Tuesday, 28 August 2012

In defence of Paul McCartney...

Since his shambolic Olympic performance 150,000 people have signed a Facebook petition to stop Macca playing at national events.  We mock him at our own peril.

Paul McCartney is not an easy person to like. It is often easy to hate him, mostly as a result of his deep-rooted self-regard and a quite astonishingly deluded belief in his own enduring cool. Whether making the risible claim that Steven Spielberg “really paid attention” to the Beatles’ dreadful Magical Mystery Tour movie, or composing the rancid, stamp-along “Freedom” in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Paul seems to get more hideous with every passing year.

This all came to a head at the Olympic opening ceremony, when he mangled “Hey Jude” badly, creating a bone-clenching moment of embarrassment at the end of what, until that point, had been a wondrous event. And so the Facebook campaign to stop him began.

Stepping back for a moment, we should ask ourselves a few questions before putting our name to such a document:

First - why has there been no Facebook campaign to stop other performers, after similar monstrous moments? Why, for instance, has there been no Facebook campaign to prevent Russell Brand from even looking at a microphone again? His butchering of John Lennon’s “I am the Walrus” at the Olympic closing ceremony, shouted through a megaphone while dressed as Bertie Basset, has to be one of the most senseless acts of cultural barbarism ever committed in this country…yet we accept it. At least Macca screwed up his own song  - probably the greatest rock and roll song ever written.

We also have to ask– why does Paul keep getting booked? Could it be that what we want, at these moments of supposed national unity, is to see something a little special? Could it be that in the absence of Paul, left with the acts we saw at the Queen’s Jubilee concert (JLS, Tom Jones, Robbie Williams, Gary Barlow) we would feel that we could be anywhere, celebrating anything -from the Monarch’s 60th year to the opening of a new supermarket?

The fact is that Paul is something special. Have we all really forgotten the man’s staggering song-writing catalogue? Do we need to be reminded of Lady Madonna, I saw her standing there, Fixing a hole, Yesterday, I’ve just seen a face, Oh Darling, Blackbird, Get Back….? Even the great no-shows of the Olympic closing ceremony, Bowie and Bush, cannot really claim a footprint as large as Macca’s - our children still sing Yellow Submarine in school, while our teenagers still blare Let it Be after being dumped.

Some will undoubtedly say: of course we haven’t forgotten his music – that’s what makes it so tragic. We don’t want to see him butchering our memories in this fashion. Some will say that at least Bowie and Bush know when to quit, when to leave us with our memories and say goodbye.

But really, should we resent the man for celebrating with us, for entertaining us, for being there? Sometimes his eccentric performances even work. When he came on stage at the concert held in memory of George Harrison, you could almost hear the sharp intake of breath. Then he unleashed a simple ukelele rendition of “Something”, and brought the house down.

As dreadful as his Olympic Hey Jude was, it will certainly be an enduring memory, and besides we were certainly never going to get the greatest ever performance of the song. That already happened, on the David Frost show in 1968.

Watch that video. Listen to Paul’s ballsy, rip-roaring vocal. See the place he had at the heart of the greatest band in history. Then ask yourself: Shall I join another poxy Facebook campaign, or shall I listen to some more of this bloke's songs?