Thursday, June 22, 2006
Paul McCartney Books
A belated Happy Birthday to my favorite singer for the past 36 years, Sir Paul McCartney. As everyone in the free world knows by now, the knighted Beatle turned 64 on June 18th, an event journalists with nothing better to do had eagerly awaited since 1967. Although a bit troubled these days with his very public marital woes, McCartney’s life has become the stuff of legend. Today, I offer a selection of books which, when read together, probably offer a glimpse of something close to the real man while also building on the myth.
PAUL McCARTNEY IN HIS OWN WORDS offers a great portrait of where Macca’s head was at in the early to mid-seventies told as it is in transcripts of interviews with American expatriate author/broadcaster (and early Marvel Comics letterhack!) Paul Gambaccini Lots of photos I’ve not seen anywhere else also. Nothing too controversial here as Gambaccini was/is a true fan of his subject but still pretty in-depth in spots.
THE PAUL McCARTNEY STORY by George Tremlett is a 1977 paperback whose greatest asset is a 70 page timeline at the back of the book. The Beatles story is told here again but the real emphasis is on Paul as an individual and his post-Beatles projects.
PAUL McCARTNEY AND WINGS is a coffee table picture book (one of several) from 1977. It’s well laid out and offers a wealth of photos from the early seventies. A little fluffy on actual content but still a nice, colorful addition.
PAUL McCARTNEY THE DEFINITIVE BIOGRAPHY by Chris Welch isn’t really all that definitive. With only about 150 pages, how could it be? Still, it’s a good basic telling of Paul’s story, again with great photos. This 1984 British book’s main selling point is that it presents detailed reviews of all of its subject’s musical releases since 1970’s McCARTNEY.
BLACKBIRD from 1991 is by Geoffrey Giuliano who made a cottage industry out of exploiting the Beatles both as a group and solo. His early books were treasures of Fab Four memorabilia but by this point I wasn’t even sure he LIKED the group! This one deals more with the negative, seamier and scandalous sides of the ever-boyish superstar. It’s more than a bit sensationalized but read between the lines and there’s probably some truth there. Giuliano was initially reported to have died at the WTC on 9/11 but then later reports seemed to put the lie to that. Is he gone or were reports of his death, like McCartney’s, premature?
THE WALRUS WAS PAUL by R. Gary Patterson came out in 1996 and deals exclusively with that infamous rumor of Paul’s death. An essential part of the McCartney legend, it is glossed over in more serious biographies so it’s good to have one like this that ignores everything else and JUST deals with the bizarre "clues" in this long proven ridiculous theory that Paul died and was replaced in the group early on by an arguably more talented doppelganger.
McCARTNEY YESTERDAY AND TODAY was Ray Coleman’s excellent 1996 contribution to McCartney scholarship. The estimable Coleman had produced a near definitive biography of John Lennon previously but died the year this much thinner volume came out leaving readers to wonder if it had been meant to be even more detailed.
PAUL McCARTNEY MANY YEARS FROM NOW is credited to long-time Beatle friend Barry Miles but comes across as probably the closest thing we’ll ever see to an in-depth autobiography of Paul as it was written with his full participation. It’s sheer thickness (over 600 pages) and its rather stark cover mark this one as a serious undertaking. This came out nearly a decade ago in 1997 and Paul, never one to rest on laurels, has continued to be a major presence in the pop world and, more recently, the tabloids. In fact, he has compiled several mostly photographic histories of his own.Perhaps Miles can re-visit his subject and give us an equally thick volume two. Not soon, though. Heck, Paul’s only 64. Rock and roll started out as teenage music. Paul continues to prove that just isn’t so. Who knows what’s still ahead?