In this interview Paul McCartney talked to Steve Peacock about his career as a Beatle, and Ex-Beatle and a Wing. He discussed (among other things) the offer of 25 million The Beatles have received to get back together, effect the breakup of The Beatles had on him, his reasons for forming another group, and the fun you can have dropped clues into song lyrics.
Steve Peacock is senior editor of the British magazine Street Life in which this article first appeared. It then appeared in the August 1976 issue of Gallery. I found it in the May-June issue of McCartney Ltd.
Peacock: Is this the first album where you felt confident enough in the group to call it a Wings album rather than Paul McCartney and...
Paul: Well, I would have done it before...if fact we did do it before with the first album which was called Wings Wild Life, but around that time you'd get people saying, "Who's Wings? Oh Paul McCartney's new group..." so it just became a bit daft calling it Wings. It was totally underplaying my thing. I was trying to underpay it a bit because ..well, it'd never been Paul Mccartney and the Beatles. I wasn't used to it.
Peacock: Can you tell me about the first track, "Let 'em in?"
Paul: It was half written with Ringo in mind actually. He asked me to write him a tune and there was that one and another one. In the end I told him I was nicking it and he could have the other one. I just got this idea for a song about someone knocking on the door, someone ringing the bell, and then in the middle I got into the idea of naming people, just sort of symbolic of a crowd coming in... Sister Suzie, Brother John . who's Brother John?
Peacock: I was wondering...
Paul: Whoever you want it to be really, Uncle Ernie? Keith Moon flashing, I suppose, but the trouble with talking about things like that is .. that's you've got to make an excuse for it all after. someone says, "What did you mean by that?" And really I don't know. It just comes into your head. Brother Michael -- that's obvious -- that's my brother Michael! Auntie Jin -- I've got an Auntie Jin, Brother John -- that could be whoever you want.
Peacock: Do you get fun out of the thought that people are ging to sit down trying to work out the meaning behind lyrics like that?
Paul: It would be great if I wasn't the ultimate authority on it. It would be just like "Match of the Day" watching them all go around delving into who is the Walrus or Brother John is. I mean, to me Brother John is John Lennon, or Linda's got a brother called John. I suppose it's anyone's brother John, but to me it's John Lennon. But not in any weird way. It just came out like that. So rather than hide it or change it, I left it. But now, they're going to ask me. That's the only problem, that's the reason it's not so much fun as it could be, because there's always someone coming up saying "What did you mean by..." or "Linda' s Venus, you're Mars -- right?" Wrong, they're planets, remember?
Peacock: Do you ever take things out because they might be misinterpreted?
Paul: No, I don't think I ever do that, because normally when it's writ itself then it's writ. I don't really much around with it too much. It's like most things -- you do a painting and think it's not quite right so you do it again and it's worse. Like a record -- you can go on beyond the right take, but it's never better. No, I don't take things out for that reason, in fact I'd leave things in because people were going to talk about them.
Peacock: Do you often sit and listen to your own records?
Pauil: Hardly ever. I listen to old stuff, and I'm always amazed at how good is is. "My God, did we really do that?"
Peacock: Are you usaly satisfied with your staff at the time you finish it?
Paul: I nearly always think I could have done it better. But then again you're faced with the thing of why should I go telling you when I'm dissatisfied? I should really -- for all the people -- be saying, "I'm awfully satisfied and it's really lovely, Steve, and I hope you're all going out to buy it.
Peacock: You were quoted in Paul Cambaccini's interview in Rolling Stone as saying you were always the one in The Beatles who'd be nice to journalists. Were you always conscious of that?
Paul: I'm less conscious of it now than I used to be. It just sort of came natural to me. My family's a bit that, a bit, "come in love and have a cup of tea." It's been drilled into me since I was a kid. I suppose I was naturally the PR one, perhaps because John would be telling then to eff off and I wouldn't want to leave it like that because Iw as in the group too and I didn't want them to go ff and write, "This bloody group's terrible." I'd try to smooth it out, which I think is pretty natural thing to do. You sometimes get too smarmy an image -- people tend to think, "Oh Jesus, he's too good to be true, this one." In fact I'm not like that, but what happens is I tend to leave it until I get too much and then if I turn around and tell someone to fuck off, I really mean it. It's serious then. It's just dirrerent personalities, how you're brought up I suppose.
Peacock: Did it become a strain trying to live up to that image?
Paul: No more than it is for anyone else to live. If I have a bad day I normally try to keep out of the way, because I know I'll just go and lay bad vibes on everyone. I try to have a quick chat with someone to get me out of it. But just being in the public eye is something where you realize that once you get to a certain point there just isn't any turning back. I remember thinking to myself once, say I'd had enough, what could I do? And I couldn't do anything really. The best I could do was like Greta Garbo and say "I want to be alone." In wich came of course they're all following you around, and it becomes even worse then. Like Jackie Kennedy -- they really get the shots then. I figured it was better to just stand there and give 'em what they wanted. And once you've decided that, it's not much of a strain. It's when you can't make up your mind whether you're going to be a public figure or whether you're just going to go live at the farm...
Peacock: There was a time when you did shy away form all publicity.
Paul: Yes. Well, I had to with the breakup of The Beatles. It just affected me so much. I couldn't come to every press conference and cry. I'm just not that kind of person. That was just my natural way -- to get away., clear my head and think what I was going to do. It was like unemployment, suddenly being unemployed. It's like if your job folded tomorrow the worst thing that could happen would be to have some guy come up and poke a microphone in your face and say, "Hey Steve, what do you fell about it?" Unless it's your mother or somebody, you just don't want to talk to them. I just had the feeling then that anything I could say would be -- well, I wanted to spare everyone that. And me. Selfish. I just didn't feel like walking around telling everyone my troubles. I suppose it's a good story but....
Peacock: Naturally, people are curious about what's happening in a think like that.
Paul: Yes, but it's like the play, John, Paul, George and Ringo. People say it's a good evening out and I ought to go, but they can't quite understand what it would be like for me to go to see the thing. George went, and walked out, presumably because of the way I would have felt -- there YOU are, up on stage. It's just different when it's you. Everyone else can go and have a great evening, but it's like reading a book on yourself or whatever. It's just funny when it's you. Unless it's really perfect, really right -- if there's one mistake in there, which there is in that thing, I know I wouldn't be able to stand it.
Peacock: Even if they'd come to you -- and John and George and Ringo and said, "Okauy, tell us how it was," they probably wouldnt' have made a play you could watch.
Paul: Because we'd have all given then a different story. They took it largely from press cuttings, I think: legends. They only way I was ever going to go to that thing was that about halfway through I was going to get up and start arguing with the me on stage. That was the idea, but I never got up the gall to do it. I was going to start shouting when they got to a bit I didn't agree with.
Peacock: Do you resent the fact that they did it at all?
Paul: Not really. I used to hang around stage doors and stuff. I know what it's like if you're in a play and you're making some money with it and it's a nice play to be in and people like it. It don't mind. You can't knock it. The only thing is when they try to make it into a thing which is going to go down as The Truth about The Beatles. Like Stigwood -- seizing the opportunity as always, thank you Robert -- wanted to make it into a film, so I told him he'd better send me the script. and then I really decided I just couldn't have that. All of us agreed actually. It wasn't just me objecting to b being cast as the villain. Everyone agreed that it wasn't anything like how it really was. It's the legend. It's "what the papers say."
Peacock: A good yarn if it was about another group?
Paul: Yes. Well if it had been it could have gone on as long as it liked. But the fact that it was about us and we're still alive and we've got to live with it is the problem. It's like someone decided to rent your house while you still had to live in it.
Peacock: Could you watch the movie Let it Be these days?
Paul: I haven't seen it for a long time, but I like it. All the official stuff we've gone, I've got no complaints, even if it shows me in a funny light or whatever.
Peacock: Because to me, that shows The Beatles disintegrating as you watch.
Paul: Oh yes, that was the beginning of the end. The film of the beginning of the end. But because that was shot by us and we knew perfectly well what was going on, that's okay. Anybody else trying to portray that would be different. It 's easier to accept your own mistakes than other peoples. It's like I was talking to John on the phone the other evening and we were talkingabout re-packages, and he was saying that in the United States they want to re-package all the old Beatles stuff, but they want to use American mixes. He was saying that I should get it together because I'm over here, to see that they get the official versions that we as The Beatles sat around and mixed in London. All the little spin-offs and Capitol re-mixes and stuff is just what we don't want, because they distort what we actually did. For historical reasons we want to get it down as right as possible. It's never going to tell the whole story. There's only four of us that know the whole story, and we're beginning to forget it. Anything that was genuine, anything that we did, I stand by. It's all the other spin-offs, all the things that got it al little bit wrong, that start to get up your nose.
Peacock: Talking of re-packaging, how do you feel about "Yesteday" being back in the charts? You don't think it's a bit cheeky to put it out just as you've got a new record coming on?
Paul: Oh no. I don't get into all that. It's gone for me, that whole period is gone and I don't really see any point in hanging on to it, trying to control it. I'm pleased that it's out because I'm always pleased to hear any of my tunes on the radio: j ust the other day I "Tomorrow" by David Cassidy, "Here There and Everywhere" by Emmy Lou Harris, and "Hold me Tight" that was just going out to the studio. I love that, and "Yesterday" is like another of those to me. I pretty much stand by everything I ever did -- even something like "Mary Had a Little Lamb" which wasn't one of my best and in doing that you don't dump on yourself too much, you don't get too down. I think that's the worst thing really, to do something and not be able to accept it, to keep having to thrash yourself for having done it.
Peacock: Do you actively enjoy going on the road?
Paul: It has its disadvantages, like everyone knows. It can get a bit sordid at times. But I like it. I like playing to an audience. I like singing with a group. We've come through what I think is the hardest period for a group, which is getting your act together, and now it's just down to either you like the music we play or you don't. I don't do it for money. I don't do it for the fame. I do it to have a sing, really b because I enjoy it. and I'd never play my bass otherwise -- you can't sit playing bass, the kids dont' want to hear a brilliant bass riff. I do it because I like it really, it's not that I need to. This is the embarrassment about the Beatles offer, because it sounds so bigtime of me to say, "I'm not really interested in 25 million or whatever. It's not particularly that I dont' want to do it, the main thing about that offer is that I haven't heard anything form anyone about it. I've just read the papers like you have. People have said to me, "Well you'll have to do it. Won't you? You can't go turning down that sort of money." But to me there's more to it than that. It's a group that's broken up for Christ's sake. What do they want us to do? Reform just for money? I think that' s a bit sordid, for what the Beatles were. It's a bit like puppets, isn't it? I like to thnk that The Beatles came back together, if they ever did, because they really wanted to -- musically. That's the only reason I'd ever do it. Like I'm always saying, I'm not against it, but not being against it and going and doing it are two different things.