Paul McCartney's Auto-Biography
Sir James Paul McCartney, MBE is an English rock singer, bass guitarist, songwriter, composer, multi-instrumentalist, entrepreneur, record producer, film producer and animal-rights activist. He gained worldwide fame as a member of The Beatles, with John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. McCartney and Lennon formed one of the most influential and successful songwriting partnerships and "wrote some of the most popular music in rock and roll history". After leaving The Beatles, McCartney launched a successful solo career and formed the band Wings with his first wife, Linda Eastman McCartney, and singer-songwriter Denny Laine. He has worked on film scores, classical music, and ambient/electronic music; released a large catalogue of songs as a solo artist; and taken part in projects to help international charities.
McCartney is listed in Guinness World Records as the most successful musician and composer in popular music history, with 60 gold discs and sales of 100 million singles. His song "Yesterday" is listed as the most covered song in history - by over 3,700 artists so far - and has been played more than 7,000,000 times on American television and radio. Wings' 1977 single "Mull of Kintyre" became the first single to sell more than two million copies in the UK, and remains the UK's top selling non-charity single. (Three charity singles have since surpassed it in sales; the first to do so—in 1984—was Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?", whose participants included McCartney.)
His company MPL Communications owns the copyrights to more than 3,000 songs, including all of the songs written by Buddy Holly, along with the publishing rights to such musicals as Guys and Dolls, A Chorus Line, and Grease. McCartney is also an advocate for animal rights, vegetarianism, and music education; he is active in campaigns against landmines, seal hunting, and Third World debt.
Paul McCartney was born in Walton Hospital in Liverpool, England, where his mother, Mary, had worked as a nurse in the maternity ward. He has one brother, Michael, born 7 January 1944. McCartney was baptised Roman Catholic but was raised non-denominationally: his mother was Roman Catholic, and his father, James "Jim" McCartney, was a Protestant turned agnostic.
In 1947, he began attending Stockton Wood Road Primary school. He then attended the Joseph Williams Junior School, and passed the 11-plus exam in 1953 with three others out of the 90 examinees and thus gained admission to the Liverpool Institute. In 1954, while riding on the bus to the Institute, he met George Harrison, who lived nearby. Passing the exam meant that McCartney and Harrison did not have to go to a secondary modern school, which most pupils attended until they were eligible to work. It also meant that Grammar school pupils had to find new friends.
20 Forthlin Road now attracts large numbers of tourists
In 1955 the McCartney family moved to 20 Forthlin Road in Allerton. Mary McCartney rode a bicycle to houses where she was needed as a midwife, and an early McCartney memory is of her leaving when it was snowing heavily. On 31 October 1956, Mary McCartney (who was a heavy smoker) died of an embolism after a mastectomy operation to stop the spread of her breast cancer. The early loss of his mother later connected McCartney with John Lennon, whose mother, Julia, died when Lennon was 17.
McCartney's father was a trumpet player and pianist who had led Jim Mac's Jazz Band in the 1920s. He encouraged his two sons to be musical. Jim had an upright piano in the front room that he had bought from Harry Epstein's store, and McCartney's grandfather, Joe McCartney, played an E-flat tuba. Jim McCartney used to point out the different instruments in songs on the radio, and often took McCartney to local brass band concerts. After the death of his wife, Mary, Jim McCartney gave McCartney a nickel-plated trumpet, but when skiffle music became popular, McCartney swapped the trumpet for a £15 Framus Zenith (model 17) acoustic guitar.
McCartney, being left-handed, found the Zenith difficult to play. He then saw a poster advertising a Slim Whitman concert, and realised that Whitman played left-handed, with his guitar strung the opposite way to a right-handed player. McCartney wrote his first song ("I Lost My Little Girl") on the Zenith, and also played his father's Framus Spanish guitar when writing early songs with Lennon. He later started playing piano and wrote "When I'm Sixty-Four". Per his father's advice, he took music lessons, but since he preferred to learn 'by ear' he never paid attention in them.
Fifteen-year-old McCartney met Lennon and The Quarrymen at the Woolton (St. Peter's church hall) fête on 6 July 1957. At the start of their friendship, Lennon's Aunt Mimi disapproved of McCartney because he was, she said, "working class", and called him "John's little friend". McCartney's father told his son that Lennon would get him "into trouble", although he later allowed The Quarrymen to rehearse in the front room at 20 Forthlin Road.
McCartney formed a close working relationship with Lennon and they collaborated on many songs. He convinced Lennon to allow Harrison to join The Quarrymen (Lennon thought Harrison was too young) after Lennon heard Harrison play at a rehearsal in March 1958. Harrison joined the group as lead guitarist, followed by Lennon's art school friend, Stuart Sutcliffe, on bass, although McCartney was later dismissive about Sutcliffe's musical ability. By May 1960, they had tried several new names, including The Silver Beetles; playing a tour of Scotland under that name with Johnny Gentle. They finally changed the name of the group to The Beatles for their performances in Hamburg.
Starting in May 1960, The Beatles were managed by Allan Williams, who booked them into Bruno Koschmider's Indra club in Hamburg. McCartney's father was reluctant to let the teenage McCartney go to Hamburg until McCartney pointed out that he would earn ?2/10s per day. As this was more than he earned himself, Jim finally agreed.
The Indra Club, Hamburg, where the Beatles first played
The Beatles first played at the Indra club, sleeping in small, "dirty" rooms in the Bambi Kino, and then moved (after the closure of the Indra) to the larger Kaiserkeller. In October 1960, they left Koschmider's club and worked at the "Top Ten Club", which was run by Peter Eckhorn. When McCartney and Pete Best went back to the Bambi Kino to get their belongings they found it in almost total darkness. As a snub to Koschmider, they found a condom, attached it to a nail on the concrete wall of their room, and set fire to it. There was no real damage, but Koschmider reported them for attempted arson. McCartney and Best spent three hours in a local jail and were deported, as was Harrison, for working under the legal age limit. Lennon's work permit was revoked a few days later and he went home by train, but Sutcliffe had a cold and stayed in Hamburg, and then flew home.
The group reunited in December 1960, and on 21 March 1961, played their first of many concerts at Liverpool's Cavern club. McCartney realised that other Liverpool bands were playing the same cover songs, which prompted him and Lennon to write more original material. The Beatles returned to Hamburg in April 1961, and recorded "My Bonnie" with Tony Sheridan. Sutcliffe left the band after the end of their contract, so McCartney reluctantly took over bass. After borrowing Sutcliffe's Höfner 500/5 model for a short time, he bought a left-handed 1962 500/1 model Höfner bass. On 1 October 1961, McCartney went with Lennon (who paid for the trip) to Paris for two weeks.
The Beatles were first seen by Brian Epstein at the Cavern club on 9 November 1961, and he later signed them to a management contract. The Beatles' road manager, Neil Aspinall, drove them to London on 31 December 1961, where they auditioned the next day, but were rejected by Decca Records. In April 1962, they went back to Hamburg to play at the Star-Club, and learned of Stuart Sutcliffe's death a few hours before they arrived. The Beatles were ready to sign a record contract on 9 May 1962, with Parlophone Records—after having been rejected by many record companies—but Epstein sacked Pete Best (at the behest of McCartney, Lennon and Harrison; Best's replacement was Richard Starkey, whose stage name was Ringo Starr, from Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, although he had already performed, occasionally, with the Beatles in Hamburg) before they signed the contract. "Love Me Do" was released on 5 October 1962, featuring McCartney singing solo on the chorus line. Over the course of the next two years, McCartney and his band mates would rise from relative obscurity to international stardom, an unprecedented feat at that time for a rock-music combo.
Hey Jude (1968)
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All Lennon-McCartney songs on the first pressing of the Please Please Me album (recorded in one day on 11 February 1963) as well as the "Please Please Me" single, "From Me to You", and its B-side, "Thank You Girl", are credited to "McCartney-Lennon", but this was later changed to "Lennon-McCartney". They usually needed an hour or two to finish a song, which were written in hotel rooms after a concert, at Wimpole Street, at Cavendish Avenue, or at Kenwood (Lennon's house). McCartney also wrote songs for other artists, such as Billy J. Kramer, Cilla Black, Badfinger, and Mary Hopkin -and most notably he wrote two hit songs for the group Peter & Gordon-launching their career. One song, "World Without Love", became a #1 hit in the U.K. & U.S. (Peter was the brother of Jane Asher, McCartney's girlfriend at the time)
Epiphone Texan modeled after the one often used by McCartney
Lennon, Harrison, and Starr lived in large houses in the 'stockbroker belt' of southern England, but McCartney continued to live in central London: in Jane Asher's parents' house, and then at 7 Cavendish Avenue, St John's Wood, near the Abbey Road Studios. It was at Cavendish Avenue that McCartney bought his first Old English Sheepdog, Martha, whose name ostensibly inspired the song "Martha My Dear", but which is actually about the end of McCartney and Asher's relationship.
McCartney often went to nightclubs alone, which offered 'dining and dancing until 4:00 a.m.' and featured cabaret acts. McCartney would get preferential treatment everywhere he went, which he readily accepted. He even once accepted an offer from a policeman to be allowed to park McCartney's car. He later visited gambling clubs after 4:00am, such as 'The Curzon House', and often saw Brian Epstein there. The Ad Lib club (above the Prince Charles Theatre at 7 Leicester Place) was later opened for the emerging 'Rock and Roll' crowd of musicians, and tolerated their unusual lifestyle. After the Ad Lib fell out of favour, McCartney moved on to the Scotch of St James, at 13 Masons Yard. He also frequented The Bag O'Nails club at 8 Kingly Street in Soho, London, where he met Linda Eastman.
On 12 June 1965, The Beatles were appointed Members of the Order of the British Empire (MBE); they received their insignia from Queen Elizabeth II at an investiture at Buckingham Palace on 26 October 1965. They stopped touring after their last concert at Candlestick Park, San Francisco, on 29 August 1966.
Houston's Beatles sculpture
McCartney was the first to be involved in a project outside of the group, when he composed the score for the film The Family Way in 1966. The soundtrack was later released as an album (also called The Family Way), and won the Ivor Novello Award for Best Instrumental Theme, ahead of acclaimed jazz musician Mike Turner. McCartney wrote songs for and produced other artists, including Mary Hopkin, Badfinger, and the Bonzo Dog Band, and in 1966, he was asked by Kenneth Tynan to write the songs for the National Theatre's production of As You Like It by William Shakespeare (starring Laurence Olivier) but declined. In 1968 he co-produced the song "I'm the Urban Spaceman" by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and was credited as "Apollo C. Vermouth" because of contractual restrictions.
McCartney later attempted to persuade Lennon and Harrison to return to the stage, and when they had a meeting to sign a new contract with Capitol Records, McCartney suggested "going back to our roots," to which Lennon replied, "I think you're mad!" Although Lennon had quit the group in September 1969, and Harrison and Starr had temporarily left the group at various times, McCartney was the one who publicly announced The Beatles' breakup on 10 April 1970—one week before releasing his first solo album, McCartney. The album included a press release inside with a self-written interview stating McCartney's hopes about the future. The Beatles' partnership was legally dissolved after McCartney filed a lawsuit on 31 December 1970.
McCartney released his debut solo album, McCartney, in April 1970. He insisted that his wife should be involved in his musical career so that they would not be apart when he was on tour. McCartney's second solo album, Ram (1971) was credited to both Paul and Linda McCartney. In August of that year McCartney formed Wings with guitarist Denny Laine and drummer Denny Seiwell (although membership in Wings would change several times during its existence) and released their debut album, Wild Life. In 1972, Wings started an unplanned tour of British universities and small European venues. In February of that year, they released a single called "Give Ireland Back to the Irish", which was banned by the BBC. Wings then embarked on the 26-date Wings Over Europe Tour.
The first of Wings' two 1973 albums Red Rose Speedway spawned the band's first #1 in the United States, "My Love". On 16 April, McCartney starred in a TV variety show called James Paul McCartney. Wings then released the theme song for the James Bond film Live and Let Die. It reunited McCartney with George Martin, who both produced the song and arranged the orchestral break. Their second 1973 album Band on the Run, which won two Grammy Awards is Wings' most lauded work. From it were released the singles "Jet", and, in 1974, "Band on the Run" (the song) as well as the non-album single "Junior's Farm". A jam session — with Lennon and McCartney — was recorded in California, in 1974, and released on the bootleg A Toot and a Snore in '74. The same year, he recorded an instrumental, "Walking in the Park with Eloise", which had been written by his father. The song featured Wings, Floyd Cramer and Chet Atkins. Venus and Mars was released in 1975, which featured "Listen to What the Man Said" and "Rock Show." Till 1976, Wings embarked on the Wings Over the World tour.
In 1977, McCartney released Thrillington under the name "Percy 'Thrills' Thrillington". Wings also released "Mull of Kintyre". It stayed at #1 in the UK for nine weeks, and was the highest-selling single in the UK until 1984, when Band Aid's Do They Know It's Christmas beat its record. Wings toured again in 1979, and McCartney organised the Concerts for the People of Kampuchea. McCartney's "Rockestra" theme won a Grammy award. At Christmas 1979, McCartney released his (solo) "Wonderful Christmastime".
Although McCartney's relationship with Lennon was troubled, they reconciled during the 1970s.] McCartney would often call Lennon, but was never sure of what sort of reception he would get, such as when McCartney once called Lennon and was told, "You're all pizza and fairytales!" McCartney understood that he could not just phone Lennon and only talk about business, so they often talked about cats, baking bread, or babies.
McCartney played every instrument on the 1980 release McCartney II (as he had on McCartney before it), this time with an emphasis on synthesisers instead of guitars. The single "Coming Up" reached #2 in Britain and #1 in the US. "Waterfalls" was another UK Top 10 hit. McCartney's next album, 1982's Tug of War, reunited him with Ringo Starr and Beatles producer George Martin, and the album hit No.1 on both sides of the Atlantic at the same time as its lead single, a duet with Stevie Wonder, "Ebony and Ivory", did likewise. Two further hit duets followed, both with Michael Jackson: "The Girl Is Mine", from Jackson's Thriller album, and "Say Say Say", a single from McCartney's 1983 album, Pipes of Peace.
McCartney wrote and starred in the 1984 film Give My Regards to Broad Street. The film and soundtrack featured the US and UK Top 10 hit "No More Lonely Nights", and the album reached #1 in the UK, but the film did not do well commercially or critically. Roger Ebert awarded the film a single star and wrote, "You can safely skip the movie and proceed directly to the sound track". Later that year, McCartney released "We All Stand Together", the title song from the animated film Rupert and the Frog Song, which was the supporting feature to "Broad Street" in cinemas and which, when released on video cassette would become the year's top-seller. The following year, McCartney released Spies Like Us the title song to the Dan Ackroyd/Chevy Chase comedy which hit #7 on the Billboard chart (making it his last US Top 20 hit to date). On 13 July 1985, McCartney played "Let It Be" at the Live Aid concert in London, but much of his performance was marred by technical difficulties. He was backed on this performance by Bob Geldof, Pete Townshend, George Michael, and Alison Moyet.
In the second half of the decade McCartney would find new collaborators. Eric Stewart had appeared on McCartney's Pipes of Peace album, and he co-wrote most of McCartney's 1986 album Press to Play. The album and its lead single, "Press", became minor hits. McCartney returned the favour by co-writing two songs for Stewart's band, 10cc: "Don't Break the Promises" (...Meanwhile, 1992), and "Yvonne's the One" (Mirror Mirror, 1995). In 1987, EMI released All the Best! which was the first compilation of McCartney's own songs.
In 1988, he released, initially in the Soviet Union only, ????? ? ???? a collection of McCartney cover-versions of his favourite vintage Rock and roll classics which later had a general release in 1991. Around this time, McCartney also began a songwriting partnership with Elvis Costello (Declan MacManus) from which songs would appear on singles and albums by both artists, notably "Veronica"on Costello's album Spike and "My Brave Face" from McCartney's Flowers in the Dirt, (which reached #1 in the UK on releas in 1989). Further McCartney/MacManus compositions for surfaced on Costello's 1991 album Mighty Like a Rose and McCartney's 1993 album Off the Ground. A 1992 McCartney / Starr collaboration "Angel In Disguise" was intended for Ringo's Time Takes Time album, however was not included and remains unreleased to this day. In late 1989, McCartney started his first concert tour since Lennon's murder, also his first tour of the US in thirteen years.
In a 1980 interview, Lennon said that the last time he had seen McCartney was when they had watched the episode of Saturday Night Live (May 1976) in which Lorne Michaels had made his $3,000 cash offer to get Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr to reunite on the show. McCartney and Lennon had seriously considered going to the studio, but were too tired. This event was fictionalised in the 2000 television film Two of Us.