Many Years From Now
The first full length authorised biography of Paul McCartney written by his close friend Barry Miles. The book is based on hundreds of hours of exclusive interviews over a period of five years by Barry Miles who had complete access to Paul's own archives. 576 pages, Hardback.
Many Years From Now concentrates almost wholly on McCartney's Beatle years. This is well-worn ground, both in print (Barry Miles's bibliography is 16 pages long) and in the recent Anthology television series. But, sensibly, Miles has ignored the madness, the screaming, the fortune and fame to concentrate instead on McCartney's personal and creative odyssey in that golden decade.
So how did one of the most glittering princelings of Swinging London's new aristocracy spend his off-duty hours? Once he had found his feet and his drug of choice marijuana he set out on a rapacious artistic spree that took him through the theatre, the avant-garde and into the heart of the burgeoning counter-culture. The unhappily married Lennon, meanwhile, had slipped into suburban torpor, and it took McCartney to spur him into the creative frenzy that produced Revolver and Sgt Pepper and changed the face of popular culture.
Yet, thanks in part to A Hard Day's Night, the individual moptops had already acquired their stereotypes: Lennon as the hard-edged, cynical risk-taker; McCartney as the emollient Mr Showbiz. Large and, indeed, the most fascinating sections of the book deal with the pair's songwriting partnership, in which McCartney tries to correct this historically sanctioned calumny, and there is something touching about the way he scrupulously assigns the credit for each song "60-40 to John" (Norwegian Wood ), "80-20 to me" (Eleanor Rigby ). However, his memory plays him false if he thinks that Ringo sang on I Don't Want to Spoil the Party. Not on my copy.
Even with all the facts in place, it is clear that Lennon is still the Banquo at McCartney's table. The writer of the world's most successful song Yesterday has been played on the radio more than six million times remembers with almost pathetic gratitude any compliment that Lennon paid to his songs: "Hmm, I've done right! I've done well!". He is eager to stress their closeness, yet is still oddly tentative: "I think, for him, I must have been special", "John and I were kind of equal".
And what about George and Ringo? McCartney pays generous tribute to the drummer, but Harrison is kept in the shadows. Apparently, there are some scars that time cannot heal.
Of course, there were worms in the Apple. McCartney is frank about how his bossiness got the others' backs up, though he still defends the critically reviled Magical Mystery Tour as "a cool little film". As for Yoko, he tactfully steps aside, letting Miles handle that particular hot potato, which he does with becoming restraint, acknowledging her as a bloody nuisance.
In a 50-page coda, McCartney describes his feelings after the break-up of the band "almost a nervous breakdown" and the sordid financial squabbles that followed. He feels that time has vindicated his opinion of Apple's business manager Allen Klein and is still bitter that the other Beatles have never acknowledged this "They never said, 'Hey man, you really stuck your neck out there'." But he is glad that, in the end, he and Lennon parted as friends.
Larded with long, verbatim transcriptions of interviews with McCartney, the text might have read like one of those "as told to" autobiographies, but because Miles is a long-standing and trusted friend, he has coaxed an engagingly candid and intimate memoir from McCartney. If Miles's prose lacks the flair that the late Derek Taylor brought to George Harrison's I, Me Mine, it is never less than workmanlike, and the scope and detail of his research is exemplary. And it is to his credit and that of his subject that, even after this examination of his yesterdays, Fab Macca is still the man he used to be.
Die-hard Lennonists might try to dismiss it as McCartney's apologia, but this is undoubtedly one of the great Beatle books.
Paul: "I exhibited all the classic symptoms of the unemployed, the redundant man. First you don't shave, and it's not to grow a groovy beard, it's because you cannot be f***ing bothered. Anger, deep, deep anger sets in, with yourself, and with everything in the world. And justifiably so because I was being screwed by my mates. So I didn't shave for quite a while. I didn't get up. Mornings weren't for getting up. I might stay on the bed a bit and not know where to go, and get back into bed. Then if I did get up, I'd have a drink. Straight out of bed. I've never been like that. I'd always been the kind of guy who could really pull himself together and think, Oh f*** it. But at that time I felt I'd outlived my usefulness, that it was good while I was in the Beatles - I was useful, I could play bass for their songs, I could write songs for them to sing and for me to sing, and we could make records. But the minute I wasn't with the Beatles any more it became really very difficult."
Paul felt trapped: bound by conract to a band that no longer existed and controlled by a manager - Allen Klein - he didn't trust.
Paul: "I was going through a bad time, what I suspect was almost
a nervous breakdown. I'd lie awake at night shaking, which has not
happened to me since. One night I awoke and I couldn't lift my head
off the pillow. My head was down in the pillow, I thought, Jesus,
if I don't do this I'll suffocate. I remember hardly having the energy
to pull myself up, but with a great struggle I pulled my head up and lay
on my back and thought, that was a bit near! I just couldn't do anything.
So I eventually went and said, 'I want to leave. You can all get
on with Klein and everything, just let me out.' And they said 'No,
we're not going to let you go'. I remember having one classic conversation
with George Harrison. I said 'Look, George, I want to get off the
label,' and George said to me 'You'll stay on the f***ing label.
Hare Krishna.' That's how it was, that's how the times were.
I was having dreams that Klein was a dentist. I remember telling
everyone and they all laughed. But I said 'No, this was a f***ing
scary dream!' I said 'I can't be with the guy any longer. He's
in my dreams now, and he's a baddie.' He was giving me injections
in my dreams to put me out and I was thinking 'F***ing hell! I've
become powerless.' So I decided to get out, but they wouldn't let
me out, they held me to that contract."
Never happy unless he was making music, and with the Beatles not functioning, Paul began recording tracks for a solo album, beginning when he and Linda returned from Scotland just before Christmas 1969. Paul had had a Studer four-track installed at Cavendish Avenue. Very few people were aware that he was recording.
Linda would make the studio booking and they would arrive with sandwiches and a bottle of grape juice, put the baby on the floor, give Heather her toys and start to make music. The first track recorded was The Lovely Linda, a song written in Scotland.
Paul had been given a release date for his solo album by Neil Aspinall
at Apple and he built the project around meeting the various deadlines
that entailed: handing in a final mix tape, designing and proofing
the cover art, approving test pressings. "Then I rang up Apple one
day and said 'Still OK for the release date?' and they said 'No, we're
changing it. You got put back. We're going to release Let It
Be first'." This was the final straw for Paul. He couldn't
even get his own record released without obtaining
clearance from the other Beatles and Allen Klein.
Paul: "They eventually sent Ringo round to Cavendish Avenue
with a message: 'We want you to put your release date back, it's for the
good of the group' and all of this sort of sh**. So I did something
I'd never done before, or since: I told him to get out. I had
to do something like that to assert myself. I was
just sinking. Linda was very helpful, saying 'Look, you don't have to take this crap, you're a grown man, you have every bit as much right ... '. I was getting pummelled about the head, in my mind anyway."
Allen Klein and John had decided to bring forward the release of Let It Be without telling Paul, and Paul eventually had to get George, as a fellow director of Apple, to authorise the release of McCartney on its original date, 17 April 1970.
The announcement that the Beatles had broken up is usually attributed to Paul, though he said little more than John had been saying for months - both were ambiguous, leaving the door ajar, just in case. It was the way that the news was delivered that made the difference.
Paul: "I didn't want to do a press conference to launch
the album because whenever I'd meet a journalist, they always floored me
with one question: they'd say, 'Are you happy?' and it almost made me cry.
Peter Brown, who was at Apple, said 'What are you going to do about publicity?'
I said 'You write some
questions you think the press wants to know. Send 'em over to me and I'll fill it out but I can't face a press conference.' Peter Brown realised that the big question was the Beatles and I thought, f*** it. If that's what he wants to know, I'll tell him. I felt I'd never be able to start a new life until I'd told people."
Brown opened up with fairly standard press questions but at question 28 he asked: Is this album a rest away from Beatles or start of a solo career?
Paul: "Time will tell. Being a solo album means 'the start of a solo career' ... and not being done with the Beatles means it's a rest. So it's both.
Brown: Is your break with the Beatles temporary or permanent, due to personal differences or musical ones?
Paul: "Personal differences, business differences, but most of all because I have a better time with my family. Temporary or permanent? I don't know."
Brown: Do you forsee a time when Lennon-McCartney becomes an active songwriting partnership again?
Paul roughed out a design for the album sleeve, using Linda's photographs.
The questionnaire and an information sheet about the album were printed
up on different coloured paper stock and record-mailing envelopes were
delivered to Cavendish Avenue. Paul and Linda sat at home stuffing
the pink and yellow
inserts into the albums, putting the albums into the envelopes and addressing the envelopes to the press
Paul: "We were enjoying ourselves like children, Linda and I, actually enjoying life for the first time in a while. And I had put the killer scoop int here, and then I just sent this out to the press. A few people said: 'This is outrageous!'. John, I think, was very hurt. I personally think he was hurt because he wanted to tell. I don't think it was anything more than that, I think it was just straightforward jealousy. He wanted to be the one, because he'd been the one to break up the Beatles and he hadn't had the nerve to follow it through because Klein had told him 'Don't tell anyone. Keep this thing rolling as long as we can.' But we'd not seen each other for three or four months and I had been ringing, calling George and Ringo and asking 'Do you think we'll get back together?' and I'd ring John 'Oh no! F***ing hell!' So I let the news out. So I was not loved for that by the other guys and that started a war between us.
|In the USA
Paul McCartney :
Many Years from Now
by Barry Miles
Hardcover: List: $27.50
Published by Henry Holt & Co
|In Great Britain
Paul McCartney :
Many Years from Now
by Barry Miles
Published by Secker and Warburg
ISBN 0 436 28022 1