“Let’s face it: I’m cool. Everyone tells me that I am”
“People say, ‘Where are all your gold discs?’ I don’t do that. I just don’t wanna get smug–but of course, on the other hand, I want to think I’m great. Because when the hell am I going to bask in this? What am I going to do, wait till I die and go ‘Oh fuck, I should have taken a week.'”
Just finished reading the McCartney story in the November issue of Rolling Stone… a thing I have avoided with great stealth for the majority of my life, but this was like a fortune cookie. OK… yeah… I suppose that bears some explaining. I don’t care for fortune cookies, in fact I’m not fond of any dessert that doesn’t involve chocolate (dark) or caramel… and in a perfect world, both! The point is (actually, the point is that I wanted to write) that I only open fortune cookies when I feel compelled to. This happens rarely nowadays, but the last couple times I felt a fortune cookie might be hiding a relevant insight in the hollows of its flat flavorless self, the fortunes were very relevant–even though ordinarily they’re about as relevant as Bazooka Joe comics. This issue of Rolling Stone was like that… I just kinda felt it was gonna be worth cracking open, relevant… I heard the call just as I hear it from certain fortune cookies. As much as I should probably edit out that fortune cookie comparison, eh… it works.
Glory be! How attitudes about McCartney are changing. Oh, sure, there are still dinosaurs like Howard Sounes about, old farts who are still clinging to their faded hipness with all their might, clutching their fingers into McCartney as they slide further and deeper into irrelevance… but the rest of the world seems to be moving on and laughing off the silly affectation of disliking McCartney out of a sense of hipster duty. Yes, Rolling Stone not only treated McCartney with respect, the article actually shone at moments when words like “great,” “Badass” and “cool” were used to describe him; a refreshing collection of adjectives considering that for decades McCartney was erroneously considered anything but great, badass and cool.
Moreso, the article was NOT about the fucking Beatles. Oh, of course a couple of those old topics came up, but the article did not rely on that, nor on entirely propping itself up through discussing Lennon. No, this article stayed admirably focused on the beauty and brilliance of Paul McCartney now. Right NOW! Which is where the attention belongs and belonged all along. McCartney was a Beatle, and now he is a Master, to me, that is more interesting.
In fact, again, unbelievable for Rolling Stone, when the Lennon Myth comes up (that myth in which McCartney is Lennon’s “dimple-cheeked sidekick,” in the words of Rolling Stone), McCartney is not crushed by them in favor of Lennon, no, McCartney and his body of work is treated with more openness and recognition. Dare I say it, Rolling Stone treated McCartney with the generous amount of respect he is damn well due!
When discussing his nature they talk of how Paul is agitated by inertia… which is also good phrasing as it utterly describes his methods and output. Since the end of the Beatles, McCartney has never been inert, rather his approach, attitude, and end results always reveal a restless search for new horizons.
“I’ve always had this sense of wonder; still have.”
The article is full of little gems like that, little insights, like his talking about singing the old songs, about his approach to them, to keeping them fresh. He talks about not doing them on auto-pilot, of examining the songs of this twentysomething person that was him so long ago. “I’m still trying to look at it–what the hell is this thing? Why did I do this?” The article revealed unexpected little stories and concepts, like this massive robot he plans on performing with on stage–trust me, you’ll have to read that part yourself. Ultimately, the symbolism of this giant robot bit is what fascinated me… again, you gotta read this bit yourself, I dare not summarize it.
The article actually went into some very surprising territory, regarding both the music and the his personal life. I am astounded to say that I learned things from the article, things that brought me a much deeper appreciation of a few of his songs. In fact, those moments in the article absolutely turned me around on a couple songs… not that they were at all bad… I had simply missed the grander point being made in the songs. The one thing I really was reminded of is just how deliberate he is, how he has vision, real vision, and how many layers there are to his songs. Nothing is a throwaway. Many many things are hidden in McCartney’s songs… which is why he so fascinates me, and so alienates critics like Mr. Sounes… critics don’t have the wisdom to search through to the hidden layers.
Two of the finest examples of songs that I gained insight to through this article would be “Save Us” from the new album, and “Nod Your Head” from Memory Almost Full. I had originally tossed the lyrics to “Nod Your Head” off as not having any meaning, but now that I realize that it was McCartney singing about his love of oral sex… well the song is suddenly not only positively filthy, but hot… but keep in mind… it always rocked. In fact that whole obsessively sexual aspect of McCartney somehow slid by me. We learn about how he thinks about sex through this article, and I can most definitely see it in the lyrics. This was traced back to the Beatles in the discussion, but they also discussed “Eat At Home” from Ram as having been about sex as well. I blush to realize that I really had no idea! Actually, I rather liked learning this.
Regarding “Save Us,” I learned that the song is about (in McCartney’s own words) “The savior aspect of having a good woman.” I love his phrasing of that, strong, religious, and not that of a kid writing love songs. This also reminded me of “Rough Ride” from Flowers In the Dirt, which I had figured was about the very same thing back in 1989… as well as about flat-out sex. Now I know my suspicions were confirmed, and it also confirms my suspicions of “I Owe It All To You” from Off the Ground being about the savior aspect of love. That has always been a favorite, and knowing I was right about it is lovely. “I Owe It All To You” most definitely sings of love as part of the spiritual and mystical life. Again, not kids’ stuff love song wise. As for “Save Us,” it was one of the few songs on the new album that didn’t knock me out… now it’s starting to knock at me a little more.
I learned many other things I suspected from McCartney, that his dancing around affable thumbs-up thing is not phoney… that’s who he is with his crew even when the cameras are off. Of course, every yin has it’s yang, and I also learned that he is a stern employer–wouldn’t he have to be, after all, he is (Rolling Stone’s words) “Paul Motherfucking McCartney.”
Well, while I’m pleased Rolling Stone has caught up… he was always, great, badass, cool, and Paul Motherfucking McCartney, even when they were too blind to see it and too deaf to hear it.
Just goes to show you, doesn’t it? Sometimes… they are ALL wrong, all of them! Sometimes, it’s not Paul, it’s not us, it’s them, and we just have to wait for them to catch up to us. I find this comforting, and am pleased to have learned it through Paul Motherfucking McCartney.