November , 1984
By David Huff
McCartney from Beatles to Broad Street
He crawls under tables with his 6-year old son, watches television with his teenage daughter, barbeques in the backyard and thinks his wife's pea soup is the greatest. Just your ordinary family man? At age 42, ordinary is just how Paul McCartney wants it.
"Am I happy now," queried McCartney. "Yeah, and I used to dread answering that question, particularly after the breakup of the Beatles. I would kind of go all cold and empty and say, 'Yeah,' and think 'What business is it of yours,' but really, I just happen to be happy now."
McCartney's dark hair has gone slightly gray. He has been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's most successful musician estimated by various sources to be worth anywhere between $100-500 million.
"I'm like Mr. Rich in the press these days," says McCartney rather ruefully. "I'm supposed to be worth $500 million, but I'm not. It's a pity to because young kids will tend to look at me as 'just that Mr. Rich,' and your reputation walks ahead of you."
There are slight crinkles around McCartney's sparkling blue eyes these days. He has sold 200 million records and is one of the biggest independent publishing barons in the world. Ironically, McCartney does not hold the rights to a majority of the songs he and John Lennon penned together as Beatles. For years, McCartney has tried to buy those rights from Lord Lew Grade, but to no avail.
Today the biggest challenge ahead for this former Beetle is the premiere of a $10 million movie McCartney wrote, produced and also stars in, Give My Regards to Broad Street, which is out in theatres now. The film roughly shows McCartney trapped between his daydreams and the demanding schedule of a superstar and how he's been able to keep his sanity.
It's a wonder that he's been able to.
After nearly 22 years in the public eye, Paul McCartney has seen and done it all. He was thrust into the role of scapegoat after the breakup of The Beatles. Stories that have appeared in the press since the last days of the band have rarely been kind to this son of a cotton salesman and a mid-wife. But the past is the past and what's been said is all history now.
Today's you can find former Beatle George Harrison as a movie producer, Ringo Starr an actor, and sadly, the incomparable John Lennon shot down by the obsessed Mark David Chapman's fuselage of bullets three years ago. The one stable thing in McCartney's life undoubtedly has been his wife, Linda, and their children.
McCartney has been married to Linda Eastman for 15 years. They have four children, daughter's Heather, 21 (Linda's child by a previous marriage but adopted by McCartney), Mary, 14; Stella, 13 and son James, 6.
When McCartney met Linda in 1969, she was, according to biographer Philip Norman, 'a striking combination of preppy penny loafers and seductive star-snarer.'
Linda was the daughter of a well-known music lawyer and not the heiress to the Eastman Kodak fortune when she met McCartney. She was a photographer's assistant to Town and Country magazine when she met Paul. McCartney says she was one of the most 'together' women he had ever met, and soon after they were married.
There have been several attacks leveled against Linda in the past, most notably that she alone was responsible for the breakup of The Beatles. The press also attacked her for not being able to sing or play an instrument when Paul asked her to perform with Wings. Former Wing Denny Lame revealed Linda's penchant for snatching ashtrays and salt shakers from hotels. Ah yes, and one mustn't forget her hairy legs. But regardless of the press, the name McCartney does, and always will, mean music.
Guinness also rates McCartney as the most commercially successful musician in history. He has sold 100 million singles with the Beatles era song "Yesterday," the most recorded song ever with over 2,000 versions of it recorded alone. McCartney has also sold 100 million albums. One album with Wings, Band on the Run, sold six million albums, equal to the all-time Beatle album, Let It Be.
When the subject of music is brought up in association with McCartney's name, so inevitably is John Lennon's. Artistically, no artist has ever challenged McCartney the way Lennon did, not your Michael Jackson's, your Stevie Wonder's, no one.
"John and I weren't black and white," remarked McCartney. "People took John for all his aggression to be the good guy because he showed his warts, it made them feel sympathetic. I always thought to be liked you had to be unwarty.
"You don't replace someone like John. The thing about him was that we came from the same spot, the same place in time, we travelled the same road together. Anyway, he is a great writer, a hell of a writer."
McCartney's voice trails off as though he is speaking of Lennon in the present tense.
'For instance," continued McCartney, "I'd be writing a song called 'Getting Better All the Day," and John would sing, 'It couldn't get much worse,' in counterpoint. It was like an opera. You'd say hello, he'd say goodbye."
McCartney shakes his head and brings himself back to the present. He admits to feeling cheated by Lennon's death because he never had the chance to sort things out with him about the harsh words said between them over the Beatles financial mess and their breakup over management by American Allen Klein in the years following the death of Brian Epstein, their original manager.
"I do occasionally think it would have been really nice to have sorted things out with him, be mellow together, get together with the kids. But what are you going to do? We drifted apart. John went to live in New York and became different and it became hard to relate after a while," said McCartney solemnly.
"Everything just got crazy with this business thing. It came to a point where we didn't even trust each other. It was the worst. It got bad, very heavy, but if John and I ever got on the subject of kids, we remembered who we were again, that we were nice people.
"The great blessing that I am still able to hold onto was from the last time I ever spoke to John on the phone. It was really warm and some of the best communication we ever had."
That fateful day in December, 1981 that Chapman's bullets found their mark, McCartney's infamous words when asked to respond to the tragedy, "It's a drag," still bothers him to this day. McCartney said he went to work pushing himself on autopilot, and that his comment on Lennon's death was more a cry of, 'Leave me alone! I'm frightened. Go away!'
McCartney has met with Yoko Ono and the other Beatles since then as they have cleared up lingering Beatles business. McCartney has spoken with Yoko over the phone but says ‘she is very different from me. Just in life, I don't think we would hook up. Our way of thinking is different.’
"We have had our good moments," he says, "and there is no anger from my side and we don't have a bad relationship. She's a nice lady, very misunderstood. We have our problems, our differences, but they're not as bad as it used to be."
But it is a movie that has brought McCartney out of seclusion now and into the nation's headlines once again.
"I don't make any sort of great claims of Broad Street as a great Shakespearean effort," replied McCartney who began writing some of the script when he spent 11 days in jail in Japan on a marijuana possession charge. McCartney even wrote some of the script on pieces of paper in pencil and then stuffed them into a Safeway shopping bag on his way to work.
McCartney's script is based on a true incident in the '70's when the notorious British rock band, the Sex Pistols, lost a master tape to their album, Never Mind the Bullocks. McCartney's script imagines the same thing happening to him. The story about his handling of the imminent disaster alternates between a normal day of filming, interviewing, recording, to nightmares of him and Linda being swept over a river fall or being pursued by a statue of Prince Albert that hops off a platform in Hyde Park.
"I play myself really," said McCartney. "I used to say it was a day in the life of Paul McCartney, but of course the director, Peter Webb, says that's like saying Alice in Wonderland is about a day in the life of a girl who meets a rabbit."
Give My Regards to Broad Street not only has a star studded cast that includes the likes of Barbara Bach, Bryan Brown from The Thornbirds, the late Sir Ralph Richardson in his last role, and Ringo Starr, McCartney's film will also feature three re-recorded versions of the Beatles classics, "Eleanor Rigby," "For No One," and "Yesterday." Except for added violins, the re-recordings sound like the original versions. Ringo Starr refused to play on them saying he had already recorded the classics once.
"It's been 20 years since we did them," answered McCartney, "so to re-sing them isn't painful like it would have been 10 years ago. I know some fans will dislike the idea, but they are great songs. Does that mean I can't ever sing them again?"