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Paul McCartney's long and winding road to success

At the ripe old age of 70, Paul McCartney shows no signs of slowing down with touring gigs and a new album on the agenda.
At the ripe old age of 70, Paul McCartney shows no signs of slowing down with touring gigs and a new album on the agenda. Contributed

PAUL McCartney is rubbing his eyes, literally and metaphorically. Literally, because when we met this week he had just flown back from playing a private gig in Las Vegas.

Metaphorically, because I put it to him that he should be rubbing his eyes over the fact that he still has a hectic touring schedule, is on TV showcasing his latest album, has gigs and an album planned for next year and will be headlining a benefit gig for Hurricane Sandy shortly.

And, his peers The Rolling Stones play in London over the weekend, with other big names from his era also prominently in action.

With McCartney, the enthusiasm and passion for his day job is undimmed.

"Yeah, I do rub my eyes at this," he admits.

"We all do. I didn't foresee it. The Beatles were on record as saying we didn't think it would last 10 years.

"But it kept on and kept on and it kept being good and we seemed to be the people who could do it.

"Now there is a great young generation of people who can also do it, but it tends to be that the people packing them in are the people who have the material, have hits and - I think that's important - songs that people know.

"I think they have stagecraft, they have an ability with an audience.

"I'm still cautious. I say, 'just put one show on sale'. I don't want to ever get too blasé.

"I don't want tickets not selling but then they ring me up and say Chicago's 40,000 seats sold out in six minutes, it's a record, and I didn't know it was even possible to sell out in six minutes, then you think of Madonna and Gaga and U2 and Coldplay and all the people who have played there and I just broke the record.

"What it does for me is that it's not that I'm being kind of cute about it, it's more the fact that when a big show like that sells out in six minutes, I then know when I go on to that stage that those people were that keen to buy a ticket that I know they are my friends and we can have a good time.

"It's a feeling that's not to be bettered. And I realise that in the early days half the reason for your nerves was you go on stage and think will they like me, will they like our songs?"

I'm talking to McCartney in his Soho Square office.

He's excited about the TV special, Live Kisses, in which he performed songs from his last album of standards Kisses on the Bottom, a mischievous title which is actually about signing kisses on a letter, a line from the opening number, "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter."

But we talk also (unusually for him) about his family, about John Lennon and The Beatles in the early days, about his happiness with his new(ish) wife Nancy, but also about the darker side to that era of innocence, the current clamour over Jimmy Savile, child abuse and inappropriate sexual relationships with adolescent girls in the sixties and seventies.

Few rock stars have made any comment at all, though some must be more than a little worried.

The biggest star of them all has said nothing until now. And, of course, he knew Jimmy Savile well, as Savile used to compere The Beatles' Christmas shows, and, well before their worldwide fame, travelled with them.

"[In] that postwar boom, girls and guys, it was a much more open scene… free love and the Pill had just come in, so it was a completely different scene," McCartney said.

"The other aspect, of course, is that we, though not quite Jimmy, we were of the age of the girls, we were all young. So if you're now talking about a 17, 18-year-old boy with a 15-year-old girl, we all knew that was illegal.

"We knew it and it was like, 'NO'.

"But the closer we were in age, of course, the less it seemed to matter. We knew with under-16s it was illegal, so we didn't do it."

"What clean-living, law-abiding Beatles you were," I say. But he is adamant.

"We tried to make sure. We couldn't always be sure but there was a definite no-no involved in under-age kids. Hey, listen, we didn't have to worry. There were plenty of over-16-year-olds."

He has always had an enormously strong sense of family, and it strikes me that he has reached a point in his life where, at 70, still looking remarkably youthful, still genuinely with a twinkle in the eye and that seductive half-smile, with all the rifts between him and his former bandmates ancient history and only good feelings remaining, he is not just conspicuously comfortable with himself, but must be particularly happy.

"Yeah, thank you, I am. I'm a very lucky guy. I have a very lovely wife, I've got a young daughter who is very lovely."

Topics:  music paul mccartney



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