A short film about McCartney and Starr’s reunion on April 4, 2009, for a benefit concert for David Lynch’s Transcendental Meditation foundation. The foundation seeks to have meditation taught in American schools.
The L.A. pad where George wrote the eerie Magical Mystery Tour track “Blue Jay Way” is available for $4.6 million. (The address is 1567 Blue Jay Way, to be exact.) Not too far from Elvis’ place in Bel Air where the group visited in ’65 (525 Perugia Way). Or the house at 2850 Benedict Canyon Drive the band was staying in later that year, where Peter Fonda freaked them out by saying he knew what it was like to be dead (thus inspiring “She Said, She Said”).
The video playlist for the songs the Solo Beatles wrote venting about the group’s acrimonious split. To play the mix continuously, please go to the YouTube playlist below and select “Play All”.
In 1969, the Beatles’ Apple Records label was hemorrhaging money due to the idealistic hippie chaos that defined its operation for a year, with many employees stealing. Lennon wanted to bring in manager/accountant Allen Klein to clean it up, since Klein had succeeded in getting the Rolling Stones the best record deal in the business. But Klein also ended up owning the copyrights to all the Stones’ songs written before 1971 — not Jagger and Richards — and McCartney didn’t trust him. His wife Linda’s father Lee Eastman was a successful New York music lawyer, so McCartney pushed for him. But the other Beatles naturally did not want to be managed by McCartney’s father-in-law. Why they didn’t all choose a third, neutral manager is a tragic mystery. In the end, Lennon, Harrison and Starr went with Klein and McCartney went with his in-laws. (By the early ‘70s, Lennon, Harrison, and Starr would grow disenchanted with Klein themselves and file lawsuits to split with him.)
Whereas Lennon had once been the leader of the group, he now often felt like a sideman to the increasingly perfectionist McCartney, and began turning to Yoko Ono as his new collaborator. The other Beatles resented her presence in the studio and finally, in the summer of 1969, Lennon snapped and told the Beatles he was leaving. Klein was in the midst of negotiating a better contract for the group that would impact their future royalties, so he convinced Lennon to keep it a secret from the press. Thus the Beatles existed in a strange limbo for almost a year. Devastated, McCartney retreated to his Scottish farm and disappeared so completely the rumor spread that he was dead.
In April 1970, McCartney emerged from isolation with his first solo album, McCartney. In the press release accompanying the LP, McCartney stated that he no longer foresaw a time that the Beatles would record together, effectively announcing the end of the group. Lennon was enraged at McCartney “scooping” him on the demise of the Beatles, yet also admired his P.R. acumen in using it to hype his record release. However, the move backfired on McCartney, as he became known as the one who “broke up the Beatles.”
To promote his own debut album, Plastic Ono Band, Lennon gave a legendary interview to Rolling Stone magazine’s Jann Wenner that pulled the curtain back on everything that had been censored about the Beatles over the previous decade: the groupies, drugs, and bribery on tour, all the backbiting of the last few years. He was out to bury the image of the lovable moptops forever.
He railed against how McCartney and Harrison – “the most big headed uptight people” — treated Ono, regretting he didn’t punch Harrison when he told Ono she had a “bad vibe” reputation.
“I don’t forgive them for that,” he simmered. Then he laughed, remembering all the incendiary things he’d said over the course of the session. “This is gonna be some fucking thing. I don’t care, this is the end of it.”
He permanently alienated George Martin and the rest of the Beatles’ support team — Neil Aspinall, Mal Evans, and Derek Taylor – for saying that they had the gall to think they were actually Beatles themselves. He couldn’t even stop himself from saying his good friend Starr’s first album embarrassed him.
Someone who felt especially lacerated was McCartney. Shortly after the interview, he started the court case to dissolve the partnership they had all signed on August 19, 1967. McCartney had wanted the group more than anyone, but he was such a dominant control freak that none of the others wanted to work with him anymore — yet they didn’t want to end the Beatles’ company because then they’d each get taxed individually at a much higher rate. They wanted him to stay stuck in the same company with them even though they didn’t like him, release his albums by their schedule, and deal with their manager — who McCartney thought was probably crooked.
McCartney never truly let loose in the press back at Lennon, because, as he admitted, he knew Lennon would verbally destroy him. Instead he began a not-so-subtle assault through his music. Even though he changed the words of “Too Many People” from “Yoko took your lucky break and broke it in two,” Lennon soon blasted back with “How Do You Sleep.”
Harrison also chronicled everything from his walk out during the Let It Be sessions in “Wah Wah,” the endless court cases in “Sue Me, Sue You Blues,” and his sadness at their crumbling brotherhood in “Run of the Mill.” And Starr was still smoldering over the time McCartney shoved him out of the house with “Back Off Boogaloo.”
It was a dark two years in Pepperland until McCartney called a ceasefire at the end of 1971 with “Dear Friend,” and the healing gradually began.
A clip from the Martin Scorsese documentary George Harrison: Living in the Material World.
The video playlist for the songs profiled in chapter two.
Unfortunately, the George Harrison tracks from All Things Must Pass are not available on YouTube so alternate takes have been substituted.
To play the mixes continuously, please go to the YouTube playlist links below and select “Play All” in the upper left corner.
Oh Woman Oh Why Currently Not Available On Amazon
With Heather Mills as his muse in the 2000s, McCartney wrote and performed with a startling new level of honesty and vulnerability. From the euphoria of early passion to love’s bitter implosion, McCartney chronicled the full story as starkly as Bruce Springsteen had in his own album of a crumbling marriage, Tunnel of Love.
Please go to the YouTube playlist below and select “Play All” in the upper left corner.
1970: Not the happiest year for either of them.
Even though they had just split up as a band, Lennon and McCartney’s debuts were very similar — dark, stripped down albums. They were both extensions of what the Beatles had tried to achieve with the Get Back/Let It Be sessions, which had been inspired by Bob Dylan. In 1967 the orchestral grandeur of Sgt. Pepper had stunned the public, and most of the rock community slavishly attempted to imitate it. Dylan, however, went in an entirely different direction with John Wesley Harding, a rustic, folksy album that featured just him, a bassist, and a drummer. The Beatles realized they had lost connection with the raw power of their roots and made their own back-to-basics album with Let It Be. Both Plastic Ono Band and McCartney continued this approach. Plastic Ono Band featured just Lennon, Starr, and Klaus Voormann on bass. McCartney went one better by playing every instrument on his album. Along with the minimalist sound, both albums share a theme of isolation.
Lennon chronicled the feelings unleashed by the Primal Scream psychotherapy he was undergoing at the time. During the recording sessions, Lennon would sometimes break down crying, but found the process to be one of the most empowering experiences of his life.
But while Lennon was excited to face a new era, a heavy depression pervades McCartney. The album’s cover features “life’s cherries” scattered outside the bowl.
Released just half a year after Abbey Road, half of McCartney’s tracks are instrumentals, since McCartney had not generated enough new songs to fill an album. Thus his album continues to receive mixed reviews, while Lennon’s is now recognized as a classic, though it was mercilessly spoofed at the time by National Lampoon as “Magical Misery Tour.”
In marked contrast to the minimalist Lennon and McCartney solo albums, Harrison stood out with the explosive bombast of his triple album set All Things Must Pass, just as he once stood out from the others through his use of Indian music. Its Phil Spector-produced Wall of Sound was the perfect backdrop for a musician who had been ignored and was now determined to make as big a splash as possible. (Though Harrison would later regret using so much echo.)
In 2000, the Beatles released the album 1, which gathered every single by the band that had topped the charts in either the U.S. or the U.K. The collection itself went on to top the chart across the globe and became the best selling CD of the 21st century, to date having sold over 31 million copies. It is the seventh best-selling album since 1991, the year Billboard revised its chart system.
In 2002, Elvis’ estate followed suit with Elv1s 30 #1 Hits, noting on the liner notes that “Before anyone did anything, Elvis did everything!” Indeed, Elvis had 30 number ones, whereas the Beatles had 27.
The Solo Beatles had 20 number ones on either the U.S. or U.K. charts, bookended by Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord,” which topped the charts in 1970 and then returned to the number one position after his death in 2002.
McCartney had eleven number ones, Lennon four, Harrison three, and Starr two. Of Lennon’s four, only “Whatever Gets You Through the Night” was number one in his lifetime. “Imagine” topped the charts ten years after its initial release in 1971.
Technically, McCartney is tied with Starr for only two number one singles in his own name (“Coming Up” and “Pipes of Peace”), because his others were either credited to Paul & Linda McCartney (“Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey”), Paul McCartney & Wings (“My Love,” “Band on the Run”), Wings (“Listen to What the Man Said,” “Silly Love Songs,” “With a Little Luck,” “Mull of Kintyre”), Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder (“Ebony and Ivory”) or Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson (“Say, Say, Say”).
Three of the hits in this compilation (“Ebony and Ivory,” “Say Say Say,” and “Pipes of Peace”) I did not profile in the book because they epitomize the McCartney stereotype I have tried to provide a corrective to: soft, slick, synth-tinged, and borderline-saccharine. But on their own, the songs themselves are fine – affecting even, if you’re in the right mood. Two of them reflect his attempt to veer away from “Silly Love Songs” and get back to “Let It Be” statements in the aftermath of Lennon’s murder, and represent the last time he was on top of the singles charts (and thus a part of the young generation’s zeitgeist).
To play the singles continuously, go to this You Tube link and select “Play All”.
When McCartney’s mother died from breast cancer in 1956, he buried himself in the distraction of rock and roll. When his wife Linda passed away from the same disease in 1998, he returned to the music of the ‘50s. He got the album title Run Devil Run from a brand of bath salts used to ward off evil he saw being sold at an herbal medicine shop on in Atlanta. Rock and roll was always his balm.
“Party” was a deep cut from the 1957 Elvis movie Lovin’ You. Wanda Jackson later covered it and her version can be heard in the 1989 film classic Dead Poet’s Society. The tune was also included in the 2010 Broadway show Million Dollar Quartet, based on the day Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis all recorded together at Sun Studios. McCartney used the song as his tool to correct some infuriating revisionism that had been going around about him.
Backbeat is a very good 1994 film about the Beatles’ early days. (That is to say, it’s good for Beatles fans; it’s hard to say if non-fans would be bored or not.) Like Dick Clark’s 1979 telefilm The Birth of the Beatles, it spotlighted their stint in Hamburg, the Vegas of Europe, in their raw early days when they all wore Gene Vincent leather suits. Forced to play for six to eight hours a day to drunken sailors and strippers, they were turned on to over-the-counter speed to keep going and it welded them into an incendiary tight unit. (Pete Best didn’t do amphetamines, though. It was one of the things that kept him at a distance from the others — like not adopting the Beatle cut — which eventually led to his replacement by Starr.) The movie tells the story through the eyes of Stuart Sutcliffe, Lennon’s painter best friend whom Lennon drafted to play bass, even though he couldn’t play. His musical ineptitude led to serious tension between Stu and perfectionist McCartney, who could play bass better. It was a precursor to the John-Yoko-Paul triangle, but luckily for Western civilization, Stu hooked up with German artist Astrid Kirchherr and graciously stepped aside.
While the audiences back in early ‘60s Hamburg experienced the Beatles’ music as intense hard rock, the creators of Backbeat believed that kids in the mid-‘90s would not, since they were accustomed to the likes of Nirvana and Metallica. So the producers enlisted hot rockers of the era to reinterpret the music for modern kids, and the actors lip-synched to it. Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum and Greg Dulli of the Afghan Whigs did the vocals, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore did guitar with Gumball’s Don Fleming, Mike Mills of R.E.M. took bass, and Dave Grohl (Nirvana/Foo Fighters) played drums. A very hip band, but neither vocalist sounded anything like Lennon or McCartney.
The film also fell prey to the same fallacy that almost all Beatles movies do, that Lennon was primarily a vulnerable, mixed-up softy and not, as often as not, a prickly asshole. The movie also portrays Harrison as an innocent little boy afraid of the groupies, when by all accounts he was as big a player as any of them.
And it showed McCartney as preppy, aloof, and snobby. McCartney complained, “One of my annoyances about the film Backbeat is that they’ve actually taken my rock ‘n’ rollness off me. They give John the song “Long Tall Sally” to sing and he never sang it in his life. But now it’s set in cement. It’s like The Buddy Holly and Glenn Miller stories. The Buddy Holly Story does not even mention Norman Petty, and The Glenn Miller Story is a sugarcoated version of his life. Now Backbeat has done the same thing to the story of The Beatles.”
Ironically, the same year Backbeat was released, the fantastic missing link Live at the BBC was issued. It was a two CD set that consisted of live in-studio performances by the Beatles culled from their 52 appearances on the BBC between 1962 and 1965. Here with perfect clarity you can hear how tight they were, and the amazing revelation was what a fiend Ringo was on the drums back then, when they were touring and performing almost every day.
It’s true their early guitar sound pre-dated the use of hard rock distortion (which the Beatles had inaugurated with “I Feel Fine,” along with the Kinks), so to kids who thought Soundgarden defined rock, the Beatles would sound un-tough. Thus Backbeat is what it is, and it does a good job of capturing a milieu that was important to their evolution.
The interesting thing is, in his return to roots on Run Devil Run, McCartney does not sound like the Beatles from the BBC (which was presumably, what they sounded like in Hamburg, only drunk), but he sounds like the band in Backbeat. Showing up with his own gang including Pink Floyd’s Dave Gilmour and Deep Purple’s drummer Ian Paice, he scorches with the clear goal of wiping the Backbeat band and everybody else off the map. With the hellhounds of Linda’s death on his trail, he does.
(See 2:28 in the Backbeat clip below …)
As had been his trend with Off the Ground and Flaming Pie, McCartney recorded the Run Devil Run album as fast as possible to capture the excitement of live performances. He enlisted the Sex Pistols’ producer Chris Thomas, who had done Wings’ Back to the Egg album in 1979. Thomas had also filled in for George Martin when Martin went on vacation during The White Album, when Thomas was 22. He went on to mix Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon (of course, featuring Dave Gilmour) and produce Badfinger albums.
Linda had wanted McCartney to record a second album of ‘50s rock covers (his first had been 1988’s Russian Album/ Back in the USSR, originally recorded in an epic two-day session for sale in the Soviet Union only), though she would not live to see it. For the ‘50s songs, McCartney would listen to them and write down the lyrics (even if he didn’t quite understand them). In the studio, he’d ask the band if they knew the tune. If not, he’d play it to them a couple times, and then bang, they’d lay it down. The majority of the album was done within a week; they would do three or four a day with no advance warning of what songs they were doing.
Of all the songs on Run Devil Run, the one that most clearly expressed McCartney’s grief was “No Other Baby.” Dickie Bishop wrote it in 1957 with Bob Watson and performed it with his band The Sidekicks. It was one of the first quasi-rock tunes written by a Brit to be covered by an American (Bobby Helms). At that point, Brit rock was considered a pale imitation of the original.
The version that made an impression on McCartney was The Vipers’ 1958 skiffle version, produced by no less than George Martin. It actually sounds a bit like a peppy number on Live at the BBC called “Lonesome Tears in my Eyes.” McCartney had recorded “No Other Baby” for the earlier covers album, but on Run Devil Run, he recasts the song as a slow and grieving epic, highlighted by Gilmour’s piercing guitar.
The video perfectly captures McCartney’s desolation after Linda’s death. Gorgeously shot in black and white, it features him stranded in the middle of the ocean in a lifeboat. Rowing through ice flows and through storms in the blackest night, he wakes in the morning with sharks circling the boat. Some bloggers commented that the sharks were eerily prescient of Heather Mills.
Another highlight from the album was his fierce rendition of “Shake a Hand.” Back in 1953, when the Orioles went to No. 1 on the R&B chart with “Crying in the Chapel,” Joe Morris wrote “Shake a Hand” in clear emulation of “Chapel”’s phrasing and inflection, and Faye Adams recorded it fast enough to knock the Orioles out of the No. 1 spot. In 1958, Little Richard did his own take. Of course, McCartney was Little Richard’s No. 1 disciple, save perhaps for Prince, one of the few people who can match McCartney in his prolific output and ability to do entire albums by himself. (Check out Live at the BBC to hear McCartney doing more Little Richard like “Lucille” and “Ooh! My Soul!”) Macca recalled, “I have this image of being in Hamburg, there was one bar that had a pool table and a great jukebox. And that was the only place I ever heard “Shake A Hand.” Every time we went there, I put it on. I never had the record, but I knew I wanted to do it. It always takes me back to that bar …”
Along with Gilmour, McCartney brought in guitarist Mick Green, who had been in Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, which Brian Epstein managed. On “Shake a Hand” both Gilmour and Green take their turns doing distinct solos. Green called his “rough and ready” while Gilmour’s was “Smooth and tasteful.”
Shake a Hand is at 3:51 in the clip below …
It’s interesting to compare McCartney’s Little Richard voice in 1999 with his take on “Long Tall Sally” in 1964. It’s deeper but amazingly intact and strong, compared to the voices of Dylan and Jagger — the former now a croak of its former self, the other overly mannered. In this clip from ’64, McCartney’s voice is a little shot, but check out Ringo in the second half.