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

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Have you ever entertained the thought of doing a record by yourself?
Not Linda McCartney's Great Single, no. I fool around with the songs I write, but I don't take it as a serious career.

You do have the novelty single coming up?
Yes. I did a song, "Seaside Woman," right after we'd been to Jamaica, about three or four years ago, I guess. Very reggae-inspired. That's when ATV was suing us saying I was incapable of writing, so Paul said, "Get out and write a song." And then about a week ago we went in to do a B side for it of something I'd written in Africa, some chords I wrote in Africa, and we just talk over it. It's very sort of Fifties R&B, the Doves, the Penguins. I love that, that was my era. I'm New York, you know, Alan Freed and the whole bit.

We're going to put the single out under the name Suzi and the Red Stripes. When we were in Jamaica, there had been a fantastic reggae version of "Suzi Q," so they used to call me Suzi. And the beer in Jamaica is called Red Stripe, so that makes it Suzi and the Red Stripes. It'll be out someday, but I've been saying "Seaside Woman" will be released since 1971 and we still haven't bothered. It's a bit like my photography book. Someday there will be a book.

Was it strictly through you that your father became associated with Paul as his lawyer?
It's through me, actually. I remember saying to my father, when I'd met Paul a few times but wasn't living with him, after Brian died, that he had helped a lot of people out of messes, could he help? He said well, I don't know. I said it would be great because I know you could help them out. So then I introduced Paul to my dad, and they got along instantly. If he hadn't met my father, Klein would have just hawked right in there.

[At this point we retire to the control room. Linda goes over the Walt Disney Christmas show script, then talks on the phone to someone at EMI. "I think the only bit we'd like to add is a little bit from 101 Dalmatians ..."

[Paul talks to the engineer of Dark Side of the Moon. They marvel at its sales record, and the engineer notes that Pink Floyd are going to give him a Christmas present. "Ask for a percentage," McCartney recommends. "It's the best present they could give you. What that album has done so far is amazing. In France, it's outsold Abbey Road ..."]

How did you meet Linda?
Linda and I met in a club in London called the Bag of Nails, which was right about the time that the club scene was going strong in London. She was down there with some friends. I think she was down there with Chas Chandler and some other people, and I was down there with some friends, including a guy who used to work at the office. I was in my little booth and she was in her little booth and we were giving each other the eye you know. Georgie Fame was playing that night and we were both right into Georgie Fame.

When did you first realize you wanted to marry her?
About a year later. We both thought it a bit crazy at the time, and we also thought it would be a gas. Linda was a bit dubious, because she had been married before and wasn't too set on settling. In a way, she thought it tends to blow things, marrying ruins it. But we both fancied each other enough to do it. And now we're glad we did it, you know. It's great. I love it.

Some of the critical notices on her debut performances seemed to ask where she had come from.
Yeah. Well, the answer is, nowhere, really.

Mick Jagger had that quote. He wouldn't let...
... his old lady in the band, yeah. That was all very understandable at the time because she did kind of appear out of nowhere. To most people, she was just some chick. I just figure she was the main help for me on the albums around that time. She was there every day, helping on harmonies and all of that stuff.

It's like you write millions of love songs and finally when you're in love you'd kind of like to write one for the person you're in love with. So I think all this business about getting Linda in the billing was just a way of saying, "Listen, I don't care what you think, this is what I think. I'm putting her right up there with me."

Later we thought it might have been cooler not to introduce her so bluntly. Perhaps a little more show business: "Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to introduce you to my better half. Isn't she sweet and coy?"

It turns out it didn't matter, it didn't matter one bit. At the time it was a little rough, maybe. At the time it was rough for her. None of us realized what ... it was like someone marrying Mick, you don't realize ... you know there's going to be a lot of fans who are going to hate it, but you still end up thinking, well, it's my life. I know of a lot of rock & roll stars or just even show business people who will regulate their life to their image. It can mess you up a lot. I know a lot of guys from the old days who wouldn't get married, even if they wanted to. Wouldn't get married because it might affect their careers. The old management thing – "You can't get married, all your fans are going to desert you." So the guy doesn't get married.

But the thing is, in a couple of years, his career is over anyway. And he didn't get married, and he went and blew it. So I didn't. "Well, I'm not going to let that kind of thing interfere with me." Although I didn't wish to blow my career, I thought it was more important to get on with living. We went ahead and just did what we felt like doing. Some of it came out possibly a bit offensive to some people, but it turns out that it didn't matter in the first place. You just keep going.

Did your friends in music stick by you at that time or did you find it a little tough? Or did you have that many friends at the time?
I remember Ringo saying at the time "How many friends have I got?" and he couldn't count them on one hand. And that's what it boils down to, really. You can have millions of friends, but when someone asks you how many friends you've got, it depends on how honestly you're going to answer. Because I don't think I have that many. No one went against me or anything, I think I isolated myself a bit. It's just one of those things. We had just met for the first time. We're very romantic, the both of us, and we didn't really want to hang out with anyone else.

Do you often go back to Liverpool?
We visit to keep in touch with the Liverpool scene. My family roots are up there, our kids love, it, and my brother still lives there. In fact, we're going to make an album with him in January.

Will it come out as a Mike McGear album?
That's right. It's a singing thing, he's quit comedy for the moment. We're going to do it at Strawberry Studios in Stockport. We'll play it by ear, it's Mike's album.

Is it difficult for the kids, being your daughters?
I don't think so, I don't think they're going to be crazed-out kids. But it is funny sometimes. I remember I was sitting in a field and Heather was leading Mary and a little baby on a pony, and Mary just said to me, "You're Paul McCartney, aren't you?" When she's talking to me normally, she'll just call me Daddy. When there's company around, she knows I'm Paul McCartney, in inverted commas.

It's nice that we have all girls. If we had a son it might be harder on him, like Frank Sinatra, Jr. Everyone assumes he'll turn out to be his dad. At the moment, there's not much to worry about with the kids.

At your Oxford press conference you mentioned your four-year-old daughter liked the Osmonds. Linda says your ten-year-old daughter is a bit off them now ...
Yes, she is a bit...

...but I understand you met the Osmonds in Paris, which is a very unusual situation. It must have been as much of a thrill for them to meet you as it would be for a four-year-old to meet them.
A layer cake of generations.

As we're talking today three of the Top Six here [England] are by them, which is the greatest chart domination by a group since 1964.
They're very liked here by a lot of the record buyers, which in Britain are the young kids.

From your personal experience, do you think they can understand how much they mean to people?
Sure they know, sure. I think Little Jimmy probably knows less than the others what's going on, but they seem to. They've got that kind of American showbiz family feeling, which does work. You can put it down, but it really does work. They've been doing it for years on The Andy Williams Show, and they're troupers already. You know, the kid's only eight or something, Little Jimmy, but he's already a little trouper. He has what a seasoned performer has.

When you were in their position, did you feel a sense of responsibility, or did you feel the world had gone crazy?
No, no. We were a band who'd been trying to make it big for a long time. When you're trying to get to the top, when you start to get there, that's probably the biggest thrill. You don't think the whole world's gone crazy; you think it's great that they like you and you're well-chuffed that you're going down so well. That's all that enters your head. I think that even Little Jimmy just thinks, "Hey, man, that's great, that's far-out." You know? He just loves it. And that's really the best way.

When you get thinking too heavily about all of this stuff, like anything, you can do so many doublethinks on it all you end up with is not liking it, which is the only hang up. When you end up not liking it then you start to do it less well. I always thought, just great, great band, great things, kids screaming, fantastic, fabulous, great, everyone's having a good night out. That sort of thing, basically.

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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