It’s June the 18th. The birthday of two very special people in my life. One of them my best friend, my soul sister and confidante, and the other my first, and most enduring true love. It was 70 years ago today that the ‘Cute One’ was born.
Liverpool’s the birthplace of three other amazing men who have been instrumental in shaping my life. I’ve written before of my love affair with The Beatles, of how I love them and why. Of stereo systems and trying to figure out who was whom.
Initially, I couldn’t differentiate whose voice was which, but the album covers had Paul on them, but Past Masters Vol. 1 and 2, and The Beatles 1967-1970, two of the first albums we had at home, had pictures, the former in the little booklets that are beneath CD covers. My childhood crushes, as a weird little kid, were Paul McCartney and this amazing guy named Shah Rukh Khan. (Suave, intelligent, ridiculously talented men.. now if only those were real, yes?) My mother often embarrassed me with stories of how I’d blush if I saw photos or video of them. [Which, in hindsight, are probably very, very true.]
Paul never had a particularly easy life, losing his mum very young, at fourteen.[This also strengthened his friendship with his songwriting partner, who lost his own mum at seventeen.]
He met The Quarrymen, fronted by a certain John Winston Lennon, in 1957, and a guy named George Harrison joined the group a year later. The beginnings of something extraordinary were already taking shape, something that would become part of history forevermore. After trying out several names like Johnny and the Moondogs andThe Silver Beetles,The Beatles were born in 1960.
And things would never be the same.
They started off playing at various clubs in Germany, got discovered by the genius Brian Epstein, and Beatlemania swept across the world and took control of it completely. Screaming girls were all over the place, and really, who blames them? I behave exactly the same even when I see them on TV. [I watched the Jubilee Concert live – it was 3 a.m here, I think, and I was screaming my head off, tremendously excited because Paul was due to come on. I sat through the Black Eyed Peas, Cheryl, and host of other people who call themselves musicians but really aren’t, just to watch Paul.]
More has been said about the Beatles as a band than you’ll ever read in your lifetime, and more than I’ll ever be able to summarize succinctly. I thought I’d try to highlight the relationship between John and Paul, so I trawled the internet to assimilate information to cobble together, and couldn’t get through it, as I was in tears halfway through reading.
In several interviews with John, years after The Beatles broke up, and just a few years before his death, he spoke very fondly of Paul, saying that they were like brothers, that he thought Paul was ‘absolutely wonderful’ and a ‘brilliant man’. And I don’t think a single person in the world thinks otherwise.
Women wanted him, men wanted to be him, and the public at the time didn’t seem to like the fact that he was seeing (and would later marry and have a family with) an American divorcee who already had a child.
Linda Eastman was, quite simply, the love of Paul’s life. Probably still is. You may think it’s presumptuous to say so, but it’s apparent to anybody who has heard the songs he wrote for her, or has ever seen pictures of the two together, some of which have been printed out and put up on my corkboard, and have now turned yellow, being there for so long.
You know those times when you’re lying around, playing music off your sound system or mp3 player, and you just close your eyes, and in that moment, you can imagine yourself sitting on the floor at Abbey Road studios, just watching these 4 geniuses (genii?) in action? I’ve always felt like that. Sometimes, when I just lie back and close my eyes, I can hear and see Paul twanging his bass and, in typical Paul fashion, bossing the others around, shaking his head; John, grumbling and staring wistfully; George, quiet, his eyes on his guitar, trying to and Ringo, bobbing about. I can smell the marijuana (no, I swear it’s not mine!), feel the fibres in the carpet, and generally just imagine myself as part of that wonderful, wonderful era (musically, at least). Kind of makes it annoying to have to come back to the real world.
Then again, that’s just a testament to the fact that their music spans space and time (quite literally, too- NASA launched “Across the Universe” into deep space four years ago).
Some fans have a favourite Beatle, some do not. I belong to the ‘do not’ category, because I’m in love with each of them in so many different ways. I always had a crush on Paul, which later, (entirely in my head of course), became true love. True love in a gorgeous, chocolate, perfect-exterior, true love that wrote songs that touched and melted a million hearts spontaneously. The Power of Paul.
The cute one broke a ton of hearts when he got married, but millions more shattered when, in 1970, the Beatles (unofficially) ceased to exist. [Officially, they dissolved in 1975.]
Post-Beatles, Paul proved how brilliant he really is, whether as part of a songwriting team or by himself. If you haven’t already, I would suggest listening to as much Wings as you can (LOVE them), and as for specific Paul McCartney albums, I highly recommend Ram (Paul and Linda’s first album after the Beatles broke up) and Flaming Pie, which I’m biased towards- it’s my favourite solo Paul album. On there you will find some serene, mellow, amazing guitar and vocal work that will transport you to the meadows and glens and foggy green hills where Paul probably wrote all this music. If you can’t physically travel there, it’s the next best thing. Sometimes even better.
Incidentally, in addition to lead and harmony vocals, Paul plays bass [most Beatles songs], acoustic guitar [Michelle, Blackbird], electric guitar [Drive My Car, Helter Skelter], piano and keyboards [Let it Be, The Long and Winding Road].
He couldn’t read music, and played everything by ear.
I guess some people just have music in their blood. That and the innate ability to make people happier than they ever thought they could be. People at the ends of the earth, people whose existence they are not even aware of.
Paul’s life has rarely seemed particularly rosy. Losing your mum at an early age, losing one of the closest friends you’ve ever had, then your wife, the love of your life (no, I did not mean for that to rhyme), and going through a terrible divorce from what I can only describe as an evil, money-grubbing leech can’t be easy, can it? But somehow, he’s managed to keep writing and performing like the damn live wire he’s always been, getting every single person to sing along; 8 years old or 80. And being an animal-rights activist. And an amazing dad.
When I find myself in times of trouble, Paul McCartney comes to me. We walk down the Long and Winding Road, and he tells me to Let it Be, to take my broken wings and learn to fly. [I’d go on with the references, but I think you get the picture 😉 ]
Someday, Paul, when I’m in my own little villa in the English countryside with my many, many dogs, I’ll still be listening to your breathtaking voice and your lyrics that make me laugh and cry and feel carefree and elated all at the same time. I WILL still need you when I’m 64.
Thanks, Sir Paul, for just being. [For the benefit of everybody out there.] And to the songwriting friendship of James Paul McCartney Jr and John Winston Ono Lennon, the most timeless one of all. In the midst of the shitstorm of musicians that really aren’t, ones who need garish clothing and autotune and computers to be noticed, I’m so glad, nay, relieved that Paul’s music has endured.
Here’s to 70 years of the coolest, most phenomenal existence, and many more to come.
I’ll leave you with one of my favourite solo Paul songs as I kiss my Paul poster goodnight.