Paul McCartney – A Life
By Peter Ames Carlin
JR Books – £20.00
Everyone had, and perhaps still has, a favourite Beatle. Mine was John. Still is, and probably always will be – closely followed by George. Who after all, didn’t like George? There was a reason he was almost everyone’s second favourite Beatle; as along with John, George was cool, real and funny.
Unlike Ringo, who was too cuddly.
Unlike Paul, who to this day – remains an enigma.
Even after having read this compelling and forthright, audacious and rather revealing book by Peter Ames Carlin, McCartney still comes across as nothing other than a thumbs aloft, relatively happy-go-lucky, go get ‘em merchant, of the cheeky-chappy, old school variety.
That he’s a terrific, toptastic, total song writing genius of the highest order’n’persuasion, is without any shadow of a doubt. But we’ve always known as much. What we don’t know is what essentially makes McCartney tick.
Herein, Carlin intermittently hints at what floats the former Beatles’ boat (family, prestige, money). But it’s the new and informative light he sheds upon McCartney’s profoundly influential partnership with John Lennon, which makes Paul McCartney: A Life so nigh on indispensable.
It seems nothing can continue to irk (nor inspire) McCartney more, than said affiliation with his former song-writing partner. A perfect, albeit petty example being the order by which their songs were credited; upon which the author writes: ‘’His secondary status in the traditional Lennon-McCartney composing credit had always bugged him a little, particularly given its ad hoc nature, and the way he’d been pushed to accept it by Brian when Paul was all of twenty years old. That stamp continued to define his career, which didn’t trouble him when it came to the songs he and John had actually written together. But John had barely touched or not troubled himself at all with so many songs. They had, Paul insisted, always left room for the names to be shifted around, particularly if one partner had written the bulk of a song.’’
Surely Northern Songs (the band’s publisher at the time) wouldn’t have been happy with such an inter-changeable and ad-hoc arrangement? Especially at such an early stage in the band’s career, which is somewhat pronounced by Carlin quoting the then aspiring writer, Bill Harry: ‘’[…] it was already clear that Paul was the more ambitious songwriter.’’ And continuing with: ‘’But John had ambitions of his own, and when the time came to affix a standard credit to the songs published by Northern Songs, Brian convinced Paul to let John go first. Lennon-McCartney just sounded better than McCartney-Lennon, Brian argued. Besides, they’d both earn the same amount of money on each song, the order of the names wouldn’t change that.’’
The former does indeed sound better than the latter. Plus, the fact that the letter L arrives before the letter M in the alphabet, may also have lent some bearing.
Either way, it could be argued that the entire crediting issue falls within the realm is whimsy, particularly given the above information.
Either way, it could also be argued that the entire crediting issue says more about McCartney than a trailer load of books combined – as Carlin all but substantiates with the following: ‘’ Paul let it rest until late 1976, when he’d released the Wings Over America album and credited the five Beatles songs he’d played – all of them composed entirely or predominantly by himself – as McCartney-Lennon. Yoko complained a bit about that then, but John hadn’t uttered a word, and so the issue faded.’’
As the above testifies, neither McCartney’s career nor the bonds between The Beatles ended with the band’s demise. Nothing could in fact, be further from the truth, as Peter Ames Carlin makes abundantly clear.
From McCartney’s childhood to his early days with The Beatles, from Wings to his thirty-year relationship with his first wife Linda (and transient/deplorable second wife, Heather), Paul McCartney: A Life is a very worthy addition to the ever-increasing multitude of Beatle literature.