FOR WHOM THE BELL TELLS (Issue 28)
Happy New Year!
I thought I'd start the New Year with a quick recap of the final months of a very busy 2014.
Whilst a lot of people were winding down in November and December, there was plenty to keep us busy over at McCartney HQ before we started our Christmas shopping – not least the release of Paul's brand new single 'Hope For The Future'.
November saw two classic Wings albums reissued and Paul's final tour dates of 2014 in stunning Brazil, as well as plenty of topical discussion about a new seasonal advert that made its much talked about debut on TV in the UK. Forget the John Lewis advert, this year the press all wanted to know what Paul thought about the new Christmas Sainsbury's ad. What on earth does it have to do with him, you might wonder? Well, the minute it was first broadcast, my phone started ringing off the hook with questions about the similarities between the advert and Paul’s legendary 'Pipes of Peace' video. Once I took a look, I could understand why! Seems like he certainly may have inspired them...
WINGS OVER NOVEMBER…
Paul was far too busy in November for us to spend too long thinking about Christmas though, with some huge tour dates and a brand new single on the horizon. As well as playing his last US show of the year in Greensboro, Paul was celebrating the latest releases from the GRAMMY Award winning 'Paul McCartney Archive Collection' with the reissues of classic Wings albums Venus and Mars and Wings At The Speed of Sound. Unbelievably, these are the sixth and seventh titles to be released since the Archive launched in 2010 and are a real treat for both new listeners and original fans as they’re packed with great extras, unreleased music and interviews with Paul. All aspects of the reissues were personally supervised by Paul and all the remastering work was done at Abbey Road by the same team who have worked on the previous reissues and The Beatles' catalogue.
I’ve certainly been enjoying the chance to get to know the albums all over again and the press reaction couldn’t have been better either. Rave reviews came from Uncut and The Sun amongst others while Classic Rock noted that "a spirit of extreme musicality still shines through what Wings created, just as it did nearly 40 years ago... These two exemplary remountings will contribute to the deserved reappraisal of Wings in McCartney’s canon”.
Meanwhile, Q Magazine made 'Venus and Mars' and 'Rock Show' their Track of the Day while Mojo hosted the exclusive streaming of the remastered version of 'Let ‘Em In'. They also revealed the original individual contact sheets of the photos used for the sleeve of At The Speed Of Sound. Perhaps my own personal favourite coverage came in the Times Magazine though, which featured some amazing Linda McCartney images taken for the Venus and Mars session.
The releases found great support from radio too. To promote the reissues, Geoff Lloyd on Absolute had the exclusive play of 'Rock Show (New Version)' while an alternative version of 'Letting Go' was placed with BBC 6Music as their MPFree and was downloaded 23,000 times from PaulMcCartney.com within days of its release. BBC Radio 2 then broadcast a radio documentary to mark the release called 'What Macca Did Next: The Decade With Wings', which was made pick of the day in the Telegraph, Independent, i and Mail on Sunday.
November also saw the release of 'The Art of McCartney', a double album described by The Mirror as “a long overdue tribute to a true legend”. Although the album had nothing to do with Paul himself or his office, it did feature the mighty Wix, Abe, Rusty and Brian – aka McCartney’s band – and 42 of Paul’s greatest tracks, with musical tributes paid by some of the world’s finest artists including Bob Dylan, BB King, Chrissie Hynde and The Cure.
HOPE FOR THE FUTURE…
In typical McCartney fashion, however, his focus in recent months has been on his brand new single 'Hope For The Future'. The song is taken from the computer game 'Destiny', the first time Paul has written music for this genre. Made by Bungie, the studio behind 'Halo', the game was one of the biggest entertainment launches of the year and is widely expected to revolutionise the gaming industry, with fans queuing through the night to get their first glimpse back in September.
Paul teased fans with a tweet back in 2012 confirming he was working on a project with Bungie but we had to wait until the game’s official release to hear Paul’s work on the soundtrack and the epic theme song 'Hope For The Future'. He explained the process of writing for such a project in an interview with BBC 6Music.
“When you’re writing something like this which is custom made, it’s like doing a portrait for someone. You have to use your imagination to work out what they need and what they’re gonna want and what you want to give them. And you try and combine those two things into something that you think still keeps the integrity. So in the game you’re basically trying to save Earth from the invaders – the aliens – so that suggested to me the hope for the future idea, so I went from there.”
Produced by Giles Martin, the track finally received its own official release on December 8th. In anticipation of this, BBC Radio 2 made the track its 'Record of The Week' in November and it was quickly added to their A-list. An alternative 'Thrash Mix' of the song also got its premiere on XFM and BBC 6Music.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN…
Of course before the single was released, there was still time for some final tour dates of the year. After 18 months, 63 shows, 11 different countries and performing to almost 2 million people, the 'Out There' tour returned to Brazil last month and I was very happy to join Paul on the road for it. From the moment he was greeted by a huge crowd of frenzied fans and media at the airport in Vitória, I knew this was going to be an extraordinary trip and it did not disappoint.
Incredibly, it was Paul's first time in Vitória and the city welcomed him with open arms. The show was set to be the area's first ever stadium rock concert, and I could feel the excitement in the air everywhere we went. Not least when Paul took us all out for dinner to a local restaurant on the first evening.
His arrival had already been preceded by an appearance on the front cover of 'A Tribuna', the largest paper in Vitória, and a journalist from the publication met me in the hotel lobby as I arrived to tell me that, despite the interview Paul had previously done with them, they couldn’t quite believe he was going to come to the city until he walked off the plane. It was the first of several interviews Paul did to celebrate the momentous show and he also chatted with radio stations in the car on the way to the venue and talked to Vejinha magazine, a prestigious weekly lifestyle magazine which put Paul on the front cover the week after the concert.
On the day of the show itself, there were huge posters hung everywhere welcoming Paul alongside pop up merchandise stores (definitely not selling any of the official merch...!). To mark both Paul's visit and the fact it was the area's first stadium concert, TV network Globo ran a competition for fans to meet the man himself after his sound check. There were tears all round when the lucky six winners were finally introduced to Macca before many, many photos were taken!
We then discovered even attempting a show was an achievement in itself as the stadium is only half finished. First built for the World Cup, it was never completed so conditions were certainly challenging, but somehow it only seemed to add to the anticipation and Paul delivered the show everyone had been waiting for. The next morning, the local press all agreed it had been history in the making with Tribuna de Vitória proclaiming that “the crowd realised how incredible it was to see one of the greatest artists on the planet visiting their city,” while the Gazeta de Vitória noted that Paul himself seemed “taken aback by the genuine excitement of the audience who for the first time welcomed the Beatle to their city.”
Certainly, we all realised it was going to take something pretty unique to top Vitória as we made our way to Rio the next day for Paul's first ever indoor date in Brazil. Held at the HSBC Arena, the show was described by the press as a one-off “intimate” concert, yet it was still watched by an audience of 16,000. So, not exactly a cramped club night...!
Tickets were like gold dust and it seemed like all of Rio turned out in the hope of getting into the show. The traffic around the venue was duly horrendous with some of the team taking four hours to arrive and even Paul himself taking an hour with a police escort! Luckily, he made it in one piece for his latest show start ever – finally taking to the stage at 10.30pm for a three hour performance where I even spotted dancing nuns in the crowd rocking out. I’ll never listen to 'Lady Madonna' in quite the same way!
Despite the late finish, Paul jetted straight back to New York after the show to be with his daughter Stella, who was honoured the following day with a Women’s Leadership Award. There was no way Paul would miss such a huge event, but sadly it did mean he missed seeing a fan appear on the biggest breakfast show in Brazil the morning after the show to get his autograph tattooed on her shoulder live on TV!
As Paul moved from New York to London, I relived the phenomenal show in Rio through the reviews that started flooding in from overawed journalists who had attended the show. Estadão noted that as “soon as the images of the former Beatle appeared on the screen before the show, the fans went into delirium,” while O Dia summed up the show perfectly by calling it simply “sublime”.
BACK IN THE UK…
Paul wasn’t done with Brazil just yet though. Due back for more dates before the end of November, Paul first had some business to attend to back in the UK. As well as appearing on BBC 6Music and XFM to talk about 'Hope To The Future', he also found time to call into Lily Cole’s Impossible HQ in a tiny store in London’s Berwick Street to chat to around 30 aspiring musicians and songwriters about his experiences. It must have been Paul’s smallest audience in decades!
The following day, another technological first for Paul was revealed with the launch of a free app from virtual reality filmmakers Jaunt which allows users to watch immersive 3D footage of Paul performing 'Live and Let Die' at San Francisco's Candlestick Park using homemade goggles. Described as the first step of a virtual reality revolution, the app was recommended by everyone from Billboard to Forbes, with CNET saying that “with headphones on, it lends a you-are-there feel that you simply can’t get from watching static 2D (or even 3D) video. Screenshots don’t even remotely do it justice.”
GET BACK… TO BRAZIL
With the rest of the world finally getting the chance to experience what Paul feels on stage, the man himself was back to the real thing, jetting into Brazil early one Saturday morning for a sell out show to 55,000 fans at Brasília's National Stadium. At the same time, the respected weekly arts mag 'Veja' hit the newsstands with Paul on the cover. Despite torrential rain, the fans' spirit could not be dampened and the concert was a resounding success, with Correio Braziliense declaring that “Beatlemania is stronger than ever before in Brasilia” the following day.
Sadly, I was all too aware after the show that the end of the tour was now in sight with just two dates left in 2014 in São Paulo's Allianz Park. The fans there certainly made sure Paul ended an incredible year of touring in style too. Even before we arrived in the city, word reached us that fans had already been camping outside the venue for days in the pouring rain. One 10 year old fan was so keen to buy tickets to the show, he started a Facebook business selling homemade plastic bracelets, eventually making enough money to bring along his mother and aunt. Of course when Paul heard about this, he insisted on bringing 10 year old Matheus backstage to meet him before the show, where the little boy presented him with one of his bracelets which Paul then wore for the entire show!
Despite heavy rain, the first night was described the following day by Folha de S. Paulo simply as “the best musical show in the world” while Globo decided that “if we were able to watch Paul's show every month, we'd welcome the rain every time.”
It was a truly unforgettable way to end a very special year of touring that has seen Paul play some unforgettable shows in South, Central and North America. With Christmas now creeping upon us, it was time to head back to London (and that Sainsbury's ad all over the TV!) to get ready for the global release of 'Hope For The Future'. Only available exclusively within the game itself before now, the track marks the first time Paul has ever written specifically for a video game and the digital bundle will include the original anthem alongside four exclusive mixes. With radio already loving the track, it seems like it is already shaping up to be a McCartney classic of the future.
Paul's first week back in London from Brazil saw him undertake a full on media schedule to talk about his latest release. In one day, at London's Ham Yard Hotel, Paul spoke to press from all over the world who wanted to know about his experience of writing for a computer game. As part of the press day an incredible 3D Paul was on display, created from a 3D scan that was used to create the Paul hologram that stars in the video for the song. In the same week Paul appeared on The Jonathan Ross show in the UK. The show Paul was on enjoyed the highest ratings of their series… I don’t think it is a coincidence!
A few days later and Paul completed a satellite TV tour of the US (a huge logistical undertaking). From one studio in London Paul spoke with ten TV breakfast shows across the country. The day coincided with some massive storms over the Atlantic Ocean meaning there were delays of nearly six seconds during some of the interviews, which Paul took in his stride making jokes about along the way.
Then it was time for Paul to visit the US for real. A trip to New York saw him make appearances on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. If you missed either of them and live in the US you can check the shows out here:
Paul also recorded an interview with The Nerdist and you can get the podcast by clicking HERE!
2014 was another incredible year for us all on Team McCartney. Paul set the standard high back in January when he won 5 GRAMMYs and the year has been a whirlwind since.
We can’t wait to see what 2015 will bring!