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AUSTRALIAN EXCLUSIVE: Q&A With Sir Paul McCartney

Written by Emmy Mack on June 10, 2016

A little known indie artist you may have heard of named Sir Paul McCartney has been busy combing through his five-decade spanning catalogue and handpicking songs for a landmark release.

Pure McCartney is a colossal 67-song compilation of tunes from across the legendary muso’s post-Beatles years – from his 1970 debut solo LP all the way through to 2012’s My Valentine, 2014’s Hope For The Future and 2015’s Say Say Say remix – with his best solo, Fireman and WINGS work jam-packed into an epic 4-disc release.

It’s available from today – June 10th – and also comes with the option of 4-disc vinyl.

And to celebrate the release, Music Feeds are stoked AF to present an Australian exclusive interview with the man himself.

macca

Macca may have changed the world with his three mates back in the swingin’ sixties, but his music post-Beatles has continued to inspire fans (and tear up the bloody charts) right the way through til now, so the fact that Kanye West’s mate‘s monster catalogue has finally been curated into a Best Of by the Mack Attack himself is KIND OF A BIG DEAL.

Check out the full tracklist – and find out what he had to say about it – below.

Watch: Paul McCartney & WINGS – Jet

So how did Pure McCartney come about?

I was in New York and one of the girls in my New York Office, the head girl, said she’d been listening to a bunch of my tracks on a car journey. She said, “I thought it would be a really great idea to put this together, so people can enjoy them in that way too.” So I liked the idea, I said: “OK, why don’t you make some suggestions and talk to me about it baby!”

So she did… and together then with the team we put together a selection of my songs that you don’t normally hear, but would be good for a long car journey, or if you’re just sitting around at home, or having a bath, or whatever. You know, just background music kind of thing, which hopefully also works foreground.

Given the absolute hugeness of your catalogue, was it difficult to make the list? And do you worry about leaving stuff out?

Yeah, it’s always difficult as you say, because there is so much stuff, but I let her make suggestions and explain to me what she’d been listening to in the car because I thought it would be good to get an objective view. So then I looked at that list and then we added to it and fiddled with it. So she made that less of a problem by having an objective view of it herself.

Are you a fan of blasting playlists in your car?

Yeah, I like it. It means you don’t have to keep switching radio stations.

Is it nice to revisit your catalogue, and can it inform what you’re doing live at that time?

Yeah, that’s one of the things about it. When you hear something you haven’t heard for a while and you think “Oh that’s not bad” then the next move is “maybe we should do that live?” So, a few things have arrived that way.

We do Love Me Do in the current live show, and that came about because we heard it and I was thinking about the first recording session, but it was hearing it that actually sparked the interest, so then we ended up doing it. But it is good to listen to your old tracks because once I’ve recorded them I normally don’t listen to them again, maybe for years, or maybe never. Because i’m on to the next thing!  

Watch: Paul McCartney – Love Me Do (Live)

Do you ever have a song that you go back and listen to and think, “I can’t remember this at all!” Does that happen?

(Laughs) I’m afraid so! Well I tell you really what happens, I look at a title and think, “I wonder how that goes?” Which is like “ahhhh!”

Sometimes on some of the albums that I didn’t reckon quite as much, there will be a couple of tracks that I now think of as fillers and weren’t quite as good. Mind you, having said that, there is a crazy aspect to this because I’ll sometimes say to someone, “oh my god, that track, that was terrible we should have never done it!”

I once said to Trevor Horn, “Oh, I’ve got this track called Bip Bop and I said “it’s a bit kind of, you know, like there’s nothing to it!” And he said, “Oh that’s my favourite track of yours!”

So it’s actually just as well not to discount anything because something I may not like at the time may be someone’s favourite track, and that may help me like it better and think, “That’s why I recorded it!”

It’s a very difficult thing to nail down so it is nice when you hear them again, particularly when someone says, “oh I like this one”… It kind of helps you like it again.

It’s an eclectic bunch of songs, but you hold it all together with a signature sound that runs through it all. Are you aware of that when you’re writing? That you have your own unique signature sound?

You can’t avoid it. When we started off, I was imitating Elvis, but it’s Paul McCartney imitating Elvis so the fact it’s not Elvis, it’s just me.

I always say to young kids coming up to me, it’s actually not a bad idea to imitate someone, because unless you’re an impressionist, you’re never going to get it the same. It’ll just be you really just being inspired by that someone, so I do that… Like my high rocking voice is Little Richard inspired, but it doesn’t sound like Little Richard – it’s not as good as him! He’s dead good.

When writing music, do you set out to write a mega hit or are you just writing a song?

I think you sit down hoping “this is going to be really something special”. So in a way, yeah, you are trying to write the best song you’ve ever written, which I think is just a good idea to start like that. And then, if you come short of that it’s probably still quite a good song, if you’re lucky. So yeah, I always aim for the top and the ones that don’t make it can still be pretty good songs.

Can you tell when something will be a hit? Or are you sometimes taken by surprise?

It works both ways. Sometimes when you write a song you think, “Oh this is good” you just get a feeling off it like “I’ve really done well here, this one works.”

I really got that feeling with My Valentine – it’s very easy to play and I enjoyed playing it, and because it was written for [wife] Nancy I thought, “Yeah, I’ve made it, this works.”

Sometimes though you don’t know, I remember the song Get Back – I just thought it was a little bit of a jam because it was, it started as a little bit of a jam, and all the way I still thought “well it’s okay, but it is a bit of a jam” – and then people started to say “yeah you know it’s kind of good” and right up to the point where it was actually a single or a record I still didn’t really believe in it until I started playing it to people, to friends. I remember Twiggy going mad over it: “Oh that’s great, oh I love this one!” And I’m going, okay they were right, it does work. But yeah, sometimes you don’t see it.

Watch: The Beatles – Get Back

What about Mull of Kintyre? Because no one could have expected that to become the monster hit that it did at that time?

No, that wasn’t me trying to write a hit really. I just thought that there weren’t any new Scottish songs, everything you heard was old. The pipe bands were playing Amazing Grace, which was an old song. So I thought it would be kind of cool if someone wrote a new one. And because I was living in Scotland and I’d been spending a lot of time there, I thought “well that should be me! I should have a go at it!”

So I did… I didn’t really expect it to be a hit except when we recorded it, it was such a special occasion and the guys, particularly the young guys in the pipe band, were all saying “it’s going to be a hit this, it’s great!” So again I got influenced by them saying it was going to be a hit so I started to believe in it more but still not really because that era was the punk era and I thought there’s no way a Scottish waltz is going to come out during the punk era or if anyone’s going to even listen to it. But then my daughter, Heather, who was very involved in the punk era, she was there at the right time, she said to me “I wish you were in the pub the other night with some of my punk friends and they were putting on Mull Of Kintyre.” So I liked that… Not really knowing how it works!

There’s still a bit of mystery for me and one of the things I can say when I go to LIPA [Liverpool Institute Of Performing Arts] to my students talking about songs, one of the first things I said was “Lets get this straight, I don’t know how to do this. I can’t just say here’s how you do it, where as if you’re going in to a physics class maybe the teacher can say this is how it goes. But I always have to do this disclaimer, “I don’t really know how to do this but if I was writing with you I’ll tell you what I would do” but I like that because it’s the truth.

I’ve never learned a formula of how to write a song and so it makes it special, kind of magical when you write one – like pulling a rabbit out of a hat.

Watch: Paul McCartney & WINGS – Mull Of Kyntire

Do you have any rituals or silly little things that you do when you’re writing?

Not really. I normally run around the block ten times, have a hot bath, get out of it then soak myself in a tub full of ice and then have three coffees in a row – but there’s no ritual!! No I don’t, but you were enjoying that story so I think we’ll go with that! No I don’t, I just sit down with a guitar or a piano and just start (after a hot bath of course!)

Has technology or new music formats changed the way you’ve approached things?

No, it hasn’t at all. I used to think it might have an effect and I think people think it will have an effect on music but it’s really just the carrier, it’s just the way that music is put out and you’ve still got to write a song. So if it comes out on vinyl, cassette, CD, download, it’s still the same song and you don’t alter your process accordingly.

Is there an archive of unheard Paul McCartney tracks?

What tends to happen is when we’re doing re-mastering and we’re going into the vaults, sometimes my production team will say “Look we found this one!” and I say, “yeah I buried it on purpose because I don’t like it!” and they say they like it. Sometimes I’m persuaded.

So there are a few little things but they normally escape when we’re doing re-mastering and find their way into the bonus extras. And by then I don’t mind them. But what there is, is a lot of stuff for when I’ve done ideas for songs, there’s a lot of things that I intend to work on and finish up. There’s a lot of that what was just a melody and I think oh I like that melody but I haven’t worked it into a song.

So you know, I’m working on them now for the next album and some of them I’m just finishing up as a song. Some of them I’m using that fragment of melody in another song, which is kind of an interesting thing to do. So yeah I’m playing around with some of those things at the moment.

When you’re working on a new album as such, do you have a concept or a title in mind or would that come later in the process?

Most of the time it comes later. In fact, it always comes later. You work on the song and you try and get them as best as you can and then you select down your favourite songs, put them in an order and by the time you’ve done that, the next thing to do is think “OK what does this add up to?” and sometimes like Memory Almost Full, I just happened to see it on my phone and thought that’s a great little expression! And it applies to so much in life, we’ve got so much coming at us for most people their memories almost full at any given time. So people get that, and the phone reference.

New – that was just, I had a million other titles but I just thought they didn’t really sum it up well enough so then one day I was thinking you get a new washing powder or vacuum cleaner…. it’s NEW! It’s NEW! So I’ll just call the album NEW! And even when it’s old it’ll still be NEW!

Had you written any of it at that point?

I had, yeah, I had a song because the idea was actually about me and Nancy getting together so the idea was that now we are new so that’s where it started. And yeah I thought, it’s kind of cool that word new. You do see it everywhere, and I thought I’d make it appropriate.  

Watch: Paul McCartney & WINGS – Band On The Run

Pure McCartney is out now and you can grab it here.

PURE McCartney 2CD – 39 tracks

DISC 1
1 Maybe I’m Amazed
2 Heart Of The Country
3 Jet
4 Warm And Beautiful
5 Listen To What The Man Said
6 Dear Boy
7 Silly Love Songs
8 The Song We Were Singing
9 Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey
10 Another Day
11 Sing The Changes
12 Jenny Wren
13 Save Us
14 Mrs Vandebilt
15 Mull of Kintyre
16 Let ‘Em In
17 Let Me Roll It
18 Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five
19 Ebony and Ivory

DISC 2
1 Band on the Run
2 Arrow Through Me
3 My Love
4 Live and Let Die
5 Too Much Rain
6 Goodnight Tonight
7 Say Say Say [2015 Remix]
8 My Valentine
9 The World Tonight
10 Pipes of Peace
11 Dance Tonight
12 Here Today
13 Wanderlust
14 Great Day
15 Coming Up
16 No More Lonely Nights
17 Only Mama Knows
18 With a Little Luck
19 Hope For The Future
20 Junk

PURE McCartney 4CD – 67 tracks
DISC 1
1 Maybe I’m Amazed
2 Heart Of The Country
3 Jet
4 Warm And Beautiful
5 Listen To What The Man Said
6 Dear Boy
7 Silly Love Songs
8 The Song We Were Singing
9 Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey
10 Early Days
11 Big Barn Bed
12 Another Day
13 Flaming Pie
14 Jenny Wren
15 Too Many People
16 Let Me Roll It
17 New

DISC 2
1 Live and Let Die
2 English Tea
3 Mull of Kintyre
4 Save Us
5 My Love
6 Bip Bop
7 Let ‘Em In
8 Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five
9 Calico Skies
10 Hi, Hi, Hi
11 Waterfalls
12 Band on the Run
13 Appreciate
14 Sing The Changes
15 Arrow Through Me
16 Every Night
17 Junior’s Farm
18 Mrs Vandebilt

DISC 3
1 Say Say Say [2015 Remix]
2 My Valentine
3 Pipes of Peace
4 The World Tonight
5 Souvenir
6 Dance Tonight
7 Ebony and Ivory
8 Fine Line
9 Here Today
10 Press
11 Wanderlust
12 Winedark Open Sea
13 Beautiful Night
14 Girlfriend
15 Queenie Eye
16 We All Stand Together

DISC 4
1 Coming Up
2 Too Much Rain
3 Good Times Coming/Feel the Sun
4 Goodnight Tonight
5 Baby’s Request
6 With a Little Luck
7 Little Willow
8 Only Mama Knows
9 Don’t Let it Bring You Down
10 The Back Seat Of My Car
11 No More Lonely Nights
12 Great Day
13 Venus and Mars/Rock Show
14 Temporary Secretary
15 Hope For The Future
16 Junk

PURE McCartney VINYL 
A1
1 Maybe I’m Amazed
2 Heart Of The Country
3 Jet
4 Warm And Beautiful
5 Listen To What The Man Said
6 Dear Boy

A2
1 Silly Love Songs
2 The Song We Were Singing
3 Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey
4 Another Day
5 New

B1
1 Mull of Kintyre
2 Sing The Changes
3 Jenny Wren
4 Mrs Vandebilt
5 Save Us

B2
1 Let ‘Em In
2 Let Me Roll It
3 Ebony and Ivory
4 Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five

C1
1 Band on the Run
2 Arrow Through Me
3 My Love
4 Live and Let Die
5 Too Much Rain

C2
Side 2
1 Say Say Say [2015 Remix]
2 My Valentine
3 Goodnight Tonight
4 The World Tonight
5 Pipes of Peace

D1
1 Dance Tonight
2 Here Today
3 Wanderlust
4 Great Day
5 Coming Up
6 No More Lonely Night

D2
1 Too Many People
2 Only Mama Knows
3 With a Little Luck
4 Hope For The Future
5 Junk

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