Wednesday 29 March 2017

Fab, An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney by Howard Sounes

                After I heard that we were supposed to be reading biographies for the McBride Library’s Book Club, I started looking through the many eBooks that could be downloaded from the library's Overdrive site.  I was tempted by the many books written about popular musicians that were available, but in the end I decided to read about Paul McCartney.  
      The Beatles had a very profound effect on my life, and I always really liked the melodies and songs that Paul created.  I already knew a lot about The Beatles, but not much about Paul's early life and his post-Beatles existence, this book filled in a lot of those blanks. 
      Paul was born in 1942, in what was a warm and caring family, but the death of his mother when he was 14 had lasting effect on him and he turned to music for solace.  He learned to play the guitar left-handed, sung some rock and roll to friends and even wrote some songs.  At school he met John Lennon, who was two years older and had started a rock and roll band called The Quarry Men.  
      Their mutual love of music and the fact that both boys had lost their mother cemented a close friendship.  Paul was asked to join the band.   George Harrison, a younger boy who was getting good on the guitar was also asked in join John's school boy band.   The Quarry Men were able to get and play gigs around Northern England. 
       Inspired by "Buddy Holly and The Crickets", the Quarry Men decided to join the insect theme and changed their name to "The Silver Beatles" and the just "The Beatles" in 1960.   That same year, despite all being under 21 years of age, they took a job in the "red light" district of Hamburg, Germany playing rock and roll in strip joints and bars.  
     They had a grueling work schedule daily playing for 4 or 6 hours straight into the early hours of the morning with just 15 minute breaks.  They lived together in small windowless back rooms without proper toilet facilities and not even hooks for hanging their clothes. This test of fire solidified their music gave them the experience they needed to succeed. 
       One club owner, mad at the band for switching clubs, ratted to the authorities about George being under age and "The Beatles" were deported back to England.   Upon their return, Paul's father decided Paul had had his fling and pressured him to drop music and get a real job. Paul began working for an electrical company coiling cable, but he was soon so bored, he went back to the band.  In 1961 The Beatles began playing in The Cavern, an old underground warehouse turned into a music venue.  It was playing in Cavern that the incredible rise of their fame and Beatlemania began. 
      Before their first record deal they replaced Pete Best, their drummer, with Ringo Starr.   Their unbelievable fame brought them wealth, but also restricted their lives, because they could no longer just walk down the street.  While John, George, and Ringo married and bought houses, Paul, who had a stable relationship with Jane Asher the actress, moved in and lived with her and her wealthy parents. 
       He bought a very small farmhouse in Kintyre, Scotland where he and Jane would escape into the calm slowness of country life.  While everyone assumed this "perfect" couple would marry, in the end, their careers drove them apart and Paul ended up marrying Linda Eastman, a rock star photographer and groupie.  
       She and her daughter from a previous marriage had a stabilizing effect on Paul, who really wanted a family life.  Paul who was the most serious musician in the Beatles, could be insistent in how their music should sound.  This lead to irritation in the group, but the beginning of the end was when John started bringing Yoko Ono to recording sessions, a place where previously only the Beatles and production people were allowed.  
      Soon the Beatles disbanded with acrimony, with Paul on one side and John, George, and Ringo on the other,  because of a bitter disagreement over the management of their finances.  
       Paul formed Wings, another rock group which he dominated.  He had his wife Linda playing keyboards, although she was a terrible musician.  Wings had a many number ones hits and world tours despite Paul's sometimes stinginess with wages, and his and Linda's insistence on taking pot along with them, which led to arrests and tour cancellations.  
       Paul made many attempts to re-establish contact with the other Beatles, but they shunned these attempts, still angry over his lawsuit to separate individual Beatle member assets and free himself from their manager he distrusted.  He won the lawsuit and even though the other Beatles eventually saw that he was right, they still held it against him.  There was also resentment about his continued music successes. 
       He and John did resume some connection, but never as close as when in the Band. John's murder hit Paul hard, but he continued on with various music projects and his wealth grew.  He had a warm family life with Linda and their four children and numerous homes. Linda and Paul became hardcore vegetarians and animal rights advocates.  Linda wrote a best selling vegetarian cookbook and a started a company producing animal free food. 
      Paul was devastated in 1998 when Linda died of cancer.  They had lived a loving family life together and Paul floundered at her death. Unfortunately, in his depressed mental state, he become infatuated with a seductress named Heather Mills, who had formed a charity to help amputees, herself having lost her lower leg in an accident.  In a past life she basically lived as an expensive prostitute and porn model, but most of that information came out later. 
        Even though Paul fell hard for her, none of his friends liked or trusted her and their warnings fell on Paul's deaf ears. They married, had a stormy 4 years, then divorced with Heather asking for 125 million dollars, she got $24 million.  Despite  Heather's enormous settlement, the judge stated many of her claims were fraudulent.  
       Sir Paul McCartney (he was knighted in 1997) continues giving concerts to this day.   He was the most serious musicians in the Beatles, and in most of his concerts he pays tribute to both John Lennon and George Harrison other members of the Beatles who have both died. They had shared an amazing musical story and despite the later antagonisms, Paul remembers them fondly. 

       I think Fab painted an even-handed picture of Paul, showing his flaws and sometimes pettiness along with his decency and generosity, during a life where it is almost impossible to get any privacy. 

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