Canadian music magazine Music Express featured an exclusive interview with Paul McCartney. Ray Bonici chatted with Paul about Denny Laine and the breakup of Wings, Elvis Costello, the Beatles, John Lennon’s death.
Paul’s forthcoming LP, Tug Of War was released on April 26th. The Music Express article was entitled, ‘Paul McCartney Wings It Alone.’
Q: “You seem to be Wingless at the moment. Is this a ‘back to the egg’ situation for you?”
PAUL: “Not really. I felt a bit limited working with the group and I just didn’t fancy going in and making another group album. So I decided to approach it in another way– to take each song and ask myself, ‘Who would the best drummer be to work with for that kind of song?’ I cast them all. It was something I’ve never done. So instead of getting the group and just working with a one bunch for a whole album, which I’d done plenty of times, I just fancied trying it this way. So I grabbed Steve Gadd for a couple of sessions and Ringo for a couple of others and just grabbed people according to their styles. The album is like a star-studded cast of thousands, which, to me is a little bit of a drawback, if anything. Normally I don’t like albums with huge casts on them… like supergroups.”
Q: “You are known for criticizing such projects and accusing certain high profile musicians of being weird. In fact, the musicians in Wings were more or less unknown at first.”
PAUL: “They were never really faces. When I was getting the group together I didn’t want a permanent group of superstars. I still don’t think I would want that. Just for a one-off thing like this, I felt it would be good. So anyway, I tried it and I found I enjoyed it. When the session was over and when we’d done the music, there wasn’t a huge on-going thing. You just say, ‘Thanks,’ and if you liked it you could ask them back. I ended up doing that, and met Stevie Wonder and sang with him.”
Q: “You must have fulfilled your ambition at last. You always admired that guy.”
PAUL: “I always wanted to do all that kind of stuff, but I didn’t think I should do it for some particular reason, or because I didn’t care to do it. So I just said, ‘Oh sod it! I’ll just do it.’ I’ll try and make a good album and concentrate on the music and not worry about styles, not worry that it’s a new album, not worry about the normal things I go into an album worrying about.”
Q: “But does Wings still exist?”
PAUL: “No, not really. We sort of disbanded for this album. If we’re going to pick it up again we should just be loose enough to come together again or not. You see, I hate the pressure of a group.”
Q: “But you have done it. You’ve been in a group since the Beatles anyway.”
PAUL: “Yeah, I did it. That’s right. I did it with the Beatles. Towards the end there was a bit of a pressure but I never really felt it. I just felt the positive side of the group. But with Wings, with so many changes in the line-up, it wasn’t so easy. That often distracts you from the music and you start thinking a whole load of other things. You’re thinking about the group image. Anyway, I got bored with the whole idea and I thought, ‘Christ! I’m coming up to 40 now. I don’t really have to stay in a group. There’s no rule anywhere that says I have to it that way.’ At that time Denny Laine was staying with me. We were writing together. He was going to stay on but we had a bit of a falling out. It was nothing madly serious, but he did decide to go his own way, saying that he want to go on tour. He hasn’t been on tour since… (laughs) However, he wanted to get his own thing together.”
Q: “It seems that there was definately a hatchet floating about and that it wasn’t buried as you had said. The arguments are still there.”
PAUL: “With Denny? There were little personal things here and there, little things that were just niggly. In the end it blew up a bit. It was a bit of a number. We didn’t part shouting at each other or arguing. We both decided that it would be best… in fact, it was his own decision. I can never remember these things because once they’re gone they’re gone. It was his decision. He rang up saying that he was going out on his own to get his own stuff together. He thought he’d be happier that way. I just said OK and kept on with this album. Seeing I was doing it this way, working with other people, there wasn’t the normal big trauma: ‘What? Somebody hasn’t turned up? Oh God!’ Or, ‘Are the lights here?’ ‘Yeah, but the drummer isn’t!’ Panicky stuff. You just spend all your time worry about that. I decided that all I really am interested in is the music anyway, and not in huge personality things.”
Q: “One thing Denny said was that he was doing hatchet jobs for you on other musicians.”
PAUL: “But Denny has got his own theory about what happened all the time. As far as I’m concerned, there were no hatchet jobs, ever, and if there were, it certainly wasn’t Denny that went around doing them. Maybe there was one case where he had to do it. I don’t know. These stories grow so madly, you know, from just one little line. There weren’t any big hatchet jobs. Denny Seiwell left of his own accord. I’m sure I could go through the whole line-up. It’s a bit boring really, and a bit of a yawn. With the last Wings line-up we parted in a friendly way. Everyone was a bit disappointed and I was a bit sad because that was it… because it was a bit of a burden. It’s like a marriage you’ve got to keep up. It becomes a very real thing.”
Q: “You are the only one who went back into a group after the Beatles. John, George and Ringo did their stuff with other musicians. Now you’re doing it for the first time. Do you regret not having done this earlier?”
PAUL: “Yes. It would probably have been a good thing to start it then. At the time I felt that it was a bit too predictable, that everyone would leave the Beatles and go with old Phil Spector or the drummer, Jim Keltner. It was like a clique and I just didn’t want to join that clique. The decision I made was mainly to get the group together to play with because, with the Beatles, we weren’t really playing alot. I thought of doing that after I had seen Johnny Cash on TV and I wanted a similar group with a couple of guitars and drums just to have sung with. That’s what I did.”
Q: “The last time we talked I brought up the subject of your producer’s instinct and your dictatorial attitudes– the dictator being the perfectionist in you– the musical ear. Could it be that with Wings you were not personally satisfied with the music that was being produced?”
PAUL: “And that’s why I knocked it on the head, you mean? Yeah, probably that kind of thing.”
Q: “Are you dictatorial outside of music?
PAUL: “I don’t know. I don’t examine myself that way. I just am. I just go through it. I just wake in the morning and go to bed at night and whatever happens during the day just happens. I don’t really know how I am. In fact, I’m always getting rude awakenings. John’s saying I hurt him and I did this to him and that to him was always a rude awakening. I’d never thought about that kind of stuff. It was just the way I was and the kind of family I was from. It was very much different scene from how John was raised. So I must have rubbed him up the wrong way many times without even knowing, and he was probably more sensitive. But listen– he did it all to me, too. I’m not taking the blame for anything. We just busted up because it busted up. I don’t think I go around trying to be a dictator. In fact, I’m just the opposite, really. If anyone said, ‘Oh, you bloody dictator,’ I’ll say, ‘OK, you do it then.’ I really don’t want that responsibility at all.”
Q: “You’re not a dictator in the pubic eye, but ‘Paul, the nice guy’ all the time. Even John called you ‘honest little Paulie’ and ‘the walking, glossy PR guy.’ How do you feel about that?”
PAUL: “I never realized I was reflecting that image. As a kid, I watched the telly to see how they did it, and watched films to see how the world went. You pick up on all these things. If they smoked in the films, then you smoked. You just see what was the cool thing to be. To me, that PR thing I just automatically thought we needed in the Beatles, to get on and to meet people and the Press. So, I would do a lot of that because no else would. It’s the truth. John would never do it and George wasn’t into it and Ringo would if he liked you, but I’d do it even if I didn’t like you. All the Press people we’d see I would bring in and say, ‘Come on!’ I knew they were nervous. I don’t like nervous people around. Who does?
I mean, nervous people hate to be nervous but it’s something they can’t help. So I try and cool the situation out and say, ‘Let’s have a cup of tea, OK? Come on now, sit down.’ Alot of Liverpool people are very good at that. Maybe it’s not always genuine, but my Auntie Jenna always called me polished. She said, ‘You are really polished, you are,’ but in a way she kind of liked it. Over years and particularly with John coming out against me like that, it was no good for me at all. He really slagged me off, alot of which he really didn’t mean. He said it in interviews, and I’ve talked a lot to Yoko since, and she tells me that lots of it was just John. Alot of it was his own… he just wanted to put me down. He said, ‘Everyone is on the McCartney bandwagon.’ You know, you get jealous.”
Q: “But he was laughing as well when he was doing it, even when he said, ‘The only thing you done was Yesterday.’ He said in interviews that he was shitting himself with laughter doing it.”
PAUL: “That’s right. (laughs) It’s all jokes, taking the piss out of me. That was John. That’s his particular thing and that’s what I liked him for. But I think it has probably made my image worse than it is. As I say, the truth is he didn’t really think that was all my character. He knew there were all sorts of other bits. But I think it’s true. I sometimes do catch myself and think, ‘God do I look like that?’ Or, ‘Is that how I come over people.’ And the funny thing is, I’m just struggling, trying to get through life okay, and trying to do well, like lots of other people I know. I just try to earn a living. Basically, I’ve never had a different philosophy than that. You get up in the morning and do your gig.”
Q: “You go out of your way to clarify things when they go wrong.”
PAUL: “Pure fear. Yeah.”
Q: “After the Beatles split, nobody said anything. Then you put up this question/answer thing in the sleeve of McCartney LP. Why?”
PAUL: “Now, see, that’s one thing that really got misunderstood. I had talked to Peter Brown from Apple and asked him what we were going to do about press on the album. I said, ‘I really don’t feel like doing it, to tell you the truth,’ but he told me that we needed to have something. He said, ‘I’ll give you some questions and you just write out your answers. We’ll put it out as a press release.’ Well of course, the way it came out looked like it was specially engineered by me. I was digging at John really.
There was no other way I could say it because the question was: ‘What do you think of John and Yoko’s music?’ and I said, ‘Well, it doesn’t bring me alot of pleasure.’ It was political, depending on how I said it. I was trying to say something without really saying, ‘I hate them!’ I was trying to say, ‘Well, they are not too cool. As you can see I am a little cool on this.’ I was just trying to hate John… a bit. All this was included in the albums we gave to the press, but the word got ’round that I put this interview in the real albums, which I didn’t. But it got around that I put out this really cutting statement. Looking back on it now, and not being in the mood I was in in that period, going through all sorts of changes,
I can see how it looked to ordinary people who didn’t have the problems I was facing. As I say, I just feel that I have a kind of knack for doing crazy things like that. It’s an unfortunate thing in my character. You know, your character kind of sharpens up when it becomes your image. Now for me, this is a very strange game really, to meet the press, deal with the media. You know, I’m not a publicist, but being in the group for all that long time, you learn a way of dealing with it. You become a media person on the other side of the media. Before I used to spend literally as much time as you do doing interviews. So you become that kind of person. The rest of the group really hated it with a passion.”