This interview was conducted at a pre-show press conference early in McCartney’s 1989/90 world tour.
QUESTION: How does it feel to be singing the old Beatles songs again?
PAUL: It feels great. With some of the songs, like “Sgt. Pepper” and “Hey Jude,” the Beatles had given up touring before they were written so I never got to play them live before until this tour and so they feel really fresh.
QUESTION: Will you be having any guest artists joining you on stage?
PAUL: It’s kind of difficult to work in guests because we’ve got the show set now. Really the only person who’s guested so far was Stevie Wonder in L.A., but that was easy because we do “Ebony and Ivory” in the set. It’s just not too easy to open up the set when you get to this stage with a production.
QUESTION: What made you decide to tour again after thirteen years off the road?
PAUL: It was the fact that I’d got a good band together. I’d been recording and doing solo stuff and little guest spots, like Live Aid. But during the recording of Flowers in the Dirt the band felt really good; we’ve got a sense of humor in common and they’re good musicians too. So it was either a question of saying goodbye, see you next album, or shall we stay together. And if you stay together it’s like, what shall we do now? So it’s like, let’s go on tour. So here we are.
QUESTION: How did you approach this album mentally? Do you ever get to the point of saying, “Right, I’ll shove it right down their throat?”
PAUL: Yeah. I get to that point. I was not pleased with the album before, which was Press to Play. I just wasn’t that keen on it. So I did want to make this one better and shove it down a few people’s throats. I’m quite happy with the album itself. There’s some nice songs on it.
QUESTION: Has coming out on the road inspired you to go back into the studio a little bit faster than you would have in the past?
PAUL: Not really. But it’s good for you to get out on the road. It’s a stimulating thing, you know, to actually see your fans instead of getting letters from them. To actually see those faces really lifts you. It gives me a great buzz.
QUESTION: Many people have said that they’ve found your concerts to be a very moving, emotional experience — especially because you are taking so many of us back to the sixties. Why has it taken you twenty years to perform these Beatles songs again?
PAUL: When the Beatles broke up, it was a little bit difficult. It was a bit like a divorce—you really didn’t want to do anything associated with the ex-wife. You didn’t want to do “her” material. So all of us took that view independently. John, George and Ringo and me all stopped doing Beatles stuff — because I think it was just painful for a while. It was painful memories. But enough time’s gone by now to do ‘em again. And because of the last tour I did with Wings in 76 —we avoided them —it feels kind of unnatural to do them again. But it’s a question of either getting back to them or ignoring them for the rest of my life — which I think would be a shame. And, as I said earlier, some of them I haven’t actually done before. I found myself saying, “This feels great, ‘Sgt. Pepper,’ this feels really good. Why does this feel so great?” And someone reminded me, “You’ve never done it live before.” It was like a new song to me.
QUESTION: Will there be a time when you’ll get together with George and Ringo for a jam or whatever?
PAUL: Well, I don’t know. It’s always on the cards. But a reunion as such is out of the question because John is not with us, and the only real reunion you could have would have been with John. We might easily get together—there’s a couple of projects that are possible now — now that we’ve actually solved our business differences.
QUESTION: Why did it take so long to resolve your business differences?
PAUL: Have you ever been in a lawsuit? I was in one for the last twenty years. It just takes forever. You get your advisors and they get theirs. I think lawyers are trained to keep those things going. It must be the first rule in law school, you know, keep it going.
QUESTION: Do you ever regret that the four ex-Beatles never got together again after the break-up?
PAUL: Oh yeah, I regret it. But it’s just life you know. It just didn’t happen — for a number of reasons. It would have been great. But John not dying would have been even better.
QUESTION: What do you think about what’s going on in Eastern Europe?
PAUL: I think it’s very exciting. To me it seems like the sixties kicking in — that’s my point of view. It’s all the stuff that was said in the sixties —peace, love, democracy, freedom, a better world, all that stuff. The way I look at it, people like Gorbachev grew up with the sixties, like we all did, and I don’t think you can be unaffected by it. And I think it’s all kicking in now; you look at the people coming across that border now and they’re all wearing denim, and I think China’s next.
QUESTION: Are you going to play any dates in Eastern Europe?
PAUL: I’d like to. But we’ve got so many dates on this tour and they don’t include Eastern Europe. We tried to go to Russia but the promoter said it was too cold, so we went to Italy instead.
QUESTION: What are your plans after the tour?
PAUL: I’ll be writing. I’ve got a lot of writing I want to do. I’m doing a very interesting thing, a sort of classical work for an orchestra and stuff which is due to be performed by the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in Liverpool Cathedral in 1991. And that’s a serious work so I’ve got a lot of writing to do.
QUESTION: What about your memoirs — why don’t you write them now?
PAUL: I always thought you had to be about seventy before you do that.
QUESTION: How do you feel when you look out into the crowds and you see parents holding their children up to see you?
PAUL: It’s really beautiful because I’ve got four kids, and the great thing about me and my kids is that there isn’t this generation gap that I thought would be there.
QUESTION: Do they listen to any music that bothers you?
PAUL: No, but I know what you mean. I thought that they’d get into some odd punk music and I’d be saying, “Well, the sixties was better,” but they’re not. My son loves the Beach Boys. His big new turn-on album that I turned him on to is Pet Sounds. And he loves James Brown, Otis Redding, The Commodores— he’s got some good taste.
QUESTION: Are you surprised how many young people on this tour are responding to your music?
PAUL: Well, kind of. But a couple of years ago I started to notice how kids like my nephews, who are eighteen now, but who I’ve known since they were two or whatever, started getting into the Grateful Dead. Now they’re all Deadheads. It’s incredible. I think maybe it is because modern music is a little bit synthetic and shallow that they’re looking back to the sixties. And the great thing about a lot of that sixties stuff is that it does stand up still.
QUESTION: Are your children musically inclined?
PAUL: Yeah, they are, but Linda and I have always said that we’d never push them because it’s a tough game, and unless they’re really keen.… But they’re all very good. They’re all very interested in music and they can all carry a tune and stuff.
QUESTION: Would you ever have your children play on stage with you?
PAUL: Not really, because that’s a little bit too much showbizzy for me. But if they really wanted to do it, desperately wanted to, then I’d help them. But it’s got to come from them. As I said, it’s a tough game.
QUESTION: How do you think your performances of the sixties compare with your performances today?
PAUL: They’re strangely similar, you know. Some of the crowds have been strangely sixties. It’s very good, but you can hear yourself now, with the new technology. Compared with what we started out with, we’ve got Cape Canaveral out there. When we started we had two guitars and a bass and one amp.
QUESTION: When you get away from this for a while is there anything that strikes you that you would like to effect, being a father and with your stature in the world?
PAUL: The thing we’re doing on this tour is hooking up with the Friends of the Earth and mentioning the environmental issues a lot. I mean, I’m no expert but I’ve got four kids and I see this Exxon spill and how well they cleaned up. … I don’t think anyone wants that to happen. I don’t think anyone wants the hole in the ozone layer to get any bigger. But I was like anyone else. I thought, well, the government will fix it for us. But last year it became apparent that no-one was going to fix it, and we’ve got to address the problem ourselves. So that’s what I’m doing on this tour. I’m mentioning it just to give the issues publicity, because I really think we have got to get serious on all that stuff.
QUESTION: What are you trying to do with Friends of the Earth?
PAUL: Friends of the Earth are basically just trying to clean up the planet. Instead of putting your toxic waste in your water, instead of blowing a hole in the sky, instead of having acid rain. … If someone had told me when I was a kid that when I grew up the land would have poisons in it, the rain would have acid in it, the sky would have a hole in it, I would not have believed them. But here we are, we’re at that point now, and my hope is that going into the next century we really address that problem and get the planet straight. My point is that we are definitely the species that’s won. Man has definitely beaten all other animals hands down, and what I’d like to see is us be cool dudes about that. But instead we’re still blasting the hell out of everything. It’s time we realized we’ve won an Earth that fouls its own nest. Everything else, all the birds and stuff, go over someplace else to take a dump, but we don’t. We do it right here, right where we live. We put all our toxic waste in our lakes and we put all these poisons in cans and dump it under the sea, saying it’ll be all right for a hundred years. But what about a hundred and one years, when it blows up?