Paul McCartney on Beatles, Lennon and Good Evening New York City
26th Nov 2009 | 16:25
Macca: "I still think I'm in The Beatles"
When Sir Paul McCartney announces he is available to answer questions, any journalist worth his salt would move heaven and earth - not to mention the rush hour London train network - to be in the room where that particular action is going down.
It was frustrating, however, for the lion's share of reporters to discover that said action would amount only to watching a half-hour edit of Macca's new DVD and CD Good Evening New York City (released Dec 14), and that we would have to sit in silence while a living legend stood before us.
"There's a song I do called Here Today, which was specifically written for John... I'm publicly declaring my love in front of all these people I don't know. It's a good thing to do" Paul McCartney
Filmed at the newly-built Citi Field stadium in Queens, on the site of the old Shea Stadium where The Beatles memorably played in 1965, the DVD finds McCartney in fine form.
Close to two hours of Fabs favourites, Wings and solo material rush by. Among many highlights, a taut Day Tripper stands out, as does the solo Here Today, a reflective tribute to John Lennon.
George Harrison is also remembered on a version of Something, Paul playing the opening verse on a ukulele - one of Harrison's favourite instruments.
The Shea gig of 44 years earlier is acknowledged during I'm Down, McCartney's 2009 performance intercut with footage of the same song from those heady days of Beatlemania.
Several tracks are also punctuated by audience contributions, dozens of punters having been given disposable Flip DVD cameras to record their own reactions to the show.
What surprises most is the breadth of age in the crowd; at one point a girl no older than seven or eight is pictured miming along, word perfect, to Band On The Run.
DVD duly watched, Macca ambled to the stage of the Roxy Bar & Screen, near London Bridge, where he was greeted by our host for the evening Dermot O'Leary, further fuelling rumours that the former Beatle will be the special guest on this year's X Factor final.
Dermot asked questions of his own, polite enquiries wondering how Paul stays in shape and if he's going to play any Christmas numbers on his December tour ("Pipes Of Peace is my favourite song of yours").
It was a cosy chin-wag, McCartney cheerily fielding posers he's faced many times before, along the lines of how he coped with the pressure of being a Beatle and how he manages to remain inspired after close to half a century making music.
"When I'm doing Something, which was a George [Harrison] song, I'm thinking about George in particular and my memories of him playing the ukulele." Paul McCartney
O'Leary then opened the Q&A to the floor - which sadly consisted of just six "pre-approved" questions from international media. It's safe to say that not everyone made the best use of their opportunity to quiz one of the most famous musicians in the world…
Which of your songs would you recommend as an introduction to your music for a seven-year-old girl? (Germany)
"Back In The USSR, because my daughter likes it. That's the one I recommend."
On stage, you talk about the memory of John, George and Ringo, people who are no longer with us (sic), but do you think your concert is a memory to them? (Japan – a freelance writer called Yoko. Yes, really)
"Yes, whenever I'm doing songs by The Beatles, I remember the sessions when we first recorded them. There's always an element of that, but when I'm doing Something, which was a George song, I'm thinking about George in particular and my memories of him playing the ukulele. That's why I play the ukulele in the first half of that song. It's great, actually, I really like it. In a way, you're revisiting them.
"There's pictures at the back of the stage, of George, of John, and Linda. In a way, you're back in contact with them again. There's a song I do called Here Today, which was specifically written for John, and that sometimes catches me out. I realise that I'm telling this man that I love him, I'm publicly declaring my love in front of all these people I don't know. It's a good thing to do, and I wouldn't have done it as an 18-year-old."
You are a great admirer of John Lennon, so if John were here today, which McCartney song would you like him to play? (Italy)
"That's a good question, I've never really thought about it. Maybe I'm Amazed just came into my mind. It would be interesting to hear him sing that."
If you had to choose one unique song of yours to be remembered in the future, which one would it be? (Brazil)
"That's too difficult a question, your songs are like your babies - you don't want to have a favourite. But Maybe I'm Amazed, if John was gonna sing it."
Hamburg is a special place to start a European tour. Will there be any reminiscences of your early days? Will you perhaps play the German language versions of I Want To Hold Your Hand or She Loves You that The Beatles recorded? (Germany)
"We haven't decided to put anything special in for Hamburg - yet. But I doubt whether it would be Komm Gib Mir Deine Hand. I don't actually choose where we start tours, I talk to my promoter who knows what halls are available."
"That's too difficult a question, your songs are like your babies - you don't want to have a favourite." Paul McCartney
When you're performing, is the spirit of The Beatles up there with you? (Greece)
"I still think I'm in The Beatles. It's something you don't want to lose, but for a while I didn't do Beatles songs, because I wanted to create a new thing with Wings. But once I got past that, I started to enjoy doing Beatles songs, and thinking of the sessions when we first recorded the songs. It's a memory that's only going on in your head. It's very good for me that way.
"Also, it's when the people walk out of the gig that you start to think that you better throw in a Beatles song - not that that's ever happened! Actor friends of mine tell me that they have dreams of being on stage and they don't know what play they're in. It's happened to me, I've dreamt about people walking out and I've wanted to break into something like 'Long Tall Sally' to get them back."
And with that he was gone. We had our killer questions ready. If today's stage technology had been around in the mid-60s might The Beatles have continued touring, therefore spending less time in the studio and perhaps ultimately denying us the delights of Sgt Pepper or Abbey Road? Does he hear his own influence in modern musicians, or are there any players today who inspire him? How does he focus on the words of songs while playing such intricate counter-melodies on his bass?
But we'll have to wait for those answers. McCartney's European tour kicks off in Hamburg on December 2, and finishes at the O2 Arena in London on December 22. If you manage to grab a word with him, can you ask him what his favourite riff is for us, please?