'THE LYRICS: 1956 TO THE PRESENT' out November 2nd
In this extraordinary book, with unparalleled candour, Paul recounts his life and art through the prism of 154 songs from all stages of his career.
Edited and Introduced by Paul Muldoon
Published 2nd November, 2021
For Whom The Bell Tells... Issue 17
Even by Paul’s standards, I’m certain the last few weeks have proved to be fairly unbeatable for Paul on both a personal and professional level – and they’ve certainly been thrilling to be a part of.
It all began at the end of September with the premiere of Paul's ballet 'Ocean's Kingdom' at the David H. Koch theatre in New York City. I have to confess I’d never actually seen a ballet and always felt it wouldn’t be something that would appeal to me, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I had already heard Paul’s score and was well into it, so I was keen to see what would happen when the curtain went up and the music was matched with the ballet itself.
Once in New York, I arrived with a BBC News Team the day before the show and we headed down to the theatre to see the final preparations. Paul was there along with Peter Martins, sat in the stalls deep in conversation and occasionally pointing at different things on the stage. Then the lights went down and we got to witness a section of the ballet being rehearsed. The stage was empty but first brought to life by some amazing projections before the music started up and the dancing began. I can honestly say I was blown away. Ballet in real life was very different to the experience of watching it on TV. This was quite incredible. It was like watching Olympic athletes. Both I and the journalists with me were transfixed and all sat there with our mouths open when the lights came up just fifteen minutes later!
Afterwards, Paul broke from rehearsals to chat with BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz about the project. It's a great interview and you can see it here. The BBC went to town on it and it was broadcast across all their TV news bulletins, Radio 4 Today, online and on BBC's Newsnight Review show too.
After Paul's interview, we left him to it as there was still plenty to be done ahead of the big night. Typically, Paul still found some time to lighten the mood amidst all the hard work though. At one point, he ran off in the building’s huge, beautiful foyer and found a piano where he proceeded to entertain all the unsuspecting venue staff who were busy getting the theatre ready for the forthcoming extravaganza. Bet that was a day at work they’ll never forget…
When it came to the end of rehearsals I grabbed Paul for a few words to see how he was feeling ahead of the event. Paul told me, “We’ve done the best we can do, so we can do no more. We’ve put a lot of work into it. I’ll be a bit nervous but that’s a good thing I think.”
When the big day itself arrived, it was a beautiful warm day in the Big Apple and the city seemed to be buzzing with anticipation for the ballet’s premiere. Crowds of media and fans camped outside the theatre waiting for the fun to begin and people had travelled from across the world to be there. As the evening drew in and showtime neared, the excitement was almost tangible. The expansive square in front of the theatre's entrance was totally packed as the crowds waited to see their hero arrive. To say it was a glamorous evening would be an understatement. One of the on-site PR team told me that even the NYC Ballet Fall Gala doesn't normally receive quite so much attention! The Lincoln Centre was absolutely the place to be with celebrities including Sarah Jessica Parker, Naomi Watts, Liv Tyler, Steve Buscemi, Anjelica Houston, Alec Baldwin and Jon Bon Jovi joining a packed out crowd for a champagne reception before the show. My favourite memory from this, though, is spotting an immaculately turned out young woman sporting both a beautiful evening dress and a tattoo on her neck of the artwork for Paul’s ‘Ecce Cor Meum’ album. That’s serious dedication!
Of course, as soon as Paul arrived, people from all over the building started making a beeline to the big man. I was with Craig from the Telegraph who had met Paul a couple of weeks previously in his London office and we made our way over to go say hi to Paul and wish him luck for the big moment ahead. Not only was he as laid back as ever, without even a trace of discernible nervousness to him, but he immediately greeted Craig by name without any prompting from me whatsoever. I really don't know how he does it but he has an incredible gift for names and faces - I think Craig was pretty amazed too. We chatted with Paul for a little while waiting for the crowds to die down so Paul and Nancy could take their seats and the world premiere of Ocean's Kingdom could begin. It was certainly a performance no one will forget in a hurry.
There was a fantastic atmosphere in the theatre and Paul received a standing ovation after the performance. Everything about the performance was captivating. There was no scenery as such. Everything was done by lighting and projections, it was amazing the effects this created. Stella’s costumes went down brilliantly too. One of the dancers told me later that evening that it was just so cool (and surreal) to be in a ballet written by Paul McCartney whilst wearing Stella McCartney.
Back in the UK a few days later and the UK promo for 'Ocean's Kingdom' was hotting up too. The EPK – that is the Electronic Press Kit we put together for the media featuring a Q&A session with Paul and some extra behind the scenes footage - was extremely well received. It even got featured on the cool rock n' roll sites that wouldn't normally touch ballet. The Telegraph ran the story on the cover of their Sunday supplement Seven Magazine, which was an excellent read written by the previously mentioned Craig and Classic FM even devoted a special show to Paul covering all aspects of his classical career to mark the album’s release. Finally on the 3rd, the album was actually released and all we could do was wait a week for the chart position. A bit like sitting an exam and waiting for a result.
Meanwhile, it seemed like the rest of the world’s media had something rather interesting to distract themselves with and I suddenly seemed to be very popular. Rumours of a certain wedding were flying about and each day brought a new unfounded theory about what was going to happen. Some people are very inventive indeed! The truth of the matter is that the happy couple had a low key and intimate day that was just as they had wanted… despite the huge amount of interest from around the globe. There was certainly no way the big day was going to go unnoticed and the press duly went into overdrive, with the streets outside Marylebone Registry Office packed with fans, well wishers and cameras.
The wedding party itself was a classy and elegant affair that looked like a magical enchanted scene from a woodland fairy tale, brought alive by the huge amount of love in the place. It was such a fun night too with much dancing and laughing until the early hours. A highlight for me had to be seeing Ronnie Wood on the dance floor cutting some moves to his own hit with The Faces, 'Stay With Me'. Certainly, pop star (turned wedding DJ) Mark Ronson pulled some great tunes out for the occasion including tracks from The Beatles, Amy Winehouse, Prince and of course some Macca solo material - 'Coming Up' went down particularly well. As you’d expect, Paul and Nancy were on the dance floor all night clearly loving every moment and were joined by smiling family and friends including the likes of Kate Moss and Jamie Hince. Safe to say it was a brilliant night and a privilege to be there – my congratulations to the happy couple!
The next morning, I was up bright and early to rush to the newsagent and find Paul and Nancy on the cover of every paper. Happily, all the reporting was so positive, it was nice to see some positive news in the papers for once (even if a few inaccuracies crept in here and there!) Certainly, the entire world seemed to be wishing the couple well and further messages poured in from chat rooms and blogs over the next few days, which I know Paul was hugely grateful for.
Don’t think that meant this month was all fun and no work though! On 10th October, Paul announced the dates for his brand new tour ‘On The Run’, then promptly sold out all eleven dates. He even broke sales records in Liverpool and Manchester, selling out both on the very first day of being on sale, while his much anticipated date in Paris sold out in just thirty minutes. Meanwhile, more great news came when we discovered ‘Oceans Kingdom’ had topped the Billboard Classical Chart and proceeded to stay at Number One for two weeks.
After such an incredible few weeks, it seemed only fair that Paul ended October with a well-deserved party, when he continued his wedding celebrations with Nancy in New York. At an unforgettable night at the Bowery Hotel, the couple were joined for a night of dinner and dancing by friends including Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon, Keith Richards, Dave Grohl, Jon Bon Jovi, James Taylor, Barbara Walters, Elvis Costello, Steve Buscemi, Ralph Lauren and even the city’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Now that’s what I call a party! Still, no one could argue Paul had plenty to celebrate this month and all in our office and Team Macca send the couple huge congratulations.
And now, as you would have read on the site, the new leg of the ‘On the Run’ tour has got off to a brilliant start. More news from the road to follow soon.