The Renaissance of Dirty Macca
By Tony Tyler
The fall of Paul McCartney was the tale of a perfectly harmless Philistine slaughtered by a posse of self-righteous Samsons. And I suspect it began with the court case that followed the dissolution of the Beatles.
Do you remember how the story went? We were all presented with an appealing picture of three Beatles who wanted to go on being Beatles; honest, just wanted a new manager, that’s all. In the opposite corner stood Dirty Macca 15 stone of brutal chubbiness, dragging Us and Them through the courts, and all for a few scraps of paper. And he made us all wake up, and he had the cheek to win. What a downer.
Then, with McCartney firmly established as the villain of the piece, the coast was clear for Lennon to bury himself in New York horse radical chic surrounded by herberts who would drag out a mike if Johnny-baby so much as passed wind. Lennon’s subsequent disintegration as an artist of credibility was passed off as the doing of Ole Fatsuff back there on ‘is bleedin’ Scottish farm, messin’ round with that Eastman chick an’ them bleedin’ sheep.
The worst thing about it was that Lennon obviously believed this story: he had to, for his own self-respect. So, because Lennon had credibility in those days, we were treated to what was possibly the masochistic breast-beat of all time, the celebrated John Lennon “Rolling Stone” interview. In this the wretched Lennon took every opportunity to slam more nails into McCartney’s coffin. Of course, he was knocking them into his own as well. But it wasn’t so apparent at the time. And so it came to pass that James Paul McCartney began his long slide from public favour. I believe the real reason for his banishment to the salt mines was the fact that he was generally blamed by the public for the break-up of the Beatles. Yet it was fairly obvious then—and even more obvious now, with hindsight—that the Moptops were four very dead Mersey Goldfish even as far back as “Let it Be.”
James Paul’s real mistake was in underestimating how much the very existence of the Beatles, even on a mere emotional level, was considered a necessary adjunct to a full and fruitful lifestyle.
Neither, of course, did he help himself by bringing out two fairly terrible albums, “McCartney” and “Ram.” Yet the public still after his blood, ignored Lennon’s own personal albums and laced into McCartney – failing to realize that the latter’s own solo efforts might have meant every bit as much to him as did Primal Shouts Parts One and Two to Lennon.
Double standards? Certainly – and ask yourself this: who, in five years’ time, is gonna be more embarrassed by his post Beatles product?
By this time the odds were beginning to stack against McCartney. There was nothing he could do right.
Even the few mitigating factors didn’t run in his favour.
By this time the wheel of pop chic had spun a drunken full circle and the powdered rhinestoned, glittering New Barbarians had little time for McCartney’s gentle tunesmithery. Coke n blood were what sold and the only interest in Eleanor Rigby would be a lascivious enquiry about the lady.
My own stake in this affair is that I grew up in the same Liverpool as the Beatles, even played in a band myself once – so you’ll understand when I say that the existence of the Beatles meant as much to me as to anybody.
I’ve seen McCartney, leather-clad playing bass behind Little Richard at the Tower Ballroom; I’ve seen them in Hamburg, sweating their asses off for a heavy character called Horst Fascher; I’ve seen them pissed on crates in the Grossbier shop and getting laid in the upstairs bunk across the street from the Star.
I saw their first return to the Litherland Town Hall, when Pete Best got more cheers than anybody. I tell ya, I’ve got Beatleography engraved on my heart.
This s why I was as sadden as anybody else by the split and subsequent events and I haven’t really got off on McCartney’s music since that time I winced at the “James Paul McCartney” TV special, just like everybody else seemed to, but in that same show I also saw enough to convince me that, under the layer of defensiveness, the rocker was still in there, waiting for a friendly word before he came out and blew our heads off again.
It was with this mixed attitude that I turned up at Birmingham Odeon last Friday night to see the Wings tour. My friends, as a veteran of endless, pilgrimages to the Rainbow for Bowie, or Roxy, or some such tinseled trivia I was instantly taken by absence of the sort of amateur poovery that one comes up against these days. There was not a rhinestone, not a jeweled droplet, not a square inch of satin in place.
In fact, and this is going to sound boring, they were just nice, ordinary people. They were courteous, kept themselves firmly seated, and betrayed little emotion at the thought of actually seeing a Beatle. They were a sincere-looking audience.
Suddenly there’s an invite to us to greet the Fabulous Paul McCartney and Wings; and the greeting from the previously demure audience is so loud it shakes the roof.
Linda McCartney is dressed (I’m including a fashion note here because I know some of you may be interested in such matters) in a handsome black suit cut to resemble Scottish full dress with jacket, cravat and knee-length skirt.
She looks fine, not a trace of the Harridan I’d half expected. Denny Seiwell looks cool behind his kit, Denny Laine looks smashed behind his jumbo and Henry McCullough --- Henry looks pissed, so be frank, but ask everyone from Joe Cocker down, and they’ll tell you that Henry plays great when he’s pissed.
He is wearing a black jacket, is Henry, with “a Pearly Kid” embroidered on the back. And he plays fine, just fine.
Ah, but so do they all. It’s a frequently-forgotten fact, but McCartney is one hell of a bassist, all bounce and balls. He looks pretty slick himself, in his silk shirt and left hand Rickenbacker. Denny Laine keeps the second- lead lines together well, and every now and again he takes over bass or piano. Denny Seiwell hunches his shoulders and digs in; Linda plays O.K., too, as far as I can tell (certainly I hear no bum notes) and the whole thing gets quite nicely.
Nobody hollers for a Beatle tune, which must be gratifying, and there’s plenty of shouted requests for Wings’ music. After about four number the people have already started to twitch and it’s apparent they’re only waiting for that one rocker to let go…beats me why McCartney doesn’t give ‘em what they want. But he’s got his own plans and I have to admit they make sense.
Then he’s into rock and now they’re beginning to stampede and it’s on the seat-back, feller, if you wanna see what’s going down. Denny does “Go now” Paul and Henry do a knees-up and suddenly it’s almost over and time for what I came all this way for “Long Tall Sally.”
You see I have this thing about McCartney singing “Long Tall Sally.” I’ve never heard anyone sing it better and it’s my own personal acid test to see if his goolies are still where they were. I’m happy to report that they are in place, and swinging better than ever. McCartney has absolutely no need to justify his rocker credentials; he screams like a bitch and swings twice as hard. This crowd goes potty.
The gig is now over, expect for five little girls who fight for a towel, swinging around in a five-pointed star of agro. Epithets fly, I shudder, and make my way backstage where…
The Publicists is flapping like a shirttail in the breeze, nervously marshalling us into some kind of order before entering the Presence. An American journalist is putting McCartney (but not in the publicist’s hearing, or he wouldn’t get in, no way) and everybody seems to be American.
McCartney’s changed clothes. His kids are running around and both he and lady are being cool with them, giving friendly prods and pushes and generally letting them get on with it.
The American thrusts a mike right under McCartney’s nose, but the Fab One, not the slightest disconcerted, answers questions, pantomimes situations.
Did he enjoy making “Live and Let Die?” Certainly, he likes to be given good work to do. What’s the movie like? OK, says Paul. Linda thinks Roger Moore’s a little smooth, but that’s cool.
Would you believe the American then asks McCartney the “difference between England and America?” One longs for “A Hard Day’s Night” comeback, but McCartney’s not into putting others down, not even when they beg for it.
McCartney is asked about the TV film, “I thought some of it was OK, you know, but I’d do it completely different now. Like, we thought the live concert didn’t really happen for us, you know, didn’t really geddoff onnit.”
“When are you coming to America?” ask the West Coaster. McCartney reveals that visa problems are, bar accidents, just about sewn up.
They have this friend, y’ see, in New York, who’s a friend of Senator Jacob Javits ( a liberal politician) and…
“But like it’s different for us, ‘cos we gotta be careful. There’s others (he names names) who can do a little dropsy if they wanna (he makes the immortal backhanded gesture), but we’ve gotta be careful.”
Like John? “John’s problem is getting’ out, not in.”
We get on to the gig. I tell him I thought he got a great reception. “It’s always a great reception these days,” says Linda. McCartney is glowing, and it is obvious that he’s getting thrilled all over again, that he’s really satisfied he can still do it. And the Beatles? He still sees a couple of the others now and again --- especially Ringo, who lives in London. But he hasn’t seen John in a while. “People have gotta remember that it’s over. It really is. What we did was…what we did in THAT band. Now I’m in another band, playin’ different music. It’s over.”
Is he satisfied that his own feelings about a Certain New York Businessman are now seen to be shared by the other Beatles? “Well, yes, I am. I’m not smug, and I don’t wanna say ‘I told you so.’ But I knew I was right then an’ it’s been proved. I’m just glad it’s all over and we can get down to playing again.”
I have to admit I thought Paul McCartney was all right. He was smooth, not glib, and professional like a rock star should be. He looked healthy and suntanned and, this is also going to be boring, happy. He seemed very close to Linda; not in a sloppy way, just like I am with my lady, maybe like you with yours. He didn’t put anybody down. He was cool. You could see he felt that things are finally going his way.
I also have to admit I’m glad about that. If things are going McCartney’s way, then more people are going to get something out of the remnants of the Beatles than otherwise might have been. I’m still not completely stuck on his music though you’ll find that if you give it more than one listen, you might just like what you hear.
In retrospect I feel Jame Paul has had something of a raw deal – thought in the beginning he brought it on himself by underestimation of public morale vis-a-is Beatles. Because of that he’s not really been given a chance since to show what he could do and let’s own up how serious do YOU take Wings as a rock force? But “Wild Life” was a progression from “Ram” and “Red Rose Speedway” is another upwards step. Given a little encouragement McCartney can do it again.
Somebody once said “I do not agree with what you say, but I will defend your right to say it.” Well, that almost sums up my attitude. I don’t’ get off on everything McCartney is doing but his right to do what he wants is incontrovertible.
And when he gets steaming into those rocker vocals, there’s nobody on this side of Little Richard’s false eyelashes who can hold a candle to him. Given time and, as I say, a little encouragement, and he’ll yet frighten the ass off of the mincing queens who currently hold count.
Look: just wait and see. OK?