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

Page 6 of 7

The Wings tour in 1972 was the first time you had toured in six years, wasn't it?
Yes.

Had you intended to keep it that long?
Oh, no, no, no. With the Beatles we did a big American tour, and. I think the feeling, mainly from George and John, was, "Oh, this is getting a little bit uhhh ..." But I thought, "No, you can't give up live playing, we'd be crazy to." But then we did a concert tour I really hated and I came off stormy and saying, "Bloody hell, I really agree with you now."

Where was that?
In America, somewhere, I can't remember exactly. It was raining and we were playing under some sort of big canopy and everybody felt they were going to get electric shocks and stuff. We were driven off in a big truck afterwards and I remember sitting in the back of the truck saying, bloody hell, they're right, this is stupid.

So we knew we were going to give up playing but we didn't want to go make some big announcement, that we were giving it all up or anything, so we just kind of cooled it and didn't go out. When anyone asked we'd say, "Oh, we'll be going out again," but we really didn't think we would. So we recorded a lot and stuff and nobody felt the need to go out and play.

After six years I just thought it would be good to get out, because live shows are a lot of what it's about. If nothing else, you get out there and see what people want. I remember at the end of the Beatles thinking that it would be good if I just went out with some country & western group. To have a sing every day surely must improve my voice a bit.

When you did start to play live again, were you very nervous?
Yes. Very nervous. The main thing I didn't want to face was the torment of five rows of press people with little pads all looking and saying, "Oh, well, he's not as good as he was." So we decided to go out on that university tour, which made me less nervous because it was less of a big deal. We went out on that tour and by the end of that I felt quite ready for something else, and we went to Europe. I was pretty scared on the Europe tour. That was a bit more of a big deal, here he is, ladies and gentlemen, sold all the tickets out ... I had to go on with a band I really didn't know much. We decided not to do any Beatle material, which was a killer, of course, because it meant we had to do an hour of other material, and we didn't have it, then. I didn't have something like "My Love" that was sort of mine. I felt like everyone wanted Beatles stuff, so I was pretty nervous on that.

But by the end of the Europe tour I felt better, and at the end of the British tour I felt good. By the time we did the British tour I knew we could get it easily and that I could get it going. Everyone digs it, and there's enough stuff not to be nervous.

On the Wings tour the one song you did from the past was "Long Tall Sally."
The first time I ever sang on a stage I did "Long Tall Sally." I must have been pretty young, probably 14; I feel like I might have been 11, I don't know. We went to stay with our parents at a holiday camp called Butlins, a branch in Wales. They used to have these talent shows, and one of my cousins-in-law was one of the red coats who had something to do with the entertainment. He called us up on the stage, I had my guitar with me. Looking back on it, it must have been a put-up job, I don't know what I was doing there with my guitar. I probably asked him to get me up or something. I went up with my brother Mike, who had just recovered from breaking his arm and looked all pale. He had his arm in a big sling. We used to do an Everly Brothers number, something like "Bye Bye Love." I think it might have been "Bye Bye Love," in fact. We did that, and then I finished with "Long Tall Sally."

Ever since I heard Little Richard's version, I started imitating him. It was just straight imitation, really, which has gradually become my version of it as much as Richard's. I started doing it in one of the classrooms at school, it was just one of the imitations I could do well. I could do Fats Domino, I could do Elvis, I could do a few people. [Smiles.] I still can! "I'm walking, yes indeed, I'm ..." [Does Fats Domino impersonation.] "Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen." [An Elvis impersonation.] That's Elvis.

Did many of those black artists appeal to you in the late Fifties and early Sixties? John did several Motown songs.
Yes, very much. I loved all that stuff. Those were my favorites, definitely.

When did you first think you wanted to be in a band?
I didn't think I wanted to be in one; I wanted to do something in music and my dad gave me a trumpet, for my birthday. I went through trying to learn that. But my mouth used to get too sore. You know, you have to go through a period of gettin' your lip hard. I suddenly realized I wouldn't be able to sing if I played trumpet. So I figured guitar would be better. It was about the time that guitar was beginning to be the instrument. So I went and swapped my trumpet for a guitar and I got that home and couldn't figure out what was wrong and I suddenly decided to turn the strings around and that made a difference and I realized I was left-handed. I started from there, really; that was my first kind of thing, and then once you had a guitar you were then kind of eligible for bands and stuff. But I never thought of myself being in a band.

One day I went with this friend of mine. His name was Ivan [Vaughn]. And I went up to Woolton, in Liverpool, and there was a village fete on, and John and his friends were playing for the thing. My friend Ivan knew John, who was a neighbor of his. And we met there and John was onstage singing "Come little darlin', come and go with me..."

The Del Vikings' "Come Go With Me"?
But he never knew the words because he didn't know the record, so he made up his own words, like "down, down, down, down, to the penitentiary." I remember I was impressed. I thought, wow, he's good. That's a good band there. So backstage, back in the church hall later, I was singing a couple of songs I'd known.

I used to know all the words to "Twenty Flight Rock" and a few others and it was pretty much in those days to know the words to that. John didn't know the words to many songs. So I was valuable. I wrote up a few words and showed him how to play "Twenty Flight Rock" and another one, I think. He played all this stuff and I remember thinking he smelled a bit drunk. Quite a nice chap, but he was still a bit drunk. Anyway, that was my first introduction, and I sang a couple of old things.

I liked their band, and then one of their friends who was in the band, a guy called Pete Shotton who was a friend of John's, saw me cycling up in Woolton one day and said, "Hey, they said they'd quite like to have you in the band, if you'd like to join." I said, "Oh, yeah, it'd be great." We then met up somewhere and I was in the band.

I was originally on guitar. The first thing we had was at a Conservative Club somewhere in Broadway, which is an area of Liverpool, as well as New York. There was a Conservative Club there and I had a big solo, a guitar boogie. I had this big solo and it came to my bit and I blew it. I blew it. Sticky fingers, you know. I couldn't play at all and I got terribly embarrassed. So I goofed that one terribly, so from then on I was on rhythm guitar. Blown out on lead!

We went to Hamburg, and I had a real cheap guitar, an electric guitar. It finally blew up on me, it finally fell apart in Hamburg. It just wasn't used to being used like that. Then I was on piano for a little while. So I went from bass to lead guitar to rhythm guitar to piano. I used to do a few numbers like Ray Charles' "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying" and a couple of Jerry Lee Lewis' like "High School Confidential."

Then Stuart [Sutcliffe] left the group. He was the bass player. He lent me his bass, and I played bass for a few weeks. I used to play it upside down. And he used to have piano strings on it, because you couldn't get bass strings. They were a bit rare, you know, and they cost a lot, too, about ¢2 for one string. So he would cut these big lengths of piano strings from the piano and wind them on this guitar. So I played that upside down for a while. I'm pretty versatile, I'll give that to myself. I wasn't very good, but I was versatile.

I'm in Hamburg, and I have a little bit of money together, and finally saved enough money to buy myself a Hoffman violin bass. It was my bass, then, that was the one. And I became known for that bass, a lot of kids got them. That was my big pride and joy, because it sounded great.

And that was it, basically. The rest you know.

In America, the anthology album [Beatles 1967-70] and Red Rose Speedway were back to back Number Ones. You were replacing yourself. Did that strike you as odd?
I thought it was good, rather than odd, because obviously the big hang up after the Beatles broke up was, and really still is, can any of them be as good as the unit? The answer in most people's minds, I think, is "No. They can't." Because the unit was so good.

Were you glad those anthology albums were released for the historical record or to combat the bootleggers?
The bootlegging thing was one of the reasons. I didn't take an awful lot of interest in them, actually. I still haven't heard them. I know what's on them because I've heard it all before, you know. I haven't really taken much interest in Beatles stuff of late just because there has been this hangover of Apple and Klein. The whole scene has gone so bloody sick. The four ex-Beatles are totally up to here with it. Everyone wants it solved so everyone can get on with being a bit peaceful with each other.

There was a lawsuit recently, the three others against Klein.
Of course I loved that. My God, I hope they win that one. That's great. You see, apart from everything that went down, all the little personal conflicts, the reason why I felt I had to do what I had to do, which ended up specifically as being I had to sue the other three, was that there was no way I could sue Klein on his own, which is what I wanted to do. It took me months to get over the fact. I kept saying, I can't sue the other three, just because it's very hard news to go suing someone you like, and no matter what kind of personal things were going down and John writing songs about me and all that stuff, I still didn't feel like the coolest thing in the world was to go and sue them. But it actually turned out to be the only way to stop Klein, so I had to go and do it.

Then it all started to come out, you know, that Klein had persuaded George – I don't know how much of this is libelous –

Our lawyers will take out whatever is libelous.
Klein made his way into George's big songwriting company, which is George's big asset. The main one was the song "Something," that was on Abbey Road. That was kind of George's great big song, George's first big effort, and everyone covered it and it was lovely and made him lots of money that he could give away, which is his thing, you know. It was a great thing for him. Well, it turns out that Klein has got himself into that company. Not only paid 20% [the percentage Klein claimed to have gotten from Abbey Road] – there's a thought now that he's claiming he owns the company!

It's those kinds of little weird trips. Now the only good thing I feel is that I wasn't wrong. I would have felt really bad if I was wrong and the guy was really a goodie all along and I'd gone and stuck my big nose in there like the pot calling the kettle black. But it turns out he is the type of man who wants to own it for himself and not the type of man who believes the artist should have it and do what he wants with it, which is what I believe.

He was once quoted in New York magazine as saying he was going to roast your ass.
Yeah, well, he never did, you know, and that's cool. He wouldn't get near my ass to roast it, anyway. Punk.

You mentioned you had to sue the other three to get at Klein. What was Klein doing that made you have to sue?
Basically, I was being held to my obligations under an old contract. I would have to just sit, lump it, and let him be my manager, which I didn't want.

So I was told I could sue him. I said, "Great, I'll sue him." Then they said, "There's one catch, you have to sue Apple" – and that meant suing the other three. For two months I sat around thinking, "I can't do this." Not that I didn't see the others. I did, and kept asking them to let me out and they said, "No, Allen says there would be tax complications." I said, "I don't give a damn about tax considerations, let me go and I'll worry about the tax considerations. I didn't want to be an ABKCO-Managed Industry." It was weird. My albums would come out saying "An ABKCO Company," and he wasn't even my manager.

As it turns out, it was the best thing, because that got the receiver in there and froze the money and gave everybody time to think about it. He's still managed to get $5 million transferred to his own company, five million for management [the exact amount is subject matter of present litigation].

He has a very special gift for talking his way. He'll use his Playboy interviews, and he'll probably ask for a Rolling Stone interview after mine. Even a murderer has a great line in his own defense. But he's nothing more than a trained New York crook. John said, "Anyone whose record is as bad as this can't be so bad." But that was Lennon-esque crap, which John occasionally did; utter foolishness. Klein had already been convicted on ten counts of income tax. [Criminal docket 66-72 of US District Court, Southern District of New York, shows one Allen Klein found guilty January 29th, 1971, on ten counts of "unlawfully failing to make & file returns of Federal income taxes and FICA taxes withheld from employees' wages." Conviction affirmed on appeal by US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit November 19th, 1971.] Somebody who's been convicted ten times can't be all clean. [Growing more emotional] My back was against the wall. I'm not proud of it. But it had to be done. To him, artists are money. To me, they're more than that.

If Klein was the big reason for the breakup of Apple, do you think there would have been difficulties anyway without him?
I think there would have been difficulties. Had the Eastmans come in like I wanted, the others would have feared I was trying to screw everyone for the Eastmans. It would have been a bit hard for the others to swallow, I'm afraid, since the Eastmans were so close to me. But they didn't want to screw anybody, and the way it's turning out they're settling up most of it anyway. Some people say, "People are all the same in business," but they're not.

I think the Apple thing was great. As it turned out, the one thing about business is that it does have to be looked after. If you have paperwork and bills and royalties and accounts and stuff, they all have to be handled very well, or else things get lost and then accountants have great difficulty in making up the final picture for taxes.

Apple was together in a lot of other ways. Although he didn't get treated brilliantly at Apple, it was right for James Taylor to make his first record then. I think it was shameful of them to sue him afterwards, but I think that was largely Klein's instigation because of the way he works. He's kind of "OK, git the bastard. He's left us and he's a success, let's sue him. We got him, we got his contract."

But I still think all the records that came out of it, Billy Preston and James Taylor, Badfinger, Mary Hopkin, all the people we did take on all had very good records. George, even with the Radha Krishna Temple, I think that's great stuff. I don't think you can fault any of the artistic decisions. Looking back on it I think it was really a very successful thing.

The main downfall is that we were less businessmen and more heads, which was very pleasant and very enjoyable, except there should have been the man in there who would tell us to sign bits of paper. We got a man in who started to say, come on, sign it all over to me, which was the fatal mistake.

Just as I was going to do a radio show interview the other day, just as I was walking in, this feller walked up to me and said, "Hello, Paul," and I thought I'd seen him somewhere before. He looked kind of middle-aged, 50ish, and I thought, "What's he want with me? Looks a bit dubious." He pushed a little bit of paper in me hand, he said, "I don't want to embarrass you, Paul, I'm sure you know what this is all about, but I've got my job to do." A wife and three kids, all that. So I walked on, muttering, looked at the bit of paper and it says "ABKCO hereby sue you, John, George, Ringo and everything you've ever been connected with," in so many words, companies I'd never even heard of. "Sue you all for the sum of $20 million." That is the latest little line.

I'm not trying to be immodest by classing myself with Van Gogh or with the biggies in the artistic world, but it is just a pure continuation of that kind of story. The whole idea of whoever makes the thing not being given the profits of it isn't a new idea. I think it's a joke, trying to sue us for that amount of money. It is just purely that he thinks, in some way, that he owns us. The laugh is that on that whole Klein thing there is one key thing which I luckily never would sign, so I feel a little bit out of that one, I must say.

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Song Stories

“Vicious”

Lou Reed | 1972

Opening Lou Reed's 1972 solo album, the hard-riffing "Vicious" actually traces its origin back to Reed's days with the Velvet Underground. Picking up bits and pieces of songs from the people and places around him, and filing his notes for later use, Reed said it was Andy Warhol who provided fuel for the song. "He said, 'Why don't you write a song called 'Vicious,'" Reed told Rolling Stone in 1989. "And I said, 'What kind of vicious?' 'Oh, you know, vicious like I hit you with a flower.' And I wrote it down literally."

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