'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
‘You Gave Me The Answer’ – Tim Minchin Asks (Part 1)
You Gave Me The Answer… Tim Minchin Asks (Part 1)
It’s been another fun ‘One On One’ month here at PaulMcCartney.com with Paul announcing new dates in Colombia, Australia, New Zealand and Mexico!
In an exciting first for Paul, the ANZ dates (our office name for the Australia and New Zealand tour leg!) were announced during a Facebook Live Q&A session with Australia’s very own comedian / musician Tim Minchin.
We were lucky enough to watch the interview from a quiet corner at the back of the room, where we spent half an hour trying to stifle our laughter as Paul and Tim bounced off one another in a brilliant interview!
As the interview was only broadcast to Paul’s ANZ fans, we thought it would be a good idea to share some of our favourite questions and answers in a special two-part edition of ‘You Gave Me The Answer’ - Tim Minchin style!
Tim Minchin [TM]: So I’m gonna tell everyone the dates.
Paul McCartney [PM]: Great
TM: Paul’s starting in Perth on December 2nd, then Melbourne on the 5th, Brisbane on the 9th, Sydney on the 11th and Auckland on 16th of December. I’m incredibly excited by it, I’m gonna try and be down in Australia for them. And what we’re doing today is we’ve got people from the internet who have questions for you, Paul, and I hope they’re all questions that you’ve never heard before.
PM: Yeah, and I will try and answer them - I might refuse to answer a few!
TM: It would be good if we could have a quite awkward moment.
PM: I could get an awkward moment going.
TM: Maybe end up in a fight? That would certainly get on the news.
PM: That will get some attention.
TM: And this is what you need, you need more attention because you just can’t sell tickets otherwise. We need something to go viral!
TM: “What are your fondest memories of Australia? And will we get a chance to hear ‘Ode to a Koala Bear’ being slipped into the set?”
PM: That’s a thought, isn’t it? Yeah, I hadn’t thought about that. Fondest memories I think - wild life! Because we don’t have that over here, we don’t have kangaroos, or koalas. We went to a zoo and me and the kids were able to hold a little peaceful koala.
TM: Yeah, some of them are evil.
PM: This one didn’t attack anyone! Seeing kangaroos hopping by the roadside as we were driving along was fairly surreal for me.
TM: I grew up with that happening all the time, but I must admit it must be pretty weird, if you’ve never seen it before.
PM: Or else it was frogs, hopping.
TM: Yeah, well the first time I saw a frog, I freaked out.
TM: Okay, this is one of those ‘what’s your favourite’ questions - which are always impossible - but Josh Coote from New Zealand asks: “What is your favourite album that you’ve had a part in recording?”
PM: Yeah, like you say it really is a difficult question because they change, you know, your favourites. And also they’re like your children - you don’t want to have a favourite! This year it’s got to be Sgt. Pepper. I’m re-listening to it because it’s been re-released after fifty years! And it does sound good! But I do like Rubber Soul and I do like Band on the Run.
TM: Me too. I find - like everyone does - your career just impossible to get my head around and how you guys survived that and came out being so normal and stuff. But I can’t imagine how you separate those albums in the ‘60s. You were writing songs at such an incredible rate. Do you sometimes misplace experiences? Or is it very clear what the Sgt. Pepper experience was like, or what the Rubber Soul experience was like?
PM: Yeah. You know, it does merge into one a little bit! The Beatles’ recording career, it’s all pretty much Abbey Road. So you know, my main memory of recording is Studio 2, Abbey Road. But I’ve got a pretty good recollection of certainly Sgt. Pepper, because that was the first time we’d been really allowed as much time as we wanted. Because we were now "off the road" and so that was different. We could fuss over every little sound. And you know, I’d kind of forgotten that we did until some of the films and stuff came out about Sgt. Pepper. Where a guy, he does a thing about ‘Penny Lane’. He says, “and here’s ‘Penny Lane’ and here’s the piano”, and he says, “it’s not just one piano, it’s eight pianos”, and I’m going, “What?!"
TM: George, you scallywag
PM: No, Paul and you Beatles, you scallywags ‘cause I’d just forgotten we did that. But we had so much time it was like, “Okay, the piano sounds good, but let’s do another piano, with a bit more trebly – ting ting ting – and bring out that bit. And then let’s put a little harmonium and fold that into the piano sound.”
TM: So you’re building that. ‘Cause the reason I said George is because I assumed that you sorta put down eight versions and then he afterwards…
PM: No, George did a lot of stuff afterwards. But it was mainly us. Mainly us just on a big creative surge, who suddenly had time, you know. So we’d be like, “Ah, let’s do this”. And the chord at the end of ‘A Day In The Life’ – this is one of The Beatles songs for younger viewers – famous chord at the end of it…
TM: I know it very very well.
PM: I just came in and said, “Have you ever put the loud pedal down on the piano and hit a chord and just see how long it lasts for?” I was fascinated. It goes for a good minute, “You can still hear it”, kind of thing. So we did that idea, but then George Martin would say, “Okay, it’s running out”. So he fed in another piano. So George would do expert things like that, which was very cool.
TM: I was obsessed by trying to end a musical I just was involved with writing with a chord that sounded that good. I don’t think we quite made it, but it’s a similar sense of just home – we’re home and we’re not going anywhere. Unbelievable.
TM: “Hey Paul” says Robert House, also from Australia, “just wondering how much the Liverpool sense of humour played a part in the success of The Beatles”. Which I guess is a question you’ve had a million times, but since Ron’s documentary, it’s so present.
PM: No not really. Yeah, you don’t actually get asked. You normally get asked more about music, you know. But I do think it was a big thing. ‘Cause, you know, being from Liverpool, you’re sort of naturally surrounded by a big sense of humour, everyone’s always joshing and doing things, my Dad would say the craziest things. So when the four of us got together we all kind of knew that was our background. And then ‘cause we spent so much time together the sense of humour really helped. And so in songs and things, the sense of humour kind of crept in. I mean we had a song, we were really fighting with, which was one of mine, which was ‘Golden Rings’, and it was terrible. It was like “oh baby I’ll get you golden rings”, and it was like “God” (yawns). We couldn’t, me and John were sitting down and we couldn’t finish it. And then we decided to change it into ‘Drive My Car’, where there’s a girl who hasn’t actually got a car, but she wants a chauffeur. So the sense of humour kind of creeps in, in those kind of places. And then just to stop you going mad, is the other reason for a good sense of humour.
TM: Well, that was the incredible thing about the recent documentary, is, how much that was clear, was that your humour and your comradery was absolute survival. And when being funny stopped working, that’s when you stopped. Like really, when it all got so serious that you couldn’t survive with banter anymore, you could no longer look at the press and be cheeky. That was the beginning of the end of the touring era. That’s certiainly how I-
PM: I think that’s right, yeah. That’s true
TM: Amazing that you got out at that point, instead of letting that – ‘cause then, subsequently there was still all that wit in the lyrics. I mean I’m obsessed by wit in lyrics and it’s why I – part of the many reasons why you guys are so important to me is that you were witty all the time, there was all this stuff going on – anyway this is just gonna turn into one of those – anyway, anyway-
PM: All down to Liverpool. I went back to Liverpool years ago – I’m always going back up and I have a school there which I went to called the Liverpool Institute. Me and George went there, so I tell people “half The Beatles went to this school”, you know – good reason to save it. Anyway it was falling down so we did save it and it’s now a performing arts school. And I was going back up there, feeling very good about myself, you know. And I looked over and I see an old Liverpool guy. He goes “Hey, Paul”, and I go “Yes”, thinking, yes – he goes (swears with two fingers to his face) – “Thank you!” you know.
TM: I’m home.
TM: Wow, I mean there’s so many questions. I haven’t even read this one: “One thing I really admire about you as an artist”, says Ciaran Shalley from New Zealand. “Is your never-ending endeavour to continuously experiment with new sounds and types of music and how you’re always open to collaborating with younger artists like Michael Jackson in the ‘80s and more recently Kanye West and Rihanna. What other modern artists do you like?” It’s me, it’s me, clearly.
PM: Besides, Tim?
TM: Yeah. “And have any helped you? Have any helped influence sounds for some material on your new album?” Do you think you get influence back from them? Do you listen lots?
PM: I’m not sure about that. You know, I definitely like working with other people and so like in Kanye’s case, I just got a phone call and my manager said, “Kanye West would like to work with you”. So I go,“Yeah”. And we do it. I was a little bit nervous at first ‘cause I thought, “Oh God, it could go horribly wrong”. But I was intrigued to see what he was up to and how he did it really. And it was a very intriguing process. You basically don’t write songs. You basically just talk and noodle a bit and you just record it all on your phone. And then he goes away and (whistles) and that’s basically his record! But it was great doing it though because I don’t work like that, I normally sit down with a guitar. So I think it kind of does influence you a bit. It opens doors. As I say, you know, I would just talk to him about something and it would give him an idea for a song and when we finished – we wrote for about two or three days – just in the afternoons and didn’t tell anyone ‘cause I said, “You know, if this doesn’t work, let’s just pretend we didn’t – you know, we never got around to it and don’t tell anyone”. So I was waiting, you know three months after we’d finished. I didn’t really hear anything except, “Hey bro, what’s going – yeah”. But I’m thinking, should I say, “Did we write a song? Is there a record to come out of this?” You know? Anyway this arrives, and it’s a Rihanna song, I’m going, “This is great”. It’s ‘FourFiveSeconds', and I’m going, “This is great!” But I have to ring up and say, “Am I on this?” And he goes, “Oh yeah, you’re the guitar player”. I go, “I don’t remember…” and he says, “yeah, we sped it up”. So they manipulate this, kind of…
TM: It’s a totally different creative process, isn’t it?
PM: Yeah. Although, you know, we were talking about Sgt. Pepper, we loved manipulating. So I think we would have been into a lot of these tricks nowadays. Because you know, we did speed things up a little bit, probably not as much – well we couldn’t have actually sped it up as much as Kanye was allowed to – (makes squealing noise) – it would have been very Mickey Mouse. In fact, you do get a bit of that on the Rihanna record. There is a little bit that goes, “How ‘bout a mystery”. And apparently that’s me, sped up.
TM: It is amazing, and I have no doubt that you... I mean, you guys were pushing the form forward absolutely at an incredible rate. And pushing production technology forward at an incredible rate. It blows my mind to think… I guess people like Kanye perhaps are the equivalent these days. But I’m the same when I think about writing a song. I sit down at a piano and write a song and that’s just… no one that I know at twenty is doing that really. It’s all about loops and…
PM: And it’s a strange thing because I get involved with that. You know, sometimes I’ll try a producer I’ve never worked with before but I like what he does. So I say, “Well, you know - here goes nothing!” I’ll just ring him up and we’ll get together. And again I’m going in the studio with songs, wondering if I’m gonna be asked to use them. And it’s like, “Well, no.” (Mimes drumming) “Here’s a groove”. I go, “Well, that’s good”. And now the producer will say, “Now go out and sing”. I’ll go, “Uh, what?” He’ll say, “Well just, you know… feel it!”
TM: I find that so scary
PM: It’s improv. Well, I actually… halfway through these sessions – I've just recently done it. It worked out. But halfway through I said, “This is like panic for me". ‘Cause I’m standing there. I don’t know how the tune goes, I don’t know what the words are. And I’m just going, “Yeah! Woah! I really love you, baby! Woah! I gotta get it on!” And these are the worst bloody lyrics ever!
TM: Because your starting lyrics are always bad. That’s the point of songwriting is that you start with crap and you hone it into something good. And you go, “What? We’re gonna leave out the honing bit and just do the intuitive bit?” I don’t know, but…
PM: I ended up saying, “Okay, we’ll do it like this. But then you’ve gotta go away and I’ve gotta write this song”. You know, we’ll do all the blocking (sings). Then I’ll go (sings) and put words in. But it was fascinating doing it.
TM: I bet. I find it weird.
Make sure to check back next month for part two of ‘You Gave Me The Answer – Tim Minchin Asks…'