My Pilgrimage To Macca (Happy Birthday Sir Paul!)

Today, June 18, is Paul McCartney’s 68th  birthday.

This is where I usually trot out a Wikipedia file of facts about the man. You know: “Sir James Paul McCartney, MBE (born 18 June 1942) is an English singer-songwriter, composer, multi-instrumentalist, entrepreneur, record and film producer, poet, painter, and animal rights activist. Formerly of The Beatles and Wings, according to Guinness World Records, McCartney is the most successful songwriter in the history of popular music…” blah, blah, blah.

I might go on to add that, after leaving The Beatles, McCartney is considered the “most successful musician and composer in popular music history”, with 60 gold discs and sales of 100 million singles in the UK.” Or add that “BBC News named “Yesterday” the most covered song in history—by over 2,200 artists and, according to the BBC, has been played more than 7,000,000 times on American television and radio. Wings’ 1977 single “Mull of Kintyre” became the first single to sell more than two million copies in the UK, and remains the UK’s top selling non-charity single. Based on the 93 weeks his compositions have spent at the top spot of the UK chart, and 24 number one singles to his credit, McCartney is the most successful songwriter in UK singles chart history. As a performer or songwriter, McCartney was responsible for 32 number one singles on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, and has sold 15.5 million RIAA certified albums in the US alone.” I could remind you that he is one of Britain’s wealthiest men, (estimated fortune of £750 million) and his publishing and entertainment company, MPL Communications owns the copyrights to more than 3,000 songs, including those of his childhood hero Buddy Holly, and stage musicals such as Guys and Dolls, A Chorus Line, and Grease.  I’ve got all sorts of other facts, here, about his charitable work and social cause awareness raising activities around the world, his work for animal rights, vegetarianism, autism and music education, his work to ban land mines, seal hunting, and to elimnate Third World debt.

But today, I’d prefer to share a personal story about the time I shook his hand.

It was February 13, 1993 in New York City, right after the taping of episode 339 of Saturday Night Live , hosted that week by Alec Baldwin, with musical guest Paul McCartney, who was at the time promoting his newest album, Off The Ground.

Full disclosure, and forgive me if you’ve heard this before, but my brother Mike was an SNL cast member at the time and as a result, I was able to fly down from Toronto (where I lived at the time) and check out the show pretty much whenever I wanted to. This was handy when the musical guest was someone I really wanted to see and or meet. I’ll never forget the first time I got to see Elvis Costello singing “Let Him Dangle” and “Veronica”, me up front, sitting in the swivel chairs at 8H to get a great view, or walking past a stairwell backstage and hearing diminutive Annie Lennox doing some warmup scales, the sound resonating through the entire area. Needless to say, when Mike told me that Paul McCartney was going to be the musical guest for the February 13th show, I made sure I was able to get down there. Adding to the fun, I was granted a couple of hard to obtain extra passes, so I invited my friend Richard Crouse and his then girlfriend to come with me down to NYC. The show was fun to watch, Alec Baldwin was then a slim youngish leading man known more for dramatic lead roles (his comedic skills were not as deeply tapped at the time) so it was still a revelation to see him nail the comedy. Our first glimpse of McCartney was the sketch before the first musical number, appearing as Chris Farley’s guest on The Chris Farley Show sketch. As you watch this, remember that I’m sitting about 9 feet away from them, behind the camera, off to the right.

After a commercial break,  McCartney and his band (featuring Linda McCartney, Robbie McIntosh, Wix, Hamish Stuart and drummer Blair Cunningham ambled out on to the right side stage where the bands perform. I was in a swivel chair on 8H (as opposed to the 9th floor bleachers) so I could get the best look, my closest ever to a Beatle. After a brief intro from Baldwin, the band opened with “Get Out Of My Way”. Here’s something I found on YouTube of the REHEARSAL for that, from earlier in the day…

After Weekend Update with Kevin Nealon, there were about five more sketches before McCartney’s second song, “Biker Like An Icon.” Here’s a different live version of from a TV special, Up Close, aired the year before.

But the moment I’ll never forget was when Paul closed the show, sitting at the big black grand piano to sing “Hey Jude” joined by his band. Since the grand piano was further upstage, I was now about five feet from it, almost the same view I’d only seen in the Let It Be movie, some twenty years earlier. I thought maybe this was my own personal moment, no one else could be on the verge of tears like me, no one else could have felt that time stood still, no one else felt the goosebumps. But I was way wrong. I looked back to see my brother, still in makeup and standing in the back of 8H near Lorne Michaels and the crew, he was crying but we both smiled like we knew this was so real that it was unreal. Then I noticed Sting and Trudi Styler off behind the bleacher stands, and was that Jon Bon Jovi? Hey, there’s Bill Murray! They’ve all come home to hear this. It was – and my apologies to all organized faiths – religious. The Beatles may not have really been bigger than God, as John Lennon once quipped, but then God didn’t write “Hey Jude.”

After every SNL show, there’s a private after show party, usually held at a restaurant or bar in Manhattan. Being with a cast member, I was allowed to go. Sitting at my table, probably having a few drinks but feeling neither drunk nor sober, I glanced around the room. Some of the females at the table swooned as Alec Baldwin, leading man handsome, came by the table to say hello to Mike. But I was craning my neck looking for Paul. Then I saw he and Linda over at a booth, they were talking to, no it can’t be! Allen Ginsberg! Really!  Two of “the best minds of my generation,” (or the generation just before mine) seated at one booth. I felt like I was in a historical novel. I was so proud of my brother’s talent and so grateful that he could share this moment with me. I don’t think I’ve ever felt the way I felt that night.

Earlier in the week, Mike had told me about a rehearsal where Paul had spoken with Mike and, since our parents are from Liverpool, they had talked about the old country and our relatives and stuff like that. Mike had told Paul and Linda about our father Eric Myers, a transplanted Scouser who had moved to Toronto with my mum in the late 50s and raised three boys there. Dad had died of complications from Alzheimer’s Disease the year before. Paul had lost his father too (albeit in 1976) and conveyed his empathy to Mike. Mike told Paul that our family always considered The Beatles family, even though we are not related in the slightest. Unlike my aunties, uncles and cousins from over ‘ome, however, I had yet to actually meet anyone from the Beatle side of the family. Now was my chance.

(not from the actual evening depicted in story)

As Paul & Linda made their way out of the restaurant, they table hopped and said their goodbyes to various cast members and to Lorne, their host. Stopping by our table, my brother seized the moment and, turning to McCartney, he said “Paul, this is my brother Paul who I was telling you about!” The Fab one reached out his hand to shake mine. I was dazed – I was shaking a Beatle hand. I noted, to myself,  that he had guitar player’s callouses on his finger tips. ‘Beatle callouses,’ I thought. The callouses that came from writing the “Paperback Writer” riff or the bass line from George’s “Taxman.”

“Sorry to hear about your Dad,” Paul McCartney said to ME, completely transforming what could have been a generic meet and greet (for him) into an intimate family moment. I don’t know about you, but it’s not every day that one of the greatest composers of the 20th century utters his condolences to me over the loss of a loved one . Suddenly, I had a lump in my throat.”You have no idea what this moment means to me I croaked out, “I’m a huge fan.” Then, smiling and feeling a little self-conscious about the tripping out, I added “Can you tell?”

“Yeah,” he said, half-laughing at the self-awareness, “You have that look in your eyes.” It wasn’t nasty, or a put-down, it’s just a fact. He was in the daily business of meeting people for whom the moment was sacred. He knows the drill, no more, no less. Like the Pope. Then Paul turned and said to Linda, “Hey Linda, this is Paul, Mike’s brother, remember he was telling us about him!” I’m not gonna lie, that kind of blew my mind. Noticing me, Linda swiveled around and leaned in to kiss me on the cheek. I didn’t know what to do, so I leaned in to kiss her and ended up smacking her on the lips. Awkward. “Thank god there was no tongue,” I thought to myself, “her being a vegetarian and all.” We all laughed at the awkwardness of the moment and I think I just pointed to my head in that swirling motion used universally to indicate that one is, you know, “kookoo for Cocoa Puffs”.   Smiles all around, though, and they kept moving to the front where they were ushered into waiting vehicle and then… they were gone.

Perhaps for Paul & Linda, it was just Another Day,

For me it was probably one of the greatest moments of my entire life.

Anyway, Paul, Happy Birthday!

Thanks for reading The Pulmyears Music Blog, written by Paul Myers. As usual, send any questions, comments or perhaps today your own stories of meeting a Beatle, to the COMMENTS section below.

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12 Responses to “My Pilgrimage To Macca (Happy Birthday Sir Paul!)”

  1. Mairi Welman Says:

    Lovely story, Paul! *snif* 🙂

  2. Dean Thut Says:

    What a fantastic story. The way you tell it, you can really get the moment.
    It was even better than the story that Dana Carvey tells about smoking a joint with Paul.

  3. Great story Paul – your writing skills make it great reading.

  4. Gary Pearson Says:

    Beautiful. I had the pleasure of working with Dave McKenzie recently and he sent me this link as he knows I’m a big Paul fan. I’m taking my entire family, wife and 3 kids to see McCartney at the ACC in August. It is pretty extravagant for us, but my children (aged 8 to 14) have grown up on Beatle music. I like the thought of Beatles as family, because that’s the way they feel for me. It’s like they have always been there, sometimes in the background, sometimes centre stage, my whole life. Thanks for your post and I feel like we’re both part of some kind of musical brotherhood.

  5. Great story. Have you washed your hand yet?

  6. Very touching story Paul,sob sob sniff sniff. xx

  7. Who says big boys don’t cry? Thanks for sharing a very personal moment, Paul.

  8. the way you write,shows the kindness within you.

    email me back , i have something beetle-like which will definitely make your day

    Cheers

  9. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story.ive been reading it with tears in my eyes as i remember the moment i have seen paul live some 3 years ago.a day i will never forget.

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