Paul McCartney has never dwelled in yesterday, even if he remembers it quite well. At 71, he’s just released his 24th post-Beatles album, New, and is generating music at a pace that puts artists a quarter of his age to shame. And in a remarkably candid cover story by Rolling Stone contributing editor Jonah Weiner (on newsstands Friday) McCartney discusses the drive keeps him creating fresh music — as well as the memories of his Beatles bandmates that continue to shape his life today.
Perhaps most shockingly, McCartney reveals that although he’s always teaming up with fresh talent — New features production by Adele collaborator Paul Epworth, Amy Winehouse producer Mark Ronson, Giles Martin (son of legendary Beatles producer George) and frequent Kings of Leon partner Ethan Johns — he also consulted with another source, someone who knows his music intimately: John Lennon.
“If I’m at a point where I go, ‘I’m not sure about this,’ I’ll throw it across the room to John,” McCartney tells RS. “He’ll say, ‘You can’t go there, man.’ And I’ll say, ‘You’re quite right. How about this?’ ‘Yeah, that’s better.’ We’ll have a conversation. I don’t want to lose that.”
McCartney also reveals that his long-bitter relationship with Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono has turned a corner. Describing Ono as a “badass,” he says he’s moved on. “I thought, ‘If John loved her, there’s got to be something. He’s not stupid,'” McCartney says. “It’s like, what are you going to do? Are you going to hold a grudge you never really had?” In fact, another voice from the past — that of George Harrison — had encouraged him to forgive and forget. “George would say to me, ‘You don’t want stuff like that hanging around in your life.'”
But despite his spirit of reconciliation, McCartney maintains there’s one person he will never forgive: John Lennon’s murderer, Mark David Chapman. “I think I could pretty much forgive anyone else,” he explains. “But I don’t see why I’d want to forgive him. This is a guy who did something so crazy and terminal. Why should I bless him with forgiveness?”
Though he’s willing to reflect on the past, McCartney remains firmly focused on the future. Part of his motivation to continue recording and playing marathon live shows comes from a fear of becoming complacent. “I’ve always got the critic in my mind,” he tells Rolling Stone. “He keeps me on my toes — ‘Don’t get too blasé about it.’ I don’t want to become too smug, to think I’m great.”
Look for the issue on stands and in the iTunes App Store this Friday, October 25th.