 'his rock fails to generate the sort of communal ecstasy the Rolling Stones and a handful of other bands create'. Paul's ballads, the writer added, which would be affecting in a more intimate environment, sounded frail and disembodied in the cavernous stadium.
Unusually for such a wise owl, Robert Palmer missed the elusive truth of Paul McCartney's appeal. Writing his own textbook as neither a rocker nor a pop singer, McCartney discovered something more tricky: how to touch people as an entertainer, a weaver of dreams. After absorbing every influence from Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly to Little Richard and Elvis Presley, he came forward as Paul McCartney . . . neither a rocker nor a balladeer, but an extraordinary hybrid from whom sprang 'Yesterday' and 'Lady Madonna'. Analysing him will always be an inexact science, and pigeon-holing him is impossible. Linda describes him as an unpredictable mixture of sentimental romantic and 'very obscure . . . because he was known as the cute one [in the Beatles] people don't realize how artistic he was and is, what a spiritually weird mind he has. He's not just totally sentimental; he could be harder than John; yet John could be much more sentimental than Paul.'
Yes, he was tearful, she said: 'Like most people who allow themselves to be. He gets sad if he thinks about someone he loves who's not living. Or when he's watching a movie. I love that. I think the most macho thing a man can be is kind.'
The activities of Paul McCartney reflect his wide interests. He and Linda, evangelical vegetarians for nearly twenty-five years since they committed themselves to animal rights and helping to improve the environment, bought land in Exmoor, Devon, purely to stop stag-hunting taking place on it. Linda is more visibly active in her battle for vegetarianism, and while she is introspective by nature, she becomes feisty and combative as she ignites her attacks on butcher's shops with their 'slabs of fear' and on abattoirs which she insists are called slaughterhouses. 'We are doing to animals what Hitler did to humans,' she says sombrely, and it's clear that the freewheeling spirit of the 1960s can be spiky on behalf of her cause celebre. 'We soil our own nest, we humans,' she says.
Her book Linda McCartney's Home Cooking, a collection of recipes, became a best-seller. 'To my husband and children who, like me, love animals and enjoy cooking . . . you won't miss meat,' she promised readers.
Selling more than 200,000 copies, the book was such a hit that Ross Young's, the frozen food company, asked her if they might adapt some of her recipes for Britain's supermarkets. This aspect of her campaign to convert meat-eaters has been enormously successful: in her first year of marketing veggie meals, sales topped £10 million. To Beatles fans of yesteryear, the sight of the McCartney name staring from the supermarket freezer cabinet on items like meatless sausages, hamburgers, pasties and deep country pies may seem bizarre. But Paul approves, declaring: 'If it was not for saving the lives of so many animals we wouldn't be doing it.'
The work ethic has remained steadfastly with him. When I went to interview him for this book, he appeared unchanged in his habits from the Beatle I had travelled with thirty years earlier. Punctual, precise, totally involved in what was under discussion, he is without any of the posturing that afflicts lesser artists. He knows precisely where he stands in the pantheon of popular music. As the key surviving Beatle, he is conscious of the group's heritage and determined to preserve it.
He is particularly soft on the subject of children, and quite content to be viewed as such. He aided the Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy charity, which helps severely autistic children by using live music to reach their psyches, where nothing else seems to communicate. Visiting the therapy centre to play guitar to the children, in a performance that was televized, Paul was visibly moved.
'Yesterday' always comes into play in his life, both as a song and as his personal retrospective to his formative past. In 1995, after six years of planning, the Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts was to be established in his old school building, the Liverpool Institute. Paul has been largely instrumental in establishing the 'Fame'-type school, teaching people of all ages from all over the world the intricacies of the music industry, as well as constructively helping to channel their artistry and energy. Paul's personal involvement in LIPA was triggered by a Liverpool friend shortly after the city's Toxteth riots in 1981. The suggestion was that local youth might be diverted from trouble if something more tangible were on offer in which to focus their abilities. Seven years later, in 1988, Paul revisited the Liverpool Institute and was saddened to see the closed building needing restoration. This, he felt, should be the centre for the school. Paul has said he may host composing or guitar workshops when LIPA is running; and he helped the £12 million fund-raising campaign in 1991 with a large personal donation, and vigorously helped the fund-raising campaign. He also appeared in a short video presented by Liverpool City Council.
That same year, Paul's roots in his native city were strengthened even further by the performance of one of his most formidable musical challenges, Paul McCartney's Liverpool Oratorio. With his collaborator on the project, the conductor-composer Carl Davis, Paul found himself pitched into working with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus, along with the choir to which, as an eleven-year-old, Paul was declined admission. At the city's Anglican Cathedral, the soprano Dame Kiri te Kanawa, one of the 2,500 artists to have recorded 'Yesterday', was a star performer of the McCartney Oratorio.
To prepare himself for the composition phase, Paul went to several concerts by the Philharmonic Orchestra and also to operas. 'I think Carl was surprised to find out that I did have a bit of musical knowledge,' Paul recalled to the US magazine Musician. 'I don't look like I do, but obviously I've been around for quite a while now. Carl would occasionally say: "Let me give you a little lesson," and, depending on what mood I was in, sometimes I would say: "No, Carl, we won't do that," because I felt too much like a student. But occasionally if I was in a receptive mood I'd say: "Go on." And he'd say: "This movement is based on the rondo form." So I'd say: "What's a rondo?" And Carl would explain. If I was interested in it and thought it would be a good idea for us to use, then we would use it, which we did in the last movement; "Peace" is roughly based on the rondo form. But he tried to sit me down one day with Benjamin Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra and I wouldn't do it. I refused and said: "No, Carl, it's too late for all that, luv.'"
Jerry Hadley, the American tenor whom Paul chose to take the key role of Shanty in the Oratorio, was singing in a memorial service for Leonard Bernstein at Carnegie Hall, New York, when the call came requesting his visit to Liverpool. 'Lenny was not afraid of sentiment in the best sense of the word and neither is Paul,' he decided after their first meetings. 'I'm not talking about heart on the sleeve, overly saccharine kind of sentiment; I mean real honest human sentiment.'
Declaring that Paul had one of the keenest musical minds he had encountered, Hadley told Musician: 'He has one of the most profoundly clear visions of what he is creating of anybody I've ever met, on a level equal to Lenny's . . . perhaps it's clarity that all the greats have had. West Side Story did not happen by accident. The Liverpool Oratorio and the great McCartney pop songs did not happen by accident. These people don't flail in the dark.'
The Liverpool Oratorio was a watershed experience for McCartney, dealing largely with his pre-Beatle life: although it was not said to be entirely autobiographical, it could only have been so in parts: his wartime birth; the loss of parents; his first experience of fatherhood. In a spiritual-like song which he wrote, Paul had used the words spoken to John Lennon as he lay dying from gunshot wounds in the back of a Manhattan police car: "Do you know who you are?" asked a policeman.
'John would have loved the spirit of doing this after thirty years of rock 'n' roll,' Paul said after the Oratorio. 'He would have loved the idea of risking such a huge gamble. Not many days go by when I don't think of John.'
Paul received considerable praise from the media for his enterprise. 'The Liverpool Oratorio doesn't sound like anything else . . . McCartney has pulled off something viable and memorable,' said the Daily Telegraph. The Daily Express went further: 'In a city desperate for an evangelical pick-me-up, St Macca has come charging to the rescue. The Mersey Beat will never be the same.' The Liverpool Echo stated: 'It does for the age-old oratorio format what the American composer Stephen Sondheim does for the stage musical. It updates it, combining clever lyrics with sometimes daring musical expression.'
Liverpool had already embraced Paul in a cultural and civic sense; on 28 November 1984 he had been awarded the Freedom of the City. On the same day, his film Give My Regards to Broad Street had its premiere in the city that had belatedly realized what it had reason to be proud of. 'To the City of Liverpool . . . and a son,' said the city formally as Paul received his key in a ceremony at the Picton Library. Linda McCartney commented: 'I have rarely seen him so nervous. He was like he was on his wedding day.'
With the dawn of a new decade, Paul McCartney seemed more comfortable than he had been in previous years to deal with his illustrious past. Embarking in late 1989 on his first international tour for thirteen years, he enjoyed also the most successful world tour of his career. Public demand took him to America four times and he played to nearly three million people in more than 100 shows. In Rio de Janeiro, on 21 April 1990, at the Maracana Stadium, Paul set a new world record, performing to the biggest stadium crowd ever gathered in the history of rock 'n' roll: 184,368.
The filmed backdrop that preceded his appearance was a sharp evocation of the 1960s that had shaped Paul McCartney, spiritually as well as musically. In the midst of such major Beatles events as the film A Hard Day's Night, their Shea Stadium experience and the All You Need Is Love TV film, there were reminders of dark moments in history, such as the Vietnam War and Prague Spring.
'People tend to dismiss me as the married ex-Beatle who loves sheep and wrote "Yesterday",' Paul McCartney told USA Today in 1989. 'They think I can write only slushy love songs. My image is more goody-goody than I actually am.'
A feeling of deja vu inevitably punctuates his life, but he is quite happy about that. T don't think I have improved as a songwriter. I haven't written better songs than "Yesterday" or "Here, There and Everywhere",' he said.
Ultimately it has been his openness in his work, his biological need to push on, making fresh music and launching new projects, and an ability to confront his peccadilloes that confounds his critics. From his teenage years onwards, he moved in an unyielding straight line, from that romantic dream of songwriting to the master plan of being a Rodgers and Hammerstein or a Lerner and Loewe. The strategy of the aftermath of that finds him, in his fifties, dealing quite logically with yesterday and today.
Difficult though it is for a person of his means, he tries to maintain the attitude and lifestyle of Ordinary Man. With the Beatles such hard currency in 1995, we have his accessiblity to thank substantially for our knowledge of what went on during that period. His 1989 world tour programme, entertaining and informative, was the nearest he has yet come to autobiography, shedding new light on his life in the 1960s and his relationship with John. About life in the fast lane, Paul wrote:
People ask me: Why d'you do it? Why bother with the distractions? You're rich. Cos I think everyone's little dream, certainly mine when I was at school, was, what you'll do is get a lot of money and then you'll go off on holiday for ever. Just go off on a boat. But when you grow up you realize it doesn't work.
He went on to say that a year of holidays might be 'a great groove', but after a year he might think: what next? 'For me, I'd start to wonder ... I'd pick up a guitar.'
If that was the Northern ethic of hard work becoming visible in McCartney's psyche, there were other pieces of self-psychoanalysis in which he laid himself bare.
I came into this to get out of having a job, and to pull the birds. And I pulled quite a few birds and got out of having a job so that's where I am still. It's turned out to be very much a job, a bloody hard job the way I do it, running a company and stuff, but I like it. I don't actually want to be a living legend.
Facing the reality that he is exactly that, Paul revealed much of himself, his random thoughts and his music in a series of question-and-answer items put forward by readers of his fan club magazine, Club Sandwich, at the end of 1994.
If he could return to 1962, one asked, would he still choose to become famous or would he opt for an ordinary life?
Paul said: 'No, thank you. I had an "ordinary life" for twenty years and this one's been better.'
He confessed to now being 'wary of collaborations', having enjoyed the chemistry of 'one of the best collaborations of the century, I think, with John'. He spoke of a wide range of music that moved him and made him cry. Asked, provocatively and interestingly, whether there was one song by someone else he wished he had written, he replied: T don't really want to have written anyone else's song, but, as a fantasy question, I love 'Stardust' by Hoagy Carmichael and Mitchell Parish. It's a beautiful song. And I remember thinking that Billy Joel's first hit, 'Just the Way You Are', was a nice song.* I'd like to have written that one, too. "Stardust" first, though. But when it comes down to it, the truth is that I feel so lucky at what I've done ... if I ever start listing them: "The Long and Winding Road", "The Fool on the Hill" . .. it's difficult to take it all in.'
Paul revealed that Linda's father was a great fan of an appealing song of his which bears a contrasting title with 'Yesterday'. Called 'Tomorrow', it appeared on the Wings Wild Life album; Lee Eastman believed it should be re-recorded, slowed down for better effect. Asked what he considered was the stronger, his sense of melody or his ability as a wordsmith, Paul answered: 'Probably my sense of melody because it comes easiest to me. But I hate to be classed as a melodist because I would consider "Maybe I'm
* - Ironically, 'Stardust' is among 'Yesterday's' nearest competitors for the title of most recorded song in history. See 'Miscellany', on page 158.
Billy Joel names Paul McCartney's work as among his strongest musical inspirations. One of his songs, 'Scandinavian Skies' on his album The Nylon Curtain, was written as a tribute to Paul's romanticism in composing.
Amazed", "Blackbird", "Lady Madonna", "Paperback Writer" and a whole bunch of other songs as being quite good, lyrically.'
In dealing with his personal yesterdays, the unashamed sentimentalist is ever apparent. Rarely has he been so openly emotional about his relationship with Lennon as on the night of 19 January 1994, when he inducted John posthumously into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. At the ceremony at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, Paul's induction speech took the form of an open letter to his old friend.
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In an address of nearly 1,200 words, Paul encapsulated their relationship from their earliest years together, the period he had immortalized in touching songs, from 'The Two of Us' through to 'Here Today'. He exhibited his truly phenomenal memory for detail: the smoking of the Ty-Phoo tea in his dad's pipe as he and John 'sagged ofP school to write songs. The visits to the house of John's mother, Julia, to play her ukulele. The visit to Paris where they met the photographer Jurgen Vollmer, who steered them towards a 'Beatle haircut'. The Cavern, where they pioneered pop music against the club policy of jazz and blues. Hamburg, and meeting Little Richard. New York and Los Angeles, where they met heroes like Phil Spector, the Supremes and Elvis Presley. Abbey Road and 'Love Me Do'. Yoko Ono and the Two Virgins album.
Paul did not back away from dealing with the rift with John. 'The joy for me, after all our business shit that we'd gone through, was that we were actually getting back together and communicating once again. And the joy as you told me about how you were baking bread now. And how you were playing with your little baby Sean. That was great for me, because it gave me something to hold on to.
'So now, years on, here we are ... all these people, assembled to thank you for everything that you mean to all of us. This letter comes with love from your friend Paul. John Lennon, you've made it. Tonight you are in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. God bless you.'
The picture of Paul embracing Yoko after the ceremony beamed around the world, signifying a healing of one of the most publicized battles between 'brothers' in the history of the entertainment industry.
On his 1989 tour, Paul made perhaps his most significant musical statement about all his yesteryears. A dozen Beatles songs were performed with tremendous verve. Sitting watching the show on 28 November at Los Angeles Forum with Alistair Taylor, a former member of the Beatles' executive team, I saw the unashamed tears of joy in many of the crowd as, three songs from the end, Paul cruised into 'Yesterday'. Alone on stage, with his acoustic guitar, he delivered a short, spine-chilling version of the song that says it all - about him, about his era, and, for many, about a better time.
'Yesterday' might not be Paul's best composition. It has many competitors, and most students of McCartney's career would find it hard to agree on his top ten most significant works from his Beatles years and beyond. But 'Yesterday' seems destined to be his most important song. Its impact and influence, as a vehicle for others, its stretching of the Beatles' acceptance, and its effect on Paul's personal evolution, has completely transcended the normal expectations of any one piece of music.
Today, wary of revisionism and aware of the fallibility of his memory, Paul is able to divide pride from conceit but talks openly of having achieved his 'romantic dream, which was my strong feeling from teenage years onwards'. Watching a film on Mozart, he felt proud to be in that same league generically, as a composer of a record-breaker like 'Yesterday': 'As kids from the sticks there was no guarantee that we were going to make it. So suddenly to be looking at this huge song - fantastic! It's not bad for a scruff from Speke. I love all the versions, whether it's some Dutch organ grinder or Frank Sinatra!
I walk into a restaurant and a pianist starts playing [hums 'Yesterday'] . I buy him a drink. The other side of it is that John went into restaurants and they started playing it, he hated it. I used to have a good laugh with him. I'd say: "Well, you would have your name first, wouldn't you?"'