Monday, June 18, 2012

Paul McCartney - the Biggest Name Dropper I Know

I have a friend who was famous for a short during the 60s when the Beatles were an unknown group in Liverpool trying to make it big. We were once discussing those opportunities that could have changed our lives but as often happens, had slipped from our grasp. I mentioned the well-known story of Decca missing the chance to sign the Beatles in 1962. ‘That’s nothing,’ my friend said, ‘I can remember sitting in a cafe with John Lennon and Paul McCartney, while they tried to persuade me to sing their songs ... but they were nobodies and I wasn’t interested.’

I remember quite well at Primary School, on a coach back from London, discussing the groups we liked. I can recall everyone saying they liked Cliff Richard, but I said I thought the Beatles were good, and I had an idea that maybe they were even better than Cliff. It seemed radical at the time and caused a few looks of concern amongst my young class mates but, in retrospect, who was right I wonder?

I am of the generation that even now thinks Paul (and Ringo) are about to pop in for tea.  And when he does finally turn up, I will be able to ask him those things that have bugged me for the last 50 years. Such as, did you, George or John play guitar on Dr Robert? And did you get the idea for the riff from Mystery Train?  

I know it’s a well worn cliché but if you were not of the Beatle generation it is hard to understand how revolutionary the Beatles were; Beatle releases were the number one item on the BBC News.  All of us, (unless you were a Stones fan, of course) waited with baited breath to hear what new form a Beatles’ single would take, and you could almost guarantee that everyone’s response was pretty much the same. It went something like this, ‘Well it’s a bit different but I reckon after a few plays I’ll probably get to like it’.

The good or bad thing about those recordings was that over time, they attached themselves, limpet – like, to our psyche in such a way that now, the playing of any Beatle track immediately transports us back to the innocent days of our teens.

If I hear I Feel Fine, I’m reminded of Airfix model planes - I was making one when I dropped the glue on the single. 
If We Can Work it Out is sung, I can hear the corresponding response which was the schoolboy joke of that time. There’s a Place reminds me of switchback rides and the distorted speakers and sallow lights of the fairground.

Neil Aspinall talked loftily about the importance of preserving the Beatles creative output and not allowing it to be sullied by mixing it with adverts and the like. And it is true that a Beatle song, just like any good conjuring trick, can lose its magic once we know the secret of how it’s done. I remember figuring out how to play, I’ll Be Back, (nothing to do with Arnie) only to then think, ‘Oh, is that all it is?’ (Of course it’s a lot more, especially the first chord of that particular song – it’s not an A7)  On the other hand a close examination of many of the Beatles’ chord progressions can be a revelation. Take for instance, It’s for You, and, Love of the Loved, both Cilla Black hits.

I think it would be good for Paul, as part of his legacy, to explain how some of the early magic was created. And I don’t mean George Martin leaning over an enormous mixing desk, speaking in raptures about Tomorrow Never Knows, (not one of my favourites – glad it was the last track on the album as I could then skip it).

And of course to some extent, Paul’s recent video of Ever Present Past on YouTube and his Rude Studio tracks from Ram have done just that. Paul’s 70 now and we should not expect him to think and write with all the optimism and innocence that a teenager has, like us, he had to grow up. His own personal magic will have faded over time just as it does for all of us.

The friend I spoke of earlier also told me that when he’d played at the Cavern in the early 60s, an entrepreneurial Paul McCartney had turned up and given him a lift home in his car in an attempt to persuade him to get the Beatles work in London. Paul McCartney must have been around19 at the time, and he’s 70 today. Paul has survived but the car that drove him and also drives us, hasn’t.

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