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Paul McCartney Is Not Dead (And Neither Is the Past)

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Then there was the trouble in Nigeria with Fela Ransome Kuti [Ex-Ginger Baker's Air Force].
You heard about that? All it was was we were recording in Lagos. Lately we've gone to two different places to record, just for the fun of it. We've been to Lagos and to Paris and in both of the places they say, "Why did you come here? You've got much better studios in England or America, you must be daft!" And we say, "Well, it's just for the fun, it's just to come somewhere different for a different type of turn-on, that's all." They never really seem to be able to understand it. I think old Fela, when he found us in Lagos, thought, "Hello, why have they come to Lagos?" And the only reason he could think of was that we must be stealing black music, black African music, the Lagos sound, we'd come down there to pick it up. So I said, "Do us a favor, we do OK as it is, we're not pinching your music."

They felt that they have their own little ethnic thing going and these big foreigners are taking all their bit and beating them back to the West with it. Because they have a lot of difficulty getting their sound heard in the West. There's not an awful lot of demand, except for things like, what was it, "Soul Makossa." Except for that kind of thing they don't really get heard.

And they are brilliant, it's incredible music down there. I think it will come to the fore. And I thought my visit would, if anything, help them, because it would draw attention to Lagos and people would say, "Oh, by the way, what's the music down there like?" and I'd say it was unbelievable. It is unbelievable. When I heard Fela Ransome Kuti the first time, it made me cry, it was that good.

You've just had some musicians leave, haven't you?
Our drummer [Denny Seiwell] didn't want to come to Africa. I don't know quite why. He was a bit nervous about coming to Africa. We're all going to Africa to record and if the drummer won't come, what do you do? You don't say, "Well, we'll see you when we get back, thanks a lot we understand." You say, "Well, er, ummm," and he leaves.

I think [guitarist] Henry McCulloch came to a head one day when I was asking him to play something he didn't really fancy playing. We all got a bit choked about it, and he rang up later and said he was leaving. I said, "Well, OK." That's how that happened. You know, with the kind of music we play, a guitarist has got to be a bit adaptable. It was just one of those things. I don't think there was anything wrong with them as musicians, they were both good musicians, but they just didn't fit in.

In the film 'A Hard Day's Night,' there were the stereotypes – if you remember John the thinker, Ringo the loner, and Paul the happy-go-lucky. Did you object to that?
No, I didn't mind it. No, no; I still don't. I was in a film. I don't care what they picture me as. So far as I'm concerned I'm just doing a job in a film. If the film calls for me to be a cheerful chap, well, great; I'll be a cheerful chap.

It does seem to have fallen in my role to be kind of a bit more that than others. I was always known in the Beatle thing as being the one who would kind of sit the press down and say, "Hello, how are you? Do you want a drink?" and make them comfortable. I guess that's me. My family loop was like that. So I kind of used to do that, plus a little more polished than I might normally have done, but you're aware you're talking to the press. ... You want a good article, don't you, so you don't want to go sluggin' the guys off.

But I'm not ashamed of anything I've been, you know. I kind of like the idea of doing something and if it turns out in a few years to look a bit sloppy I'd say, "Oh well, sloppy. So what?" I think most people dig it. You get people livin' out in Queens or say Red Creek, Minnesota, and they're all wiped out themselves ... you know, ordinary people. Once you get into the kind of critical bit, people analyzing you and then you start to look at yourself and start to analyze yourself, and you think, oh Christ, you got me, and things start to rebound on ya, why didn't I put on a kind of smart image ... you know, why wasn't I kind of tougher? I'm not really tough. I'm not really lovable, either, but I don't mind falling in the middle. My dad's advice: moderation, son. Every father in the world tells you moderation. [Linda laughs hysterically in the background.]

British parents aren't different ...
No, they're exactly the same. My dad could be the perfect American stereotype father. He's a good lad, though; I like him, you know.

I tell you what. I think that a lot of people worried about that kind of stuff didn't often have very good family scenes, and something happened in their family to make them bitter. OK, in the normal day-to-day life a lot of polished talk goes on ... you don't love everyone you meet, but you try and get on with people, you know, you don't try and put 'em up-tight; most people don't anyway.

So to me that's always been the way. I mean, there's nothin' wrong with that; why should I go around slugging people? I really didn't like all that John did. But I'm sure that he doesn't now.

Have you talked to him about that?
No, but I know John and I know that most of it was just something to tell the newspapers. He was in that mood then and he wanted all that to be said. I think, now, whilst he probably doesn't regret it, he didn't mean every single syllable of it. I mean, he came out with all stuff like I'm like Engelbert Humperdinck. I know he doesn't really think that. In the press, they really wanted me to come out and slam John back and I used to get pissed at the guys coming up to me and saying, "This is the latest thing John said and what's your answer." And I'd say, "Well, don't really have much of an answer. He's got a right to say ..." – you know, really limp things, I'd answer. But I believe keep cool and that sort of thing and it passes over. I don't believe if someone kind of punches you over you have to go kind of thumping him back to prove you're a man and that kind of thing. I think, actually, you do win that way in the end, you know.

What was your reaction when you read that stuff at the time?
Oh, I hated it. You can imagine, I sat down and pored over every little paragraph, every little sentence. "Does he really think that of me?" I thought. And at the time, I thought, "It's me. I am. That's just what I'm like. He's captured me so well; I'm a turd, you know." I sat down and really thought, I'm just nothin'. But then, well, kind of people who dug me like Linda said, "Now you know that's not true, you're joking. He's got a grudge, man; the guy's trying to polish you off." Gradually I started to think, great, that's not true. I'm not really like Engelbert; I don't just write ballads. And that kept me kind of hanging on; but at the time, I tell you, it hurt me. Whew. Deep.

Could you write a song or songs with John again?
I could. It's totally fresh ground, right now, 'cause I just got my visa, too. About two or three days ago; and until then, I couldn't physically write a song with John; he was in America. He couldn't get out. I couldn't get in. But now that's changed so whole new possibilities are opening up. Anything could happen. I like to write with John. I like to write with anyone who's good.

Right now you yourself are working on The Mouse Gang.
No, it's not the Mouse Gang, it's a show that will be called the Bruce McMouse Show.

I was thinking of The Zoo Gang.
The Zoo Gang, that's right, that's just a theme tune for a television show I was asked to do. Bruce McMouse is another thing. We filmed the last couple of dates at the end of Wings' first European tour. Bruce lives under the stage, you see. [Bruce and his family are animated and their exploits are spliced in between Wings' footage for a television film.]

Are you constantly deluged with this type of offer?
Not deluged. I get quite a few, you know. I just try and choose the ones I like the sound of. It's not anything I plan out. I remember a thing in Rolling Stone – there's a little bit of chat, I read the papers, you know – that said "McCartney's going to do Live and Let Die, so it's come to that, has it?" I thought, you silly sods. Because we were talking to another paper and when I said I was going to do Live and Let Die, the 007 thing, the reporter said, "Hey, man, that's real hip." So it just depends which way you look at it.

"Give Ireland Back to the Irish" was the first of your singles in eight years that didn't sell in America and Britain.
Before I did that, I always used to think, God, John's crackers, doing all these political songs. I understand he really feels deeply, you know. So do I. I hate all that Nixon bit, all that Ireland bit, and oppression anywhere. I think our mob do, our generation do hate that and wish it could be changed, but up until the actual time when the paratroopers went in and killed a few people, a bit like Kent State, the moment when it is actually there on the doorstep, I always used to think it's still cool to not say anything about it, because it's not going to sell anyway and no one's gonna be interested.

So I tried it, it was Number One in Ireland and, funnily enough, it was Number One in Spain, of all places. I don't think Franco could have understood.

[At this point Paul receives word that a playback of Bruce McMouse is beginning in the control room. He excuses himself and we chat with Linda while Denny Laine plays a medley of Tim Hardin songs on the studio piano.]

Did you feel scared when McCartney was released, since that was your debut and the first song was pegged at you?
No. I didn't take it as seriously as I probably should have. I think it was good copy at the time to slag everything. Everybody was getting slagged, the Beatles were getting slagged. I personally didn't realize you had to explain yourself a lot once you get into the public eye. I just carried on with my normal life, like I had in New York, and I just got all this slagging. It never really brought me down much, though.

Do you think any Mrs. McCartney in that situation would have been slagged?
I think in what was going down then, yes. There was so much trouble for everybody, not done by one particular person, that everybody was getting blamed. I still can't look at it from the angle that I'm Mrs. McCartney. You know what I mean? I still see me as the person I've always been, either you like me or you don't. Paul likes me. [Laughter.]

And stood up for you during the slagging.
He was living with me, he knows I'm a good chick, he knows I don't have any bad motives. I'm not a grabber, I'm not any of that. He wouldn't have married me if I had been. So he stuck by me.

I just read totally bizarre stuff about myself. People would do an article on me and then an article on Yoko from childhood on up. I couldn't believe it. It was total fantasy. I mean, none of that happened, folks.

Unlike John, who went to a solo career, Paul went to a group.
John didn't really go to a solo career, there was the Plastic Ono Band and that. But Paul is very much a teamwork person. He doesn't like working just on his own. He still gets nervous. He likes working with people, bouncing off people and having them bounce off him. He likes helping people.

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