Shortly before the interview began, Paul McCartney was joking. “Sorry, Seth, I’m composing. Hmmm, the, the …“
But 50 years after the Beatles, he continues to compose constantly and does not allow anyone pandemic get in the way.
Correspondent Seth Doane asked, “Most of the people in isolation have baked sourdough bread. Paul McCartney, do you make an album?”
“The other thing people have been doing is cleaning their closets, so that’s kind of what it was,” McCartney said. “I just started, like, cleaning my closets. Like, ‘Wait a minute, what was that song last year that I started but never got to finish? Let’s take a look at this. I should finish this. ‘”
It so happens that Sir Paul McCartney, now 78, has more interesting wardrobes than most of us and enough accessories to create a new record: “McCartney III”, released on Friday. It’s a kind of DIY album. It helps that McCartney has his own recording studio near his farm in England, and has had some practice. For “McCartney III”, he wasn’t just a songwriter, but a producer, and he played every tool.
“It’s not like working with the band, because I know what I want to hear and I don’t even have to tell anyone,” McCartney said. “I just said, ‘Let’s do some drums.’ I’m going to sit on the drums and think, ‘Okay, I wanted to doo doo doo .. doo doo dah… ‘So, it’s all in my head. “
Doane asked: “Do you lack feedback, in a working session with a musician?”
“No. It’s just a different kind of thing. Sometimes I ask one of my engineers, ‘What do you think?’ Or the guys might have a suggestion.
“And I’ll say, ‘No’!”
If making a record is different now, so is talking about it in the era of COVID. Both Doane and McCartney had COVID right before their meeting; the TV crew performed things remotely from another room. And McCartney has hardly given any other in-person interviews. “I don’t want to give it to anyone, I don’t want to have it,” he said. “And when people say, ‘I don’t want to wear masks, violating my civil liberties,’ I say, ‘Ah, no, this is stupid. ‘”
With his wife, Nancy Shevell, across the Atlantic, McCartney lived on his farm in England, recording and spending what he calls “rockdown” with his daughter, Mary, and four of his eight grandchildren.
Some evenings, at dinner time, he would play samples to them: “So, this was just some fun grandpa had in the studio.”
Doane asked, “Is this the real Sir Paul McCartney? Do you think this is the real you coming across a way that a more produced album wouldn’t?”
“It could be true, it could be true, actually, yes,” he replied.
Two more solo albums followed. Both were initially criticized, although they later gained praise. For a guy who was introduced to the rock and Roll Hall of Fame (twice!) and has 20 Grammy Awards, Doane still found him almost stunned by the process: “I start with a guitar or a piano, and I’m just really sifting through. ‘Ah, there is a melody here. Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. Oh yeah, that’s good enough. ‘That’s why I like it so much, because you start with nothing and then suddenly, after maybe a couple of hours, you have a finished song, and it’s like … Wow! And this still amazes me. “
In which way? “It always reminds me, like, of a wizard pulling a rabbit out of a hat.
“The song ‘Yesterday’ that I wrote, I dreamed of that song, and I woke up and there was this melody in my head. Good now, that is Magic. I didn’t think he was mine for the first two weeks. “
“What do you mean?” Doane asked.
“I thought it was an old song I heard somewhere, maybe from my father’s generation.”
“Only in your head?”
“Someone will say, ‘Oh, no, it’s from’ West Side Story ‘!’ I would go Argh! But no one ever found out what it was. And, in the end, they said, it’s yours! “
During the 1960s, with Beatles writing partner John Lennon, they produced around 300 songs.
McCartney said: “We have never had a dry session. We went in, we sat down, about three or four hours later we had a song. Looking back, wow, how lucky was he? Or could it be skill? ”He laughed.
“It was always fun. We got so used to it, after the first 50 songs we wrote together, we knew how it would turn out. So if it was a song that I brought in, I would just do the first two lines and he would just follow it. I started ‘It’s getting better …’ and he said ‘It couldn’t be much worse.’ “
Along with Ringo Star and George Harrison, the Beatles have skyrocketed thanks to the humble origins of the working class in Liverpool, England.
Doane asked, “Can you believe that what you did all those years ago still translates, still resonates, is still a gold standard today?”
“It’s pretty crazy,” McCartney replied. “I remember when I was a kid and when the Beatles were just starting, I remember my cousin saying to me, ‘Do you think any of your songs will ever be standard?’ And I remember saying ‘Yes’, thinking … “
“Do you think you know?”
“Je n’ai pas know. I guessed it. But I had a feeling that some of the things we were writing were quite memorable. “
“What’s in music that is like that, that touches people so deeply?”
“I’m not sure I have an answer,” McCartney said. “Something to do with the structure of the song. There’s no backup stuff that shouldn’t be in there. That’s the exact amount of stuff that should be on that disk. But I’m amazed at how it continues to go. I am amazed, perhaps I am amazed “.
“I felt it somewhere …”
“Oh yes, a good idea for a song!”
“Maybe I’m Amazed” was on his 1970 solo album “McCartney”, the first of this now trilogy, which marked his separation from the Beatles. They had separated in 1969, citing artistic and business differences. John Lennon also continued to have his solo career, until he was killed in front of his house exactly four decades ago this month.
Doane asked, “I wonder how, all these years – 40 years later – are you processing it?”
“I’m not sure I am,” McCartney said. “It’s very difficult for me, and from time to time I’ll have thoughts and say, ‘I don’t know, why don’t I cry every day?’ Why is it so bad. ”
“Do you do it sometimes?”
“Not every day, you know? There will be times when I’ll have memories and think, ‘Oh my God, that was so foolish.’ ”
“Do you think he’s still writing, producing like you?”
“Yeah. He wasn’t showing any signs of slowing down. You know, he was still making great music. The question is, would we ever get back together?”
What’s the answer? “I do not know!” McCartney said. “We do not know. We were friends. This was one of the great things. You know, I don’t know how I would have handled it. Because I don’t think I’ve dealt with it very well. You know, in a way, you know … I wouldn’t be surprised if a psychiatrist found out that I disagreed slightly. Because it is too much ».
McCartney told us he still has dreams about John Lennon and thinks of him when he writes.
“What happens if you’re in the car and a Beatles song plays?” Doane asked. “What are you doing? Raise it? Turn it off?”
“Turn up the volume! Turn up the volume! Sing along with it. It always brings me back to the session, you know, it always reminds me, ‘Oh yeah, I remember there was John, there was Ringo, where we did this. Yes, yeah … “It’s great, it brings you back like a flashback”.
Today, when he gets new ideas for melodies, he records them on his phone as a voice memo.
Doane asked: “I wonder how many hits are still in your iPhone?”
“I don’t know, I don’t know,” McCartney said. “In one of the songs on the new album, called ‘Kiss of Venus’, I wrote it one summer day and I had the beginning … The kiss of Venus, from, from, from, from – and I thought, ‘Oh, okay, I’ll record it, finish it someday.’ But then I said to myself, ‘No, what have you got? You have nothing on [right now]. Sit here and finish that damn song! ‘”
It turns out that, in isolation, Paul McCartney produced not just a record, but a reminder to the rest of us who unsurprisingly set to music: “Seize the Day”.
When the cold days come,
and the old ways fade away
There will be no more sun,
and we wish we had survived the day
Sixteen the day
For more information:
Story produced by Mikaela Bufano and Alan Golds. Publisher: Steven Tyler.