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2002-Apr-10: Sir Paul's Reflections from Las Vegas

Last week, Sir Paul granted an interview with a Toronto Star reporter in his backstage lounge after completed his sound check at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.  For the interview, Sir Paul kicked off his canvas shoes and settled into a black velvet sofa.  He wore a rumpled, off-white linen jacket and trousers, a khaki T-shirt and white socks and was eating nuts from a cup that he had carried into the lounge.

First, he responded to being compared to Mozart, Bach and Beethoven, Sir Paul replied:

"Well, that's a load of rubbish, isn't it?  I take all that with a pinch of salt. It's very nice of them to say all that, but I must say ... I like Cole Porter, but I'm not sure I want to go up against him, or Beethoven, Gershwin, whoever. People suggest I'm in that league, but I don't think of myself that way. I just try and do well. When I write a song, I always try for something great, and if I get lucky, it works. But I don't really analyze what makes it work. It's intuition.  I'm not clever like them. I write to please myself.  I've caught myself sometimes trying to be clever, and I think, 'What if it just got simple?' And I always surprise myself."
Once again, he denied that this will be his final tour:
"Well, I never use that word.  I never think that far ahead.  And about the future and how posterity will address me, I don't care, really. I'm pleased with what's happening to me right now. It feels good, and that's about as far as I can take it. If I was worried about protecting my legacy, I'd have retired years ago. People have actually suggested that - 'Paul, you've done so much, why not rest on your laurels?'  And I tell them I wouldn't like that. What would I do? It would make me unhappy. I like playing music. It's that simple."
Just a few weeks from this 60th birthday, Sir Paul is delighting his concert audiences with more than three dozen songs that he still sings in the same keys he sang in at age 19:
"I can still do it, touch wood. I don't know how. It's ridiculous. If I think about it too much, I frighten myself. I really don't get tired. I don't even like talking about it for fear tomorrow I'll be struck down. At the moment I feel blessed. I feel very energetic I have this great new relationship and that has given me a new lease on life."
Sir Paul stated that rather than putting together a show designed to promote his new Driving Rain album, he instead prefers "to give the people what they want to hear." he explained:
"Something has happened here in America since Sept. 11 that no one could have planned.  I just happened to be in America recording, happened to be asked to do the Madison Square concert and wrote a song, Freedom, because I thought that would be appropriate, since it's what those firemen and policemen value most.

"Now that song has become a very big part of our act and has sort of cemented our relationship with Americans all over again.  The next thing was the Super Bowl, which wasn't planned, either - a billion in the (television) audience - and The Oscars. And since I had this great band (longtime keyboards player Paul 'Wix' Wickens, drummer Abe Laboriel Jr., young Los Angeles session guitarist Rusty Anderson, and veteran bassist/guitarist Brian Ray) already together for the album, it seemed the time was right to do some more concerts."

Sir Paul added that technological advances and seasoned handlers make performing much more pleasant these days:
"All it comes down to is me and music and the band - as long as we really enjoy playing is all that matters.  The thing is, I'm at a really good point in my life. I've had a lot of tragedy in the last few years, with Linda passing, then George.  And now I'm over that particular hurdle, and it's a blessing.  I didn't just wonder if I'd ever play again.  I wondered if I'd live. During that first year, after Linda died in 1998, I thought I might just conk out. It's been known to happen after the loss of a mate of over 30 years.  We were very tight, never out of each other's sight. At the end of that year, and I hadn't conked out, I felt all right. At the end of the second year, I thought I saw light at the end of the tunnel, and that it wasn't the end of the world.   And during that second year, I found my new girlfriend. She's great. I didn't think I could be that lucky twice.

"This is turning out to be a huge year.  I'm touring America, I've got an exhibition of paintings opening in Liverpool, and in June, the same month I'm getting married, we're playing for the Queen!  Like I said, I didn't plan any of this.  George Martin's involved with the Queen's jubilee, and he's such a great guy, that if he asks you, you do it.  He's like a father figure, George, a great gentleman, and he puts it to you so civilly: 'Paul, would there be any possibility of your playing for Her Majesty?' 'Yes!' sez I.

"It was always like that. We never planned anything from The Beatles through Wings till now. The original idea was to form a really great band, and that happened.  Then, Wings was a way of continuing after The Beatles, and that happened. Now, back on the road, I'm aware that all the good baggage that has accumulated has nothing to do with me. I didn't make it happen. It's not my fault."

The reporter observed that Sir Paul has remained stoically innocent. He is polite and familiar with people he meets, often appears eager to please. He has always wanted to be liked, is humble to a fault, self deprecating, the first to mock his own pretensions. He is a true person - not an act - and the reporter concludes that these qualities have served him well in the face of his temptations to excess.  About these excesses, Sir Paul commented:
"There was a time when I didn't avoid them, at the end of the 1960s.  I think it's something to do with my family. I come from a very level headed, working class family in Liverpool, and the worst thing they do is drink to excess. When I started smoking pot, my Aunty Gin was sent down to talk to me. I sent her back up north with a joint. Cheeky."
When Sir Paul laughed at this thought, the reported observed that his eyes still sparkle like a child.  Sir Paul responded:
"That's okay. But call it 'child-like,' not 'child-ish'. That gets a bit on me wick.

"My family wouldn't take any nonsense from me. They're the kinds of people who keep your feet on the ground, very good people, honest people. I had a gut feeling that heroin and too much cocaine would burn you out. I sort of tried it, like everyone else, and I got fed up with it. I remember thinking, 'This isn't really going anywhere.' I was supposed to be having fun, getting high, and I was only getting low.

"Being a Gemini, I like to do all kinds of things. I've even got stamps being issued on the Isle of Man. It was another one of those things you wouldn't think of turning down. They wrote to me, saying they heard I painted, and would I like to send off some designs for stamps. And I said, 'What? Yeah!' It's very simple - just pictures of little flowers, very rough. But nice colors. They wrote back to thank me when they arrived. 'It was like Christmas this morning,' they said, 'We're calling them The Happy Stamps.'

"Well, that's what I like in life. That's why I do a lot of things when I'm asked. I respond to enthusiasm. That's why I did that symphony (The Liverpool Oratorio) at Liverpool Auditorium. It just sounded so exciting.

"Sometimes I agree to things before I think of the deeper significance of them. Luckily, my question is no longer how much does it pay, but how much enthusiasm is there, how much fun can I have with this?"

"The list of things I want to do and see gets more complete.  There have been so many great things that have happened to me. It's too difficult to single out the greatest. But some of the best are the first American tour with The Beatles. America, to us, was the land of the free, of Elvis and Little Richard, of all our idols, all those black blues and r'n'b musicians, and here we were, massive in America - arriving at the airport, Ed Sullivan, they were massive. Meeting the Queen the first time and playing for her, that was pretty massive. Recording Sgt. Pepper is something I'll never forget."
Does he have any regrets?  Sir Paul hesitates, then replies:
"I used to say I'd never have any regrets. But as you go on, eventually you must have some, probably in relationships with people. I'm now in a more stable and secure point in the development of my character, when I feel like I'm all right. Not much more than that. So, now, if John was around, I'd want to spend more time with him, be more communicative with him. I'd like to say to him, 'Do you know what a huge f......g character you are in my life?' Get all serious with him. Just let him know.  But you don't do these things when you should. I didn't. I wish I had.  I had a chance to do that with George. Before he died, I was able to hold his hand for three or four hours. When people are gone, there's no chance to have another word with them. So, whatever you said to them the last time you have to live with.

"I did get into regretting things for a while. These characters were so central to my life, so important to so many other people's lives, and I didn't say to them everything I wanted to say, I didn't spend a lot of time with them. Then I thought: That's the way The Beatles were. We didn't all go off to the bar together after the show. We split up and did our own things. That was in our characters, and it may have been the reason we were what we were as a band.  So I've sort of let myself off that hook."

Acknowledging what The Beatles accomplished together gives him peace now:
 "Playing a lot of the early Beatles songs again, I'm impressed by their simplicity. That's why they work. In retrospect, it's easy to see why they connected. I don't often listen to our compilations, but I do listen a lot to Beatles 1, and I can look back on those songs like a craftsman appreciating a piece of old furniture.  After all this time I'm able to say, 'That's well made, that is'."

(kindly submitted by PLUGGED correspondent Joan M. Hopkins)


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