JUNE 9, 1997 issue - Gray
in a Golden Voice *
JANUARY 1, 1997 - Her Majesty's a Pretty Nice Girl . . .
MARCH 18 1996 - More Tapes From The Crypt
JUNE 8, 1992 issue - Paul at Fifty *
MAY 31, 1976 issue - McCartney Comes Back *
NOVEMBER 20, 1995 - The Beatles Are Back
OCTOBER 1, 1995 - Life With The Beatles
MARCH 15, 1995 issue - Things We Said Today
DECEMBER 19, 1994 - Becoming The Beatles
BY CHRISTOPHER JOHN FARLEY click
here for Time article on Pathfinder
Much of Flaming Pie was composed while McCartney was helping compile the songs on the anthologies. "The main thing about it is I didn't have to do [an album], so it kind of changed the whole attitude," says McCartney. "So I ended up just stockpiling those songs and just going and recording them for my own fun. Which is a slightly different attitude. I just recorded them song by song rather than 'A Collection of Songs I'm Going In to Do.'"
As a result, Flaming Pie is a relaxed, easygoing album; the songs sail blithely along, like boats on a lake on a bright, breezy day. The knock on McCartney's solo work has always been that it is overly sweet; too much light, not enough illumination. Now that McCartney is 54, however, age has brought to his work a welcome melancholy; there's a streak of gray in his golden voice. The Song We Were Singing, a gentle number looking back at the psychedelic bull sessions of the 1960s, has a jaunty feel but also a wistful one; Heaven on a Sunday finds McCartney at his most angelic, his voice gliding peacefully over a sadly sweet melody. The song has familial warmth to it, and no wonder: McCartney's wife Linda sings backing vocals on the track, and his son James, 20, plays electric guitar.
One might expect McCartney, as an elder statesman of rock, to be a grump about the state of today's pop music, but he actually thinks it's going along quite fine. He even has (mostly) generous things to say about Oasis, the aggressively youthful British rock band that in recent years has been accused of ripping off the Beatles' sound. Says McCartney: "I like the fact that they're live and they can play their instruments. I like the fact that they honor us by using us as their source, so it's a tribute. I certainly don't go the direction some people go and say, 'Oh, it's just a rip-off, they're no good.' I think they're good. The worst I could say about them is their stuff is derivative. [But] when I started off, I sang like Little Richard. I still do...John was coming from Buddy Holly and the Isley Brothers, various other people. So what's the harm in [Oasis] coming from the Beatles?"
McCartney reacts in mock horror when a reporter observes that it has been 40 years since he first met Lennon--"I'm not actually 40 years old. I'm sorry, you must be mistaking me for someone else"--but he soon begins to reminisce. "Some things 40 years ago seem fresher than last year's memories, for me," he says. "It's a very formative period in your life, and your memories get etched in stone. I can very clearly remember seeing [Lennon] in the band [then called the Quarrymen] and later after that rehearsing with them and trying to impress them. And the beery smell on his breath, which, as I was a little younger than he, I thought, 'Gosh--he's a heretic.'"
McCartney has been married now for 28 years; his net worth has been estimated at $600 million; early this year Queen Elizabeth made him a Knight of the British Empire. What might his life have been like if he had never met Lennon? "Who knows?" he answers. "That's like my daughter Mary [now 28] always used to say: 'What would you do if a giant television came crashing out of the sky and landed on you?' Lord only knows. I had very basic qualifications from the school I'd gone to. I'd kinda done O.K. but hadn't applied myself, as the teachers used to say. What would I have done? The only thing I could have done is become a teacher; that's the only thing I could qualify for."
Hearing McCartney's voice on Flaming Pie--a little wiser, a trifle wizened,
at moments touching on the sublime--one can't help thinking that he could
teach today's pop performers a thing or two about rock 'n' roll. Passion
is easier for the young; it's reflexive, sometimes glandular. When McCartney
hits those high notes now, it's not as carefree; there's even some strain.
But that's how we know his zeal is no accident of age; it's something reached
"Bloody hell! That makes me old!" says Paul McCartney, with a laugh and a wink. "So use me as a gauge and thank you very much for noticing me."
By Cathy Booth/London
In the bucolic Sussex countryside south of London, there's a farm where pheasants and peacocks roam wild. The yard is dotted with cows and chickens, horses and sheep, even reindeer. The owner designed the circular house himself. He built the chicken coops too. His wife is noted for her meatless lasagna and vegetarian burgers. They seem a nice couple, married 21 years, with four well-mannered kids.
Meet Paul McCartney at 50. Or nearly: he hits
the mid-century mark on June 18. It's been a little more than two decades
since the Beatles, the biggest pop phenomenon ever, broke up. Yet even
now the baby-faced member of the quartet who sent girls into spasms of
screaming ecstasy on The Ed Sullivan Show back in
1964 is still "the cute one." His stylishly long hair has gone salt-and-pepper. When he smiles, crinkles arc downward from his hazel eyes. He wears loose vests even though there doesn't seem to be any pudge to hide. Otherwise, there's nothing flashy about him: just a pair of old Timberlands on his feet, a wedding ring with a tiny jade heart on his hand and that cheeky irreverence well known to fans of the Fab Four.
"I was thinking, what's this article going to be called?" McCartney asks gamely with a grin. "My bet's on `Paul at Fifty' so that everyone can go, `What? Jeez-us Curr-hrist! He's fifty! He isn't, is he? Bloody hell! That makes me old!' That's what they want. They want to use me as a gauge." He laughs and winks. "So use me as a gauge, and have a good time, and thank you very much for noticing me!"
Use me as a gauge. Clever of McCartney to pick
that theme. The Beatles, after all, personified the 1960s. Their songs
reflected a generation's passage from '50s innocence to '70s disillusionment,
from teen love to psychedelic drugs and mysticism. The four clean-cut boys
in pudding-basin haircuts who sang of love (yeah, yeah, yeah) became the
tortured souls of Let It Be. The other half of the Beatles' famous writing
team, John Lennon, is dead, struck down by the gun of a crazed fan in 1980;
as a result, Lennon's contributions to the
Beatles have taken on mythic proportions. But it's McCartney who remains the icon of the '60s generation.
Turning 50, McCartney is a man who has learned to live with the snide remarks about his brassy American wife Linda, with the accusation that he caused the Beatles breakup in 1970 and with Lennon's hurtful comments that he was a boring prig who wrote only Muzak. "I still get wounded," he says, "but I've come to the point where I tell myself, `Give yourself a break. No one else will.' I like ballads. I like babies. I like happy endings. They say domesticity is the enemy of art, but I don't think it is. I had to make a decision: Am I going to be just a family guy, or should I go up to London three nights a week, hit the nightclubs, occasionally drop my trousers and swear a lot in public? I made my decision, and I feel O.K. with it. Ballads and babies. That's what happened to me."
Since November, McCartney has been holed up
weekdays in a renovated 18th century mill overlooking England's southern
coastline. He is laying down songs in his private 48-track Hog Hill Studio
for an untitled album--his 23rd since the Beatles' breakup two decades
ago--and preparing for a new tour next year.
Hog Hill boasts the latest in electronic gear, but there are nostalgic and whimsical touches too, like Elvis Presley's bass from Heartbreak Hotel, the Mellotron from Strawberry Fields Forever and a Megaroids video game. Next to the studio is a cozy kitchen featuring a spread of Linda's veggie foods. Upstairs is a retreat for writing amid the scent of fresh flowers and patchouli.
In between recording sessions recently, McCartney slipped upstairs to talk about life after the Beatles. "I'm only interested in looking back now because I have this misbelief about my life. Did I really get here?" he asks while munching on a cheese-and-pickle sandwich. He stares out at a view of rolling green hills that is a long way from the council housing of his Liverpool youth. "I hear myself telling stories to my kids, and sometimes I ask myself, `Are you sure about this one, man?'"
Yes, we're sure. James Paul McCartney was the son of working-class Irish parents. His father was a cotton salesman and an ex-jazz trumpeter and piano man, his mother a midwife. As a child, McCartney was a Boy Scout and a bird watcher. His first real instrument was a Zenith six-string, which he played left-handed. In 1960 he was just one of four unknown teenagers performing in the squalor of Liverpool's underground Cavern club. By 1965 the Beatles had stormed America, met the Queen and been hailed as pop prophets. By 1971--before any of the four hit 30--it was all over, ruined by a bitter business fight.
Yet even now, The Guinness Book of Records lists the Beatles as the most successful group in history, with more than 1 billion disks and tapes sold. McCartney is the most successful songwriter in the history of the U.S. record industry, having penned 32 No. 1 hits, vs. Lennon's 26. McCartney has racked up more gold and platinum disks (75) than any other performer in history. His song Yesterday is the most recorded ever, with more than 2,000 versions.
McCartney's unspoken fear is that he will be
remembered only as a pop singer who made pretty records. The Master of
Ear Candy, shallow and self-indulgent if catchy and commercial--and, of
course, never as good as his now dead collaborator, Lennon. McCartney's
critics forget that he was the prime force behind such songs as Hey Jude,
The Long and Winding Road, Penny Lane, Eleanor Rigby and Let It Be. Post-Beatles,
he was the most successful survivor, with 17 gold albums and hits like
Band on the Run, Ebony and Ivory, Say Say Say
and the James Bond theme Live and Let Die. McCartney shallow? It depends on whether one wants hummable riffs or Lennonesque angst.
McCartney's answer to the doubters has been to work. He struggled artistically after Lennon's slaying and his own 10-day incarceration in Japan for marijuana possession in 1980, but he continued to churn out albums, and he hit the road in 1989 after a 13-year absence. His world tour attracted 2.5 million fans, and in the U.S. he was the biggest single act in 1990, beating out Janet Jackson and Madonna.
McCartney is a rich man today, worth an estimated $600 million, although he claims not to know the full extent of his assets. He has become one of the biggest independent publishing tycoons in the world, holding the copyrights to 3,000 songs, including the scores of such musicals as Guys and Dolls, A Chorus Line and Grease, all the songs of his boyhood hero, Buddy Holly, and many other pop favorites. In addition, his London-based company, MPL Communications, has its hand in film ventures like the artsy animated short Daumier's Law, which debuted at the Cannes Film Festival last month.
Up close, McCartney can flash his ever ready charm at will. One minute he's open and sincere; the next he's closed, in automatic public relations mode. He's a clever lad, practical in business matters yet irreverent at heart. He's eager to put you at ease, but he gets miffed if you pry too closely. Just a few friends ever see the McCartney house, set in the forest in Sussex. His Scottish estate is reachable only by foot across a bog or by four-wheel drive. Decades of Beatlemania haven't dehumanized him, but he has learned to be wary.
McCartney likes to stress how ordinary he is.
"One thing that can bring you bad luck is when you start to get bigheaded,"
he says. His M.B.E. (Member of the Order of the British Empire) medal from
the Queen and most of the gold records are put away in storage. He's into
organic farming and carpentry. He sent the kids off to state schools. Heather,
29, "theirs" although she is from Linda's first marriage, is a potter.
Mary, a dark-haired 22-year-old beauty, works at MPL handling copyrights.
Red-headed Stella, 20, studies fashion design. James,
14, is a blond Paul look-alike and a Jimi Hendrix fan who, as a right-hander, has to play his dad's left-handed guitar upside down. The whole family is vegetarian; Linda even has a line of frozen veggie dishes. "Imagine seeing your wife's face looking out from the freezer department at you," hoots McCartney.
This Paul McCartney hardly seems like the man
who would sneak marijuana into Japan, who sent unsigned letters to those
who offended him or who begrudged money for his father, as some disgruntled
former associates and relatives claim. He also seems a long way from the
rocker who scandalized the world by
admitting he had experimented with LSD, although there's no denying his repeated run-ins with the law over marijuana. Whether McCartney has given up that habit is debatable. He admits to only one vice: drinking Johnnie Walker Red Label Scotch and Classic Coke. "Four, and I'm anybody's," he jokes to friends.
He is mostly Linda's, however. Although he has a circle of acquaintances ranging from fellow musician and Liverpudlian Elvis Costello to artist Brian Clarke, Linda is his best friend. The critics have always carped that she can't sing or play keyboards, that she dressed like a slob and, alas, has hairy legs. She is still dismayed by such pettiness and knows that onstage she seems ill at ease. "I'm an uncomfortable-looking person anyway," she confesses, "but I love playing. It's fun. And, of course, the real truth is, I'm in the band so Paul and I can stay together." Yet she is a professional in her own right. Her forthcoming book, Linda McCartney's Sixties, includes her photos of famous friends like Hendrix and Janis Joplin, whom she knew long before she knew McCartney.
McCartney stands now over the control board, chewing his fingernails. For three days, he has been fretting about just the right sound for one track, a number reminiscent of Abbey Road. Fans are forever pestering him with questions about the Walrus, Rita the meter maid, Desmond and Molly, and, of course, the secret message on Revolution 9. But McCartney refuses to overanalyze the Beatles' songs. "They're just songs," he says. "We never had a theme on a Beatles album, even Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. We kinda knew we were reflecting the times, but if you had asked me then, I would've said the songs just sort of fell out."
It nettled McCartney for years that the songs
that fell out were always credited to Lennon-McCartney, never McCartney-Lennon.
Time has healed the soreness of their 1970 rift. Sort of. "Even when John
was attacking me in the press, I thought he was the same great, lovable,
complex guy," says McCartney. "I nearly said hateable, but hateable's too
far because he's died. If he were alive, I could say that." He has tried
various other collaborators, from Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder to,
most recently, Costello. But, he admits, "it would
be mad to think I'd written with anyone better since John. He was a one-off, very special guy."
Although he rarely goes to Liverpool today, McCartney is lead patron of a fund-raising effort to turn his old school, Liverpool Institute, into a Fame-type training ground for the musically talented. When the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic asked him to help mark its 150th anniversary, he ventured into classical music and composed a 90-minute choral epic called Paul McCartney's Liverpool Oratorio. It was a brave try for a man who doesn't read or write music. But it turned out to be strangely flat, a criticism that McCartney shrugs off. He was more worried that rock friends would think it "fruity."
When he's not working, McCartney says his list of things to do includes finishing the family sports shed, sailing Sunfishes and painting, a hobby he took up at age 40. Two hundred abstracts, landscapes and portraits of Linda litter their homes. McCartney laughs ahead of time at the reaction this will elicit: "Bloody hell, look at him. Thinks he's Van Gogh, does he!"
He is constantly telling people he's not the big
celeb they expect. "Don't you ever feel you've lived a few lives? Well,
to me, the Beatles were another life," says McCartney. "Certain people
when they get rich wear a lot of fur
coats and big diamond watches. I've gone the other way. I'd rather be remembered as a musician than a celebrity," he says, standing up and snapping his fingers, signaling he wants to get back to work.
Last we saw, McCartney was still chewing a fingernail, worrying over a riff in the studio. He didn't look much like McCartney the rock icon. He was just a musician trying to get it right.
Copyright (c) TIME Magazine, 1995 TIME Inc. Magazine Company;
(c) 1995 SoftKey Multimedia, Inc.
Or nearly. This is also a brand-new day, and
a whole new generation. For a great many members of this crowd--perhaps
most--this wonderful, wistful ballad recalls a time they never knew. Beatles
are legend. McCartney, 33, is here, right now, in barnstorming triumph,
making his first concert tour of the States
since he and his three noted mates sang their last song together at San Francisco's Candlestick Park in the late summer of 1966. McCartney still draws many of the Beatles faithful, to be sure. He has also found a whole new audience, his audience. They have come to hear him, not history.
The concert is a study in controlled flash,
spectacular but not gaudy. Even the trappings of the typical rock super-production--smoke
bombs, laser beams, meticulous lighting and shifting backdrops--are used
sparingly, for maximum effect. McCartney, wide-eyed, boyish, bounces along
eagerly on the warm good will of the crowd. He swings into his syncopated
little ditty Silly Love Songs, a current hit single (number two on
the charts) taken from his latest hit album, Wings at the Speed of Sound,
out two months and already gone way past gold (a
million dollars' worth of album sales) into platinum (a million albums sold). His group, Wings, provides him with full-force backing, surprisingly stronger in performance on records; Lead Guitarist Jimmy McCulloch and Rhythm Guitarist--and sometime vocalist--Denny Laine, co-founder of the Moody Blues, give McCartney a brawny underpinning of sound, while Joe English whacks away at the drums. Paul's homey wife Linda, 34, is there too, at his insistence. She is hardly a professional musician, but she inflicts no damage either. Linda pokes at keyboards, occasionally chiming in to provide some harmony.
Silly Love Songs is just the sort of tune that comes at the unwary out of car radios and open windows, attaching itself like a particularly stubborn lap cat. It will probably never go away. The brazen breeziness of the music is unshakable.
You'd think that people would have had enough of silly love songs, But
I look around me and I see it isn't so; Some people want to fill the world
with silly love songs. And what's wrong with that I'd like to know.
It is a sort of refined disco tune, made for dancing and casual listening. At every concert Silly Love Songs gets the same amuck reception as Yesterday or any of the other five Beatles tunes McCartney performs during the course of the evening. Sometimes even bigger. Like much of McCartney's recent work, the song slips neatly, without fuss, into the mainstream.
This is a course McCartney has been following since John Lennon initiated the breakup of the Beatles in 1969 by telling Paul, "I want a divorce." McCartney's first few albums, done solo or with Linda or with the constantly metamorphosing Wings, survived uncertain financial prospects and some serious critical drubbing. 1974's Band on the Run got raves, however, and won the first platinum record McCartney does not have to split four ways. Venus and Mars, released last year, was just as successful, and McCartney's current concert
tour--which will land him in New York this week for two shows at Madison Square garden--is sold out in each of the 21 cities it will blitz. In Los Angeles and New York, all tickets were snapped up within four hours. Right now, McCartney is bucking Elton John as Pop's top gun.
McCartney is more than a celebrity, because
he is part of the poignant, exalted contemporary myth of the Beatles. Each
member of the group had a persona that was clearly defined. George Harrison
was the shy mystic, Ringo the innocent good-timer, John the dark poet,
Paul,--well, the one who would make the best
impression on a weekend in the country. His bounteous melodic gifts seemed to be reflected in the brightness of his step, the openness of his smile. His impishness, and his considerable charm, always had an ironic undercurrent of worldliness and assurance. Even now, in performance or in conversation, he has the surprised sophistication of a gremlin who has just been caught under the drawbridge compromising the fairy princess.
It is not for any of this that Paul is popular, however, It is for the music he is making, the flowing Pop that typifies, even defines, the snug place much contemporary rock has found. When Lennon and McCartney wrote "Why don't we do it in the road?," neither one of the was talking about the middle, which is where Paul finds himself now, bopping straight down the white line. M.O.R.--"middle of the road"--is what the music business calls it, and that is the course Wings most frequently flies. McCartney is tempering the revolution he helped to create.
The Top 40 is where the money is, but never the heavy action. Bob Dylan, a visionary who helped alter the course of contemporary popular culture is regularly outsold by the whimpy Carpenters, and has had only a handful of singles in the Top 10. One of the most remarkable things about the Beatles was their ability to have it all; to catch and change the spirit of the times, to be wildly popular, vastly influential and still adventurous, to amuse their audiences and make demands on them as well. Rock 'n' Roll was born in the 1950s out of black rhythm and blues mostly, and it took it just about a fast, funky decade to reach its adolescence. Dylan and the Beatles were the most influential in bringing it along. In the early '60s it might have seemed heretical to suggest that rock could be a vehicle for intimate self-expression, for anger and confusion, or a cultural revolution. Rock music had scrounged for and found its own randy legitimacy.
The legitimacy has lasted, but, in 1976, some of the heat has died down. The music itself has become diffuse. Pop is not just rock; it is also disco, soul, reggae, country and ballads. The hottest trend in Top 40 music seems to be themes from successful TV shows. Last week's charts had no fewer than four, including the title songs from Baretta and Laverne & Shirley. When a smart, articulate song like Paul Simon's smash 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover gets to the top, it seems like a happy accident.
"The scene is wide open," says Clive Davis,
president of Arista, which shared in 1975's booming record sales of some
$2.3 billion. Danny Goldberg, former vice president of Swan Song Records,
which has hit it big with Led Zeppelin, complains that "everybody in the
business knows a new era has got to come, but they're too busy cashing
in on the old one to help it along." Some are helping, either by working
their own personal territory (like Randy Newman, Ry Cooder, Tom Waits and
James Talley) or, like Simon, Dylan, Bruce Springsteen
or The Band, trying to make their private property public. There are superb performers (like Linda Ronstadt), and wizardly writers (like Jackson Browne) who are learning the tricks of showmanship, but finding spirited new directions for music is a tradition that, for the time being, is not widely practiced. "Now it has become fashionable not to be too serious." comments Jon Landau, producer of albums by Springsteen and Browne.
As a Beatle, McCartney ebulliently proved that he could mix with the best of them, but at the moment he is having fun being flippant about rock's old insistence on relevance. His tunes are elaborately homespun, lined with shifting, driving rhythms and coy harmonics, their lyrics full of flights of gentle, sometimes treacly fantasy. There are little science-fiction ditties and frequent paeans to Linda. Even during his Beatle days, McCartney was something of a sentimentalist, and not embarrassed about it. At this point in his development, he seems pleased to be a first-rate performer and a composer of clever songs. "People say the music's not as strong as it was," he told TIME correspondent James Willwerth. "But quite possibly it is. If you're not a critic, not some old person who's been around the music business a long time, maybe it's as strong. And if you're a young, vital person who goes to discos looking for birds and all that, maybe it's just fine."
This puts McCartney in the company of good music craftsmen like the Eagles and Neil Sedaka, a singer-songwriter of strong commercial rock in the late '50s. Sedaka lay low during the Beatles era, but in the past few years, with the enthusiastic support of his friend Elton John, has come back as strong as ever. His music, somewhat more urbane, remains essentially unchanged; catchy songs designed for the top of the Pops. Sedaka treats McCartney as a fellow tunesmith of the highest order. "A Pop hit has to have certain hooks you can hang your hat on," Sedaka points out. "The hooks can be either musical or lyrical, but the best is a marriage of both words and music. McCartney does this. A song like Listen to What the Man Says is terrific."
Listen to What the Man Said is a good tune, all right, with shrewdly alternated rhythms and a lyric that goes down easy:
McCartney's roughest critic over the years was also his best friend. "He sounds like Engelbert Humperdink," said John Lennon of McCartney's first solo efforts. Later, in Lennon's remarkable album Imagine, he put it directly to Paul in "How Do You Sleep?", a fierce song full of anger and injury:
The reasons for the bitter dissolution of the Beatles, and the protracted legal brawling that followed, are all a matter of public record, if not common knowledge. Once they stopped touring in 1966, the Beatles began to grow in different directions. Their varying attitudes toward business affairs were as typical of these changes as the songs they wrote or the women they chose.
The Beatles did not own the rights to any of their songs. Their two major sources of income--record royalties and music publishing--were almost totally controlled by others. Without the friendship and advice of their manager, Brian Epstein, who died in 1966, the Beatles found themselves in a series of disastrous business deals. They lost their publishing company in a stock-exchange fight, then plunged into a series of financial misadventures through their management company, Apple Corps Ltd.
The group had started its own recording and production company, Apple Records, which was also meant to serve as a kind of Ford Foundation for the counterculture. The place attracted all sorts of day-trippers, rip-off artists and weirdos. "People were robbing us and living off us," Lennon comments. "Eighteen or twenty thousand pounds a week was rolling out of Apple and nobody was doing anything about it."
Not for want of trying. McCartney had met Linda
Eastman in London in 1967. A year later he was living with her in London,
and he looked to her father and brother, Lee and John, fashionable, tough-minded
New York show-business lawyers, for advice on Apple's chaotic affairs.
Lennon, in the meantime, had met up with
Allen Klein, a free-swinging wheeler-dealer who once sent out Christmas cards with this greeting: "Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, because I'm the biggest bastard in the valley."
Klein and the Eastmans did not get along. "It was a choice," John recalled recently, "between the in-laws and the outlaws." John, George and Ringo went with Klein; McCartney, now married, stuck close to his new family. To extricate himself Paul would have to sue not only Klein but the rest of the Beatles, and in 1971 he did. "It all came down to that--I had to fight my own pals,"
McCartney recalls. "Of course, by that time, they didn't look like such pals. I was having dreams, amazing dreams about Klein, running around after me with some hypodermic needle, like a crazy dentist."
Doubts, recriminations, bitterness. "You rarely get artists who are good businessman as well," comments James Taylor, whose first album was issued by Apple and lost in the prevailing madness. "The Beatles were artists." It is not over yet. Klein is still suing Apple Corps Ltd. for all matter of unclaimed commissions. This legal furor to date has cost the Beatles seven million pounds in royalties.
The emotional cost is not so easily calculated.
Lennon and McCartney both retreated. Paul seeking the shelter of quiet,
closely restricted family life while John exorcised all his demons in public.
Apart, they reveled in the sort of vocational excesses they had once checked
in each other. Lennon collaborated with his wife, Yoko Ono, on a series
of noisome avant-garde records, then switched to abrasive social protest
on subjects as various as the Attica killings and the oppression of women.
McCartney wrote about the undemanding
pleasures of farm life and domestic bliss, going so far as to record a version of Mary Had a Little Lamb four years ago.
"Looking at it purely bluntly," McCartney reflects
now, choosing the words carefully, "there was sort of a dip for me and
my writing. There were a couple of years when I had sort of an illness.
I was a little dry. Now I'm not ill
any more. I feel I'm doin' fine." Shoring up his defenses, drawing his family tight around him, McCartney hymned Linda endlessly. "You want to know about his family life, you can hear it in his music," says McCartney's brother, Mike McGear, himself a Pop singer. Those qualities that many critics find cloying could also be melodic acts of self-persuasion. The songs may not work for the same reason that many of Lennon's from this period do not: they are written and sung more out of need than conviction.
Whatever the reasons, this period is mostly past, and McCartney has embraced the good life with a fine passion. "Paul's very worried about losing his fans because of being too Establishment," John Eastman observes, but McCartney has no hesitation in announcing: "It's nice waking up in the morning now, instead of the dregs of the night, you have the refreshing faces of children and a cup of tea." There are three faces likely to pop up in front of him--Heather, 13, Linda's daughter from a previous marriage, Mary, 6, and Stella, 4--and a nice assortment of houses for the daily awakening.
Despite all the money he lost, Paul is now worth ten million pounds. The McCartneys have adopted a pastoral variation on rock's royal style. They keep a home in London's tony St. John's Wood, but, says a member of the McCartney staff, "it's definitely not a show house."
The family also spends a great deal of time at a farm in the Scottish Highlands, a retreat that has the advantages of rugged beauty and almost total inaccessibility. To reach the unprepossessing stone farmhouse, a visitor must start down a tiny, unmarked country lane that leads to two foot paths, each passing through separate farms and yards. Impressively large and vocal dogs patrol the neighbor's property. If an intrepid fan tried the back way, he would be stopped by an impenetrable bog.
If anyone managed to surmount these natural obstacles, there would be little enough to spy on. Mum might be cooking up a batch of her special pea soup (secret ingredient: sea salt), Dad might be settled back with some favorite reading material--science-fiction novels and comics, mostly. The whole family could be gathered around the table, enjoying a favorite meal of eggs and chips and larking about, hitting Dad for "requests"--everything from That Doggy in the Window to songs composed on the spot, to order, for whatever child does the asking. Dad may be working on the score for a cartoon movie about a bear named Rupert who flies around in little glass balls, or sawing away on the kitchen table he is building for Mum ("I'm not very good at building--I wonder if it will stand up"). If the skies are fair, he may be in the fields, helping with the shearing. He loves to fall back on a pile of just-shorn wool, burrow down in it, enjoy the aroma, turn his face up and feel the tang of the air, the strength of the sun.
McCartney is proud to be a little bit of old England--even though the homeland taxes him up to 83% of earned income, up to 98% on investments. "I love the place," he says. "I see it has having one of the biggest potentials in the world." The McCartney politics are conservative. "Paul would be a sort of Republican," says John Eastman. His philosophy of child rearing is elemental. "We try to be very open with them, but not to the point of Dr. Spock, where they sort of run us."
Smarmy as all this may sound to any fan used
to high-voltage tales about the profligate life of rock stars, McCartney
draws enough substance from his rigorously imposed family structure to
have it re-created for the current Wings tour. Houses and an apartment
are rented in four cities--New York, Dallas, Chicago and Los Angeles. The
McCartneys, the boys in the band and assorted advisers and technicians
then fly to each gig in a private plane. There is a nanny in attendance,
and a "smoothie girl," who packs her blender, fruits and
assorted organic goodies and can whip up a quick-energy smoothie drink. A special advance man, Orrin Bartlett, formerly of the FBI scouts out each concert venue and makes inquiries about bomb threats and grudge calls. Paul worries about snipers.
It is Linda, however, who catches most of the flack. When she first hooked up with Paul, she had been on the rock scene, snapping photos, for a few years, and had been involved in affairs with prominent musicians. Born in Scarsdale, raised to wealth, Linda was considered by many just a high-flown groupie. But according to Journalist Robin Richman, she had "a sense of breeding and culture that all these guys responded to. Linda's place in Manhattan was like home for some rock stars, a place they could crash of they didn't feel like a hotel."
Attacks--similar to the one on Yoko Ono--reached a fever pitch when Linda began chipping in on the music. According to her husband, it was all his idea. He started her at the keyboard by pointing out middle C. "I could have done a smart bit of p.r. during the time she was being criticized," Paul told Beatles Biographer Hunter Davies, "But I thought `Sod 'em.' I don't have to explain her away. She's my wife and I want her to play with the group. She'll improve. She's an innocent talent. That's all rock 'n' roll music is. Innocent music."
Unlike most rock superstars, the McCartneys try to stay in touch with reality. A couple of years ago, after Paul complained about not meeting people on a personal level, Wings toured rural England for a month, stopping each night to play at friendly-looking pubs. The isolated feeling popped up again a few months after a concert in Berlin. This time the solution was quicker and zanier. Paul and Linda painted the lyrics of Silly Love Songs on a bed sheet and paraded it along the Berlin Wall. The trek ended at Checkpoint Charlie.
Like the rest of rock's nobility, the McCartneys can indulge any generous or acquisitive whim. Linda has sponsored a couple of struggling artists. On the current tour, the family got off a Texas freeway at the wrong exit, spotted an Appaloosa grazing in his pasture and bought the animal there and then.
Any tour rings unwelcome questions about a Beatles reunion. Paul and John--"They talk a lot now," says a friend of Lennon's. "All the guys do"--got together with their wives recently in New York and discussed not reunion, but how to field questions about it. "You're really going to get all that." Lennon reminded McCartney. The requisite denials come from the McCartneys with weary certitude whenever a journalist raises the subject.
The persistent interest is understandable,
however, based not only on nostalgia but also on a sense of what is happening
once again with Beatles records. Even as McCartney brings the crowds to
their feet at his concerts, five old Beatles songs are in the British Top
20. Capitol is gearing up to release an upbeat anthology of Beatles goldies
in two weeks, and plans to spend a million dollars on promotion alone,
the largest campaign in the company's history. Along with TV ads, Capitol
plans to bedeck the country's leading record stores with
Beatles banners and posters and, accordingly, has purchased 110 miles of clothesline.
It does not seem sufficient to hang such a
big dream on. Lawyers for the four Beatles had uncommonly long, closed
meetings most of the week in Los Angeles, and were adamant about discussing
none of the details. A West Coast promoter and part-time Barnum named Bill
Sargent has offered the group $50 million for a reunion. Said Paul: "The
only way the Beatles would come together is if we wanted to do something
musically." The others say nothing. It has been this way since the group
disbanded, bush fires of hope fanned a little, then
A reunion would be particularly wrenching for
McCartney just as he is enjoying his first full success since the break-up.
It might not be easier for anyone else, either. Jenny Brandt, a 17-year-old
McCartney fan, said it best
as she waited to get into the Philadelphia concert. "Wings is doing good on its own, even though it'll never be the same as the Beatles. But I don't want them to get back together. It would be a super-letdown. They could never produce the music they once did. It's a different era, and they've changed in different
Some years back, of course, Paul McCartney put it well, too: let it be.
Copyright (c) TIME Magazine, 1995 TIME Inc. Magazine Company;
(c) 1995 SoftKey Multimedia, Inc.