For Whom The Bell Tells… Issue 20
I have a terrible feeling that this month’s blog might sound a little conceited so I'm apologising in advance just in case…
I have to remember that standing on the side of the stage watching Paul bring the Diamond Jubilee show to an epic finale was actually real. I did actually get to do that. And for those who say it must suck having to work on a bank holiday, you are absolutely wrong. It was a magical night. The perfect end to a great day. It was surreal watching across to the Royal Box and seeing them up on their feet dancing and singing along to 'All My Loving'; perhaps we've more in common with them than I thought! There was also another career first for Paul too, as The Times were to later note, ‘Of all the achievements in one ex-Beatles career, getting the Archbishop of Canterbury, the most Rev Rowan Williams, to sing along to All My Loving must rank amongst Sir Paul’s oddest.’
I had even more fun catching up with Paul about it over a cup of tea and some bagels just days later, getting all the inside gossip (more of that to come!). The last I saw of Paul on the evening itself was spotting him being hurried along with his wife and the band to the Palace to party with the Royal Family. My Macca AAA pass normally gets me into most places but that night, me and the rest of the crew, had to do our partying in the backstage compound as rock royalty was whisked off to mingle with actual royalty.
Although we were onsite from about 10am and the show didn't finish until nearly 11pm, it was one of those days that seemed to last just a heartbeat. At 10am the place still felt weirdly quiet, although from the stage you could see the crowds starting to gather all around the grounds. At midday, Paul arrived ready for his soundcheck. Wearing special Jubilee sunglasses, he greeted us all in his friendly style and then took to the stage. The stage manager noticed that rather a lot of people had gathered in front of the stage at this point and he kindly asked anyone who didn't need to be there to get back to work. This dispersed the crowd of 'workers' for all of about 30 seconds before they all found new positions to watch Paul rehearse from with their iPhones in hand. Well, if you had the chance, you would too! On the other hand, it was the one moment all day the tight security found itself vulnerable, as the heavily armed police swapped their machine guns for their mobile phones.
After rehearsals, Paul dashed off home for his own family’s Jubilee celebrations until his call time later that afternoon. My phone was ringing off the hook from the world’s media. They all wanted a piece of the big man. Paul agreed to talk to the media on site upon his return so you can imagine the media’s delight. For some reason I became a very popular man all of a sudden.
In the cramped but friendly backstage corridors, both artists and music execs seemed to have a whole list of excuses - ‘I’m just looking for so and so’ etc - in order to come down to the end of the corridor near Paul’s dressing room hoping for a glimpse. And when Paul did arrive back on site, the traffic in his end of the corridor increased tenfold. From Gary Barlow to Stevie Wonder, they all came by to say hi to our man.
And so to the media commitments… we walked from the dressing room compound to the mini makeshift media village. Even though I’d let the relevant producers know that Paul would be coming, they had been texting and emailing every two minutes just to double check so there was obvious excitement and relief on their faces when Paul arrived. Paul was happy to chat to everyone and really made a lot of people’s day. The best moment had to be when Radio 2’s Chris Evans was chatting with Will.i.am and excitedly brought Paul in to the conversation. He asked Will.i.am to ask Paul some questions. There was a long pause as Will.i.am, looking a little stunned, just stared at Paul. ‘I’m a little star struck here’, he eventually managed before clicking into gear and chatting with Paul.
Before we knew it, time had flown past and Paul and the band headed to the stage to wait for their anticipated performance. Golf buggies, the only way to travel, appeared at the dressing rooms and took the guys off at what seemed like breakneck speed. When the guys arrived at the stage, they were then taken into a room directly behind the stage where all the others were gathering for the big finale. Heads swiveled as Paul walked in. This time, it was the artists and presenters pulling out their mobile phones trying to get a photo with Paul and Paul, as always, was very obliging. Finally, Paul, Wix, Brian, Abe and Rusty made their way to the stage as the crowd’s excitement reached deafening levels.
With 17.1 million people (in the UK alone) tuned in to the BBC, Paul kicked off with ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ and next came ‘All My Loving’. Paul followed these up with ‘Let It Be’, which sparked a mass sing-a-long around the Palace and down the Mall with projections of candles on the Palace itself. Then it was ‘Live and Let Die’ which saw the crowd punching the air and waving flags in delight as fireworks and lasers pierced the skies. After ‘Live and Let Die’, Paul got down from his piano stool and was handed a specially made Union Jack Hofner bass guitar to huge cheers before launching into a joyous ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’, which the Telegraph described as an ‘utterly appropriate ending’. Paul was joined on stage by the entire line up before introducing Her Majesty to the stage.
What a night. Just last month I wrote that our trip to Mexico was possibly my favourite recent adventure with Paul but this was easily on a par. It was a very different kind of a day but still so special, really a once in a lifetime moment. Although for Paul it was his second once in lifetime moment, as he had also topped the bill for the Queen ten years earlier.
The very next morning, the lovely Oritse Williams from pop sensations JLS sent the newsroom a picture he took of himself and Paul in the Palace. After being told by Royal security team to put his phone away, Oritse admitted he just couldn’t miss this opportunity!
A few days later, I caught up with Paul for the aforementioned tea and bagels. I asked him how, out of all the crazy moments this year, this one ranked and whether it was his standout moment. He told me, “I think it has to be. It was so special in so many ways. You’re only doing 15 minutes, which makes it different from all the other gigs so you’ve just got to concentrate all your energy in to that 15 minutes and make it tell. The fact we’re playing for the Queen was very special. Seeing all the people stretching down Pall Mall was great, as was meeting members of the Royal Family afterwards. It was a great weekend to be British.”
Paul went on to tell me that when he was at the Palace hanging out with all the Royals, he thought it would be great for his wife to meet the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton. He recounted how he spotted her in the room and started subtly moving towards her. As he was working out a way to introduce himself and say hi, one of the members of Kate’s team approached him first and asked if he minded meeting Kate, as she’d love to say hi. Job done!
Of course, we can’t let this month pass without saying a special happy birthday to Paul. It was great to see so many cool articles, messages and tributes in the media. ‘What makes you proud to be British? Well, Paul McCartney does’, wrote The Guardian. The Mail commented, ‘No performer in Britain, or even the world, comes bigger than the still singing, still playing, living representative of The Beatles – Sir Paul McCartney’. Paul Weller wrote a piece for The Sun newspaper in which he wrote, ‘I get so nervous when I see Macca… everything I want to ask him goes out the window’. ‘Paul McCartney’ was trending worldwide all day on Twitter as fans from around the world tweeted birthday messages, including a birthday message from the official White House Twitter account! Broadway’s man of the moment James Corden said, ‘I don’t know if there will ever be a more important presence in music. He is as integral to the landscape of Britain as fish and chips. I feel honoured to know him.” US diva Kelly Rowland told The Sun, ‘Paul is a true legend, he’s written some of the most iconic tracks of all time. I have always been a huge fan and would like to wish him a very happy birthday”.
In other news…
In previous months, it has seemed as if Dave Grohl is becoming an honorary member of the PR team but this month he handed his usual role to Swedish House Mafia. In an interview with Rolling Stone, they named Paul as the musician they’d most want to record with in the future. The band’s Sebastian Ingrosso said, “Paul McCartney is the biggest musical legend living on this planet.” He added, “I think The Beatles made something that’s kind of melancholic to sad and happy combined, and that’s just amazing.”
Jimmy Fallon was also doing his bit too. Paul appears on Jimmy’s ‘Blow Your Pants Off’ album, which came out this month. Speaking about dueting with Paul, the US comic said, “I couldn’t believe it was happening! I grew up idolising these singers. You couldn’t get bigger than Paul McCartney”.