The Fab Four discuss Hamburg and their '66 LP in these archive pieces from NME
Taken from NME 24/6/1966
I have interviewed Paul McCartney travelling in a car at speed. Battling up a crowded flight of stairs. In a smoky billiards room. On the telephone. At a recording session. Climbing up a ladder. Walking along Tottenham Court Road. In a taxi. Trapped in a room with fans breaking the door down. Even on a roof.
Bizarre situations some of them may have been, but the one that beats them all took place at BBC TV’s Top Of The Pops the other day. Paul, perched on the edge of a bath, answered my questions. I sat on a lavatory! An odd place for an interview, perhaps, but at that time the room in question happened to be just about the only quiet place in the entire TV Centre.
Girls were here, there and everywhere: mooning up and down the corridors, standing in the entrance hall, and being forced away from The Beatles’ dressing room next door. Cups of tea were brought in and Paul rested his in the washbasin.
“Fans,” he said simply, almost thinking aloud. “Funny, really. Some of them have a go at me, and John and George and Ringo. They say we don’t make enough personal appearances. If only they’d realise. I mean, they think we’ve just been loafing about the past few months. Don’t they realise we’ve been working on our next album since April? It’s a long time.
“I suppose there’s some won’t like it, but if we tried to please everyone we’d never get started. We try to be as varied as possible… on the next LP there’s a track with Ringo doin’ a children’s song, and another with electronic sounds.”
He started to finger his lip, almost without thinking, and I asked him about reports that he’d broken a tooth.
“You’re right,” he admitted candidly. “I did it not long ago when I came off a moped. Now I’ve had it capped… look.”
I looked but I couldn’t see anything. A perfect mend. Only a small scar remains on his lip as a souvenir.
“It was quite a serious accident at the time. It probably sounds daft, having a serious accident on a motorised bicycle, but I came off hard and I got knocked about a bit. My head and lip were cut and I broke the tooth. I was only doing 30, but it was dark and I hit a stone and went flyin’ through the air. It was my fault, all right. It was a nice night and I was looking at the moon!”
He sipped his tea and reached for a cigarette.
“What about all this ‘Didn’t Paul McCartney look ill on TV’, then?” he went on, referring to Mama Cass’ remarks in NME’s America Calling last week. “I haven’t been ill. Apart from the accident, I’m dead fit. I know what it was, though. When we filmed those TV clips for ‘Paperback Writer’, I’d only just bashed my tooth, an’ we’d been working a bit hard on the LP an’ I hadn’t had much sleep. That was it.
“We haven’t had much time for anything but the LP. I mean, 14 songs – all got to be written and recorded ’til you’re satisfied with them. It’s hard work, man.
“I’ve done a bit of reading, though – Frank Harris, My Life And Loves. I don’t believe half of it! He can’t ’arf boast. I also read Jean Cocteau’s Opium. Frightening. No. What am I saying? It’s not frightening at all.
“Films? Yeah, I saw Cul-De-Sac, with Donald Pleasence. Not bad, not bad. But it’s a bit drawn out towards the end. I also saw the play, Juno And The Paycock. Great!
“No, I don’t think any of us will write a play or a musical, not for a long time. People are always asking us that, but the thing is that we put all our imagination and ideas into our songs. Honestly, they take so much concentration.
“‘Paperback Writer’? Well, this came about because I love the word ‘Paperback’.”
He seemed to savour the word and rolled it around his tongue.
“Anyway, when we did the song, we wrote the words down like we were writing a letter.” He waved his arm as if writing across a sheet of paper. “We sort of started off ‘Dear Sir Or Madam’, then carried on from there. If you look at the words I think you’ll see what I mean, the way they flow like a letter. But that’s it really, there’s no story behind it and it wasn’t inspired by any real-life characters.”
Paul and the rest of the Beatles shrugged off questions about them not making No 1 first time with ‘Paperback Writer’ with a sort of “That’s showbusiness” air. They regard it as just one of those things… and as they’re up there at No 1 this week, perhaps they’re right. Paul shows more interest when you ask him about his homes. There are three now: one in St John’s Wood, London, for which he is reputed to have paid £40,000; one in Liverpool; and the newest acquisition – a farm in Scotland.
“Aye the noo,” he beamed, affecting a credible Scots accent. “It’s just a wee small place, up there at the tip of Scotland, and aye plarrn tae make the occasional trip therre for a wee spell of solitude.”
Suddenly, he dropped the Scots bit and got back to normal. “It’s not bad, though – 200 acres and a farmhouse. I can’t tell you how much it was, but it was well worth the money as far as I’m concerned. As far as the St John’s Wood house goes, I’ve furnished it in traditional style because I don’t go for this modern stuff that always looks as if it needs something doing to it. I like it to be comfortable. Those mod leather chairs… ugh. They’re too cold.” He looked suitably pained.
“Do I know anything about property? Not really. Well, I suppose I do, come to think of it. I’m being vague. But don’t think I’m a big property tycoon. I only buy places I like. I haven’t got anything abroad.”
I asked him about the mystery instrument mentioned in my NME feature last week, bought for £110 by recording manager George Martin and used by him on one track of the forthcoming album. George had amiably refused to name it until The Beatles had given the all-clear.
Paul laughed. “Why the mystery? It’s only a clavichord and it makes a nice sound. There’s no real weird stuff on this LP. Anyway, I’ve stopped regarding things as way-out anymore.”
I reminded him of an occasion when I’d told him that “Twist And Shout” was well worth releasing as a single, and he’d answered that it was too “way-out”.
He agreed. “You’re right. We thought it was at the time. Anyway, these days I’ve stopped thinking that anything is weird or different. There’ll always be people about like that Andy Warhol in the States, the bloke who makes great long films of people just sleeping. Nothin’ weird anymore. We sit down and write, or go into the recording studios, and we just see what comes up.”
He took another sip of tea.
“D’you know the longest session we ever did in the studios? It was for the Rubber Soul album, an’ it went on from five in the evening till half-past-six the next day. Yeah, it was tough, OK, but we had to do it. We do a lot of longer sessions now than we used to, because I suppose we’re far more interested in our sound.”