There is something so 2018 about Macca’s carpool karaoke. Those poor schmucks, gathered in a bar, close together, hugging and sweating and breathing without masks on, have no idea what life holds in store for them all. They don’t know what is brewing in some lab, or in some sickened bat, or that we would all go through a collective hell for two years and counting. They have no idea that life as they knew it would potentially be gone forever. Whichever side of the hysteria line you inhabit, that is a very sorry fact indeed. No one wants this. No one wants to wear smothering masks, or to have faces hidden, or to not be able to hug and touch and breathe freely, however compliant we might be in actuality. No one wants a future of constant and regular medication in the form of shots, and it still be a crap shoot as to who gets sick and who doesn’t, but with the assurance that having been vaccinated we will probably be less sick than if we were not. None of this was the deal. None of us signed up for this. None of us want to live it. Macca had no idea he was throwing a party for the end of innocence and communality.
This cusp of disaster in 2018, with everyone favorite wholesome rock and roll star feels like a last party for the dying days of pre-pandemic life. The tour around his past, his Liverpool childhood home, the sweetly unresentful autograph giving, the cheery willingness to play human jukebox, wearing that gorgeous Hofner violin bass and a look of sheer joy at being able to impart joy to others, comes on like a last hurrah to freedom, a final wave goodbye to carefree life, to social interaction and to careless abandoned happiness. The tears in the audience at the pub show are real. People felt something deeply emotional. A connection to Paul and all the Christmas parties they had as children where Wings played in the background, all the silly headshaking at weddings watching auntie M and uncle G twist and shout like their hips and backs were not screaming at them to stop. Every time as a child, sitting in a car driving sickly to the beach, Yellow Submarine swaying gently on the car cassette stereo, every jag of horror at Lennon’s shooting, and warm fuzzy feeling towards the fab four was distilled in one short and glorious snippet of loveliness.
I remember watching this pre pandemic, and pre Get Back, the stunning Beatles documentary that was so immersive that I kept on forgetting I was actually watching The Beatles, and kept on remarking on how the actors they got to play the boys were so close to them in looks. At the time, not being a Beatles fan in the slightest, and somewhat derisive to the nicest man in music, I still felt deeply nostalgic and moved at the sheer force of everybody involved being so touched by the music and Paul’s presence. I will admit, I really do not listen to the Beatles. I feel like the music has dated badly, but that is not a bad thing, these songs were very much of the time they were created in, in that pressure cooker crucible of the 6 years of Beatle superstardom and constant invention and creation. Quite simply, the reason I don’t dig the Beatles is nothing to do with their music and more of a matter of personal taste.
That said, watching Get Back, and seeing Paul’s creative process, and how hard he had to fight against a band that was bucking and grouching at every attempt he made to actually get the guys to work and knuckle down into making Let it Be. I consider it a privilege to watch Get Back come into being, listening to Paul reel in the song, and capture it, just him and his bass, and a fine ear for lyrics and a hook. When that song is Let it Be or Get Back, it is like watching a miracle. I am not sure why I was surprised, but Paul came over as the primary creative force for their penultimate album. It intrigued me to see that he required just someone to sit with him while he was writing songs. Whether it was the best roadie that ever was, Mal Evans; or Ringo, or John, when John could be persuaded to put Yoko down for two minutes and actually put something into the band. Paul’s creativity didn’t necessarily need their input, just their presence, as a human sounding board, someone to react and feed off their reactions. It remains one of the most beautiful insights into a man’s creative process that I have ever seen. Even though I do not dig The Beatles, I sat there transfixed, willing their album on into being, and the police to stay off the rooftop and let them record their songs. It was here that the band seemed to shed their inhibitions, their tiredness and boredom, and knuckle down into actually putting out the finished product, kicked on into action by their fans down below and a healthy sense of civil disobedience. Paul coming to life when the cops show up to bring an end to their iconic rooftop performance made my heart sing. Paul is not quite the square conventionalist I had him to be. By the end of the documentary, as gay as I am, I was feeling quite warm and fuzzy towards the sweet gentle Paul. What a darling he is!
It astounded me that the rest of the band were getting irritated at Paul being devoted to the music and making it, and were basically calling him a dictator. There would have been no Let it Be without Paul. The band looked strung out and burnt out in the extreme. Harrison looked just as smacky as Lennon did, and considerably stranger with his Hari Krishna friends and obvious lsd devotion. Ringo was the only one who seemed to be in control, even Paul was looking wobbly. Yoko was clearly not the problem she was made out to be, though holy hell she was attached to Lennon like a parrot on his shoulder that he couldn’t shake off. Paul couldn’t even get close enough to work with John, there was Yoko, always in the way, the silent 5th beatle, at least until she started caterwalling. Her jokey screech of “John! John!” which was met by Paul yelling out “He’s working!” in his broad accent is one of the highlights of the documentary. Paul doesn’t just play the saint, he might actually be one. He had not one bad word to say about the cloud of Yoko hanging over the band. Hearing him be so reasonable about the Yoko situation brought a tear to my eye. That is love. Paul clearly loved John deeply and real-ly, loved him enough to ‘let it be’…..Oh to have a friend like Macca!
Here we are, just as removed from 1969 as we are from 2018. Get Back, or Carpool Karaoke all of it exists in a distant past that we cannot access or reach out and grasp. We can no more go back to the pre pandemic days of normality and closeness, than we can transport back to 1969 and stare longingly at the bearded Paul, and his band of merry men, and palpable feeling of pre Altamont possibilities. The dying of the 60s dream, the death of the ’20s hopefulness, neither of these things could be foreseen. There were rumblings, but most of us are used to things basically being ok, to things staying the same, remaining static, to not changing in one fell swoop, destroying life as we know it.
I have heard more than a few people comment that if this is life, they have no interest in living it. The change was too sudden, too bleak and too drastic for them. Personally I was used to my life going to shit, while the rest of the world remained stable. Life is always worth living, as long as their is enough of it left, and what is left is not physically torturous. If we can just hold onto the fact that everything can change in a heartbeat, that waking up can mean that everything changes that day, despite it not being foreseeable or seemingly possible, that drastic changes of fortune can and do happen, then we all might just make it. There will be other times, other moments that make all of it worthwhile. I live for the flashes of perfect moments in amongst the dire and terrifying reality of life. I live for moments of creation, of understanding, of connection, for the unexpected joys of things like being entranced by a Beatles documentary, put out there by the dreaded naziesque Disney.
Somehow there is something infinitely human in mourning the loss of that which was, whilst surviving that which is, and looking forwards to the unknown possibilities of that which is going to be. If anyone had asked me a week ago if I would dabble into listening to the Beatles, giving them a fair and honest listen, I would have said it was impossible, as it is, I might be the oldest newest McCartney fan out there. I read the news today, oh boy….and the ridiculousness of life carries on unabated. Rough trips, infighting and burn out, it seems that there is much to learn from being a fly on the wall of the best band I ever wrongly dismissed as being uninteresting.