PAUL McCARTNEY HAS TALKED about the troubled times from which he plucked some of his most affecting songs. The death from cancer of the singer’s mother, the Japanese drug bust of 1980 and the death of Ringo Starr’s first wife, Maureen: all impacted on McCartney far more than his outwardly breezy demeanour tends to project, and he sheds fascinating light on that area in an interview in MOJO magazine on the eve of the release of his latest solo album, New.
“No matter how shitty it is, get on with it.”
“I think it’s good when you’re in a dark period, the good is [the song’s] your psychiatrist, it’s your therapy,” McCartney tells MOJO’s Pat Gilbert. “Going away when you’re really upset about something and putting it in your song – you come out of that cupboard, toilet or basement and go, ‘I really feel better.’ You’ve actually exorcised the demon.”
McCartney cites the Flaming Pie album’s Little Willow – written after the 1994 death of Maureen Starkey – as one of his more cathartic songs. Then there’s The Beatles’ Yesterday.
“With Yesterday, singing it now, I think without realising it I was singing about my mum,” says McCartney. “Because I think now, ‘Why she had to go, I don’t know, she wouldn’t say, I said something wrong…’ I think the psychiatrist would have a field day with that one…”
Macca’s dark days tend to be brushed off, not least by Macca himself. But the loss of Linda in 1998 thrust him into a highly public mourning, while the drug bust, the paternity suit filed by Bettina Krischbin (the daughter of Hamburg-era girlfriend Erika Hübers) and Lennon’s murder came in short order at the turn of the ’80s. A rough ride in anyone’s estimation.
“I think my [robust] personality got me through it,” says McCartney. “It goes back to my family and upbringing in Liverpool, which taught you no matter how shitty it is, get on with it and try and have a good time… With that paternity suit, the most difficult thing was my kids, saying to them, ‘Look, you’re going to go to school today and the kids have probably seen this front page thing about my secret love child, you’re just going to have to deal with it. It’s not true…’”
Read more about McCartney’s coping strategies and songwriterly soul-mining in the latest MOJO magazine, out now.