Paul McCartney can break your heart in many ways.
I went to a Catholic school and was in the choir. I had a solid voice and the head of the choir used me in sections to hold the proper pitch among the younger boys. As a reward I was allowed to have a solo at High Mass at Christmas. There were five soloists. I was equal to three. The fifth soloist was a kid who never came to rehearsals, was a truant, a juvenile delinquent, and only showed up on Sundays. When he sang, the Church filled with music that reverberated throughout the ages. I can still hear his voice. In the book, DEATH COMES FOR THE ARCHBISHOP, two priests in primitive New Mexico discover a bell that has a wonderful sound and they speculate that bell has come from Spain and contains a quantity of silver that gives it its special tone. This kid’s voice was solid gold. So’s Paul McCartney’s. When he sings, you forget everything. He sounds exactly like that kid in the choir.
I met Paul during the making of FREE AS A BIRD. He acted as self-appointed co-producer with Neil Aspinall. I ignored most (all) of his suggestions. Out of respect, I did spend several months trying to make one suggestion work. It turned out to be a frustrating waste of time. I later found that is was just a whim on Paul’s part, not a real idea.
Paul is a meddler. He thinks he’s omniscient. Neil spent a great deal of his time dealing with Paul’s annoyances, trying to humor him without disturbing the Beatles’ legacy. During the research and preparation for FREE AS A BIRD, Paul had me at the edge more than once. I had to send every idea to all the Beatles for approval. It was not a democracy. If any single one (or Yoko) didn’t approve an idea, it went away, no discussion. In the middle of the project, Paul told me that he didn’t think the idea that I was working on would last more than thirty seconds, a deliberate reference to my commercials background. He had produced a terrible video for the other digital song, REAL LOVE. I called Neil and said that he should replace me. I wasn’t being petulant, I was being realistic. Paul’s influence was so pervasive that I knew that the piece wouldn’t be any good without his complete cooperation. By some miracle, he didn’t show up for any of the shooting but during the editing in London he gave me the same speech he had given me months before about the ‘thirty second idea.’ I deflected it this time by myself but I almost bit my tongue in half. He said that the piece ‘lacked emotion.’ I replied that the Beatles weren’t in there yet. Their digital insertion still had to be done. His only comment was to remove a character that represented “Mother Mary.” Another strong indicator of his meddling was Yoko’s calling Neil after she saw the piece telling him that she didn’t want Paul to ‘change one frame.”
A few years later, he called me to do a video for a new album. The song was a tribute to his wife, Linda, who was ill. I worked on the idea with Michael Patti and sent it to him. After several promising conversations, I didn’t hear from him again. He did a cheesy video, using several of the ideas (badly). Not cool. He probably thought they were his.
It never ended. I had been working on a new version of the YELLOW SUBMARINE with Warren Eakins, who had created the Nike commercial WRECKING BALL. It was to coincide with the re release of the movie. Some animators from SPACE JAM had created a digital submarine that was fabulous. The notion was that the submarine could go anywhere. Warner Brothers wanted it badly. Suddenly, Neil called pulling the plug.
I can’t say right now.
It turned out that Paul had created an internal crisis at APPLE CORP by wanting to change all the song credits to McCartney/Lennon. Neil realized what a disaster this would be to the then fragile empire and had to concentrate on that issue. Goodbye YELLOW SUBMARINE.
When Paul led the coalition to squeeze Neil out of APPLE after all those years, Paul gave him a watch, just like GE would. All the years of driving them to gigs, creating their fortunes while they played, changing their diapers, and cleaning their messes, he got a watch. I think he got to keep his twenty-year-old Bentley.
Paul’s voice still thrills, though.