“I CAN’T BE­LIEVE IT”

HE AD­MITS TO BE­ING STUNNED BY THE PHE­NOM­E­NAL SUC­CESS OF THE BEA­TLES – AND NOW SIR PAUL MCCART­NEY IS BRING­ING THOSE “PRETTY GOOD” SONGS BACK TO AUS­TRALIA FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 24 YEARS

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - Pho­tog­ra­phy MARY MCCART­NEY Words CAMERON ADAMS

Sir Paul Mccart­ney talks to Stel­lar ahead of his Aus­tralian tour about his Bea­tles legacy – and why he still cares about what peo­ple think of his mu­sic.

Even the most suc­cess­ful song­writer in his­tory has mem­ory lapses from time to time. “I do some­times think, ‘Wait a minute! I was one of The Bea­tles! Can you be­lieve that?’” Sir Paul Mccart­ney tells Stel­lar with a laugh. “I was one half of the Lennon/ Mccart­ney song­writ­ing team!

“Oc­ca­sion­ally th­ese things oc­cur to me. Nor­mally it’s just some­thing I take for granted, but some­times I look at it and think, ‘Bloody hell, it’s amaz­ing.’ Then I get right off it be­fore my head ex­plodes.”

The fig­ures are enough to war­rant cra­nial ex­pan­sion: 800 mil­lion al­bums sold by The Bea­tles alone; 30 Amer­i­can No.1 sin­gles; 2200 cover ver­sions of ‘Yes­ter­day’; 21 Grammy awards; and a for­tune es­ti­mated to be more than $1 bil­lion. Yet Mccart­ney re­mains the mu­sic world’s most mod­est ge­nius. This year marks the 60th an­niver­sary of a 15-year-old Mccart­ney join­ing The Quar­ry­men, a band started by John Lennon. In 1960, they re­named them­selves The Bea­tles and went on to change not just the way mu­sic was made – but lit­er­ally change the world.

“You start off try­ing to achieve some­thing,” Mccart­ney tells Stel­lar in his only in­ter­view with an Aus­tralian pub­li­ca­tion. “When John and I met I said, ‘One of my hob­bies is writ­ing songs, I’ve writ­ten a cou­ple of songs.’ He was the only per­son I’d ever met who said, ‘Yeah? So have I.’ So when you think of those real hum­ble be­gin­nings, of the two of us show­ing each other the lit­tle songs we’d writ­ten, then start­ing to write to­gether, it is amaz­ing that we car­ried on and went from strength to strength.

“We wrote songs that peo­ple ac­tu­ally know and love and are re­ally fa­mous around the world. I do some­times think, ‘Blimey.’ Ob­vi­ously I’m re­ally very proud of it. I can’t be­lieve my luck. Not only did I get to do it for a liv­ing, I ended up be­ing pretty good at it.”

THIS DE­CEM­BER, MCCART­NEY will bring those “pretty good” songs back to Aus­tralia for the first time in 24 years. “Rais­ing kids” is one rea­son he uses to ex­plain the long ab­sence from our shores. “Now they’re pretty much all grown up, some with kids of their own,” he says. “I’ve man­aged to find a win­dow.”

Stretch­ing over two and a half hours, his live show is an even mix of songs by The Bea­tles and his other band Wings, along with his solo ma­te­rial. On most nights, he shoe­horns in ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, ‘Black­bird’, ‘Jet’, ‘Love Me Do’, ‘We Can Work It Out’, ‘The Fool On The Hill’, ‘Let It Be’, ‘Live And Let Die’, ‘Eleanor Rigby’, ‘Some­thing’, ‘I Saw Her Stand­ing There’ and ‘Yes­ter­day’. Hav­ing to work out which stone-cold clas­sics to leave out is a su­per­star’s first-world prob­lem.

“I sit down be­fore a tour and think, ‘If I was go­ing to this show, what would I def­i­nitely want to hear?’” Mccart­ney ex­plains. “So I write down the songs where the show wouldn’t be the same if ‘he’ didn’t play them. Then I start think­ing, ‘Well, a lot of peo­ple might not know this one, but a lot of Wings fans will know this one.’ I try to put stuff in for peo­ple who want a lit­tle more depth. You’re try­ing to give peo­ple value for money. I re­mem­ber very well when I paid my hard earned money to go to a show and ended up feel­ing a bit cheated. Even when the econ­omy is do­ing well, and now when it’s not do­ing well, peo­ple spend a lot of money on the tick­ets. I want them to go away and think, ‘You know what? That was worth it.’”

Mccart­ney is cur­rently mak­ing his 17th solo al­bum – the first since 2013’s New, on which he worked with pro­duc­ers Mark Ron­son (Amy Wine­house, Bruno Mars), Paul Ep­worth (Florence + the Ma­chine) and Ethan Johns (Kings of Leon). For the new al­bum, he is col­lab­o­rat­ing with Greg Kurstin, an Amer­i­can song­writer and pro­ducer who has worked with Pink, Beck, Kelly Clark­son and most no­tably Adele.

Yet even after all his achieve­ments, Mccart­ney is wor­ried about the pos­si­ble per­cep­tion that he’s just grab­bing “the man of the mo­ment”. He points out he worked with Kurstin two years ago after be­ing told by mu­tual friends that

he and the pro­ducer would get on. “I was think­ing that peo­ple who didn’t know I’d al­ready worked with him might think, ‘Oh, he’s go­ing with Adele’s pro­ducer think­ing he’ll turn him into Adele.’”

Does Mccart­ney re­ally worry about what a noisy mi­nor­ity might think? “I don’t worry about it, but you’re con­scious of it. There are some peo­ple I know who re­ally don’t care what any­one thinks. I ad­mire that. But most peo­ple I know aren’t like that. Even if it’s an or­di­nary job, you want to do it well, you want your work mates to think you’re cool, you want your boss to think you do a great job. It’s a com­mon thing. So yeah, I’m like that. I’d pre­fer it if peo­ple like it.

“I prob­a­bly have a bit of a hard time when peo­ple don’t like some­thing I’ve spent a lot of time on. Mak­ing an al­bum is some­times like sit­ting an exam – learn­ing ev­ery­thing and putting all the work in. And sud­denly some­one marks it. At that mo­ment, most peo­ple hope they got it right. And that’s what it would be like for me: I’d put a record out and ex­pect some bad crit­i­cism from some peo­ple, prob­a­bly, but I kinda like it if peo­ple like what I’m do­ing.”

When you’ve re­leased as many al­bums as Mccart­ney has, there’s bound to be a mile­stone al­most ev­ery year. This year marks the 50th an­niver­sary of Sgt. Pep­per’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – the 32 mil­lion-sell­ing record many be­lieve was the blue­print for con­cept al­bums.

Remixed by Giles Martin (son of late Bea­tles pro­ducer Ge­orge Martin) and with never-be­fore-heard stu­dio out­takes, the al­bum re­turned to No.1 on the UK charts in June. “It’s amaz­ing,” Mccart­ney says. “It’s a good thing to have it re­leased as an an­niver­sary thing, but for peo­ple to like it and send it to No.1 was un­be­liev­able.”

Like many al­bums Mccart­ney has been in­volved with, Sgt. Pep­per’s has been passed down from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion – a video of school chil­dren singing ‘When I’m 64’ be­came a feel-good in­ter­net mo­ment last month.

“There was a time when it was pretty much just [peo­ple] your age that came to the show,” he says. “Those peo­ple then grew up as we did; they had kids like we did. You’d see their kids com­ing to shows. Now we’re at the age where their kids’ kids are com­ing. You get the par­ents, their kids and the grand­kids.

“I love that. I love that they can all come to the same show and en­joy it for dif­fer­ent rea­sons. The kids are com­ing, pre­sum­ably, be­cause they like the songs, the par­ents are com­ing be­cause of the nos­tal­gia and what it re­minds them of... it’s re­ally nice. You see a lot of hu­man­is­tic sce­nar­ios in the au­di­ence – peo­ple cry­ing, laugh­ing, singing along. The fact that the mu­sic can bring a whole fam­ily to­gether is pretty cool.”

MCCART­NEY’S WHOLE FAM­ILY now stretches to five chil­dren and eight grand­chil­dren. Daugh­ter Mary fol­lowed her late mother Linda into pho­tog­ra­phy – she shot her fa­ther in his Lon­don home for to­day’s cover of Stel­lar. “She knows how to make you look good,” Mccart­ney says of the never-seen-be­fore im­ages. “Of course, in­stead of it be­ing just any­one, it’s my lit­tle Mary. Well, she was my lit­tle baby, now she’s a hard-work­ing mum with four kids. She’s a re­ally good pho­tog­ra­pher. She can boss me around: ‘Don’t do that, stop, stand up, gimme a smile.’ She’s my favourite pho­tog­ra­pher.”

Paul and Linda had four chil­dren: artist Heather, 54, pho­tog­ra­pher and cook­ery writer Mary, 47, fash­ion de­signer Stella, 45, and mu­si­cian James, 39. The singer’s six-year mar­riage to model and ac­tivist Heather Mills ended badly (it’s his only no-go area when be­ing in­ter­viewed), but re­sulted in his youngest child, 13-year-old Beat­rice.

Mccart­ney wed New Yorker Nancy Shev­ell in 2011; they’ll cel­e­brate 10 years since their first meet­ing by trav­el­ling to­gether to Aus­tralia for his tour.

While Mccart­ney tops ev­ery “wealth­i­est mu­si­cian” list, Shev­ell, 57, is no slouch her­self, main­tain­ing a nine-fig­ure fam­ily trans­port for­tune. “Nancy’s very im­pres­sive. She is a busi­ness­woman, she still runs her dad’s truck­ing com­pany with 4000 trucks,” Mccart­ney says proudly. “She’s a

“SOME­TIMES I THINK, ‘I WAS ONE HALF OF THE LENNON/MCCART­NEY SONG­WRIT­ING TEAM…’ BLOODY HELL, IT’S AMAZ­ING”

trucker. She’s used to men’s hu­mour. She’s a beau­ti­ful, smart and funny girl. She loves mu­sic... We’re very happy to­gether.”

Most of Mccart­ney’s chil­dren have adopted the veg­e­tar­ian diet and an­i­mal rights be­liefs that Paul and Linda were celebrity pi­o­neers of back in 1975. “We were on a farm, it was lamb­ing sea­son, and we were eat­ing lamb. It sud­denly clicked, ‘Maybe we don’t want to eat this any­more?’” Mccart­ney re­calls. “It’s a style of life that I like and it’s al­ways done me good... and a bunch of an­i­mals good, too.”

Aside from mu­sic, veg­e­tar­i­an­ism is one of the Mc­cart­neys’ ma­jor legacies; a chain of meat-free food op­tions still bears Linda’s name.

“Most peo­ple are an­i­mal lovers,” he says. “When you go vegie you be­come more aware of an­i­mal cru­elty. Linda was very cool with it; she’d talk in a way that didn’t put your back up and she’d per­suade you that th­ese an­i­mals should be saved. She had such a good way about her that peo­ple would ac­cept it, rather than get­ting into a big ar­gu­ment.

“We were able to do a lot of an­i­mal rights work – you feel good about that. I live on a sheep farm and the sheep die of old age. That never hap­pens – they never reach that age, but my old lot do. It’s a nice feel­ing.

“We share this beau­ti­ful planet with all th­ese other crea­tures. My idea is, why not give them their shot? Then you get the en­vi­ron­men­tal an­gle which is very im­por­tant th­ese days, par­tic­u­larly when you’ve got some­one like Trump who thinks it’s a hoax.”

LAST YEAR, MCCART­NEY copped flak from his Repub­li­can-lean­ing US fans when he was pho­tographed with Hil­lary Clin­ton. As some­one who di­vides his time be­tween the UK and US, he doesn’t mince words when asked about Don­ald Trump. “I’m not a fan at all,” Mccart­ney says. “He’s un­leashed a kind of vi­o­lent prej­u­dice that is some­times la­tent among peo­ple. Most peo­ple don’t feel it’s OK to be like that. When there were protesters at his ral­lies, Trump would say, ‘Oh beat them up, give them a good punch’ – wait a minute, I’m not sure that’s cool for a leader of a coun­try to be say­ing that. Maybe for a hockey player.

“He’s un­leashed the ugly side of Amer­ica. Peo­ple feel like they have got a free pass to be, if not vi­o­lent, at least an­tag­o­nis­tic towards peo­ple of a dif­fer­ent colour or a dif­fer­ent race. I think we all thought we’d got past that a long time ago.”

At 75, Mccart­ney is two years younger than the other re­main­ing Bea­tle, Ringo Starr, and just over a year older than The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jag­ger and Keith Richards. “When I was a kid I’d look at some­one who was 75 and think, ‘Bloody hell, that’s old,’” he laughs. “But you get to 40 and you think, ‘40, that’s old.’ Then you get to 50 and think, ‘Well, 40 wasn’t so old.’ As you go on you look at the decade be­fore and think, ‘I thought I was old then, but I wasn’t.’ Now you look at peo­ple the decade ahead of you and think, ‘Well, he’s still pretty cool.’

“I en­joy very much what I do: I feel healthy, I’m hav­ing a good time, mak­ing a new record, go­ing on tour. It’s my dream come true. It’s what I al­ways wanted to do when I was a kid. I’m still al­lowed to do it, so I’m not com­plain­ing.

“I be­long to the group who think age is just a num­ber. As you get to my age you’re inevitably aware of your mor­tal­ity and you start think­ing, ‘What does that mean to my kids and my grand­chil­dren?’ But I’ve al­ways taken the same at­ti­tude: when my time is up, that’s it. Un­til then, I’m go­ing to have a laugh.”

“AT MY AGE, I’M AWARE OF MY MOR­TAL­ITY… WHEN MY TIME IS UP, THAT’S IT. UN­TIL THEN I’M GO­ING TO HAVE A LAUGH”

BAND ON THE RUN (clock­wise from top) The Bea­tles in the early ’60s; Beatle­ma­nia hits Aus­tralia dur­ing their 1964 tour; Paul Mccart­ney and Linda East­man in 1967 (they wed two years later); pos­ing with a fanzine in 1964.

MU­SI­CAL GODS Mccart­ney with (from left) Ge­orge Har­ri­son, Ringo Starr and John Lennon in 1964; (left) in the record­ing stu­dio with Michael Jack­son in the ’80s. LOVE ME DO (above) Mccart­ney on­stage in Wings with wife Linda; (left) the cou­ple with their daugh­ters Stella (on right) and Mary in the ’70s.

THE BEAT(LE) GOES ON As pho­tographed in his Lon­don home by daugh­ter Mary; (be­low) Mccart­ney and Nancy Shev­ell mar­ried in 2011; (be­low left) with daugh­ter Stella and friend David Bowie in 2000.

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