Paul mccartney

What happened to the supermodels of the 1990s?

‘What advice would you give to your younger self?’ has become a popular question in interviews in recent years. It’s meant to generate something profound but, musing privately, I always find it a puzzler. Sometimes I think that maybe I shouldn’t have wasted so much of my twenties talking nonsense in pubs, but on the other hand I really enjoyed it. So I usually settle on: ‘Don’t buy a sofa bed, especially not the kind with a concealed metal frame that you pull out.’ Unbelievably, I’ve done this twice. These vast, unwieldy contraptions cost a bomb, weigh a ton, make a terrible sofa and an uncomfortable bed. If you’re 16

James Bond and the Beatles at war for Britain’s soul

‘Better use your sense,’ advised Bob Dylan: ‘take what you have gathered from coincidence.’ John Higgs is a master of taking what he can gather from coincidence – or, as he would insist, synchronicity. From the filigree of connections and echoes in the KLF (Discordianism through the lens of 1990s pop provocateurs) to the psychogeography of Watling Street to more recent deep dives into William Blake, he confronts the modern Matter of Britain: who wields power, and who resists it? Love and Let Die starts with another perfect coincidence, namely that it was 60 years ago – to be precise, 5 October 1962 – that saw the first Beatles single

Glastonbury has become a singalong event for OAPs

‘Well, it’s just not Glastonbury, is it?’ said my daughter aggressively, when told that our yurt featured an actual bed, wardrobe with hangers and electric points, and hot showers just around the corner. Our excuse was this was my and my partner’s first Glastonbury and we had a combined age of 125. ‘Anyway, why are you there?’ she said. ‘These are not your people, these are my people.’ Not from what I could see. With headliners such as Diana Ross, the Pet Shop Boys and Sir Paul McCartney, Glastonbury today is more a singalong event for people born in the 1950s (my husband) or 1960s (me) than anyone within shouting

What happens to rockers who don’t die young?

What do the following individuals have in common: a political activist from Suffolk; a chartered psychologist from Oxfordshire, who enjoys playing golf at weekends; a funeral celebrant from Liverpool; the Birmingham-based chairperson of the Ladder Association Training Committee (‘When it’s right to use a ladder, use the ladder, and get trained to use it safely’); a pop star from LA? The answer is that all of them were pop stars, with the obvious exception of the pop star from LA who still is one. But even Robbie Williams used to be bigger. In Exit Stage Left Nick Duerden sketches the afterlives of two dozen former or current musicians – ‘afterlife’

More mesmerising than it should be – Disney+’s The Beatles: Get Back reviewed

My late friend Alexander Nekrassov loathed the Beatles, which I used to think was a wantonly contrary position akin to hating kittens or blue skies or Christmas carols. What could there possibly be not to like, love and admire about the band that gave us ‘Eleanor Rigby’, ‘A Day In the Life’ and ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’? Since then I’ve encountered so many Beatles sceptics that it has given me pause for thought. Some think that the Beatles were just mediocre and not nearly as talented as, say, the Kinks; some even claim that they were as manufactured as the Monkees, that like their bad-guy opposites the Stones they were a

Why the mid-1960s was the golden age of pop music

On a Monday evening in May 1966, Paul McCartney and John Lennon visited a nightclub called Dolly’s in Jermyn Street. The two Beatles were accompanied by two Rolling Stones, Brian Jones and Keith Richards. Already at the club was Bob Dylan, stopping off in London on his European tour. Dylan had first met Lennon and McCartney nearly two years earlier at the Delmonico Hotel in New York. All four Beatles, then in the first flush of American success, had gone to meet him after playing to thousands of screaming teenagers at a tennis stadium in Queen’s. Their fascination with his lyrical and emotional maturity was already showing in their songs.

It’s amazing how little insight Paul McCartney has into the Beatles’ genius

The Paul people are out in force these days. A New Yorker profile, a book and a new documentary have put the Beatles, and particularly Paul, back in the papers. Not that they, or he, ever left. I should admit a bias. I have the same first name as John, and being a man of straightforward loyalties I took him as my favourite early on. Even now I find him the most interesting of the four: vain, sardonic, nasty, boyish, thoughtful, wounded; bright-eyed and pugilistic and blessed with an undermining cleverness that left him bored by whatever he came across. The even-tempered Paul just doesn’t entrance me in quite the

As pretty as anything he’s written in four decades: McCartney III reviewed

Grade: A- The greatest songwriter of the 20th century, or just one of the top two or three? Who else would you have up there? Kern, Gershwin, Ray Charles, maybe. Dylan for the words along with the music. But not, I think, John Lennon. It’s McCartney’s melodic imagination that captivates and sometimes staggers — ‘Here, There and Everywhere’, ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’. The Beatle it was not OK to like, and yet who, today, would prefer to hear the overwrought ‘Strawberry Fields’ to the easy, loping chime of ‘Penny Lane’? Yes, Wings were the naffest band imaginable. But even then I would take their worst album (Red Rose Speedway) over Lennon’s

The secret of their success

Which of the Beatles would you most like to have been? Not either of the dead ones, presumably. Nor the one continually derided for his alleged lack of talent. Definitely not the embarrassing, gurning, two-thumbs-up uncool one… Anyway, it’s a trick question. The correct answer, at least it is for me after watching The Beatles: Made on Merseyside (BBC4, Friday), is Pete Best — the drummer who got ousted just before the band got big because he was too good-looking, too quiet and, some say, because Brian Epstein couldn’t handle his mum’s pushiness. Best, I’d always imagined, was the unluckiest man in history. So when he was featured on the

The great rock’n’roll swindles

Birds have been giving me a lot of grief of late. There’s Tappy — the blue tit who has built his nest just underneath my bedroom window and makes rat-like scuffling noises that bother me at night and wake me early in the morning. And Hoppy, a mistle thrush fledgling who can’t quite fly yet, which means we have to keep the cat indoors, which means I have to deal with its horrible shit in the litter tray every day before breakfast. And the rookery in the big ash, whose inhabitants are very vocal, especially when one of their babies falls out of the nest and gets devoured by the

When will I ever learn?

Oh, Pirates of the Caribbean, I have given you every chance down the years. Every chance. I am always hopeful. This may be the one that has a proper story I can follow, I have told myself. This may be the one in which Johnny Depp even bothers to act, I have told myself. This may be the one that doesn’t make me wish I’d stayed home where I could be doing something more interesting and fulfilling, like sorting laundry or cleaning out the fridge. When will I ever learn? When? Pirates, you’re on film five now, and I don’t understand. Well, I do and I don’t. You’re one of

Cover stories

These days, Aubrey Powell is a genial 70-year-old who can be found most mornings having breakfast at his local Knightsbridge café. But in the late 1970s, he did something that surely no other human being has done before or since. He photographed a sheep lying on a psychiatrist’s couch on a beach in Hawaii. Its coat had been treated with Vidal Sassoon products, and it was sedated with Valium because it was scared of waves. So what on earth was he up to? The answer — as anybody who recognises Powell’s name will guess — was creating one of the 373 album covers that his company Hipgnosis designed back when

Ringo’s no joke. He was a genius and the Beatles were lucky to have him

We’re closing 2016 by republishing our ten most-read articles of the year. Here’s No. 9: James Woodall on celebrating the musical contribution made by the forgotten Beatle: Ringo Starr ‘He was the most influential Beatle,’ Yoko Ono recently claimed. When Paul and John first spotted him out in Hamburg, in his suit and beard, sitting ‘drinking bourbon and seven’, they were amazed. ‘This was, like, a grown-up musician,’ thought Paul. One night Ringo sat in for their drummer Pete Best. ‘I remember the moment,’ said Paul, ‘standing there and looking at John and then looking at George, and the look on our faces was like …what is this? And that

Falling out with Love

Volcanic fallings out within bands are an ever-recurring motif in the history of rock music. There’s an obvious reason for this: most musicians pick up an instrument in the first place not because they hear the call of Euterpe but because they’re sailing on the HMS Ain’t Gettin’ None. They dream of fame, fortune and the cream of international crumpet, so they form a band with like-minded fellows — and then find that not all musos are created equal. One member will inevitably become the focus of female attention. Usually it’s the lead singer, who will often be the prettiest; imagine how the three ugly Doors felt, expertly playing their

Burlington Arcade

It all began with oysters. Londoners used to eat them as they walked along, throwing away the shells much as they do burger wrappers now. Lord George Cavendish, owner of Burlington House on Piccadilly (now the Royal Academy), was sick of shells littering his garden, and so in 1819 decided to open a shopping arcade down that side of his property to protect it from the ‘tossers’. Nearly 200 years later the place is thriving. You can buy expensive watches and shoes, perfumes and scarves, wallets and pens. Fred Astaire would get ‘lost for days’ in the Burlington, having discovered it when an admirer bought him nine pairs of gold

Service with a smile | 5 May 2016

He’s been billed as the new Pied Piper but it’s going to take a while for Tom Service to quite match the engaging brilliance of David Munrow, who back in the 1960s persuaded us that medieval pipes-only music was cool listening. Munrow’s series on what was then the Third Programme was aimed at six-to-12-year-olds but succeeded in drawing everyone in because of his gift for communication and his willingness to explore the wilder shores of repertoire, creating sound connections we had never heard before. Service’s new magazine programme for Radio 3, The Listening Service, may be inspired by Munrow but it’s not yet sure what it’s meant to be. How

Paul McCartney

It’s slightly galling, after years of sticking up for Paul McCartney, to read a new biography of the bloke and realise that you don’t, in the end, really like him that much. But that’s how good Philip Norman’s book is — Macca has no agenda, it simply lets you make up your mind. And for me, it was the leg-combing wot won it. You can’t argue with McCartney’s work. In fact, what you have to argue against is the ridiculous notion that he was the poppy, pappy one while John Lennon was the radical. It was Macca who funded the underground newspaper International Times; who was into Stockhausen, Cage and

Bowie once praised Adolf Hitler… but he was always changing his tune

[audioplayer src=”″ title=”Rod Liddle and Kaite Welsh discuss David Bowie’s legacy” startat=678] Listen [/audioplayer]I was desperately worried that you hadn’t read or heard enough platitudinous drivel about David Bowie — and therefore felt compelled to weigh in with my own observations. In all honesty I haven’t heard so much repetitive, imbecilic guff since Mandela shuffled off this mortal coil. It was even worse than the confected sobfest that greeted the passing of the charming and likeable Lou Reed. The eulogies for Lou were simply a case of the BBC telling everybody that they are dead hip and edgy, really enjoyed ‘Perfect Day’ and once knew someone, back in uni, who

That sinking feeling | 7 January 2016

The Feng Shang Princess is a floating Chinese restaurant on the Regent’s Canal in north London, which flows from Little Venice to the Guardian to Limehouse, and in which they quite often find corpses in shopping trolleys and vice versa. I do not know if the restaurant moves, and could theoretically travel to Paddington. I hope it does. The Regent’s Canal is an ugly stretch of water, which reeks of sexual violence and cheap alcohol and cyclists, and it is desolate; place it near London Zoo and you have a peculiar cognitive dissonance that could only happen in London: a tapir near a canal featuring a floating Chinese restaurant. It

Why I’m stepping down after 28 years as The Spectator pop critic

This is my 345th and last monthly column about pop music for The Spectator. I believe I might be the third-longest continuously serving columnist here, after Taki and Peter Phillips. Others have been writing for the magazine for longer, but have occasionally been given time off for good behaviour. You may be astounded to learn that I have not been fired. I, certainly, am astounded. I have been waiting for the tap on the shoulder, or maybe the firm but regretful email, since my first column in May 1987. Eventually I came to realise that the less the editor of the time was interested in my subject, the safer I