McCartney—Once Through the Charm
Tammy Hitchcock, KRLA Beat, 17 June 1967
Labels seem to be essential in the music business. The powers-that-be dictate that an entertainer is not truly successful until he has been labeled. Thus we find one Paul McCartney, “the charming Beatle.“
It was often said of McCartney that if he hadn’t been an entertainer he probably would have been a politician since he could be relied upon to say the right things at the right time, soothe the ruffled feelings caused by his not-quite-so-tactful cohort, John Lennon, and to smile, smile, smile.
There is no question about it—Paul has a cunning way with words. Asked if the Stones are more popular than the Beatles, McCartney lifted a questioning eyebrow: “Are they? I don’t think so. I wouldn’t like to say who is more popular. The Stones have got their publicity agent and we’ve got ours. It’s up to you who you believe. The Stones are good lads and I don’t want people to think that it’ll come to us sticking our tongues out at each other like school kids.”
At the very beginning when adults were blaming the Beatles for their son’s stubborn resistance to the barber’s shears. Paul announced that the Beatles didn’t have any responsibility whatsoever to their fans. “It would probably be a nicer answer if I said yes we have a responsibility to fans, but I can’t be noble for the sake of it.”
The Beatles had no sooner landed in America for their first visit than a nationally-syndicated columnist broke the Jane Asher/Paul McCartney romance and the rumors have haunted Paul to this day. Every reporter asked the same question of McCartney: “Are you married or planning to marry Jane Asher?” He smiled and bore the monotonous questioning until finally he was fed up. “I’ve no plans but everybody keeps saying I have. Maybe they know better. They say I’m married and divorced and have 50 kids—so you might as well say it too.”
McCartney’s “charming” label became a drag as time went on and he concentrated more on saying what he felt rather than what others wanted him to say. He disliked the protest song movement intensely and said so. "They make me concentrate too much on the lyric—which I don’t like.
"I think Barry McGuire’s ‘Eve Of Destruction’ is rubbish. And when I first heard it I thought it was bad. When I saw McGuire in person leaping around in those boots and growling, I just fell about!
“The Manfreds did a protest number on television which was the end. It was so bad they must have written it themselves.”
But to say that Paul completely gave up being “the charming Beatle” would be a lie. He was as charming as he’d ever been—only quite a bit more frank and a little more outspoken.
In 1965 the Beatles turned-down an invitation to appear before the Queen at the Royal Variety Show in London and it was Paul who explained the group’s decision to the press. “It’s not our audience. If we went on and those people didn’t like us everyone would say, ‘ha, ha, the Beatles failed, they’re on the slide’.”
His sense of humor he kept intact: his ability to laugh at himself, at the Beatles and at the world, no doubt, saw him through some pretty rough times. Walter Shensen tells one of the funniest stories about McCartney.
It seems that once Paul approached Shensen with a newspaper review from one of the London papers. “I don’t think it’s fair,” moaned McCartney. “This chap says we’re boorish. That’s the one thing we’re not—we never bore.’’ Shensen explained that "boorish” does not mean “boring” it means “uncouth.” "Oh, uncouth,” said the relieved Paul. “Well, I think that’s fair enough!’’
The deafening waves of screams which traditionally accompany a Beatle concert received much notice in the press. Reporters demanded to know how the Beatles I felt about performing amid the noise.
And it was Paul who answered:
“The fans pay their money to come in and if they want to scream then that’s their perogative. We don’t mind if they scream. Why should we?
"The only thing that counts is that they are having a good time for their money. Anyway, five years ago we were playing without the screams and, friend, it wasn’t half as nice. I mean, the bread is important too, you know.’’
Although it was Lennon who received the attention for making How I Won the War, it was McCartney who first left the group to try his hand alone. He wrote "Woman’’ for Peter and Gordon, but asked that a pen name be used rather than his real name. His idea worked—for awhile.
"I knew someone would find out the truth sooner or later,” said Paul, “but I’m glad the story didn’t leak out until after ‘Woman* had become a hit in Britain and America. I hate to read record reviews which say that so-and-so will have a hit just because a Beatle number is involved. It’s not fair on the artists concerned.
"Anyway, my idea worked. Incidentally. this is the only song I’ve published under a pen name. I don’t plan to repeat the idea … well, not at the moment, anyway!"
Paul is well-noted for his cool. It’s amazing how he keeps it when people ask sonic of the most ridiculous questions imaginable. An "image” is manufactured by a press agent and the press itself. It often times has nothing to do with what entertainers arc really like. Yet during the summer of ’66 a reporter stood himself up and asked Paul to explain the Beatles’ image.
“I don’t know,” snapped the hard-to-irritate McCartney. “Our image is what we read in the papers. You people make up our image. We know what our real image, is and it’s nothing like ‘image’.”
McCartney once said: *I’m always pleased when somebody has a hit with one of our songs—it’s almost as good as us doing it.“ Yet, a rather well-informed reporter wanted to know what Paul thought of other artists "stealing” the Beatles’ material.
“They don’t steal them,” fired back Paul. “No, I know they don’t,” replied the reporter. “But you just said they did,” countered Paul, "and besides, we pinch just as much as the rest of’em.”
The Beatles will never tour America again. The press will never have the opportunity to try their hand at making Beatles squirm. But, undoubtedly. McCartney will continue to look through his charm and allow the world an occasional glimpse of what goes on inside his mind.