“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”
My first album, not from my parental unit’s collection of Broadway Original Cast LPs, purchased for myself with my own money I had earned from mowing lawns, was Meet The Beatles (1964). My first live concert was The Beatles in Seattle, summer 1966, making my parents drive 300 miles so that I could hear them do 11 songs, but not being able to hear the lyrics over the screaming. Beginning at 10-years-old and lasting into my 60s, I have had a major case of Beatlemania. 53 years ago, The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and 73 million American television viewers tuned in, including me. The band and their brand had a significant impact on me, and on our American culture and our public life. The Beatles served as the ideal transition between the structured, staid 1950s and the free floating counterculture of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
“None of us wanted to be the bass player. It wasn’t the number-one job, we wanted to be up front. In our minds, it was the fat guy in the group who nearly always played the bass, and he stood at the back. None of us wanted that; we wanted to be up front singing, looking good, to pull the birds.”
The Beatles brought a message of love with their tuneful songs, they were songs about the excitement and disillusionment of relationships. The band sported hairstyles that drove our parents nutty. The Beatles brought a much needed cultural jolt to our lives. Their songs, style and sensibility liberalized American culture. They celebrated free expression and artistic creativity. As President William Jefferson Clinton perfectly stated:
“If you think the 60s were a bad time, you’re probably a Republican; if you think the 60s were a good time, you’re probably a Democrat.”
The Beatles helped Americans deal with the struggles, sadness and sorrow surrounding the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, taken just three months before the band appeared on The Ed SullivanShow. Young people had one icon lost and then we found new icons that they we could easily identify with in The Beatles. Their presence and their music left people my age feeling free-spirited, rebellious, and emotionally charged.
1960, Photographer unknown
McCartney, who turns an astonishing 75-years-old today, was the “Cute Beatle”. John Lennon was the smart one, GeorgeHarrison the shy one, and Ringo Starr was the clown. Only in their early 20s, The Beatles had decided on a contract that gave all songs the credit: “Music and Lyrics by Lennon/McCartney”, although most songs were written by individuals in the band. McCartney penned Yesterday, a song referenced by Hillary Clinton when she did a kick-off event of her campaign two years ago in Brooklyn. McCartney performed that tune alone at a recording studio on June 14, 1965 and it was released later that year on a record, a kind of technology from the last century where music was recorded in analog on flat vinyl disks, I know, it sounds zany. Yesterday is the most recorded song in history with more than 2222 cover versions.
The melody for Yesterday came to McCartney in a dream:
“I woke up with a lovely tune in my head. I thought, ‘That’s great, I wonder what that is?’ There was an upright piano next to me, to the right of the bed by the window. I got out of bed, sat at the piano, found G, found F sharp minor 7th – and that leads you through then to B to E minor, and finally back to E. It all leads forward logically.
I liked the melody a lot but because I’d dreamed it I couldn’t believe I’d written it. I thought, ‘No, I’ve never written like this before.’ But I had the tune, which was the most magical thing.”
Producer George Martin begged that Yesterday be credited to McCartney alone, an idea that was shot down by The Beatles gay manager Brian Epstein. Epstein said:
“No, whatever we do we are not splitting up The Beatles.”
Five years later, the band did split up.
In 2000, McCartney asked Yoko Ono if she could change the credit to read McCartney–Lennon in The Beatles Anthology. She said no.
Not wanting to lose the song, McCartney wrote dummy lyrics about scrambled eggs: “Scrambled eggs, oh, my baby, how I love your legs…”
Scrambled Eggs became a running joke between The Beatles before it was recorded. Lennon:
“Every time we got together to write songs or for a recording session, this would come up. It became a joke between us. We almost had it finished when we made up our minds that only a one word title would suit and, believe me, we just couldn’t find the right one. Then, one morning, Paul woke up, and the song and the title were both there. Completed! I know it sound like a fairy tale, but it is the plain truth. I was sorry, in a way, because we had so many laughs about it.”
It took some convincing for McCartney to add strings to the simple master track of him singing Yesterday while playing acoustic guitar. It was Martin’s idea to use a string quartet on the record, and it made music history.
His composition, Hey Jude, was number one on the US charts for nine weeks, longer than any other Beatles single. It is also the longest single, at seven minutes and eleven seconds, to reach number one. Hey Jude is the bestselling Beatles single, with sales of over six million.
McCartney originally wrote a rough version of the song, called Hey Jules, to try and cheer up Lennon’s then five-year old son, Julian, during his parents’ divorce. McCartney:
“I was going out in my car, just vaguely singing this song, and it was like, ‘Hey, Jules…’ And then I just thought a better name was Jude. A bit more country and western for me. The song’s intro was a hopeful message for Julian: ‘Come on, man, your parents got divorced. I know you’re not happy, but you’ll be okay’.”
McCartney composed Hey Jude at a tumultuous time in his own life as well. The song was written while the band was doing studio sessions for the White Album, when the band members were not getting along at all. It was also the time that he was breaking up with his girlfriend, actor Jane Asher.
Lennon thought the song was written to him as a blessing on his relationship with his new girlfriend Ono. Lennon:
“I always heard it as a song to me. Yoko’s just come into the picture. He’s saying, ‘Hey, Jude… hey, John’. Subconsciously he was saying, ‘Go ahead, leave me’.”
The final Hey Jude is credited to Lennon/McCartney. Lennon made a few contributions, including the line: “The movement you need is on your shoulder,” which was originally a placeholder waiting for a better lyric.
When The Beatles imploded, McCartney went solo and he eventually formed another band, Wings (in a sad, strange footnote, Henry McCullough, the Wings’ guitarist left this world a year ago today). He clashed again with Ono, but he fell in love with and married a pretty, talented photographer, Linda Eastman, who he lost to that damn cancer in 1998. He became a vegetarian. He fathered five talented, good-looking children, including musician James, artists Mary and Heather, and innovative fashion designer Stella McCartney, perhaps you have heard of her.
1970, Photograph by Linda McCartney
Despite a series of rumors that today would have been Tweeted, memed and posted on The Facebook in an instant, McCartney did not die in 1966. Despite all the clues, Paul Is Not Dead (but, he did endure that dreadful divorce from Heather Mills, which may have made him wish he were dead). But, instead, McCartney released a live album Paul Is Live (1993) and released more than 30 more solo albums, that is not even counting the ones released by Wings or his first band.
McCartney is a two time inductee to the Rock N’ Roll Hall Of Fame, a winner of 24 Grammy Awards, The Gershwin Prize, a Kennedy CenterHonor and an Academy Award. He has written 32 number one hit songs and he has collaborated with Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Elvis Costello, Sir Elton John, and Kanye West.
McCartney is rightfully considered the most successful songwriter in history…and the wealthiest. McCartney’s vast fortune is said to be more than $1.5 billion. When he divorced Mills, her eventual settlement was for $36 million, which she spent within two years.
He is one the Rock era’s greatest vocalists, known for his belting power, versatility, with range spanning over four octaves.
As much as I loved him 50 years ago, I am not certain I would have predicted that the “Cute Beatle” would go on to be one of the world’s most famous and successful figures, or that he would tirelessly take on the issues: Animal Rights, Land Mines, Vegetarianism, Poverty, and Music Education, and that he would still be out on tour in summer 2017. Maybe I’m Amazed!
McCartney’s current One On One tour is traveling across North America with a new set, dozens of classics from the most beloved catalog in popular music, spanning his entire career as a solo artist, member of Wings and of course as a member of that other band.
Last year, McCartney released PureMcCartney with songs from throughout his solo career and his work with Wings. The 4-CD version has 67 tracks, all top 40 hits.
The day after the horrifying event in Orlando a year ago, at a concert in Germany, McCartney draped himself in a rainbow flag and wrote “We stand together with Orlando” on his Twitter page.