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Tuesday 16 Jul 2024

The Cute Beatle
Streeter Click

Known as the "cute Beatle," James Paul was born, in Walton General Hospital, Liverpool, England on 18 June 1942, to James and Mary McCartney. Mary, was a midwife and nurse, trained at Walton General. His father worked as in cotton sales for the A. Hanney Company and played jazz with "Jim Mac's Jazz Band."

At school, Paul was an exceptional student. He breezed through primary and middle school and passed a test, called the 11-plus examination. This got him into an elite school, the British equivalent of high school, called the Liverpool Institute. This is where he met George Harrison.

In 1955, when he was 14, Mary McCartney had a mastectomy, in an effort to stop the spread of breast cancer. She passed away, a few days later, from post-surgical complications. The bond Paul formed with John Lennon, in part, was based the loss their mothers, at an early age.

Paul started out playing the trumpet. This is likely because his father often took him to local brass band concerts, to expose him to music. He quickly traded the trumpet for acoustic guitar, after a style of music called, Skiffle, became popular in Britain, in the 1950s.

Skiffle, generally, combines folk and blues. It's an interesting form of music, which uses a wide range of conventional and unconventional instruments. Acoustic guitar and piano are as prominent in Skiffle as are the washboard and hair comb.

Paul soon discovered playing a regular guitar was nearly impossible for a lefty. The strings, for one thing, were upside down. After seeing a poster, featuring a well-known musician who played left, with the strings strung the opposite way, McCartney was on his way.

Paul met John Lennon, when he was 15 and Lennon was 17. Lennon had started at Skiffle band called, "The Quarrymen," which interested McCartney. Ivan Vaughan, a mutual friend, introduced them.

McCartney made a lasting impression on "The Quarrymen." He showed them how to tune their guitars, and showcased his talent, performing a few songs with them. Two weeks later, McCartney was a member of the "The Quarrymen."

Jim McCartney was always supportive of his son. Two weeks after Paul joined "The Quarrymen," they were rehearsing in his living room. That done, the elder McCartney thought little of the rebellious and troublesome John Lennon. Aunt Mimi, who was raising Lennon, similarly thought little of McCartney, especially his staunch middle-class up-bringing.

As with all locals bands, "The Quarrymen" changed members, often. In time, George Harrison, whom Paul knew from the Liverpool Institute, joined to play lead guitar. Eventually, Paul reluctantly moved to bass.

The Beatles

"The Beatles" evolved, more or less directly, from "The Quarrymen," after a brief time as "The Silver Beatles." In August, 1960, the final name change was to "The Beatles." Hamburg, Germany, was their first show.

Although Lennon thought him too young, George Harrison joined the band, in 1958. Stuart Sutcliffe, an art school friend of Lennon, was playing bass player. McCartney was singing, playing rhythm guitar and starting to write with Lennon.

Sutcliffe left "The Beatles," in April, 1961, after years of bickering with McCartney, and pass away not long after. Manager, Brian Epstein, fired drummer, Pete Best, in 1962, before the band signed their first recording contract. Richard Starkey, Ringo Starr, replaced Best.

McCartney, wrote or co-wrote, most songs recorded by "The Beatles." He and Lennon were close, at the time, and productive as a team. As a result, they wrote quickly and effectively, making lots of mistakes, many that changed the nature pop music.

A quick glance at the discography of "The Beatles" shows McCartney was the most prolific. Lennon created less material than did McCartney, but his quality was much higher. This is especially true from 1967 until "The Beatles" disbanded, in 1970.

McCartney, more than Lennon, Harrison or Starr, sought centre stage.As the "cute Beatle," he was a media magnet, available, almost at the drop of hat. When his band members moved out of London, to the country side, to avoid the relentless attention, McCartney took a flat in central London, first in the home of his then girlfriend, Jane Asher, and later near the Abbey Road Studios. He wanted to be where the action was, so to speak.

London night clubs and gaming clubs where the McCartney haunts. He took full advantage of his fame, yet had a reputation for being a nice guy. In 1964, when "The Beatles" performed in Washington, DC, Jack Alix, a 21 year old disc jockey, who billed himself as, "JA the DJ," introduced the band; later he told reporters Paul was the only approachable member of the band.

McCartney enjoyed touring and performing live. "The Beatles" toured in 1964, 1965 and 1966; their last show was at Candlestick Park, in San Francisco, in August 1966.McCartney wanted to continue touring, but, as he often said, was outnumbered.

In 1970, McCartney argued "The Beatles" should tour, again. They needed to "get back to their roots," he said. His suggestion was met with such resistance that the fall-out lead directly to the breaking up of "The Beatles," in 1970.

The first solo album, eponymously titled, "McCartney," appeared just before "Abbey Road," the final recording by "The Beatles." McCartney played every instrument on this recording, a not so subtle way of saying he didn't need the others. More important, he now had his own conduit to touring and live performance. Once started, he hasn't let up in almost 40 years.


Fans took to "McCartney, quickly." A second album, "Ram," was released in 1971 and included Linda McCartney, his wife, in a band called "Wings." After two albums, it was time to tour, and not have to leave his family at home.

Supposedly, the name, "Wings," came to McCartney, while praying in a hospital, as he waited for Linda to birth their second child, Stella. "There were complications," he said in a documentary, "Wingspan," and Stella almost died. "I was praying fervently," he said, "and the image of wings came to his mind." It seemed a good omen, as Stella survived and now runs the Channel fashion house and "Wings" became one of the top touring bands of the 1970s.

"Wings," comprised of McCartney, his wife, Linda, on keyboards (sic), Denny Laine, from the "Moody Blues," and drummer Denny Seiwell. In 1972, Henry McCullough, of "Spooky Touch," was added to the band and "Wings" began touring, first in small clubs and universities, throughout Europe.

The renamed, "Paul McCartney and Wings," had several hit recordings and short tours. After a brief UK tour, in 1973, Seiwell and McCullough left the band. They were replaced by Jimmy McCollough and Geoff Briton after the McCartneys and Laine recorded "Band on the Run." The band was renamed, again, as simple "Wings."

"Wings" constantly toured or so it seemed. There were two massive tours -- "Wings Over the World" and "Wings Over America." The US tour spawned an eponymously titled triple disc live album, in 1976. In 1980, a concert film of the Seattle date on the "Wings Over America" tour, was released; it's called, "Rock Show," and is mostly boring.

In the 1980, McCartney ventured out on his own again, recording "McCartney II." As with the first self-title album, McCartney played every instrument on the album himself. The album did well, but seemed mostly an example of his need, at least sometimes, to convince himself he could create on his own.

The assassination of John Lennon, on 9 December 1980, effective McCartney, deeply. He cancelled a tour scheduled for 1981, but didn't tour, again, until 1985. In 1984, McCartney told "Playboy" magazine that he didn't tour as he feared he'd be the next murdered.

Once he started touring, again, in 1985, McCartney kept on going and hasn't stopped. He'll be 65, this year, and is going through what seems a "dirty divorce" from his second wife. None the less, it doesn't seem he's about to retire to raise bees in Sussex. Rumours abound that Sir Paul will tour in 2007 and 2008.

"Paul is Dead": the rumour of all rumours

A rumour is a lie. All rumours are lies, told for rewards of conveying and exchanging interesting information, with others. If facts emerge to confirm the rumour, it becomes gossip. It facts emerge to discredit the rumour, once and for all, it lapses. Until facts, to confirm or discredit emerge, a rumour remains a lie.

The most enduring, large-scale rumour of the 20th century is likely that Paul McCartney is dead. Supposedly, he died on 25 June 1965, in a car accidence, on his way home after just finishing the recording of "Rubber Soul," at Abbey Road studios. Distracted by a pretty meter maid, at 5 am, no less, he drove through a red light and was struck by an on-coming vehicle.

"Paul is Dead" is a rumour comprised of hundreds, if not thousands, of lesser rumours. About 30,000 words are required to introduce the more interesting of the composite rumours. Another 30,000 to discuss the sub-rumours. This is the stuff that baffles brains.

After 1965, when the first inklings of this rumour began circulating, "The Beatles" worked hard to keep it going. Seems it was ironic fun for them. Later, reports surfaced that, at least for some band members, fanning the flames of this rumour was retaliation on fans for disrupting their lives.

The rumour came to world-wide attention in 1969. Tom Konard, it seems, told a Detroit disc jockey, Russ Gibb, about clues on album jackets and in the lyrics. Gibb milked the rumour for days, and it spread to radio stations around the world. Baby boomers were stunned, and couldn't get enough of the story.

Some verifiable information added to the strength of the rumour. Supposedly, McCartney was maimed beyond, in the accident. Manager, Brian Epstein, concocted a plan to replace Paul, at least for public events.

William Campbell, and orphan, no less, from Edinburgh, Scotland, had recently won a world-wide "Paul McCartney Look-a-like Contest." Epstein hired Campbell to portray McCartney. This is a nice twist: truth mixed with a lie.

Campbell, however, was about 3 inches taller than McCartney. Even the dullest fan or journalist would notice and wonder. During public appearances, Epstein kept Campbell away from other band members or seated. For tours, the band performed at greater and greater distances from fans, in stadiums; Campbell wore flat shoes, whereas the others word extra high heeled boots.

In the studio, covering for Campbell was easy. Studio musicians had always played on recordings by "The Beatles." For the few live appearances Campbell made with the band, a sideman played bass, from an off stage location and Campbell faked it.

The faux evidence mounted with each new recording. "Abbey Road," the final recording by "The Beatles," ostensibly confirmed the rumour. It didn't, but it necessarily closed the stream of phoney facts.

Quite simple, the cover of "Abbey Road" may be viewed as a funeral procession. Ringo is dressed as an undertaker, John as a minister and George as a grave digger. Campbell as McCartney is in white, leading the procession by just enough to make height comparisons difficult, and he's bare-foot, a long-standing burial tradition.

The faux facts, the little rumours, that comprise the "Paul is Dead," rumour, are legion. Suffice it to say, the rumour took fire and sustained over 40+ years because of the social importance of "The Beatles." The band speaks for the largest, most influential generation in history. Their mistakes, such as unknowingly not following the conventions of musical composition, were treated as innovations, not errors for fixing. Their personal lives -- Paul and Linda, John and Yoko, especially -- gave people, almost everywhere, something to share and talk about. The "Paul is Dead" rumour reflects the essence of a generation, and lives on.

Rumours typically reflect parochial interests, and have brief lives. Big layoffs are coming or the plant is going to close Christmas Week are typical rumours, important to those directly effected. "Paul is Dead" also reflects those directly effected, and that's a generation of women and men, world-wide, not a few hundred or thousand, in a local community.

Streeter Click is editor of GrubStreet.ca.

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