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The Paul McCartney Encyclopedia


Paul McCartney: Renaissance Man

            John Lennon's Aunt Mimi said she'd always remember me because I was the first person ever to call John a genius. There is no doubt that John was one of the most creative figures of twentieth-century popular culture. However, his tragic death elevated him to iconic status, with the result that the undoubted brilliance of his former partner Paul McCartney became overshadowed.
            To my mind Paul is also a genius and, when he used to write me letters during the early stages of the Beatles' career, I felt that his writing contained a delightful sense of humour, which, in some ways was equal to John's.
            The composer of classic popular songs such as 'Yesterday', 'Hey Jude', 'Eleanor Rigby', 'Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band', 'Lady Madonna' and 'Let It Be' was also the one who conceived a number of the major Beatles projects. Not only was Paul the man responsible for the ideas behind the Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Abbey Road albums, plus the Magical Mystery Tour film, but he also sketched and drew the initial designs for a number of the Beatles' album covers.
            Paul also composed soundtrack music for the films The Family Way and The Honorary Consul.
            John initially became involved in experimental music when he composed a version of 'Revolution' for the November 1968 album The Beatles. However, Paul preceded him, becoming the first member of the Beatles to conduct experiments with sounds when he composed Carnival of Light. This was a sound collage lasting 13 minutes and 48 seconds that Paul composed for an event called the 'Carnival of Light Rave' at the Roundhouse in Camden Town, London, which took place on 28 January and 4 February 1967.
            John is also remembered as an avant-garde filmmaker, although his collaborations were mainly Yoko Ono's ideas, which he co-produced with her. Their first film was called Smile, produced in 1968, a 52-minute film of John smiling. Other projects included Up Your Legs Forever, an 80-minute film featuring three hundred pairs of legs, and Fly, a film in which a fly crawled across a naked girl's body.
            Yet even in the field of avant-garde movies, Paul had beaten John to the punch. In 1966 he made two avant-garde films, The Defeat of the Dog and The Next Spring Then.
            Paul has continued to make film shorts over the years covering subjects ranging from the Grateful Dead to Rupert the Bear.
            In the recording studio he conducted a 41-piece orchestra on the 'A Day In The Life' track on the Sgt Pepper album. He is also a multi-instrumentalist who plays not only bass guitar but also lead guitar, steel guitar and acoustic guitar - and bongos, drums, flugelhorn, flute, harpsichord, harmonium, maracas, organ, piano, string bass and trumpet! He took an interest in composing classical music when Brian Pidgeon, the general manager of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, commissioned him to compose Paul McCartney's Liverpool Oratorio with Carl Davis.
            The work was then given its world premiere at Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral on Friday June 28 1991 before an audience of 2,500 as part of the orchestra's 150th-anniversary celebrations.
Since its debut, during a period of five years, the oratorio has been performed more than a hundred times in twenty different countries.
            Liverpool Suite is another classical collaboration by Paul and Carl Davis, which is basically a distillation of the most melodic and songlike segments of Paul McCartney's Liverpool Oratorio.
            Another work is Standing Stone, a symphonic poem by Paul, which marked EMI Records' centenary and was premiered at the Royal Albert Hall on Tuesday 14 October 1997, where it received a standing ovation.
            Paul was to say that the origin of Standing Stone came about following the death of his friend Ivan Vaughan from Parkinson's disease.
            Ivan was the person who first introduced Paul to John Lennon. A television documentary, Ivan, portrayed his struggle with the disease and Paul allowed his song 'Blackbird' to be played at the beginning and end of the programme free of charge.
            He then invited Ivan to spend Christmas 1984 with the McCartneys at their home in Sussex and continued to keep in touch until Ivan's death.
            He said,' "Jive with Ive, the ace on the bass" was his intro when we played together. Ivan was very important to me. Poetry seemed the right way to express what I felt about his death. Later, I decided to write an epic poem that would serve as the framework for Standing Stone. I realised that I wasn't going to write a symphonic work where you take a theme and develop it throughout a movement, partly because I simply didn't know how to do that.'
            The theme is basically that of the history of life on earth via the ancient standing stones of the Celts.
            Another composition is Working Classical, and in August 2000 Paul composed Liverpool Sound Collage as a soundtrack to the artist Peter Blake's exhibition at the Tate Liverpool.
            In the 27 January 1995 issue of New Statesman and Society, Paul made his debut as a published poet with five poems: 'Chasing The Cherry,' 'Mist The Mind,' 'The Blue Shines Through', 'Trouble Is' and 'Velvet Wine'.
            On 23 March 1995, at St James's Palace, London, before Prince
            Charles and invited guests, Paul was present to hear the debut of 'Leaf, an eight-minute piece for solo piano, which he composed. The event was called 'An Evening with Paul McCartney'.
            Paul emerged as a painter with his first exhibition, which opened in Germany on 1 May 1999. He had been passionate about art since he was a child and used to paint his own birthday and Christmas cards. He also designed some of the Beatles' album sleeves.
            In London in the mid-sixties, under the influence of the gallery owner Robert Fraser, he became an art collector and particularly liked the work of Rene Magritte.
            Paul also became acquainted with the Dutch painter Willem de Kooning, based in New York, who was a client of Paul's father-in-law. When Paul had turned forty, he was encouraged by de Kooning to take up painting and soon had his own studios in his homes in the South of England, Arizona and Long Island. An added incentive was a Christmas present from Linda - Rene Magritte's own easel. Since 1983 Paul has produced nearly 600 abstract paintings.
            The paintings are in oils and acrylic, and cover landscapes, portraits and abstracts; they include several paintings of Linda. There are also paintings of John Lennon, David Bowie and the British Queen, the last entitled Salute to the Queen. Other titles include John's Room, Yellow Linda With Piano, Egypt Station, Sea God and Tara's Plastic Skirt.
            Singer, songwriter, musician, classical composer, poet, painter, filmmaker, Paul McCartney is a true renaissance man. Another example of his creativity in verse is Blackbird Singing: Poems and Lyrics 1965-1999 (Faber & Faber).
            Paul first began to write poetry while at the Liverpool Institute and in his introduction to his book he mentions his desire to have a poem printed in the school magazine - but it was rejected. He doesn't mention it by name, but it could well be 'The Worm Chain Drags Slowly', which was one of his first efforts at poetry. Paul also mentions how the death of his friend Ivan Vaughan led him to attempt to express his feelings in verse.
            The volume is introduced and edited by Adrian Mitchell, who also persuaded Paul to include song lyrics in the collection. Mitchell is a major contemporary poet who has given more than a thousand performances of his work around the world. He first met Paul in January 1963, when, as a journalist with the Daily Mail, he published the first interview with the Beatles in a national newspaper.
            He developed a friendship with Paul and actually performed four of his poems backed by Paul, Linda and the band on the 'Unplugged' tour at Cliffs Pavilion, Southend, on Friday 19 July 1991. (It was Linda who actually phoned Mitchell and suggested that he edit a book of Paul's poems.)
            In 1995 Mitchell was poetry editor of the New Statesman and published a page featuring five of Paul's poems. Paul was originally inspired to publish his work by Linda, and the book is dedicated to her and their four children.
            There are more than a hundred poems written between 1965 and 1999 and a dozen of them are about Linda, written in the months before and after her death in April 1998.
            Paul Muldoon, professor of poetry at Oxford University, comments, 'McCartney's new poems confirm that poetry matters to us at times in our lives when we try to make sense of things. We are always reading over the shoulder of the poet and have the moment of opportunity to share the grief.'
            Although song lyrics are juxtaposed with the poems, the strength of both approaches is evident: images in the lyrics of 'When I'm Sixty-Four' and 'Eleanor Rigby', for instance, and the powerful words in 'Black Jacket' ('Sadness isn't sadness it's happiness in a black jacket', and its climax 'tears are not tears they're balls of laughter dipped in salt'). Truly evocative are his haunting elegies to Linda, such as 'Her Spirit'.
            Paul has received acknowledgment for his undoubted talents, becoming a Freeman of the City of Liverpool, a Fellow of the Royal College of Music and a Fellow of the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors. He received a knighthood for his services to music. Yet he says that his greatest achievements are his four children. Paul became pop music's first billionaire and publications have made much copy out of the fact that he is so wealthy. What they don't emphasise are the huge number of contributions he makes to charities. They are not only financial contributions, either: he gives time and makes appearances to promote various causes; he writes and records for charities; and he is particularly unstinting in championing vegetarianism, animal rights and the dangers to the world's ecology.
            While writing this book, I have come to realise that Paul's life has been so full of events and music that much might be missed in this volume. There is certainly enough material to double the word count, and no doubt there are a number of unrecorded songs, appearances, people and events that some readers may find missing from this first edition. I would welcome comments, therefore, for future editions.
I have been writing about Paul McCartney since 1961 and during that time have continued my research in newspapers, magazines, fan magazines, television and film. Many of the books included in the bibliography were consulted and of particular value were publications such as Beatles Monthly, Beatlefan, Beatles Unlimited and the London Beatles Fan Club Magazine, whose issues contain an incredible amount of information, lovingly compiled by dedicated fans.
            I would like to thank Carolyn Thorne and Barbara Phelan for their editorial support and everyone at Virgin Books for making my book a reality.

Bill Harry, London, July 2002