You're playing some of the Beatles songs as the remasters are about to come out. Does that bring back memories?
I always do songs I want to play and also songs the audience wants to hear. So there's a positive spin on them, anyway. I think it's interesting, when you have some time to consider things. I was talking to people at dinner the other night and they'd heard about the show or seen it and [we started talking about] things like the significance of the Beatles politically. So many people, in America particularly, come up to me and say, 'You changed my life.' This whole idea of the significance of the Beatles is incredible. Someone mentioned the Russian thing - the bringing down of the iron curtain. That was the whole ethos behind rock music, we just happened to symbolize it because we were possibly the most visible. It's not often that that kind of a thing has such a global influence. We were lucky because we were at a time of global communications - TV and records and radio were stretching through borders. And the other day I was doing a bit of yoga and the yoga teacher said I have to thank you and the guys - I wouldn't be doing this if it weren't for the Beatles. I feel that more as time goes on.
EMI is putting out new versions of the Beatles albums on Sept. 9. Did you pay a lot of attention to the remastering process?
We do the approving and the other guys do the real hard work. We needed a very good team to help with the anthology and Cirque du Soleil and now for 'Rock Band.' So they do the work and then Ringo and I go in and listen to the demos and we usually go, 'Wow, this is amazing- that's what it sounded like in the room.' That's what's nice about it. It's not smarter or more sophisticated - it's just more real, it's more true to the noise we were actually making. I can listen to those records and see John right there.
What about 'Rock Band?' Is it weird having your music out there for people to interact with?
I think it's great. It's just the modern world and you either embrace it or you don't. I'm happy to embrace good new ideas - it keeps things exciting. If kids - or anyone - want to play a video games and someone like ['Rock Band' publisher] Harmonix wants to put together a great Beatles project, then it makes sense to me.
This is the same kind of thing [as the "1" album]. I'm sure the kids don't care - and I don't care -how they hear the music. To hear it is the fun. It's very good quality - Giles Martin [son of famed Beatles producer George Martin] has been doing all the work, so I think it's going to be an interesting phenomenon that will make another Beatles thing happen.
One aspect of the modern world the Beatles haven't embraced is iTunes. Have you thought about it? Or do you think that not having your music available there has helped you?
That originally was mentioned a number of years ago and we all sort of said we'd look at it. But there was a logjam with the people who took over EMI - there were some aspects of the whole thing that they became nervous about. So the deal got stuck. So we're just waiting. Meantime, as you say, it's kind of interesting, because virtually the same kind of thing is going to happen with 'Rock Band' - you're going to be able to download albums from that. We bypassed the logjam - not really intentionally. But one day I think that it's natural that it will be on iTunes.
An expanded version of Billboard's conversation with Paul McCartney will appear in the September 12, 2009 issue of Billboard magazine. You can buy that edition by visiting OrderBillboard.com and selecting Issue 36.