Paul McCartney dialed in to Howard Stern’s radio show on Tuesday morning (April 14) from his home in the English countryside, where he’s hunkered down with one of his daughters. But after earlier noting that he’d gotten up in the middle of the night to scratch down a long list of questions he wanted to ask the former Beatle for fear of wasting his precious time with such an iconic music figure, the SiriusXM host dipped back into one of his signature bag-of-tricks queries to kick off the chat.
“Are you getting laid?” Stern asked.
“The only bad thing about it is that [wife] Nancy is in New York, so we have an enforced separation,” Sir Paul said, gracefully sidestepping the randy query. “I’m lucky in one respect in that I’m locked down in the country with my daughter [Mary] and her family. So that makes it better,” he continued, preferring not to discuss the “private” reasons he and Nancy became separated.
McCartney said they were on holiday together and Nancy had to get back to New York to tend to some family matters while he needed to get back to England. They are, of course, in constant touch and Sir Paul mentioned that like a lot of New Yorkers, Nancy is out at 7 p.m. every night banging pots and pans to celebrate the frontline healthcare and EMS workers who are toiling to save lives in the city.
As a member of the post-WWII generation who saw how his parents picked themselves up after that war’s devastations, the “Let It Be” singer said he was having a hard time fathoming the global pandemic that has shut the entire world down. “The spirit that [my mom and dad] showed, this ‘we’ll get on with it, we’ll do whatever’s necessary, we’ll all pull together and we’ll try and stay happy and we’ll thank all the people who look after us and the people who fight for us, et cetera’ — that spirit is kind of what they needed and it’s what we need now,” he said. “It is around, that’s what we’re seeing now. A lot of people are pulling together and it’s a great thing,” he said. “It is good to see that, it’s inspiring.”
McCartney, a longtime vegetarian and animal rights activist, also made a plea for the Chinese government to shut down the country’s so-called “wet markets” — which sell freshly slaughtered animals of all stripes — which some have linked to the novel coronavirus that has essentially shut the world down. “It’s a very serious thing, and that’s why someone’s definitely got to do something about it,” McCartney said.
Among the gigs Sir Paul had postponed this year was a planned headlining slot at this year’s Glastonbury festival, with the singer saying he’s bummed that all the people who bought tickets to the show have had the plug pulled on their big summer outing.
They also discussed McCartney’s joy in reuniting onstage with his former Beatles mate drummer Ringo Starr during a gig at Dodger Stadium last year and whether the two might think about playing together more often. “It is great to play with him; maybe I’ll join the All-Starrs,” McCartney joked, though nimbly sidestepped Stern’s attempt to get him to answer whether he ever considered carrying on with Starr and late guitarist/singer George Harrison after John Lennon broke the band up. “I hear what you’re saying, but the thing is, Howard… that’s like a family. When family’s break up, it’s to do with the emotion and the emotional pain and you can’t just think of a smart idea like that at the time. You’re hurting too much,” he said.
Stern also got McCartney to declare that The Beatles were a better band than The Rolling Stones — “you know you’re going to persuade me to agree with that one,” McCartney laughed. “The Stones are a fantastic group, I go to see them every time they come out because they’re a great, great band and Mick can really do it, the singing and the moves, and Keith and now Ronnie and Charlie. They’re great,” he said. “They’re really, really great. I love ’em… I love The Stones, but I’m with you: The Beatles are better.”
McCartney revealed that director Franco Zeffirelli once offered him the lead role in his 1968 take on Romeo and Juliet, said he kind of checked out of music in the 1980s and wasn’t really familiar with bands like Van Halen, and expressed admiration for one of his designer daughter Stella McCartney’s muses Billie Eilish.
Asked if he envies Eilish and brother Finneas’ ability to create all their music in a bedroom, McCartney said it’s great for them, but maybe not so much for The Beatles. “For them, it’s brilliant. And what they produce from the bedroom is really very special,” he said of Eilish and Finneas. “Stella FaceTimed me with Billie and her family because she wore some of Stella’s clothes on Glastonbury when she played it, so they were there. It was great to sort of chat with them and stuff.”
McCartney said he listened to Eilish’s music and thought it was “really great… but the truth is that for me, the memories of going into EMI studios and to Abbey Road and the thrill of being some kid who’d been in his bedroom long enough, thank you very much, and getting out to this beautiful studio and being on almost kind of office hours — two songs in the morning, lunch, two songs in the afternoon, good night. Four songs a day we were banging them out, it was so exciting… I wouldn’t swap that for anything.”
There was, of course, lots of talk about the songwriting dynamic between Lennon and McCartney, but also Sir Paul’s excitement about director Peter Jackson’s upcoming Disney documentary, The Beatles: Get Back. Jackson is working through more than 55 hours of unreleased footage shot by Michael Lindsay-Hogg during the Let It Be sessions and edited it into a new form. “It’s great. I’m not boasting, because I’m just talking not about me, but this group I was in,” McCartney said. “But it’s bloody great. And you see this kind of thing, you see this relationship between me and John, me and George, and you get it. You’ll get it.”
Thinking it would be dull and sad to watch, McCartney said the film is funny and a testament to true musical kinship and love. “It’s much nicer and more friendly than the story has become,” McCartney said of the way the Jackson film rewrites the story of the fractious relationships between the band’s members.