Think of all the giants of pop music: Keith Richards, Bob Dylan, Bono, Chris Martin, Robert Plant, and Jack White. And then think how none of them would dare compare themselves to the beyond-legendary Paul McCartney, who plays B.C. Place tonight (July 6).
CHEESE PLEASE Paul McCartney is one of the world’s most famous vegetarians—going so far at times as to suggest that he and his late wife Linda invented the idea of a plant-based diet back in the '70s. But as much as he’ll argue that meat is murder, there’s no way he’s getting onboard the dairy-is-death train. Cheese has always been, and remains, one of his favourite things. “I like a lot of them,” he confessed in a 2014 Twitter chat called #askPaul. “How about cheddar, goats, feta and de Boursin.”
BASS BEGINNINGS Let’s face it—there are cooler-looking basses than the Höfner 500/1 violin model McCartney has been using since Ed Sullivan was the coolest man on television. The Arctic-white Fender Precision wielded by Sid Vicious comes to mind, as does Lemmy Kilmister’s Rickenbacker 4001. But what’s indisputably awesome is the way that McCartney has basically used the same instrument since “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”. He bought his first Höfner in Hamburg for $45 out of necessity; original bassist Stu Sutcliffe quit the Beatles, which led to McCartney moving from piano to four-string. “Eventually, I found a little shop in the center of town,” he told Bass Player magazine in 1995, “and I saw this violin-shaped bass guitar in the window."
TEEN TRAUMA If one thing bonded Lennon and McCartney above all others, it was the loss of their respective mothers while both in their teens. While the two would for the most part downplay the trauma, McCartney has acknowledged in the book The Beatles Anthology that they occasionally cried together. In hindsight though, McCartney has recognized his mother’s passing from cancer when he was 14 as life-altering, and not in a good way.
“My mother's death broke my dad up,” he’s quoted as saying in Anthology. “That was the worst thing for me, hearing my dad cry. I'd never heard him cry before. It was a terrible blow to the family. You grow up real quick, because you never expect to hear your parents crying. You expect to see women crying, or kids in the playground, or even yourself crying—and you can explain all that. But when it's your dad, then you know something's really wrong and it shakes your faith in everything. But I was determined not to let it affect me. I carried on. I learnt to put a shell around me at that age. There was none of this sitting at home crying—that would be recommended now, but not then.”
IT WAS A DRAG If there’s one moment McCartney would probably love a redo on, it was when he was tracked down by reporters right after the assassination of John Lennon in New York City. When asked for a comment on his often-estranged former best friend and writing partner, he offered a seemingly nonchalant “It’s a drag, innit.” In the years that followed, McCartney has gone on record as saying he was devastated but wasn’t about to cheapen his friendship with Lennon with a glorified sound bite. “It was that evening I just went home and wept and let it all out then,” he recalled years later. “And that was really all I had to say.”
TOP OF HIS POPS One might imagine that asking McCartney to name the best song he's ever written is like asking him to pick a favourite child. It turns out, though, that he’s not one to take the fifth. And, believe it or not, the song that makes him proudest isn’t “Let It Be”, “Eleanor Rigby”, or even the mighty “Hey Jude”. “Well, it’s difficult to choose the favorite,” McCartney told American broadcaster Scott Muni in 1984. “It [‘Here, There and Everywhere’] is one of my favorites. You look at your songs and kinda look to see which of the ones you think are maybe the best constructed and stuff. I think ‘Yesterday’—if it wasn’t so successful—might be my favorite.”