No one has been more famous or more relevant for the past fifty years then Sir Paul McCartney. From 1964, when the Beatles first came to America, to the present day, Paul has been making music, dabbling in movies, painted and been heavily involved with environmental and vegetarian causes. And yet, he seems strangely accessible. The man’s been known to take the bus in New York and engage you in a conversation if you’re parallel to him at a red light. Hell, if you tell him it’s your birthday he might even sing a few lines from “Birthday.”
I suspect that one of the keys to his appeal is that Sir Paul never acts jaded which is a major accomplishment. Personally, if I was asked the same questions for the past thirty years or so, I’d get annoyed. Not Paul. He gladly plays the hits at his concerts while others seem to have a pseudo contempt for the people who have paid to see him.
Originally, this article was going to be titled “1,000 Things You Did Know About Paul McCartney” but it seemed pointless and like a lot of work, especially when I don’t get paid by the word. Then my editor suggested making it things you don’t know about Paul McCartney. That seemed to make a lot more sense and reminded me why I’m not the boss.
One last thing, the title and content of this article are for entertainment purposes only and are not a binding contract or agreement. Meaning, if you do know some of the items on the list, you can’t sue us. With that legalese out of the way, please enjoy the ten things you didn’t know about Paul McCartney:
10. He’s A Good Drummer
Although John Lennon most likely never actually said that Ringo was the second best drummer in the Beatles, it’s probably true. Paul is a natural musician so it’s not difficult for him to pick up an instrument and figure it out in a short amount of time. He played the drums on “The Ballad of John and Yoko” because John wanted to record it the day he wrote it and no one else was around. Paul played drums on “Back In The U.S.S.R” and “Dear Prudence” because Ringo had momentarily quit the Beatles. Good career move, by the way.
Paul also played all the drum parts on the Wings album “Band On The Run.” No less then Keith Moon praised it before knowing it was Paul who did it. Sir Paul even played on Steve Miller‘s “My Dark Hour” so, if your drummer bails at the last minute, you could do a lot worse then having Paul McCartney sit in.
9. Paul Is Partially Responsible For the Development of the Cat Scan
Okay, so this one’s a little tenuous but it goes like this. The Beatles record label was EMI. EMI also had a computer research facility that was run by Godfrey Hounsfield who was very involved with x-ray computerized tomography or C.T. The Beatles made so much money for the label that EMI was able to invest it in Hounsfield’s new technology resulting in the CT Scan machine in the 1970’s.
8. He Never Felt In Competition With The Rolling Stones
For years the music press would write about a supposed competition between The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. The competition never existed. If it did then why would Paul and John Lennon give the Stones one of their songs, “I Wanna Be Your Man” to record? They wouldn’t. The man who Paul felt he was in competition with was the Beach Boy’s Brian Wilson.
Both men were bass players and both did most of the composing for their respective bands. McCartney regarded the Beach Boy’s “Pet Sounds” album as one of the greatest records ever made and recommended it to everyone he knew. Paul was particularly impressed with how Wilson, as the bass player, didn’t feel compelled to play the root chord but was able to weave a melody around it. For his part, Wilson felt he was in competition with the Beatles and when he heard “Sgt. Pepper” he felt so intimidated that he almost quit the music business entirely.
7. He Helped Invent Heavy Metal
A lot of people consider McCartney‘s “Helter Skelter” the first, or one of the first, heavy metal songs because of its heavy bass and drums and screaming vocals. The song came about because McCartney heard Pete Townshend describing “I Can See For Miles” as the loudest, rawest, dirtiest song The Who or anyone had ever recorded. Paul took this as a challenge, so he immediately set forth to write a song that was louder, rawer and dirtier.
A helter skelter is a piece of playground equipment that’s a long, twisty slide. McCartney said the song was about starting at the bottom and getting to the top, the fall of the Roman Empire and just decline in general. It has been covered by Aerosmith, Motley Crue and Caliban.
6. He Can Do A Really Neat Parlor Trick
For some reason, Paul McCartney can count backwards from 2,000 to 1 unofficially faster than any other human. In fact, he can do it much faster then he can count from 1 to 2,000. He is not normally math inclined and has no idea why he has the ability to do this but it’s good that he has something to fall back on if this music thing doesn’t work out.
5. Almost Won An Academy Award For One Afternoon’s Work
In 1973, Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman approached McCartney and asked him if he wanted to write the theme for the new James Bond film “Live and Let Die.” He read the novel the film was based on, liked it and wrote the song in one afternoon with Linda McCartney.
“Live and Let Die” led to Paul and his veteran producer, George Martin, reuniting for the recording of the song. Saltzman wanted Shirley Bassey to sing it but Paul let it be known that if he wasn’t allowed to record it with Wings, then the Bond people couldn’t have the song. “Live and Let Die” reached number 2 in the U.S. and went on to be nominated for “Best Original Song” at the 1973 Academy Award but lost to “The Way We Were.” Many bands went on to cover it including Guns N’ Roses who, like the Wings version, were nominated for a Grammy.
4. He Has Become An Accomplished Painter
Paul has known noted artist Willem de Kooning since the late seventies. de Kooning had been after Paul to try painting for years and Macca finally took de Kooning up on it in. Originally, Paul’s paintings were inspired by empty spaces he wanted to fill in his homes. From there Paul really took to it producing numerous abstract works like “Big Mountain Face and “Egypt Station.”
Painting appealed to McCartney because there were no rules like in music and he could express himself in any way he saw fit. Sir Paul’s paintings and prints are sold through “Artcelebs@Celebrity Art.”
3. His Song, “Coming Up,” Inspired John Lennon To Write Music Again
According to Peter Ames Carlin in Paul McCartney: A Life, John Lennon was driving to visit his assistant, Frederic Seaman, on Long Island when he heard “Coming Up” on the radio. The song is pretty damn infectious and the next day, John found himself humming the song’s melody, going so far as to admit that the song was “driving me crackers!” At this point Lennon hadn’t written anything in five years but he felt that since his former song writing partner was creating good music then he’d better try and do the same. Pretty soon, John was cranking out songs that ended up on his “Double Fantasy” and “Milk and Honey” albums.
2. He Followed In Kurt Cobain’s Footsteps
In 2012, Foo Fighters frontman and former Nirvana drummer, Dave Grohl, was producing a documentary called “Sound City” about the fabled studio that closed their doors in 2011. Grohl, a huge Beatles fan, called Paul and asked him if he was interested in jamming with him and some of his friends. Sir Paul had a day off so he drove to meet up with Grohl.
Turns out that Grohl’s friends were former Nirvana bassist, Krist Novoselic and touring guitar player, Pat Smear. It was only after that Paul found out that he was playing with, and was only the second person to front, Nirvana. The song they recorded, “Cut Me Some Slack” ended up winning the Grammy for “Best Rock Song.” Paul had a great time remarking, “It was magic for me, playing with these guys.”
1. He Was Inspired By Slim Whitman
When Paul was fourteen, his father bought him a trumpet which he exchanged for an acoustic guitar. Paul is left handed and was having a rough go of trying to play this instrument that was strung for right handed players. It wasn’t until Paul saw a poster of yodeling superstar, Slim Whitman, did he realize what the solution to his problems was. Slim was left handed so he flipped the guitar over so that the fret board was on his right side and restrung all the chords which was exactly what Sir Paul did.
Just think that the man whose voice stopped a Martian invasion in “Mars Attacks” influenced one of the greatest musicians of all time. Not a bad duel legacy.