Paul McCartney

‘Two of Us’ Beatles Movie with Aidan Quinn and Jared Harris as Paul & John

Here’s a clip of the 2000 film Two of Us, starring Aidan Quinn and Jared Harris as Paul McCartney and John Lennon respectively.  The two musicians are depicted in a fictional account of what might have gone down between them during an historic 1976 meeting which took place the day of the famous Saturday Night Live plea to get the group back together for $3 000.  The movie is directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg who also directed the real Beatles in the 1970 film, Let It Be.

Two of Us was directed by Let it Be director Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who had watched the real Beatles interact during the running on fumes period in the Beatles career.  Its hard not to think that this movie is what Lindsay-Hogg, and the rest of us, wished that Lennon and McCartney had been able to say to each other, rather than what they did say (or avoided saying).

Two of Us was directed by Let it Be director Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who had watched the real Beatles interact during their 'running on fumes' period in 1969. It's hard not to think that this movie is what Lindsay-Hogg, and the rest of us, wished that Lennon and McCartney had been able to say to each other, rather than what they did say (or avoided saying) before the end of Lennon's life.

By 1976, Paul and John had gone down entirely separate roads.  Lennon was a househusband by then, and in contrast, McCartney was the biggest show on the road with his “Silly Love Songs” as a number one record and his smash Wings Over America live album in play in the top ten.  The film brings out these differences in career paths and lifestyle contrasts.  But in the film, historical details are secondary to the drama, the heart of which is the hope  that although the Beatles never got back together as everyone hoped they would, Lennon and McCartney were able to get it together in the end as friends before the end of Lennon’s life.

And this is where the film excels.  It hits an emotional stride, helped along by a very smart script that traces the course of a single day in April 1976.  Act one portrays McCartney’s visit to the Dakota, with the initial hesitancy and misgivings of two old friends catching up.  Act two follows the two men to a trip to Central Park while disguised as two English gentlemen, and then to a confrontation with fans in a local coffee shop.  Act three finds them back at the Dakota, talking over the past on the roof, and then in front of the TV, watching the now famous SNL sketch which, as legend has it, very nearly did tempt the two men to hightail it to the studio which was not far away from where they watched the broadcast.  Through out, this film takes its subject seriously, paying a great deal of attention to these musical giants firstly as people.  These are characters, not impersonations set to dialogue, which would have been an easy trap to fall into.

The range of emotions in the film is wide, from suspicion, to affection, to anger, to humour, and back again. My favourite scene is right after the elevator scene in the clip.  On the roof, Lennon explains that pain is his reality, the thing that drives him.  McCartney asks if whether or not it’s possible that the pain is in his own head, that if he lets it go long enough to love himself, he’d be OK.  A bemused Lennon asks, “what do you see?” to which McCartney answers:

“I see a scared little boy who is blaming himself for his father’s mistakes … I see a frightened man who doesn’t know how beautiful he is…”

The best bits are from Quinn in this scene.  Yet, the film lives and breathes due to the interplay between him and  the excellent Harris (son of Richard), who embodies Lennon as the man-child trying to find himself after basking in the limelight for so long.  It’s hard to tell whether or not the real people were as self-aware as they’re portrayed to be here.  But again, this is a fantasy, a version of history as it should have been, not necessarily as it was.

And to me, I think that even if the film was not about Lennon and McCartney, it would still be powerful.  Utltimately, it’s a story about friends who have a shared past which is tumultuous, a mixed blessing for both.  It’s about how people change, and how relationships must change along with it.  It’s about wanting to change someone’s mind, and getting them to look at themselves differently, even when they stand at opposite ends of the spectrum in every important respect.  It is about the glories of the past and the uncertainties about the future. And finally, it’s about how illusory fame is, and how unimportant it’s pressures are when compared to the value of love and the strength of friendship.

For more information about the film, check out the Two of Us Wikipedia entry, which fills out some of the details.

And just because I think a bit of music is needed here,  here’s a clip of the 1974 McCartney single “Junior’s Farm“.  And here’s Lennon with his single that same year, “#9 Dream“.

Enjoy!

Happy Birthday, Paul McCartney

Happy birthday to the cute one – Beatle Paul!

young Paul McCartneyJames Paul McCartney was born in Liverpool this day in 1942, to a part-time musician father and a mother who was a nurse. McCartney would follow in his father’s footsteps as a musician, although he left behind the trumpet in favour of the guitar. He met 16 year old John Lennon at Woolton Fete in 1956, watching John’s band The Quarrymen make up their own versions of popular skiffle favourites for the crowd. At the end of the show, Paul tuned John’s guitar for him (which made an impression), and then played Eddie Cochran’s “Twenty-Flight Rock”. After that, he was in the band. Later, Paul encouraged his school friend George Harrison to bang out a version of Duane Eddy’s “Raunchy” for John while they all road together on the top level of a Liverpool double decker bus. Then, George was in too.

The band gigged around town, and was picked up by a local promoter to go abroad to play rock n’ roll in Hamburg night clubs. The group was a quintet, with Pete Best on drums, and Stu Sutcliffe on bass guitar. Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison played guitars and did so for eight hours at a stretch for the patrons of the seedy Reeperbahn section of Hamburg, kept upright only through the use of uppers. Later, McCartney would pick up the bass and make the instrument his own in the earliest version of the Beatles when former bassist Stu Sutcliffe (who never really played) decided to quit the group in order to pursue an art career in Hamburg. The swtich was successful, as was the band (now a foursome) who went on to become arguably the greatest rock band ever.

After sacking Pete Best in favour of Ringo Starr who was another Liverpudlian drummer they’d met in Hamburg, the group was signed to the EMI-owned label Parlophone in 1962. After they signed and formed a relationship with producer George Martin (a perennial McCartney collaborator even after the Beatles broke up), they scored a number of UK hits, then going on to break America with the Lennon/McCartney original “I Want to Hold Your Hand”. In February 1964, the band consolidated their hold on the record buying teen market when they appeared on the National broadcast of the Ed Sullivan show on February 9th of that year. They would later break away from writing strictly for teen audiences, and begin writing for their own peers, and for themselves too, which indirectly raised the artistic profile of pop music as a whole from that point on.

The BeatlesMcCartney was turned on by rock n’ roll while still in grammar school – most notably by Buddy Holly who was a songwriting role model, and Little Richard, who informed Paul’s own rock n’ roll shout which served him well in songs like “I’m Down” from the Help soundtrack, “Helter Skelter” and many others. His voice could also be sweet, which informed love songs like “And I Love Her”, “Here, There, and Everywhere” and “Golden Slumbers”. Of all the Beatles, McCartney was probably the most well-rounded musician in the band, playing bass, guitars, piano, and even drums when Ringo wasn’t available. His songwriting partnership with John Lennon, which was really more of a healthy competition than it was a collaboration, produced some of the most famous songs in the world, covered by artists ranging from country/easy listening chanteuse Anne Murray to gothic rock band Laibach.

While in the Beatles, McCartney spearheaded their most ambitious album in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, took the lion’s share of the directing of the Beatles’ TV film Magical Mystery Tour, and was the first of the Beatles to admit to the press that he’d taken LSD. Starting in the mid-60s, rumours abounded that he’d died in a car crash and had been replaced by a lookalike – the Paul is Dead rumours.

After the release of the band’s final album Abbey Road, which featured the famed “medley side” that McCartney had championed, The Beatles broke up in April 1970, although their partnership wasn’t fully dissolved until 1974. McCartney would go on to enjoy the most success as a solo artist of all the Beatles. He would score nine number one singles, and seven number one albums during the 70s and early 80s, and would be entered into the Guinness World Book of Records for the world’s most successful songwriter, with his “Yesterday” as the world’s most popular song.

In 1970, he released his first solo album, McCartney which was recorded entirely solo while at home. Some of the songs were recorded in his bathroom for the acoustics. Songs like “Every Night” and “Junk” were understated gems. And his power ballad “Maybe I’m Amazed” stands as one of the best songs he’s ever written. In the 1970s, he made records with his wife Linda (neé Eastman) whom he’d married in March of 1969, a partnership that would last until her death from cancer in 1998. The best of these musical collaborations was 1971′s Ram, which featured the songs “Too Many People”, “Dear Boy”, “Back Seat of My Car”, and the whimsical “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” which was an unlikely hit. He formed another band, Wings, with former Moody Blues singer Denny Laine, and recorded a James Bond theme, “Live and Let Die” in 1973.

Paul McCartney WingsMcCartney recorded Band on the Run in Nigeria that year, and had his greatest success with it to date with the title track and another single, “Jet” both getting top ten status on American and British radio and the album going triple platinum. Even Lennon liked Band on the Run ! He toured America in 1976 on the back of his smash hit “Silly Love Songs” and recorded the live album Wings Over America, one of the singles being a live cut of his early solo song “Maybe I’m Amazed”, which is arguably the definitive version. In 1978, Wings recorded “Mull of Kintyre”, which is one of the best selling British singles of all time. Soon after the release of his 1980 solo album McCartney 2, Paul was jailed in Japan for possession of marijuana for ten days, only to be released without charge.

During the 80s, he would have some success in collaboration with both Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder on separate tracks, although his Beatles fans weren’t as impressed as the greater record-buying public were. Jackson and McCartney fell out by 1985, when Michael Jackson bought the rights to the Beatles catalogue and wouldn’t negotiate a sale.

By the end of the 1980s, McCartney collaborated with Elvis Costello. Some of their songs were written especially for McCartney’s 1988 album Flowers in the Dirt, and others initially appeared on two of Costello’s albums – Spike, and later on Mighty Like a Rose. These collaborations didn’t have the same immediate commercial success when compared with songs like “Say, Say, Say” (McCartney’s last career number one single to date), but McCartney’s credibility was vastly improved by the Costello association. Two more albums would feature McCartney and MacManus (Costello’s real last name) songs – Macca’s Off the Ground in 1993, and Costello’s All This Useless Beauty in 1996.

Beatles AnthologyBy the early 90s, McCartney began work on what would become the Beatles Anthology project along with former bandmates George Harrison and Ringo Starr. The project was a documentary made for television about the Beatles, narrated by the Beatles themselves. A coffee table book was also produced as a companion item to the series, along with three volumes of two-disc compilations, outlining the bands’ career from the earliest homemade recordings to alternate versions of popular songs, to unreleased tracks. Contributions from key Apple Corps head, early road manager, and childhood friend to the band Neil Aspinall were also included to round out the narrative of the band’s mythic rise and fall. The television show was broadcast in 1995 to warm critical reactions.

The project produced another significant outcome – two new Beatles singles – “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love”. Both songs were John Lennon demos which had been submitted with approval by Yoko Ono, which the other Beatles embellished, creating the finished tracks with the help of producer, former ELO frontman, and Beatles enthusiast Jeff Lynne. The music video of “Free As A Bird” evokes the best of the group, an affectionate tribute to what they had created as a band.

The Anthology project helped to ignite McCartney’s interest in recording a solid album of original songs, which resulted in his best studio effort in years, Flaming Pie, in 1997 which McCartney once again recorded with his son James on electric guitar, Jeff Lynne on various instruments, guitarist Steve Miller, and for the last time, Linda McCartney taking pictures and singing back-up. Among many songs on the album, the most poignant would be his love song “Calico Skies”, one of the finest love songs he’d ever written. The album’s title was a reference to an early John Lennon piece published in Merseybeat fan magazine in the early 60s in which, when addressing the question as to where the name “Beatles” came from, John wrote:

… it came in a vision. A man appeared on a flaming pie and said unto them “from this day forth, you are Beatles with an ‘A’. “Thank you, mister man,” they said, thanking him.

The record was the end of an era. Linda died the next year.

Sir Paul McCartneyAfter Linda’s death, Paul continued to be busy, releasing rock albums as well as classical ones, along with continuing involvement in various charity efforts. In 2002, he married former model and self-styled activist and charity worker Heather Mills. They divorced acrimoniously in 2007, with final settlement this year. His Grammy-winning 2005 album Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, recorded solo with Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich at the controls, was not only one of the best albums of his solo career, but one of the best released that year by anyone. His follow-up Memory Almost Full had been started before the Chaos and Creation sessions with a full band. It was the first album released on the Starbucks record label.

When I was young, I wanted to be Paul McCartney. I wanted to look like him, sing like him, and be a musician like him. I used to sing “I Saw Her Standing There” in the shower, dreaming of rock stardom. I learned to play guitar so that I could play Beatles songs.

Paul is still one of my heroes.

Happy birthday, Macca! Thanks for all of the little ditties and good dreams!

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Here’s a recent interview with Paul McCartney as shown on Jools Holland’s Later program, which talks about his recent single “Dance Tonight”, Wings, and the Beatles too. And here’s the segment of Paul performing “I’ve Got A Feeling” as referenced in that interview. That song of course is originally taken from the Beatles’ Let it Be, one of the last songs the group performed live, doing so on the rooftops of Apple Corps in January of 1969.

And for those of you who have just woken up from a 45 year coma and want to get caught up, here’s the Paul McCartney MySpace page.

The official Paul McCartney site has even more goodies for fans to appreciate. Send Paul your regards.

Enjoy!, thanking him..

Fantasy Albums: The Beatles 1971 comeback album

Or, how music history should have unfolded if I were in charge.

This is another possible series, should the spirit of the Delete Bin move me further. That is, the geekiest of all geekery among music geeks – the fantasy album. Most of these either come about because the albums haven’t happened, are unlikely to happen, or could never happen. But, fantasy albums are the stuff dreams by music geeks the world over (I have proof that this is the case, good people…). Here is one of mine, with more to (possibly … well, probably) follow. My Beatles album 1971.

Here’s the story:

Paul McCartneyThe Beatles decide to take a breather at the end of the Abbey Road sessions, knowing that they’re running on fumes. John makes the Plastic Ono Band album. George puts out All Things Must Pass as a double album (but holds back a few tunes). Ringo makes some coin as a guest musician on albums by Badfinger and Harry Nilsson, among others. Paul McCartney retreats to his farm in Scotland to write his first album, with some tunes held back. 1970 is otherwise a quiet year. But, by the end of it, The Beatles feel refreshed enough to come back to the Beatles with a renewed sense of vigour. This is because they’ve decided to take control of it, and not have it define them.

George HarrisonThey decide to have solo careers, while coming back to the Beatles by treating it as their hobby band. They deflate the myth by taking it less seriously, while at the same time always making a commitment to bringing their best to it, out of respect. This attitude will create a certain thematic cohesion for the ensuing sessions for their next record. Meanwhile, they’ve cut ties with Allen Klein to find new management in a local firm out of Liverpool with a charismatic leader at the head of it who also happens to be a fan of the music. Through this firm, they are able to re-negotiate their publishing deal with Northern Songs so that they own their own back catalogue outright, as well as control of all materials they put out going forward, either as a group or as solo artists. So, the first year of the decade is a good year indeed.

Ringo StarrThey go into Abbey Road studios with George Martin to record this album, with Geoff Emerick as engineer. And Klaus Voorman will do the album cover (as he did for 1966′s Revolver…), as well as playing bass on a few tracks. Billy Preston will appear playing organ and Fender Rhodes.

Beatles ’71

1. Too Many People – Now not about how obnoxious John and Yoko are, but a song about the disillusion of the hippie ideal. I think John Lennon would add some interesting lyrical content to this. The arrangement would be the same, but with Macca/Lennon/Hari three part harmonies on the “this was your first mistake/you took your lucky break and broke it in two” section. And Harrision would get a slide solo somewhere.
2. What is Life – with more three-part harmonies. It would otherwise remain unchanged.

3. Jealous Guy – No strings on this one, but a bit bluesier, with some Billy Preston organ to make it sound more like a gospel tune. Macca’s bass would be almost a lead instrument on it (his compositional contribution), providing a counter melody under the vocal. The first verse would be John at the piano, and the band would come in on the first chorus.
4. How Do You Sleep? – Equally, this is no longer about Macca, but about the American government and its involvement in Vietnam. John’s lyrics are bolstered by tougher playing and grittier production, making this rock harder than anything they’ve done up until this point. Still featuring the blistering Harrison slide riff, it will also feature a lead guitar as played by Macca that offsets the riff , making it about 12 bars longer. Also, there is a new middle-eight section added by Paul as well, which features his vocal.
5. It Don’t Come Easy The Ringo song! This time, it’s not a mercy track.

Side Two

1. Maybe I’m Amazed Pretty much as is, but with more three-part harmony bits. John would still get a co-writing credit.
2. Wah-Wah George leads an extended version of this tune, allowing for riff-trading with John, Paul, and Preston on Fender Rhodes. This will be the collective statement of the group in many ways, since the sentiment of the song is not being tied to someone else idea of your identity. All the Beatles faced this, and this tune would speak to that issue, along with George’s personal ones. As such, the song would be even harder, and more exhuberant!
3. Gimme Some Truth More chances for cascading “ah” backing vocals a la “Because” on this. Macca would add an intertwining countermelody sung as a backing to John’s lead. It will rely for the main on the strength of the vocals, both lead and backing. As such, it will be entirely a cappella.

4. Reeperbahn Days– This will be a tune that uses the melody of “Oh Yoko!” with Lennon/McCartney/Harrison/Starr contributions to the lyrics. The song is about their Hamburg days, and about their sense of innocence, just playing rock n roll and discovering the world as young men before they were famous. It will feature a rockabilly middle eight section contributed by McCartney which ups the tempo, and on which they will play as a four piece without any keyboards or production flourishes. The song will resolve back to the descending Lennon melody. It will be good natured and celebratory, but the sentiment will resolve on the idea that the past is behind and serves only as a means to understand the present.

5. Imagine – This would be as is, sans strings, with John doing this entirely solo, no drums.
6. Junk This would be a laid back, back porch acoustic guitar strum, with Ringo on a streamlined drum kit and brushes. George would play a tasteful acoustic slide. It would be cut live, with as much of a “just felt like playing” feel to it as possible.

The Beatles would not do a full tour, but would appear at the Concert For Bangladesh, organized by George Harrison. They will perform three songs together: “I’ve Got a Feeling”, “Across the Universe”, and “Too Many People”. In addition to Harrison’s solo set, John Lennon will have a solo tune (“Imagine”), and McCartney will perform “Blackbird” solo to close the record. The money from the concert would be more effective too, with less of it going toward administration, and more to the people who needed it. Royalties from the record would continue to serve development agencies in the sub-continent for many years to come.

In 1976 after the four concentrate on solo careers, there’s a live album …

So there it is, good people. This might be my geekiest article yet. So, there’s no reason for you not to tell me about your fantasy recordings, ones that never were or never can be.

PS- In December 1980, a city bus would jump the curb in New York City and take out a single victim standing outside of the Dakota apartment, knocking a signed copy of Double Fantasy heavenward…