Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Walzer wishes Paul a Happy Birthday

 Many of you may have seen some photos published on Paul's birthday a few weeks ago and recall there was a guy standing there wearing a yellow Wings t-shirt.   I was able to track down the man with the Wings shirt and uke to share with us what happened when he met Paul and Nancy on Paul's birthday at Cavendish Avenue!!!  Thank you so much Walzer for sharing your amazing story!  I am sure all of us here at MTBFR appreciate it.

Ok, what happened was: It's his birthday, why not going to serenade him? My name is Walter Carluccio, but everyone knows me as Walzer. Which is also my artistic pseudonym. I'm a half Italian-half Spanish 31 years young musician, and I decided to move to London in search of a lucky break a month ago.

 I've been a fan of The Beatles since I was 14 years old. Of course I've heard their songs since I was born, my mother was a quite good fan back in the day and she still keeps her Fab vinyls and cassettes, and of course you just cannot grow up without listening to them. As I started primary school in 1989, our first English lesson revolved around greetings, and Hello Goodbye was used during lessons to get us used to those simple words. It resulted I fell in love with that song. In 1993 Off The Ground came up, and Hope Of Deliverance was a fair smash hit in Italy and I, then 10 years-old, fell in love again with the song and video. It was the very first Macca solo song I've heard, I think. The song that really turned me on them was Eleanor Rigby as I was starting high school, and from that moment on I avidly listened to everything I could from the lads. Right from the start, Paul McCartney was my favourite: I found him very funny, incredibly talented and I simply loved his voice. Knowing things better, I noticed a lot of other things we shared: We're both left-handed, we were both born in June -His birthday arriving five days prior than mine-, we both love arts, and surrealism in particular. I love his mannerisms.

 In 2001 Wingspan came out: Up to that moment the only I ever heard from post-Beatles Paul was his first album, McCartney -Still my favourite-, the aforementioned Hope Of Deliverance and Young Boy, which came out in 1997 and had quite a decent airplay in Italian and Swiss radios. Probably the only thing I knew of Wings by that point was Live And Let Die, which riff I had certainly heard before. That compilation blew my mind and I became a Wings fan as well! Also, the launch of that compilation also gave me the opportunity to first "see" Macca with my own eyes, as he came in Milan (I live in a town nearby) during his promotional tour for the Hits & History double set. From that moment on I became a devotee of Paul: I finally decided to go vegetarian -A plan which I was having from quite some years already- thanks to him, and tried to follow his steps and updates on his official site and other webpages. I've always loved to sing, but only in 2002 I decided to take a guitar and begin to strum some chords (As a lefty, of course). What happened was that during the years I became a semi-professional musician in Italy, playing with various bands and in recent years taking part at very important events. Beatles and Paul's song have always been a part of my repertoire, needless to say. 

As I was studying Paul's solo career, I also started listening to the others Beatles alone, and I became a huge fan of each one on their own: Following George's steps I acquired a ukulele in 2008, and quickly became a decent player, and today the uke is probably my favourite instrument. Obviously I knew Paul was also a good ukulele player, I knew his version of Something and in 2004, as I discovered Ram, I was fascinated by Ram On, probably the very first ukulele-based song I've ever heard. In the meantime, I kept following Paul in both his new releases -Driving Rain being his first new album I acquired- and live: I saw him with my mother playing in Rome in 2003, a huge incredible show I'll never forget, and the following year I traveled to Zurich to see him play one of his most curious tours -The 04 Summer-. I was lucky enough to see the show from the third row, something unbelievable for me at the time. During that show I was able to "speak" to him for the first time: As he was making remarks concerning the Swiss German language, I noticed more than a half of the people who were attending the show were actually Italian people who had traveled to nearby Switzerland, so, just before Blackbird, as the atmosphere was silent and calm, I shouted out something like "We're all Italians, here". He acknowledged me and replied "Ah, Italians? Ciao ciao, bambinaa.." -Singing a brief part of Domenico Modugno's 1959 song Piove-. I was flipped out because Paul actually answered me, and that proof I found on the bootleg from the concert I later discovered and downloaded.

 Moreover, in 2011 it happened something even more unbelievable. I attended Paul's gig in Milan -Finally he came to play near my hometown, what a thrill!-, and as I went to the forum very early in the morning in order to get to the first rows, I brought my ukulele with me to kill time in queue. The show took place on the 27th of November, just a couple of days before the sad 10th anniversary of George's passing. I though it could be a nice tribute bringing my ukulele with me also for him. As I left the first row to an Argentinian guy I met during the queue who've never been able to see Macca before, I was standing right behind him, and as I didn't want to ruin my ukulele in the scrum, I kept it in my hand. So it happened that every time I was raising my arms, the ukulele was visible. I noticed Paul saw it a couple of times, and winked and smiled at me. What I wasn't expecting happened right before the end of the show: McCartney took off his guitar as The End finished, took the front of the stage and asked with some evident gestures to some security guy to bring him my ukulele! I just could not believe that! The security came, asked for my ukulele and literally threw it on stage! Fortunately, Paul was able to grab it. Then he asked for a marker pen, someone threw it at him and finally Paul signed my ukulele, in front of tens of thousands of people who didn't know what was happening! As he did so I prorupted in the loudest scream, to which Paul funnily replied looking in my direction. Then he threw the ukulele back to the security guy -Another risky move-, which luckily grabbed it and handled it back to me. I was speechless, in complete shock. Paul signed my ukulele in front of a large crowd, and responded to my scream. It was like there were only the two of us in that moment. Who knows, maybe Paul was thinking of George and decided to make a little homage to him as well. I'd like to think it went like that. Obviously a number of videos from the night posted on YouTube testified the moment, and I became a sort of a star for that.

 I was invited to play at a quite important Beatles tribute in Rome two weeks later, and I decided to bring by freshly signed ukulele with me. I decided to keep playing it instead of keeping it as a sacred relic in my room, hanged on a wall. I think, according to Paul's musical philosophy, he would have done the same. I went to see Paul live two more times, in 2012 in Zurich -Again- and last June, almost exactly one year ago, in Verona at the prestigious and historic roman amphitheatre. My birthday falls on the 23rd, the concert took place on the 25th. I was quite sad and melancholic from my birthday on, because I was turning 30 and I though I somewhat lost my youth. That concert proved me, once more and for all, that all I was thinking was bullshit, as an incredibly energetic 71 year old gave an almost three hours superb show in front of my eyes. I felt relieved thanks to my hero, and as a reward I bought a wonderful Wings t-shirt as I left the arena. 

A few months later, in September, I finally came for the first time in my life to London. It was something I was longing to do since may many a-years, and in the meantime I promised myself to visit the city before my 30th birthday. I didn't succeeded in that, but I was able to repair shortly thereafter. I came here and was completely stunned by this city and its history. Its musical heritage most of all. I visited all the most iconic places related to The Beatles and rock music in general, always bringing my ukulele with me. For instance, as I visited Wimpole Street, I was able to play Yesterday in front of the house where it was actually conceived. Many breathtaking moments like that. Also, I went to Cavendish Avenue in order to serenade Paul a bit -A quite romantic thing, I know-. No one responded, obviously. Another coup-de-theatre: As I was in Soho Square one rainy Friday afternoon, in front of Paul's MPL offices, looking inside from the glass walls-windows, I spotted Macca's right-hand man John Hammel coming down the stair. I immediately jumped because I thought "If he's in, then certainly Paul's too!". I waved at him and he smiled and waved back. I was certain that the appearance of John was a signal of Paul's presence in the building, maybe just one or two flats above me. So I started paying the ukulele again, thinking that maybe some of its notes could reach Macca's ears, right behind one of those windows upstairs. It was another romantic thing, I know. Some weeks later I read a report on Stuart Bell's blog For Whom The Bell Tells in which he wrote that during the first Friday of September, one rainy afternoon, Paul was in his Soho Square offices discussing the cover graphics for New, the latest album. I was proved right! So, up to this moment, I felt I had had almost everything I could possibly want from my life-long artistic muse. I saw him multiple times, I was able to communicate to him and to somehow play for him, and he kind of acknowledged me signing my ukulele.

 In the meantime I was also able to "speak" to Ringo Starr as well when he came to Rome in 2011: As the show took place on the 4th of July, three days prior to his birthday, I shouted "Happy birthday Ringo" from the stands during the gig. He recognized me and replied: "Thank you! Where's the big box?". What else could I possibly ask to my Beatles lucky star? While in London last September, I also met an old friend of mine who was living there: He's a super guitar player and also a good keyboardist. We jammed together a couple of times, and he was so impressed that he asked me to form a band with him, offering to guest me in his house for three months in order to do so. I immediately said yes, how can you possibly deny such a request? It took me some months, though, to set things right and be able to move here, but finally last month I arrived in London. My new adventure in my new city started almost dramatically: I lost my backpack full of precious things, including my very first musical instrument, a glockenspiel, on the coach that transported me here from the airport. Apart from that, I started building me a living in UK's capital. My arrival in London coincided almost precisely with Paul's returning home from his unfortunate Far East tour in order to recover from his illness, and according to the news that sometimes popped up on the web I knew that he was staying in London. I also saw pictures -On the Daily Mail website- of him and Nancy coming off a restaurant the day before his birthday, so I said to myself "Well, if he's in town, I may as well try to visit him tomorrow and wish him a happy birthday. Surely there will be plenty of fans outside of his house to celebrate him". Also I had a job appointment for the next morning in nearby Kilburn, so I could combine both things. 

I woke up in the morning of 18th June, had a shower, shaved my face, wore my Wings tee which I had bought in Verona, took my CV and my ukulele signed in Milan and I went out. After my job appointment, I went walking to Saint John's Wood. I passed by Abbey Road: There was the usual load of people crossing the zebra, taking photos, leaving messages on the studios walls. While passing through them I imagined how many of those people knew that that day was actually Paul's birthday and that he lived a mere five minutes walking from there. I crossed the zebra -Of course- and went through to Cavendish Avenue. With some surprise, approaching the house, I saw nobody was there, as I was absolutely expecting. It was around noon and the street was somewhat desert. Passing people from time to time. Silence all around -As possible in central London-. Some neighbour popping up to pick up his mail. I started to play the ukulele while walking through Abbey Road, even before passing the studios, and while I was walking I was studying the chords for Let 'Em In, so as I arrived at number 7 I had it nailed down. I took off my jacket, left it on the ground, leant myself on the wall on the left side of the front gate and started strumming and singing some songs. I played and sang Ram On, Silly Love Songs, Let 'Em In and Honey Pie. As I was singing or during breaks between songs I kept checking the black tinted windows on the upper flat of the house, the only ones that are actually visible from the street, hoping for someone behind recognizing me. In my symbolic gesture, It would have been great just to imagine that Paul could have been inside listening to me. I really didn't expect that would actually be reality in just minutes. After a rough half hour of playing, during which slightly embarrassed yet curious pedestrians passed me through from time to time, I decided I had enough, as the atmosphere was too much calm and I was starting to think that maybe Paul was in Peasmarsh for his party. But I still wanted to leave a sign of my passage. Noticing a writing on the wall on the other side of the gate, I decided to leave my message as well, a-la Abbey Road. I didn't have a marker pen with me, only a regular pen, which is not so great if you're willing to write on London stock bricks, so I had to press it a lot to get some visible sign on the wall. Doing so I sometime had to stop as I noticed people coming, it is a private wall after all so I wanted to avoid any complication within the neighbourhood. It took me a lot just to write down "Happy Birthday Paul - Walzer", something like ten minutes, and I didn't even finish doing so as THE INCREDIBLE happened.

 As I was writing, suddenly I heard a flash. I turned -As I always did in the last minutes as I heard someone approaching while writing on the wall- and I saw this well dressed photographer shooting as someone on his left -My right-. I leaned moreover on my right and then I saw him standing there! Sir James Paul McCartney! Macca! Paul Ramon! Percy "Thrills" Thrillington! The Fireman! Paulie! The Man was walking, holding hands with Lady Nancy. He was coming back home. The couple was wearing sport outfits and shades, I think they were coming back from a gym as Paul was holding a towel beneath his right arm. He smiled at the paparazzo and kept coming his way. Which was MY way. I instantly took the ukulele, and I had to quickly think of something to play for him. I decided to play Ram On, which as I wrote before was I think the very first ukulele-conceived song I've ever heard. I started to play the very first chords, as the couple were very little meters from me. Paul smiled at me. I think he recognized the song, even if I didn't reach the sung part, as I had stopped playing while the two were passing in front of me. Paul was just a meter from me. I couldn't believe it but it was happening. Then, with an incredible self-control, I kindly said "Happy birthday, Paul". He replied me "Thank you, man!". Which was exactly the answer I was expecting! I noticed during the last years that Paul got quite an habit to end his sentences with "man" while addressing someone. Then, Out of nowhere, Nancy sneaked into the conversation adding a "Nice shirt!", with a very strong New York accent, referencing my Wings tee. Hehe, nice move. Also, I think that was the very first time I heard Nancy's voice. Just as I was thanking her, the couple was about to get into their property: The automated gate opened silently and very quickly just as these few words were spoken, and it was starting to close again as quickly as it opened. I roughly tried to catch Paul's attention once more, pointing at his signature on my uke and telling him "Paul, do you recognize this ukulele? You signed it!". At first it seemed to me that he stopped for a millisecond to look at it, but he didn't reply to that. Anyway the gate was now almost completely close, so I thought there wasn't time for him to see it more. Finally, as the gate closed, I heard Paul telling me from inside "Hey, sorry if I do, but can I kindly ask you to leave this space now? This is a private space. Thanks. man" I don't really think a sidewalk is actually a private space, anyway I totally understood what he meant and I for nothing wanted to cause him any harm, so I obviously obliged. Before doing so I finally finished writing my name on the wall for my dedication. Then I took my jacket and my ukulele and walked away. Or maybe I flied! I checked the clock and it was a quarter to 1 p.m. Now I ACTUALLY met Paul McCartney, I ACTUALLY spoke to him and I ACTUALLY played for him. "My life is now complete! I can die with a smile on my face right now", I said to myself.

 As I was turning the corner of Circus Road I was still buzzing, trying to reach my friend's phone to tell him the stunning news. I wasn't able to do so, but as I was trying I started to realize that it was actually a hardly believable story: No one was there to witness what had just happened and I had no photographic evidence of the event -Because for me it was certainly a life-affirming event-. I thought only three persons witnessed the brief meeting: Me, Paul and Nancy. So it was a sort of a intimate memory, which I though in the end was a nice thing. Returning back to Abbey Road I for another time passed through all the people photographing and signing, people who couldn't know that Paul was actually a few yards away, and that that long haired guy passing by their side was able to meet him. I felt very proud of my secret consciousness, have to admit. As I came back home, I wrote on FaceBook about the incredible story. To my surprise and amusement, a lot of friends believed me even without been able to see a proof of it all. I told them that it was in the end good that no visual evidence of what happened was available. After a few hours, by the way, I decided to detect the Daily Mail website to see if maybe there was an article about the birthday morning fitness session of the McCartneys, as it was the same page I saw photos of the two the day before. To my astonishment, there was! It was already on, and the second photo on the article showed me, Walzer, pointing at my ukulele as the couple was entering the gate! Also, there was another pic of Paul smiling at me -Even if I'm not in the photo. You can only see Macca smiling looking at something (Or someone) on his left-! Evidently the paparazzo didn't went away, as I believed, and he was able to capture the moment. I was on the moon! Not only I was on the Daily Mail -Which is quite something by the way-, but finally I had at least one photo proving that, yes, I MET PAUL McCARTNEY. Thinking about it retroactively, as just five days after all this it was my birthday, I do believe that in the end it wasn't me doing a present for him, but the other way round. I met him! I did it! Thank my lucky stars!


  1. Awesome story. Thanks for track down the man and sharing your work with us, Sara!

  2. Great story, thanks for sharing!