For Whom The Bell Tells… A NEW blog
It's a rainy Friday afternoon in Soho. The first Friday of September and the glorious long summer feels like a distant memory. This week has very much felt like it's been back to school for everyone with people returning from the summer breaks and getting back into the swing of things.
Today we are meeting up with Paul at his London HQ to discuss artwork for the NEW album.
To back track a little at this point... the NEW album was announced just a week earlier as a surprise, even though speculation has been feverish in recent months... and what a great response too. In the newsroom we were very impressed too that, in this day and age of social media, nothing leaked before the official announcement; a rarity. Some regular readers have been contacting us in recent months desperate to know about the new album and Paul's recording news so I'm sorry I couldn't be more forthcoming and I hope you can see why.
To rewind a little further, I can now share some info that I couldn't mention in earlier blogs. In Brazil earlier this year, on the “Out There” tour, Paul shared some of the new music with his crew at an aftershow party. Talk about a perk of the job! People might say I'm biased because of my job but it was so exciting to hear and it was very hard for me not to tweet or blog about it. Naturally for my job I have to be a fan in the first instance but to be able to tell people about the quality of the music, the excitement and energy on this album without feeling like a boring sales person is a buzz.
I knew it was good when I heard it because the morning after listening I could remember some of the melodies very clearly and I was eager for repeat listens. The touring crew were also very excited and we all shared our own reviews with each other at tour catering the very next day.
Months later and the announcement date was finally upon us. The days leading up to it were very exciting indeed. Lots of meetings, phone calls, planning and writing to get things in place. We had an album playback with the record label in London and it was great to see their reaction too. The label asked for repeat plays, which in my experience is pretty unheard of.
Kicking off with the word 'castle', Paul had the idea to tweet a selection of words that went with the word 'new', just days before the announcement. Sure enough this got people talking and credit to those on the message boards who finally seemed to piece it together ahead of the reveal. We had a few calls from mainstream media, checking if Paul's account had been hacked and trying to work it all out.
Steve, who runs all Paul's social network channels, had some great stats on these tweets too which I thought you might like to see. The number after the word shows you how many re-tweets each word got.
In order the words went out:
'Potato' is the largest amount of re-tweets Paul has had since the Olympics opening ceremony last year!
Even Hilary Clinton mentioned to Paul how fun she thought the tease was and how she had been trying to work out what his tweets meant!
Then at 12:01 (EST), 29th August, the track 'New' went live. It was out there. The track was put on Paul's YouTube channel without a video and has recieved more than a million plays, which is awesome and very impressive without a video.
Reviews and reactions were instantly posted.
'Opening with some jaunty harpsichord and a typically bouncy bassline, it's McCartney at his two thumbs up best, sweetly singing about how the lady in his life "came along and made my life a song."'
'New is a jaunty, Beatles-esque stomp topped with undulating Beach Boys harmonising.'
'The song has a classic McCartney feel with a sturdy beat and buoyant melody.'
'Doe eyed optimism, irresistible melody... channeling the polished, sunny sonics of mid-period Beatles.'
'Bubbles and harmonises like a lost fab four classic.'
‘A Beatlesque pop confection with tasty production by retro-modernist Mark Ronson, "New" rides along on a bouncy harpsichord-flavored melody line and a touch of brass that recalls "Got to Get You Into My Life."’
The announcement also saw Paul McCartney trending worldwide on Twitter, in fact he was trending at number one!
With the announcement came a fairly impromptu radio interview schedule for Paul, who was actually still on his holiday in the US. From my desk in London I called into Paul at the Hamptons and spent an hour or so patching him through to some radio stations in the UK and US. Paul was happy to chat away whilst, unbeknownst to the DJs, still enjoying his morning breakfast cereal. 'I'm living on the edge!', he joked whilst waiting to join a US morning show!
These interviews gave Paul the chance to finally start really talking about the album publicly. He discussed working with the various producers, the style of the album and why his job still excites him so much.
"It all comes down to the fact that I love it, I love the whole process," he told one of the stations. "When I was a kid, I started getting into music and I got a guitar. Then when I got into a group I was fascinated by the whole thing - this idea of trying to make music and later trying to write songs - it's become an eternal fascination for me.”
"If you said to me now, ok, this afternoon you are going to sit down and write a song, that would really excite me - I just love delving into that area and trying to write something - and taking that into the studio is another kind of excitement because then you get to play around with it. Then you take it out on the road and play it for real people and that is the ultimate excitement."
Talking directly about NEW he said:
"It's funny, when I play people the album they’re surprised it’s me. A lot of the tracks are quite varied and not necessarily in a style you'd recognise as mine. I didn't want it to all sound the same.
“I've really enjoyed making this album. It's always great to get a chance to get into the studio with a bunch of new songs and I was lucky to work with some very cool producers. We had a lot of fun."
UK music bible NME hit the stands in London just days after the reveal with an extended news story about NEW, revealing some additional track titles with extra quotes from Paul about the recording sessions themselves.
The Sun, Britain’s biggest selling newspaper, who heard a couple of extra tracks enthused that NEW is, 'Shaping up to be one of the best releases of the year… Save Us is the kind of song that should be played on both Radio 1 and Radio 2… Fans will hear bits of Band on the Run, Lady Madonna and Sgt. Pepper’s in the mix'.
Back to where I started - Paul's London HQ. On the 4th floor of Paul's Soho office a team of 12 people have assembled with Paul to discuss the album artwork. Paul wants to make sure people get value for money in terms of what gets included. It's not for me to give it away but there are some cool touches and the design, which as I write is days away from being revealed, looks great too.
Paul told us a story about how once Japan didn’t want to stock one of his albums because they didn’t include lyrics in the sleeve notes!
The meeting is a fun session with lots of great ideas, in contrast to the rain outside. At one point Paul's manager brings the meeting back to order as Paul was having a laugh with the team and going off on a tangent. 'Well that's us told', he said. 'I feel like a naughty schoolboy mucking about in class!"
It's a very fruitful afternoon and the album is really coming alive in every sense now. With just four weeks to go until launch Paul is going to be very busy getting out and playing some of the NEW album for people to hear. He's currently with the band rehearsing up the new stuff. I had an email exchange with Abe last night in which he said how well it's all going and how 'awesome' the new stuff sounds.
There are going to be lots of interviews cropping up about NEW in the coming weeks and we'll keep you posted on all news and info on appearances. British music magazine MOJO flew out to the US at the end of last month to talk to Paul about the album and this interview will be out as a cover story at the end of September.
I can’t finish this blog without mentioning the conclusion of the latest leg of the “Out There” tour. Only this morning I saw a great news story about how Paul's visit to Regina had a staggering effect on the local economy, with reports saying that economically speaking, Paul's show was one of the biggest events Queen City has ever seen. It is estimated that around 50% of those that attended the show were from out of town, generating a massive tourism income for the area estimated to be around $9.4 million - not bad for a day's work!
The last run consisted of three shows. The first being an appearance at San Francisco’s Outside Lands Festival and the final two shows in Canada (Winnipeg and Regina). Reviews were consistent with that of the tour to date.
‘The crowd had come together to see the former Beatle and Wing’s leader, Paul McCartney. He took on the Lands End Stage for a set that lasted close to 3 amazing hours. McCartney kicked things off with the Beatles hit “Eight Days A Week” and included a ton of music from the Beatles era like “Hey Jude,” “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” “Let It Be” and “Magical Mystery Tour,” a song which was not part of his current “Out There” Tour.
During a raucous “Live and Let Die” set, Sir Paul wowed the audience with the accompaniment of a pyrotechnics display that lit up the night sky.
McCartney brings up on-stage two girls with signs that read “Paul, Please Sign Me! Be My First and Only Tattoo!” The two decided they wanted his signature on their left wrist so they can have his autograph forever. A bit of a writing challenge and much to McCartney’s chagrin, he had to embrace each girl in order to “get the angle” for proper signage.
Not many artists can do a second encore, but Paul McCartney is one icon that can. Accompanied by a string quartet, McCartney proceeded with the poignantly done Beatles hit, “Yesterday”. Afterwards, McCartney turns to guitarist Rusty Anderson and back to the audience and says, “He tells me one more. Okay, he asked for it,” and goes on to rip right into an amazing performance of the Beatles’ hit “Helter Skelter".’
CBS San Francisco
'Returning to Winnipeg for the first time in two decades, McCartney proved he could still whip a crowd into a frenzy with the wink of an eye and a shake of his shaggy mop top.
McCartney looked at home on stage, in a white button-down shirt, slim blue jeans and yes, what appeared to be a pair of Beatle boots. He chatted between songs, telling stories about his time in London in the ‘60s with guitarists Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix.’
Metro News Winnipeg
‘While McCartney has spent the better part of the last 50 years touring the world, he wasn’t about to take Wednesday’s show for granted. “These events are so cool, I’ve got to take a minute to drink it in for myself,” he explained to the crowd. From the reactions of the fans, the concert was also very cool for them. After all, how many times do you get to see a rock and roll legend pound out 37 songs in a two hour and 50 minute set?
McCartney’s allure is that he’s a witty and charismatic entertainer. He’s more than just a singer or a songwriter — he’s also a comic and a storyteller. It’s almost impossible to pick out all the memorable moments of the show, just because there were so many of them. Some of my highlights: a wicked rendition of Band on the Run, watching the City of Regina Pipe Band joining McCartney during Mull of Kintyre and the rocking version of Live and Let Die with all its pyro and fireworks.’
That’s it for now. The tour will pick up in Japan in November but that feels like a long time away right now. We’ve got an album campaign to be getting on with so lots to be doing. You’ll start hearing new bits and pieces in the coming weeks and I’m excited for you to hear stuff. I'm positive you’ll feel the same way that I do.
As I finish this up we’ve just had the great news that ‘New’ will be Radio 2’s Record of the Week next week. We’re off to a great start!
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