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 Paul & Linda McCartney - In Their Own Words

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Sitting in his country home in southern England, Paul recounts how he wrote songs with John, how fame became so burdensome, and how he keeps going, carrying the legend along with him.

Paul McCartneyhen I wrote "Yesterday," I was aiming to impress people who knew music, rather than just get the teeny-boppers. We'd be around musicians who played in dance orchestras up in Manchester. They were the kind of hardened guys that Sinatra would have played with if he ever got that far north. We hung out with a lot of those people and we wanted to be respected by them. We had the kids, but we wanted their parents to like us, too.

Just like a song is an immovable object and an irresistible force, so too were we the irresistible force that was not going to be stopped. We had captured Liverpool, we had captured London. It was like a military campaign. We were out to capture the world.

Paul McCartney's Seventies
Billboard Top 40 Singles

"Another Day"  3/71  #5
"Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey"  8/71  #1
"Give Ireland Back To The Irish"  3/72  #21
"Mary Had A Little Lamb"  7/72  #28
"Hi, Hi, Hi"  12/72  #10
"My Love"  4/73  #1
"Live And Let Die"  7/73  #2
"Helen Wheels"  12/73  #10
"Jet"  2/74  #7
"Band On The Run"  5/74  #1
"Junior's Farm/Sally G"  11/74  #3/#17
"Listen To What The Man Said"  6/75  #1
"Letting Go"  10/75  #39
"Venus And Mars Rock Show"  11/75  #12
"Silly Love Songs"  4/76  #1
"Let 'Em In"  7/76  #3
"Maybe I'm Amazed"  2/77  #10
"Girls' School"  12/77  #33
"With A Little Luck"  4/78  #1
"I've Had Enough"  7/78  #25
"London Town"  10/78  #39
"Goodnight Tonight"  3/79  #5
"Getting Closer"  6/79  #20
"Arrow Through Me"  9/79  #29

My dad was a musician. He had a little band in the twenties called the Jim Max Band. Because of him, I knew many of the songs that the older crowd knew. John, too. One of John's favorite songs was "Don't Blame Me." People think of John Lennon as a peacenik, or a crazy man, or a great man, but they never associate him with the kinds of songs his mum taught him. His mum was a musical lady. She taught him banjo chords. I had to change him to guitar chords. We used to love "Little White Lies," "Don't Blame Me." I was a big Fats Waller fan, a big Peggy Lee fan. In the very early days, we used to do all sorts of stuff that no one would have suspected of us, so that when we did get to the level of "The Ed Sullivan Show," we were real and not just some little schmucks from out of town.

The cheekiest thing the Beatles ever did was say to our manager, Brian Epstein, that we didn't want to go to America until we were number one. Cliff Richard, Tommy Steele -- big British stars -- would go to America and be third or fourth on the bill to Frankie Avalon, and then they'd come back and we'd read in interviews that although they had a wonderful time over there, they never became big hits. We thought surely the Americans were going to buy their records, but what they proved in the end was that they were little European acts who got a bit too out of their depth.

The four of us brought different things to the table. John brought a biting wit. I think I brought commerciality and harmony. My dad used to sit me and my brother down and say, "This is harmony," so when it came to the group, I'd say to them, "Let's do a harmony on that one," and we gradually worked our way into things like that.

George was serious, always very good on the business side, and always very good on his instrument. Ringo was simply the best drummer in Liverpool. Ringo also had native wit. He didn't know when he was being funny. The three of us went to grammar school, Ringo didn't. Ringo said he only went to school for three days because of this bad operation he had when he was a kid. Ringo had peritonitis. His stomach has a lot of scars on it. His parents were told that he had died at age three, so with Ringo everything was always a bonus.

He would say to us, "God, it's been a hard day's night." We'd say, "Say that again."

"Tomorrow Never Knows" is also one of his. Ringo talked in titles. We had to follow him around with a notebook and pencil. You never knew what he would say next.

Everybody thought we were an overnight success. We started off in Liverpool as nothing, just as a crummy little band, and we got this opportunity to go to Hamburg. The very first club we played in Hamburg was the Indra, which was German for India. The first night we played, I think there were two people there. But it was there where we started learning our show-biz skills.

The club was in a tourist area. When people stopped by the door, the first thing they would look at was the price of beer, you know, to see if as we saw them at the door, we would change the number, do a better song as a way of enticing them in. Our role in life was to make people buy more beer. That's how we actually started off. The more beer they bought, the more likelihood of our pay going up.

When we finally happened, we were in Paris. A telegram came through from Capitol Records saying that "I Want to Hold Your Hand" had gone Number 1. We just jumped on each other's backs and screamed the whole place down. We knew we were off for fame. In a funny way, we expected it.

And then older people like Benny Goodman wanted to know, "Who are these guys?" He was told, "Oh, they're nothing. They'll be over tomorrow." You know, like, "Don't worry, gang. This won't last long."

But then kids started telling mum and dad about "Yesterday," and this "Michelle" song, and "Here, There and Everywhere," and people began saying, "Not bad."

Paul McCartney

"I have worked with other people, and I've had some fun with other people... but the co-written stuff has not been anywhere near as good as the songs I wrote with John."

The anchor that always held us was our musicality. We were pretty good musicians, in a smallish way, perhaps, but we were a good little rhythm section and a good little band.

I remember hitting upon this idea and saying to the group, "OK, for this one album we won't be the Beatles. This is going to be our safety valve. We're going to think of a new name for ourselves, a new way of being, a new way of recording, everything fresh, and by the way, I've written a song about something called Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."

And we agreed that we weren't the Beatles anymore. When we went in to make the record, it wasn't "John" singing on this or that track. It was anyone John wanted to be. And it was quite good. We did stuff on that record that we had never done before. I think John and I were the main influences on it. George took a lesser role. He was into his Indian music, so he did his Indian track, and Ringo, as usual, came along for the ride.

There were three ways that John and I would write. We would sit down with nothing and two guitars, which was like working with a mirror. I could see what he was doing, and he could see me. We got ideas off each other. In fact, it was better than a mirror because if he was plunking away in D, I could see where his fingers might go and then I could suggest something.

Paul McCartney's Seventies
Billboard Top 10 Albums

McCartney  5/70  #2
Ram  6/71  #3
Red Rose Speedway  6/73  #1
Band On The Run  1/74  #1
Venus And Mars  6/75  #1
Wings At The Speed Of Sound  4/76  #1
Wings Over America  1/77  #3
London Town  4/78  #2
Back To The Egg  7/79  #8

So, that was like writing from the ground up. "She Loves You," "From Me to You," "This Boy" were all written that way, as were most of the earlier songs.

Paul McCartney Lyrics
Paul McCartney Videos

Another way of writing was when one of us had an idea. I used to drive out to John's house. He lived out in the country, and I lived in London. I remember asking the chauffeur once if he was having a good week. He said, "I'm very busy at the moment. I've been working eight days a week."

And I thought, "Eight days a week! Now there's a title." So when I got to John's house, I said, "Eight Days a Week." So that was the second way. One of us would have an idea, and then we'd both sit and write together. "Norweigan Wood" was like that. John had the first idea. He said, "I once had a girl, or should I say she once had me." And then we finished it together. It always got a bit more bizarre when the two of us got going.

The third way was when one of us had an idea, and we weren't going to be seeing each other for a week, and the idea was just too hot to stop. I wrote "Yesterday" that way. Most of the ballady stuff I wrote on my own. "Yesterday," "Michelle," "The Long and Winding Road," "Let It Be," "Eleanor Rigby," although I did bring "Eleanor Rigby" to John for help with the third verse. John could always spot a bum line.

No matter how we did it, we were just happy working together in the accepted way of writing as we were keeping it loose. Just as long as there was never a formula.

I do miss it, and him. It's very hard to replace someone like John. I should say impossible. I have worked with other people, and I've had some fun with other people, and I've done some stuff since the Beatles, like "My Love" and "Maybe I'm Amazed," which I think stacks up with the Beatles, but the co-written stuff has not been anywhere near as good as the songs I wrote with John.

Of my writing partners since John, Denny Laine was obviously nowhere near as good as John. Stevie Wonder is very good, but not lyrical. He's not a lyricist. Michael Jackson is not as good of a writer as he is a performer. And Eric Stewart was good, but again, not as good as John.

John and I were writers, and the Beatles as a whole, we were virtually an impossible act to follow. Ours was quite a rich time. Meeting the queen for the first time. Coming to America for the first time. It was incredible, unbelievable. I mean, I would not be impressed going down to Florida now and seeing a motorcycle cop ride by and wave. But then, it was like heaven. We would be riding along and a motorcycle cop would breeze by on his bike and take photos of us. It was magic. 

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Linda promoted her passionate belief in vegetarianism through several best-selling cookbooks and her own brand of frozen meals before her unfortunate passing in April 1998. In this 1990 interview, she also discusses her career as a respected photographer as well as some of the highlights of her eventful personal life as the wife of a former Beatle.

Linda McCartneyhat happened was the cookbook (Linda McCartney's Home Cooking, published in 1989) went so well that United Biscuits came to me and said, "We'd like to adapt some of the recipes into frozen food." I said, "Yes, if it's healthy, easy and inexpensive."

We worked on it for over a year with them trying things different ways and me turning them down until we got some things right. I had to have a very active role in it or it would all have gone badly wrong.

The idea behind my recipes is partly that you could almost fool people into becoming veggies. With the pasties and the sausages and burgers I reckon wives -- realistically, women do still do nearly all the cooking after all -- can put them on the plate in front of their husbands and say nothing until they've finished, then tell them there's no meat in it.

I'm trying to reproduce healthily in a vegetarian way every kind of flesh there is -- bacon, smoked salmon, roast meat. We're working on it. A lot of vegetarians complain that my book is meat-oriented and some of the products look like meat. For me, though, it's a matter of not just preaching -- I hate to do it and it doesn't work -- but helping to make the alternatives more attractive to more people. Change the eating habits and maybe you change the thinking habits.

I'm not trying to persuade people who are already vegetarians. They know how great pasta and rice and vegetables and fruit are. I'm trying to reach meat eaters and show them you don't have to eat 'rabbit food' to be a vegetarian.

We're developing a lot of new lines now. It's just a matter of how much space in the frozen food cabinets you can command. But we'll probably go on to chilled food. And we're going into Quorn now. At first when UB approached the company who make it they wouldn't do it, but now we're successful -- Safeway's into it, Asda's into it, even the Hard Rock Cafe's into it -- they've come back to us.

The only reason I got involved was to help stop people eating animals. To make a difference, at last, instead of just talking about it. Don't need money, don't need fame, but I'm convinced that part of the reason the world is so sick is that so many people eat flesh. What are you doing but eating a slab of fear?

The whole process of slaughter hurts the environment and reduces the amount of food available to people when you consider that from a given piece of land if you can produce 25 tons of soya protein in a year you'll only get one ton of meat. And there are millions starving! Meat production leads to forests being cut down for cattle grazing, it damages water tables.

But the good thing is more and more people are going veggie. There's a groundswell of kindness growing and the traditions of meat-eating is under question as, slowly, we become more caring.

As Paul says, look how long it took to change the political system to most countries and get votes for women. Look how long it took to abolish slavery. There was a time when much of the "civilized" world thought it was acceptable. And then they saw that it was wrong. I think the same thing will happen with eating animals. I have faith that the day will come when the world looks back and says, "How could we have done that?"

Linda McCartney

"I have faith the day will come when the world looks back and says, 'How could we have eaten animals?' "

I'm quite surprised how well the latest photo book (Linda McCartney's Sixties, published 1992) went down. I don't get half so slammed in the media as I used to, though I don't read much of it anyway, otherwise I'd have been a basket case by now.

I think some people have always had a kind of "Who is she? Where's she coming from?" feeling about me. And this book shows them. "Oh, so she was in the thick of it in the '60s. Oh, that's why he married her." Of course, I think they might have lightened up on me earlier, maybe a bit of, "They've been together so long, they guy must know what he's doing, give 'em a break." But I guess this book makes me all right.

I became a photographer because I was turned on by the black and white photography of Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Cartier-Bresson. While I was shooting the musicians who feature in the book -- Morrison, Hendrix -- I was still taking other stuff too, whatever I saw.

I don't know anything about the mechanics of photography, it's all about feeling. In 1965 when I told my father I was going to be a photographer full-time, he begged me to train with an established professional or take a course. But I followed my heart as I usually do. Well, I'm saying that, whereas believe me I'm as suppressed as anyone else, but at least I had enough faith in myself to go away from the norm. It was a matter of passion.

There are so many great moments, but... my first "greatest moment" was going to an Alan Freed Rhythm & Blues Show at the Brooklyn Paramount in about 1957 when I was a junior in high school. Little Richard, The Crickets, Chuck Berry -- who did "School Days" for the first time and actually said, "I just wrote this last night" -- The Big Bopper, Screaming Jay Hawkins, The Dells, The Moonglows, Richie Valens, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, all the acts that I loved. They even had people like Bobby Darin and Fabian just MC'ing. Alan Freed was my hero as a DJ. It was obvious he only played the music he loved.

But seeing and hearing and hanging around Hendrix, oh, I can't even put it into words. That man... the greatest moments weren't when he was playing a concert. It was more sitting in a hotel room with him and he'd start to play and just jam all night. Or at the Speakeasy when everyone had left he'd get up and play till they switched the lights on and kicked us out. Oh, I tell you maybe the best memory of Hendrix was when he was recording Electric Ladyland, those sessions when he was playing guitar, organ, drums, everything.

And then there was Otis Redding live. What a thrill. He played a concert outdoor in Central Park when I was in New York with The Animals and they asked me over to see Otis. I think he was the greatest vocalist of all. 

- Excerpted from The Paul McCartney 1990 New World Tour Book.

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