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2000-Sep-13: News Update

Byline: Paul McCartney

Three articles with a Paul McCartney byline appeared in the September 12 issues of the Times (London):

Fond memories of John Lennon

ANY MINUTE now it is going to be what would have been my mate John's 60th birthday, and for some reason when I think about it, it's the silly little things that I remember.

John was always short-sighted, and consequently wore thick horn-rimmed specs. When there were girls about these became a bit of an embarrassment to him so he would whip them off, but then be completely unable to see anything around him.

This problem was cured by the emergence of the late great Buddy Holly. Buddy's popularity meant that John could wear his specs with pride - most of the time, that is. I do remember one occasion when he'd been to my house in Forthlin Road. It was around Christmas and we'd been working on a song; he left around midnight, taking a short walk back to his home.

The next day he said to me: "Those people on the corner of Booker Avenue must be mad. They were out on their porch last night after 12, sitting around the table playing cards." Puzzled by this, I went past the house later in the day to discover that the midnight card players were, in fact, a Nativity scene with the holy couple bending over the baby Jesus.

Finally, on the same note, one of the most poignant exchanges between John and me (which will probably mean nothing to anyone except me) came after a minor argument we had had on some point or other and, realising he had hurt me with one of his comments, John lowered his granny glasses and peeking out from behind them said gently: "It's only me."

Battle to ban landmines

RECENTLY my interest has been reawakened in the landmine issue through my friendship with Heather Mills. Thinking through my personal reaction to the problem of landmines, it occurred to me that the thing to do was to imagine you had been living in a country that had been at war. Peace had now been declared, but as you were on your way to work, stuck in a traffic jam, bullets were still flying through the air. You would take a child for a walk at the weekend while snipers were still firing from the trees.

This would be totally unacceptable, but that is exactly what happens when landmines are left behind. It seemed to me, when seen like this, that a clearer picture is painted of what we need to do, and that is why I am now involved in a campaign to ban landmines for ever.

Please don't call me a 'celebrity painter'

I've got a book coming out this week, which is exciting and a little daunting too, because it's a book that I once thought you would never get to see, a book of my paintings.

People say to me: "I didn't know you painted", and they wouldn't, because for about 15 years I hardly talked about it to anyone outside my family. And for more than 20 years before that I didn't paint (even though I wanted to) because I didn't reckon I was entitled to.

Throughout the Sixties and the Seventies, I didn't dare to buy a canvas because I believed that "people like me" were not allowed to paint - that because I hadn't gone to art school it was not right for me to paint.

But I had always loved painting. I won a small art prize at school, and as a kid I was interested in modern art. I'd buy long rolls of paper, lay them out on the floor and use watercolours or poster paints and blow the paint everywhere - as I blew, it would splay out like spiders' webs. I did a few of those big abstracts, which I'd hang in my room for decoration.

Even when I was in the Beatles and began to be interested in collecting art, meeting artists through my friend Robert Fraser, I still couldn't get around this idea that the likes of me didn't paint on canvas, we were allowed only to paint bits of wood or toilet seats ...

It was Linda who helped me to get around the problem. When I turned 40 she introduced me to the great American painter Willem de Kooning. Linda's family had long been friends of de Kooning, her father Lee was his lawyer, and she took me to meet him at his studio in Long Island.

It was a great experience to watch him paint and chat about his work. At the end of our visit he said that he'd like to give us a present of one of his paintings and that we should take our pick. Being friends, we didn't want to take one of the big million-dollar jobs, so we selected a small one which he had framed himself.

To me, it looked like a painting of a purple mountain, but, being unsure, I said to de Kooning: "At the risk of appearing gauche, Bill...what is it?" - and he replied: "I dunno; looks like a couch, huh?"

That "huh?" in that moment liberated me. I'd thought his painting looked like a mountain and he thought it looked like a couch - but the fact that he said that it didn't matter was such a liberation. And so, at the age of 40, I grew up and realised that I could paint if I wanted to. It was allowed.

So I bought a few canvases and started painting - now that I was free I devoured canvases, and in the 15 years that followed I painted more than 500.

But then I came up against another block - the whole "celebrity painter" thing. I didn't want to get labelled with that one, but I knew it was lurking out there because anyone who crosses out of his own field into a different medium tends to get criticised.

Because I was known as a musician, I felt some critics wouldn't even allow for the possibility that I could also paint (even though Leonardo Da Vinci apparently ended his days as a court musician).

So I just painted and didn't talk about it beyond my family circle - I felt that if the news got out I might get calls from galleries who would want to exhibit my work, not because the work did or didn't deserve an exhibition, but because they would want to exhibit my name.

Sure enough, after I'd painted privately for 15 years, the news did leak out and galleries offered me exhibitions. I said: "But you haven't seen my paintings," and they would say: "Oh, that doesn't matter..." But it did matter; that was the "celebrity painter" label I wanted to avoid.

I might have painted in private for the rest of my life if it hadn't been for the curator of an art museum in the off-Broadway German town of Siegen. He also inquired about an exhibition, but he was the first person who wasn't remotely interested that I'd been a Beatle. He was interested in the pictures as pictures, not as my pictures. So last year I agreed to his request; and a little nervously I did the show in this remote place and got enough positive feedback from that to encourage me.

Now I've got a book of my paintings coming out - and I cautiously agreed to that only because the publishers asked me to do it on the strength of the Siegen catalogue - and to give anybody interested in what I do on canvas the chance to check it out. I know I'll be getting a few snide comments for doing this book - it seems that if you approach the art world by one route, that's OK, but if you've come via another route, then it invites prejudice. In fact, after Siegen, one "critic" wrote that I "shouldn't be allowed to do this". Stupid, but it's kind of interesting; it's that art college entitlement thing again - maybe it's not just me who had the hang-up.

September 11, Paul addresses the UN Conference on Landmines

In Geneva, Switzerland, Sir Paul McCartney has delivered the opening address at the UN Conference on landmines urging all Governments to ban landmines and provide more support for landmine victims.

Sir Paul told representatives: "We support the campaign to get every country to join the Ottawa Convention. We want to see an end to the use, manufacture, production stockpiling and export of landmines. We applaud Governments that have already joined. The treaty is a vital step forward. "But there is still an urgent need for greater effort to clear mined land and to help the victims. Not enough is being done. Too many people are still being killed and maimed, too much land can't be used. This is a problem that can be solved, if we want to. Every minute counts. Imagine you've been living in a country that was at war. Now the war is over and peace has been declared, you're on the way to work in the morning in the traffic and the bullets are still flying. This is obviously unacceptable, but this is exactly what leaving land mines behind is. "

VIVA USA

Sir Paul has recorded a message to be played in Atlanta, Georgia on September 14 at the launching of Viva USA (Vegetarians International Voice for Animals) in which he urges Americans to support this British animal charity by turning vegetarian with these words: "There's a whole host of things threatening the planet but Government and big business don't seem to be doing anything about it. But you can and you don't need anyone's permission. You can help end the appalling cruelty to animals, you can save the environment and you can improve your own health - just by going vegetarian. It couldn't be easier, so join us."

Paul Confronts His Critic

Sir Paul McCartney, is furious with a certain art critic who has been panning his talents as a painter: "I liked the idea of getting feedback, but the moment it got reviewed, people like Brian Sewell, whose name I shouldn't know but do, said, 'But he's hopeless! He just can't paint!" McCartney added: "You get plans to mug him. Find out where he lives, but then you say, 'No come on. You just don't do that.'"

Lifetime Achiever

On September 9, it was announced that Sir Paul had been nominated for lifetime achievement accolades in a new awards initiative launched by the BBC.    His daughter, Stella, has also been nominated in the Arts category. All the People's Awards winners honored at the awards ceremony on October 6th 2000 at the Royal Albert Hall will have been nominated and voted for by the British public. aims to honour outstanding individuals who have been selected by the public to be recognized for their major contributions to society.  To cast your vote for Sir Paul, please visit
http://www.bbc.co.uk/peoplesawards/vote.shtml before September 24.

On September 5,  Sir Paul's lifetime achievements were recognized at GQ magazine's Men Of The Year Awards at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London. 

(kindly submitted by PLUGGED correspondent Joan M. Hopkins)


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