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What Makes Paul McCartney Nervous?

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What Makes Paul McCartney Nervous?

What Makes Paul McCartney Nervous?

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel, and this is something that I've been waiting to say for years: Here's a man who needs no introduction.



SIEGEL: Paul McCartney, welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

MCCARTNEY: Well, thank you for the introduction.


SIEGEL: I should say, you're here because of a new album of original songs, which is named - fittingly - "New." Let's hear a bit of the title track, which is "New."


MCCARTNEY: (Singing) Don't look at me. It's way too soon to see what's going to be. Don't look at me. All my life, I never knew what I could be, what I could do. Then we were new. Oh-ooh-ooh-ooh...

SIEGEL: Then we were new.

MCCARTNEY: Yes, sir.

SIEGEL: Who are we, by the way?

MCCARTNEY: We - that's me and my wife. That's Nancy. It was written shortly after we got together. I was just sitting at my piano, late at night. And yeah, I was missing her. She was away. She was in New York, and I was in England. So this was my way of bringing us together.

SIEGEL: I've read that you're always writing songs. Is there a - the old image was a trunk. I guess it's now - is there a hard drive or something, is there some store of Paul McCartney songs that...

MCCARTNEY: Oh, you know, there really is. I've got this little process where I had time to write. So what I would do is, I'd drop off my youngest daughter at school in the morning, come back to the house, sit down; and I knew I had a good three hours before she would wake up because of the time difference. So this was a nice motivation for me. I would sit down, write a song, and then I could ring her; say, good morning, would you like to hear a song?


MCCARTNEY: And so - and it was great actually. It became quite exciting to oh no, it's got to be better - I've got to really do something great for her to listen to.

SIEGEL: But the arithmetic here would suggest that there are lots, lots, lots more songs that you...

MCCARTNEY: Well, see. This is - the problem is that, OK, when I'm writing - like, I finish them up because I've got to play them to Nancy. But what also happen is, I put sketches down. I have an idea, and I haven't got time to finish it. And that is a big trunk full.

SIEGEL: Yeah. Paul McCartney, I want to ask you about one song on the album, "New," which is called "Early Days." Let's listen to it.


MCCARTNEY: (Singing) They can't take it from me if they tried. I lived through those early days. So many times I had to change the pain to laughter, just to keep from getting crazy...

SIEGEL: Tell me about this song, "Early Days."

MCCARTNEY: So many times, I will have people tell me what I did when I was younger, you know, because there's so much been written. And I'm harking back here to the early Beatles period, or even pre-Beatles period. You know, like anyone's history, you remember pretty much what went down better then people who weren't there. So I was remembering John and I in Liverpool as young boys, walking down the street, dressed in black, guitars slung across our back, trying to get people to listen to our music.

And then I got to the last verse and I thought: Well, this is all very well me telling everyone how all this went down. But there are a lot of people who are going to say: Well, no, I know what really happened.


SIEGEL: I read that; I know the real story.

MCCARTNEY: Yeah. You know, I wasn't there but so-and-so wasn't either, and I read him. Yeah, so I just took a ticket from basically - I just sort of said, you know, when you weren't there, how can you remember?


MCCARTNEY: And why do you know better than I do?


MCCARTNEY: (Singing) Now everybody seems to have their own opinion of who did this, and who did that. But as for me I don't see how they can remember when they weren't where it was at. Ooh-ooh...

SIEGEL: Now, I'll tell you the reaction I had listening to this song - which I like a lot - is that I had this image of you as a young man in Liverpool. And then I realized that the sound of the song had me thinking of, you know, Austin, Texas; or Nashville. And I realized the reason that I didn't feel any conflict or any dissonance is because of what you did - what you and John did to music 40 years ago, 50 years ago; that it's broken down all kinds of barriers and become something very universal.

MCCARTNEY: And our influences were from, you know, country and western, R&B. Our influence is a lot of American music. People used to ask us, you know: What kind of music do you like? And it was like, American. And it basically was, really. I mean, we certainly weren't listening to any German music. You've got a lot to answer for, America.


SIEGEL: We are to blame, is what you're saying, for everything.


SIEGEL: Let's listen to another track from "New." This is the song "Alligator."


MCCARTNEY: OK. (Singing) I want someone to come home to. I need somewhere I can sleep. I need a place where I can rest my weary bones, and have a conversation not too deep...

SIEGEL: For a frustrated alligator there.


SIEGEL: What's up here?

MCCARTNEY: Yeah, it's - the first bit's simple, you know: I want someone to come home to, I want a place - I'm not quite sure why I always want conversations that are not too deep. But - I've come home from work, I think that's what it is. So I'm imagining myself just doing that. But then the interesting thing for me, then it goes into: Everybody else is busy doing better than me.


MCCARTNEY: (Singing) Everybody else is busy doing better than me. And I can see why it is. They've got someone setting them free. Someone breaking their chains, someone letting them be...

There's a lot of me in that. No matter how famous, or no matter how accomplished or how many awards you get, you're always still thinking, there's somebody out there who's better than you. I'm often reading a magazine and hearing about someone's new record or seeing something - and think oh, boy, that's going to be better than me. And it's a very common thing.

SIEGEL: I'll accept this as a very common thing. And I'll accept that I've heard from any number of illustrious professors - or broadcasters, for that matter - the fear, I'll be found out. But I mean, Sir Paul McCartney - I mean, you have had success in so many dimensions of music. You really feel a competitive insecurity with somebody else who's coming out with a record?

MCCARTNEY: Unfortunately, yes. I think one thing that's good about it is, I think it's a good motivator. I think it keeps you hungry. I think the minute you're full up and have had enough to eat, then that's time to retire. But I agree with you. You know, I should be able to look at my accolades and go: Come on, Paul, that's enough. But there's still this little voice in the back of my brain, goes: No, no, no, you could do better. This person over here is excelling. Try harder.

It still can be a little bit intimidating. You know?

SIEGEL: Well, Paul McCartney, it's been an honor to help build up your ego here in this session...


MCCARTNEY: You've done it well.

SIEGEL: ...on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, and helped restore some self-confidence to you.


SIEGEL: And we greatly appreciate your coming in.

MCCARTNEY: Well, I certainly, very much appreciate you building me up. I was not sure. Now, I'm certain.


SIEGEL: Paul McCartney - Sir Paul McCartney, I should say, whose new album is called "New." Thanks a lot.

MCCARTNEY: Thank you.


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