A Little Happier: Paul McCartney Is Now a Fan of the Beatles

As I’ve mentioned many times, ever since I watched the Disney+ Get Back documentary about the Beatles, I’ve been very interested in the Beatles and their creative process.

As part of this fascination, I watched McCartney 3 , 2 , 1, a six-part documentary miniseries on Hulu, which shows Paul McCartney in conversation with legendary producer Rick Rubin.

I loved the series and found it fascinating on many levels.

One thing that delighted me was seeing how enthusiastic Paul McCartney was about his own music.

In episode one, he says, “Looking back, I astound myself.” Throughout the series, it makes me so happy to see him take such great pleasure in his own music – he smiles, moves with the music, sings along, jumps to his feet from his chair, and holds the beat with his hands. Even though he’s heard and performed these songs thousands of times!

At one point, he says, “As a Beatles fan now, it’s astounding to me that all in all John and I wrote just short of three hundred songs.” I was struck by the fact that he describes himself as a “Beatles fan.” Paul McCartney is a Beatles fan? Huh.

As I was pondering the mystery of that remark, I recalled a passage from actor Rob Lowe’s book of autobiographical essays, Stories I Only Tell My Friends (Amazon, Bookshop). When I went to look up the passage in my commonplace book of quotations, to my astonishment, I saw that to make his point, Rob Lowe specifically mentions Paul McCartney!

Lowe writes about telling Francis Ford Coppola how much he loved the movie The Godfather, how he’d seen it a hundred times. Francis Ford Coppola responded, “You know, Rob, to me The Godfather is like that lamp…It exists. It’s right there. People have opinions about it…The real Godfather, for me, is the experience I had making it.”

Lowe continues:

It would be many years and many projects before I fully understood what he meant. If you are fortunate enough to be part of a hit, particularly a transcendent one, all emotional ownership is transferred from you to the audience. They judge it and embrace it; project their own hopes, dreams, and fears onto it; take their personal meaning from its themes, and with these investments it becomes theirs. The significance of your participation pales in comparison to the significance the project has on their imaginations. And so, you are left outside of the phenomenon. Just as Paul McCartney can never experience the Beatles, Francis Ford Coppola can never experience The Godfather.

Maybe that’s what Paul McCartney means by describing himself as a fan of the Beatles. The band broke up in 1970, and looking back after fifty years, perhaps he’s now experiencing the band from the outside as well as the inside.

It’s interesting to consider that perhaps we, as devoted fans, experience a piece of art as deeply, in our own way, as the artist who created it.




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