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Thursday October 24, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Thursday October 24, 2013 MYT 9:35:53 AM
by tan shzr ee
Fab factor: ‘The past: I don’t see it as a burden, I see it as something I’m very lucky to have. But it wouldn’t be bad if people could just see New as a completely new thing,’ says Paul McCartney.
IT is not every day that Paul McCartney – oops, Sir Paul – grants an interview. So when he agrees to have a chat with 20 reporters for 15 minutes, a string of conditions are attached.
No autographs, no pictures, no gifts. No questions on The Beatles. In fact, no questions on anything except his new album, called New.
But the first thing McCartney, 71, voluntarily utters in the flesh after a two-hour wait to interview him at the swish Edition Hotel in Soho, London, is a revelation about his personal life.
“You get new songs when you get a new woman,” he quips, referring to his two-year marriage to American heiress Nancy Shevell, 53. The two live in London’s posh St John’s Wood area.
Wearing a black button-down shirt, his hair thick and in a surprising shade of auburn, the legend is all charm, personable and drawling in his distinct Liverpool accent.
He is ready to talk about New, but reporters corner him on his legacy first.
“In an impossible world, it would be nice if nobody knew what I have done.
“And there are people, a lot of young people don’t know what I have done. But mainly, people are looking at what I am doing now as a continuation of all the other stuff,” says the singer, who earns one of the world’s biggest incomes from copyright collection agencies for The Beatles’ back catalogue.
“I don’t really worry about it. You know ... the main thing I try and do is not copy what I’ve done in the past. I’ve found myself once or twice sitting down with a guitar and thinking, ‘I’m gonna write a new Eleanor Rigby.’ And then it all goes a bit, eeurgh ... and I have to stop myself trying to do that.
“The past: I don’t see it as a burden, I see it as something I’m very lucky to have. But it wouldn’t be bad if people could just see New as a completely new thing.”
The musician’s 15th album is a tribute to younger talent, specifically producers Paul Epworth, Mark Ronson, Giles Martin and Ethan Johns – all of whom were mere babes when the former Beatle was already into his third (if not quite successful) career incarnation as a classical artiste, writing the Liverpool Oratorio.
Rumour has it that McCartney once nursed a young Martin, son of famed Beatles producer George, when he was stung by a bee.
Artistically, New converges distinct styles, ranging from happy-clappy sing-along numbers to lounge-y grooves and edgier rock.
Did the new blood dare challenge him in the recording room?
“I always make it one of the first things we talk about when we’re sitting down and settling in: Let’s try and get this straight. Everyone in this room has got an opinion, don’t be frightened to tell me,” says McCartney affably. He holds court and speaks off the cuff, if deliberately and slowly.
“If you think I’m doing it lousy, tell me. Was that any good? No, do it again. Sometimes when you’re struggling on something like a vocal, they have to tell you because they have to do something about it.”
By contrast, in the 1960s, fellow Beatle John Lennon would have barely suffered dodgy musical wanderings.
“We were just two kids who were growing up together,” he reveals, going into the no-go area of the past.
“Any of the guys in The Beatles could just tell one another, ‘Don’t like that’. Then it meant it had to go.”
In fact, the track Early Days from his latest album is a throwback to his maverick experiences with Lennon, back when “it was me and John in Liverpool ... in the record shops, listening to rock ’n’ roll, looking at posters on the wall.”
He adds: “People don’t go into a record store anymore ... And then one of the things that came to me was: You can’t take it away from me.
“Even though you’re gonna say, hey this is what happened in Liverpool in the late 1950s, I’m gonna say: Oh, were you there? Or did you just read about it? ’Cos I was there and I was walking down that street – it’s that kind of song. It’s a dig at people who said they know what it’s all about, but they weren’t there.”
In some ways, McCartney has not quite grown up, at least not in terms of losing his boyish penchant for having fun.
A multi-millionaire today, he throws parties late into the night to the chagrin of stuffy neighbours.
Indeed, one of these fabled events – his own wedding, no less – saw him meet future producer Ronson, a friend of Lennon’s son Sean.
In person, McCartney is relaxed and casual about working with younger, “cooler” talents, even as he clearly feels young at heart himself.
“I’m always wishing to be, like, cool. But the thing is, you know, I’m just me.
“I recently went to Las Vegas to do a thing called I Heart Radio, and there’s a lot of cool people there. Then there’s me, going like, ‘Hi, Miley!’ And oh God ... I sounded like a fan, what am I doing?”
Knowing glances are exchanged across the room in recognition of the elder musician’s subtle endorsement of the controversial teen pop star Miley Cyrus, currently embroiled in a media debate over the sexualisation of her identity.
You are tempted to ask if Sir Paul can twerk. But the question would be banned alongside a host of others Beatles fans will want answers to: Does he still hate ex-wife Heather Mills of the one-legged model notoriety? Is he less famous today than his fashion-designer daughter Stella? Can he do something about the recipe for late wife Linda’s otherwise successful brand of vegetarian sausages?
Instead, you settle for what gems he may strew your way in talking about the music itself.
“When you do a show, you can’t just do new songs. They’re gonna expect a couple of ... you know, if I don’t do Hey Jude, I’ve missed an opportunity,” he says of a five-show tour he will embark on in Japan next month.
“We did the same in Las Vegas, where we were mainly doing the new songs, and it was going down well.
“But, man, when we got to Live And Let Die, the Las Vegas audience responded,” he says referring to his song for the 1973 Bond movie of the same name. “We basically blew them up. Brrffrrmph. They loved that.”
Beyond Japan, he is cautious about grandstanding for high-profile events such as the World Cup and the Olympics. According to him, he had turned down overtures to sing on both occasions.
“It’s great that they think about me. I love it, I’m very flattered. But I think, you know, you just can’t be the guy on all of them,” he says.
“It’s just gonna get boring for the audiences – oh not him again, nah nah nah nah. So you don’t wanna be boring.”
It is sweet to see the self-effacement of an old hand here.
With a reputation so long and broad, one wonders how McCartney struggles every day to live up to his own history or stay up to date in an industry obsessed with youth and looks.
But there is no struggle at all, of course.
The son of a midwife who has made his name and wealth on more than 100 million albums and singles, who is hailed as the most successful musician in the world, who has access to any number or methods of life-regeneration strategies, says that life is good – oh so good.
“This is a kinda happy period in my life,” he says with a grin, his famously asymmetrical eyebrows cocked and etching the faintest ridge on a septuagenarian’s perfect forehead. – The Straits Times, Singapore/Asia News Network
> Paul McCartney’s New is released by Universal Music Malaysia.
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Entertainment, Paul McCartney, Beatles, New, Album, British, Singer, Heather Mills
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