Join Date: Mar 26, 2001
Location: New York City, USA
Lengthy Interview with Paul from the Irish Independent
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The Irish Independent
Sunday May 25th 2003
PAUL McCartney has been down this long and winding road before, seeing his wife derided in public. It seems it's in vogue to find fault with Heather Mills.
The mean-spirited say she only married the one-time Beatle for his $700m fortune. A newspaper article last May claimed Mills - a patron of
Adopt-A-Minefield and a United Nations Association Goodwill Ambassador - was
under investigation by the UK Charity Commission. She sued and received an apology. A recent Channel 4 documentary (Heather Mills: The Real Mrs McCartney) accused her of being a gold-digger and of lying about her traumatic childhood. Then there were the stories before the Castle Leslie wedding last year that Paul's daughter Stella couldn't stand her future stepmother. And on it went, the bile leaking out
at every turn. Paul heard it all years ago when he was married to Linda Eastman. He learned to live with the snide remarks about his American wife. (And the so-called jokes: What do you call a dog with Wings?) She had been abused,
written off and derided throughout their 30-year marriage. "My answer," Linda told Rolling Stone magazine in 1976, "is always 'F**k off!'"
Twenty-seven years later, however, Heather Mills is perhaps not so battle-hardened. Marrying Paul, she said recently, had brought her a lot of
unhappiness. "I'm glad you've brought this up, because I don't often get an opportunity to
talk about this," Paul said last Sunday, not a little passionately. It's inevitable that he would be livid after the Channel 4 hatchet-job. "It really is out of order what has been said. Obviously, I wouldn't have married Heather
unless I thought she was a really great woman, and very, very impressive. I do think it is shocking not only the way Linda got it just by marrying me - they're not committing any crime, these girls, you know - but with Heather, they're
trying to spoil all the amazing work she does. "She's a fantastic worker,"
he said. "Would you have gone to Gujarat a couple of days after the earthquake? We'd just got home from India and she hotfoots it back out there. She does that for no pay and to raise money for charity."
The previous night, in front of 45,000 people at Munchen Konigs-platz, I watched Paul dedicate Your Loving Flame to Heather. "Help me to discover what it is you're thinking of," he sang, note-perfect, "'Cause when we kiss, nothing
feels the same, / I can spend eternity inside your lovin' flame." The following afternoon in Salzburg, Macca's flame, it appears, is burning brighter than ever. "Heather has got a soul probably bigger than most of the people we
know," he says. "She should be praised for that rather than be on the receiving end of cheap shots. "I warn anybody who writes that stuff about Heather that they are my sworn enemy. It's wildly untrue and it takes a shot at someone we
ought to be praising," he says. "I really do stick up for her and I would like people
in the media to know that anybody who does that with Heather is an enemy of mine. I'm her husband. I'm going to stick up for her."
Paul McCartney is nothing if not consistent. "I could have done a smart bit of PR during the time she [Linda] was being criticised," he told Beatles biographer Hunter Davies in 1977, "but I thought: 'Sod 'em. I don't have toexplain
her away. She's my wife.'" Examining his yesterdays, Macca is still the man he used to be. In 2003, he doesn't see the need to explain away his second wife either. He clearly adores the former model who lost her leg below the knee
in a road accident with a police motorcycle in August 1993. There is nobody like her, he says, proudly. "She spends a lot of her time on the phone counselling young girls who've got to have a leg off. They say: 'I'm so scared - I won't
be able to dance again.' And she says: 'You will!' She talks them through it. She'll talk to some young guy who lost his leg and wants to snowboard. She tells them that she skis and can snowboard."
On July 26, 2001, two years after they first met, Heather and Paul announced their engagement. With a lavish â¬2m reception, they were married on the estate of Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Co Monaghan on June 12 last year. The
wedding in Ireland was a poignant return to Paul's maternal roots - his mother, Mary
Patricia Mohan, had lived nearby before moving to Liverpool when she was 11. "I just wanted to be where my mum was from," he says. "So it was like a sentimental journey. It was lovely that we ended up getting married at Castle Leslie.
It was a fabulous day out. The Irish did us proud. Especially Uncle Jack Leslie - who told everyone it was a secret! We're still laughing about him. He was just fabulous."
The idea for the venue originally came during a trip to Dublin in early 2002. Paul and Heather had visited the Francis Bacon exhibition at the Hugh Lane Gallery. Afterwards, the two of them decided on a whim to hire a car and drive
all the way to Monaghan. While they were there, Paul and Heather heard about this castle which would be the perfect wedding venue.
Paul's parents were married on April 15, 1941 at St Swithin's Roman Catholic Chapel in Gill Moss, Liverpool. They met during a Nazi air raid on
Liverpool. Their first son, James Paul McCartney, was born in Liverpool on June 18,
1942. "My mother grew up in the other capital of Ireland, Liverpool, and became a nurse and then a district nurse and then a midwife," he remembers. "She did very well as a health visitor. Then she ended up as a nit nurse. Who'd have ever guessed that? She was Irish but she was sort of posh-Liverpool. She always used to tell me off for talking funny." It's a bit late now, isn't it? "It is a bit late, you're right," he chuckles. "But all the edges have rubbed off my accent. I have been down south in England longer than I was in Liverpool - which is a scary thought." HIS beloved mother succumbed to breast cancer in 1956 ("She died when I was 14," he says).
The same disease took Linda McCartney in 1998, with Paul by her side; she was first diagnosed on December 7, 1995 and underwent an operation. When she died on April 17, 1998, Paul's life was turned upside-down. He personally chose the 45,000 flowers that decorated Manhattan's Riverside Church where Linda's friends and family gathered to say a final goodbye. Paul and Linda raised four children together: Mary, James, Stella and Heather (the latter by Linda's
first marriage). Mary was born at Avenue Clinic, London, on August 28, 1969. Becoming a father was, says Paul, a magical experience. Holding his baby for the first time, he says, he felt "incredibly proud". "Before you have children, they say, 'Oh, it's the most miraculous thing,' and you go yawn, yawn. Then of
course you have a kid yourself and you realise everything they said - and more - is true." He has two grandsons now "by that little baby I held in my arms all those years ago".
Paul and Linda, so the story goes, never spent more than one night apart in their 30 years together. I ask him if it's still difficult to come to terms with Linda's death. "Yes, it is," he answers quietly, "but it's five years
now. . . and I think anyone who's lost someone after 30 years will know how difficult it is. It's very difficult, but I am a very lucky man to have known her. I am privileged to have known her. And I am now a very lucky man to have found
another lady who I love." Heather has an amazing sense of purpose in life, he says.
Amazingly, it transpires that she also possesses a sense of humour worthy of Brendan O'Carroll. Uncut. Paul is filled with a mixture of shock and awe, he says, whenever he hears his beautiful wife tell jokes. "I'm always saying:
'She's not going to tell that one about the ferret!'" Heather is in New York on charity business (he'll see her in Hamburg in a few days), so she is not here to perform it, but after much persuasion, McCartney agrees to tell his wife's joke, complete with accent changes and mannerisms. "I can't believe I'm doing
this," he laughs. "This guy walks into a pub," begins the author of such tender classics as Let It Be and Yesterday. "He's having a drink when he notices that the barman has a ferret on the bar. That's a bit unusual, he thinks, a ferret on the bar. 'That ferret, you see, gives the best blowjob in the whole world,' says the barman. 'Actually, I've got a couple more round the back. I'm selling them.' "'I'll buy it off you,' he tells the barman and goes home to
his wife. "'You're a bit late home from the pub,' she says before spotting the creature under his arm. 'What's that doing in the house?' "'It's a ferret. I've
just bought it,' he says. "'What do you me want me to do with that?' she asks. "'Teach it to cook and f**k off.'" There is a big burst of laughter from both of us as he finishes his wife's comic routine. "Heather is a bad, bad lady for telling all that," he says fondly. "But she has a great, great sense of humour. And she's not hard to look at either."
Heather was born in 1968, the year the Beatles released The White Album. Seated in their private jet on the tarmac at Kennedy Airport, Heather and Paul watched the Twin Towers blaze on September 11, 2001. The plane never left
the ground. They went to their house on Long Island and continued to watch the tragedy unfold on TV. On September 17, they visited Ground Zero. Three weeks later, Paul organised and headlined the Concert for New York to aid the families of the victims of the World Trade Center disaster and honour the heroes. Living
He's eager to put you at ease, and witty with it. He is, in many senses of the word, a living legend. And you don't want to bother him with silly questions about the enduring characters in the Beatles' songbook - the Walrus, Rita the meter maid, Desmond and Molly, or the secret message on Revolution 9. I've got far sillier questions than that. I ask him if it's true - as reported in a new book on McCartney - that Ted Kennedy interceded with the Japanese
authorities to release him during his famous 10-day incarceration in Toyko for marijuana possession in 1980. (It was hardly a surprise revelation that he would be carrying drugs: as far back as the summer of 1967, Paul was outlining to Life magazine his penchant for LSD.) "Ted Kennedy did help me, yes," he laughs.
"When I was busted in Toyko, their law states that if you're arrested for what I had, the penalty is seven years' hard labour. A lot of liberal people, like Ted Kennedy and John and Yoko, wrote and sent telegrams saying: 'It's less
harmful over here than it is over there. So please take that into account.' The Japanese authorities were, like: 'Wow! Is this really from Senator Kennedy?'" What further impressed his Japanese "hosts" was the fact that Paul had been awarded the MBE in 1965 by the Queen (along with the rest of the Beatles). "When they were questioning me," he recalls, "they asked: 'Does this mean you live at the Palace?' I was tempted to say: 'Yes, I live next door to the Queen -
don't mess with me!'"
Perhaps it's fortunate that he didn't. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth on December 31, 1996; the investiture ceremony took place the following March. I enquire whether HRH mentioned his various drug arrests. "No way," he chortles. She didn't offer you a spliff? "No. I offered her one but she wouldn't do it. 'I don't do that any more, Paul,'" he says, getting the Queen's accent down pat.
PERFORMING some of his best work over a breathless three-hour show that comes to Dublin on Tuesday - his first Irish show in 40 years - McCartney bounces along eagerly on the warm goodwill of the German crowd. He is wide-eyed and
boyish. Even in his 60s, it seems McCartney is still somehow thebaby-faced member of the Beatles who had the girls on The Ed Sullivan Show screaming back in 1964. When he bursts into We Can Work It Out, Let It Be and Hey Jude,
followed by a breathtaking Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Band on the Run, the
audience are entranced - sticking their arms up in clenched-fist salutes, whooping in celebration of each of the twentysomething Beatles songs offered during the set, unleashing ferocious Zippo-lighter ovations for the encores
of Lady Madonna and Yesterday. The realisation that you're watching one of the Beatles, up close and personal, is almost overwhelming.
But I have a question. Does he ever wonder, in an almost out-of-body way, who this Paul McCartney person is, or consider the fact that his life has become ever more surreal: a working-class Liverpool lad who went on to be the most
celebrated songwriter in history, made â¬700m, worked with John Lennon etc? "All the time. God, it's the realisation that this happened to me. And is happening," he says. "It's a bit spooky, you know. But I suppose a deep-sea diver gets
those kind of thoughts: 'Jesus Christ, do I really go down to those depths?' Or a Concorde pilot: 'Do I really fly at twice the speed of sound?' It is a bit daunting. I just go, 'Wow, was I really in the Beatles?' I have a safety
valve where I kind of block it off. He is 'Him' - the other guy. And then at home I'm like 'Our Paul', who I always was." It's a Liverpool thing: if you got big-headed, the locals would tell you to f**k off, I say. "That's one of the
reasons I love going back to Liverpool - no, not to be told to f**k off!" he laughs. "I know exactly what you mean, though, because I grew up there. I'm not anything special when I'm there, which is really cool. Maybe visiting American
branches of the family are in a little bit of awe. For everybody else, I'm just this geezer who's always there and shows up just like all the other cousins and uncles. And then I sort of leave that world and go to the Maldives on
holidays. That's like: this is the Other Geezer."
The Other Geezer bemoans the fact that Liverpool Football Club haven't had a good season, by their standards, and didn't qualify for the Champions League. "People expect everyone from Liverpool to know everyone in the team," he
says, adding, "With the Beatles, we were never massive football fans. We never had time. We left school and went into the Beatles. I went to matches with my Uncle Harry and Uncle Ron, who were Everton supporters. I'm officially
supposed to be an Everton supporter because my dad was born in Everton."
Tough and uncompromising, Paul is far from the prevailing stereotype: the emollient Mr Showbiz who wrote all the nice songs in the Beatles. (He says he ignores criticism - he relishes reminding journalists how critic Richard
Goldstein panned Sgt Pepper, one of the greatest collections of songs ever set to vinyl.) I ask him what was going through his head in 1972 when he penned perhaps his most controversial song ever, Give Ireland Back to the Irish, his
reaction to the troubles in Northern Ireland. He sums up the feelings that made him write the song: "The fact that Bloody Sunday had happened," he says. "That fact, that it came over as our lads - the British troops - killing our mates. It would have been different if it was in the Sudan or something - you would
have been able to remove it to your own imagination - but there, particularly as I am
of Liverpool-Irish descent, it was our people killing our people to me.
"Like a lot of people at the time, I just thought it was wrong, and I wrote a song
imagining if Irish soldiers were on the streets of Liverpool - 'how would you feel?' kind of thing. That was my take. They banned the record." The head of his record company EMI - "a big English guy called Sir Joseph Lockwood", he
says - rang him up before his band Wings released it: "'Paul, you really ought to
think twice about this. It's a very bad idea.' I told him that I thought something's got to be said and I'm going to say and I am going to release it. Henry McCullough - one of our guitar players who was from the north of
Ireland - his brother, who was still living there, got beaten up for his association
with us and the song."
All but one of his Beatles colleagues are gone now; George Harrison of cancer last November; John Lennon murdered in 1980. Onstage that night in Germany, Macca plays Something on a ukekele as an homage to Harrison, and then, in a moving tribute to Lennon, he plays Here Today, an imaginary conversation with the Beatle with whom his relationship was never less than stormy: "And if I say I really knew you well, what would your answer be/ If you were here today?" he sings emotionally. "Well, knowing you, you'd probably laugh and say that we
were worlds apart / But as for me, I still remember how it was before,/ And I am holding back the tears no more. I love you." McCartney explains the song's origins: "It was a moment after he died when you go through your grieving
and you just sort of think, 'What if he was here? What might we say?' We might talk about when we met and, being John, he might say: 'Ah, f**k off,' because we were that kind of mates, and I'd say to him, 'No, you f**k off.' It was just ruminating on that thought that led me to put that song together." He particularly remembers a night he and John sat around crying, "probably just because we were too pissed for words. Just all those special little moments and they all crept into the song. It's like when you think of someone who's passed away,
you get to see them again."
Since Lennon initiated the breakup of the Beatles in 1969 by telling Paul, "I want a divorce," things appeared to go from bad to worse between theseparated couple right up until Lennon's death. Most recently, it turned
nasty when Paul, in the eyes of the world's press, seemed to attempt to rewrite history
by putting his own name first on certain Beatles' songs. (For the record: McCartney and Lennon agreed early on to share all songwriting credits, even though they directly collaborated on only a handful on songs; throughout the
Beatles years "McCartney-Lennon" wrote and sang the vast majority of Beatles tunes.) Unfortunately, the whole affair cast something of a pall over Macca's legacy. "That's been blown out of proportion," he says. "That was just a simple little request, originally in The Beatles Anthology, for the one song and in this
one instance, to put 'Yesterday by Paul McCartney and John Lennon'. I have since said to people that I don't give a shit if they won't let me do it. People get the wrong end of the stick and think I'm trying to get McCartney-Lennon. "I got asked about it a lot," he continues, "and instead of going, 'I don't give a
shit' - which I have now taken to saying, which I don't - I tried to explain it. Of course, if they use half the explanation it comes out like: 'He's dancing on a dead man's grave. He wants to put McCartney-Lennon instead of
Lennon-McCartney.' That's an absolute fallacy. It's not true. I'm happy with Lennon-McCartney. It was just a request for old times' sake."
Years ago, when the Beatles and their wives and girlfriends visited the Maharishi, the guru gave them a book. He wrote in Paul's copy: "Radiate
bliss consciousness." And then, simply, "Enjoy." Initially baffled, McCartney says he eventually took that message to heart. If, at the end of most days, he could say, "That was a good one," it builds, he says, "into a reasonably successful
life". With Heather Mills, you imagine Paul McCartney's found just the woman to finish that building project. Not quite, as the famous song says, 64 yet (he'll be 61 in a few weeks), Paul is nonetheless getting older. But you don't doubt that when he reaches that age, and is losing his hair, Heather will still feed him, still need him, knit him a sweater by the fireside and Sunday morning go for a ride.
Paul McCartney plays the RDS Arena on Tuesday, May 27. Extra tickets are on sale now, Ticketmaster: 0818 719 300. His new album 'Back in the World' is out now on EMI