JAMES PAUL McCARTNEY–JUNE 18, 1942
It seems so long ago and so far away, those days in the 1960s when every new Beatles record was so anxiously awaited. It never mattered who would be taking the lead vocal. It was the Beatles, man. Everything they did was new…and exciting…and sometimes risky. They seemed fearless, unwilling to conform to what they were supposed to do. The more off-center the song was the better. Songs like “Rain”, “Paperback Writer”, “Penny Lane”, “The Ballad of John and Yoko” and even “Let It Be” were prime examples of how this band could take the ordinary and make it extraordinary.
Everyone had their favorite Beatle. George for his quiet almost sullen demeanor and dark look. Ringo for his jovial nature and constant smile. John for his sarcastic humor and worldly appearance. Paul for his charm and command of a catchy hook. There were great together even after they stopped recording together.
The dream of seeing them in concert ended in 1967 when they announced they were not going to tour again. As Paul explained, “We were fed up with being the Beatles. We really hated that four little mop top approach. We weren’t boys we were men…and we thought of ourselves as artists rather than just performers.” Harsh words that hit below a dream, even unintentionally shattering an illusion.
It made sense in its own way but it boiled down to watching The Ed Sullivan Show and The Dick Cavett Show for the release of the promo films that usually preceded their new singles. That tactic provided fascinatingly voyeuristic insights into their minds but did little to appease those who relished a live performance. After all, the Rolling Stones still toured and they were artists as well.
Paul McCartney was deemed to be the favorite because he stated many times in interviews that he missed touring and performing. When he re-established himself with Wings in the early 1970s and took the band on the road, it gave hard-core fans a chance to relive some brief part of their own past. The Wings Over America tour came to St. Paul in 1976 and McCartney was in his glory, playing the Hofner bass, singing like a choirboy, telling anecdotes and doing what he loved best–playing music to a live audience.
It’s been a long time since that magical night. Other tours have come and gone and Paul is turning 71 this Tuesday, June 18. He’s still on tour, still writing new material, still maintaining that youthful exuberance. He looks older but not worse–not like some of his contemporaries. He still represents a glimpse into the past and the future because his music and his persona are immortal even if he is not. It may only seem like he is and that’s the magic of rock and roll–it’s an illusion that transforms reality into something less frightening than mortality.