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Paul McCartney: A Giant Among Rock Immortals

April 23, 2007 3:27 PM ET

For our fortieth anniversary, the editors of Rolling Stone interviewed twenty artists and leaders who helped shape our time. Over the next four weeks, every day, we'll be debuting exclusive audio clips from the Q&As, giving you unparalleled access to some of the most important personalities in history.

It's been almost forty years ago today since Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play, and we're marking the occasion (as well as our own 40th anniversary) by bringing you this interview with Sir Paul McCartney. As one half of the greatest songwriting tandem ever, McCartney helped shape the entire course of rock & roll music. He's widely considered the most successful artist in pop music history; his "Yesterday" is the most covered song ever; he refuses to sit on leather chairs. Speaking to Anthony DeCurtis, McCartney reminisces about the circumstances that surrounded the recording of the 1967 masterpiece, why everyone still loves the Beatles, his philosophy for saving the world, as well as his memories of John and George. Listen to five highlights from the conversation, and for the magazine's definitive profile, pick up your own iridescent copy of our Fortieth Anniversary issue, on newsstands now.

Nearly four decades years after Sgt. Pepper's release, Macca discusses the album's key influences and ponders why it''s still so influential: "The ideas were coming fast and thick. All sorts of new ideas -- artistic, political, musical. We started writing stuff that was different because we were talking and thinking and feeling different..."

Paul speaks candidly about the loss of fellow Beatles John and George: "I'd known John intimately for so long. I used the word 'privileged' before, but I always marvel at the fact that I was the guy who sat down with John to write all that stuff. It was just me and him in a room. That's pretty special. So to lose that guy was horrific..."

Macca gets scientific about why the Beatles are so enduring: "There is such a thing as magic, and the Beatles were magic. It depends on what you believe life is. Life is an energy field, a bunch of molecules. And these particular molecules formed to make these four guys, who then formed into this band called the Beatles and did all that work..."

In today's tumultuous political climate, "All You Need Is Love" just doesn't cut it anymore. Or does it?: "What's needed is the same old thing: peace and love. Not to be frivolous, but that is still the great aim. Well, and you guys probably need a new leader! I mean, that would help..."

As the man who wrote "When I'm 64" forty years ago, McCartney, now 64, thinks about his legacy: "I'd like for people to understand what I did and to think that there was great strength in it. There's an awful lot of it, and it's still coming..."

Check back tomorrow for the next installment of our twenty-part audio interviews, featuring some of the most iconic and influential pop culture figures of the last 40 years. Want a hint at tomorrow's interviewee? He told us this:
Nixon, Reagan, Bush I, Bush II — combined, they've committed an assault on the working people of this country, virtually destroyed the middle class and taken a dump on this planet.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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Song Stories

“San Francisco Mabel Joy”

Mickey Newbury | 1969

A country-folk song of epic proportions, "San Francisco Mabel Joy" tells the tale of a poor Georgia farmboy who wound up in prison after a move to the Bay Area found love turning into tragedy. First released by Mickey Newbury in 1969, it might be more familiar through covers by Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez and Kenny Rogers. "It was a five-minute song written in a two-minute world," Newbury said. "I was told it would never be cut by any artist ... I was told you could not use the term 'redneck' in a song and get it recorded."

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