Defiant and depressed, as The Beatles fell apart fifty years ago, Paul McCartney retreated from the world to rebuild his music from the inside out.
“The band was breaking up, which meant that I didn’t have anyone to make the music with,” McCartney told me after the tenth anniversary of McCartney II, the sequel to his self-titled, socially distant 1970 solo debut he made at home, as The Beatles went to war with each other.
“So I had the alternative of putting together a band quickly, or taking it in another direction, which is what I decided to do,” he explained. “Also, that period of my life was one where I was going against the corporate mentality, which didn’t fit for me with the music I loved and wanted to make. The Beatles were with a label and had a studio, but once the band broke up I wanted to go in another direction. So I got a machine identical to the one we were using in the studio, a few mics and started work.”
People with access to so much technology at their literal fingertips forget that all of The Beatles legendary efforts were created on inferior machines. We live in a time where every kid with a phone has a higher powered studio than the one that made Revolver.
“It’s a great thing, and a buzz,” McCartney told me. “It ties in with what I was doing on McCartney and McCartney II, by allowing you to just get on with having your ideas and not having to cope with being in a social situation. Which is a double-edged sword: Sometimes it’s a great thing to hang out with a band like the Beatles. But it’s not always great, especially during times when it’s argumentative or you wish you were somewhere else where you could be yourself a bit more.”
Decades later, McCartney and McCartney II historically stand out as influential examples of a superstar taking charge of an epochal aftermath. Another decade after my wide-ranging interview with McCartney, in a more destabilized era riven by pandemic and fascism, we are here again, hunkering down, reprograming ourselves, and listening for change.
And so McCartney has again added his voice to our turbulent time with MCartney III, out now. Fifty years after the passing of The Beatles, may we still hold his hand for as long as we can.
The wait is finally over: Paul McCartney’s overwhelmingly anticipated all-new, all-Paul album McCartney III has been released in its full streaming, CD, and rainbow of vinyl glory as of today December 18, 2020 via Capitol Records.
Paul’s first new album since 2018’s #1 charting Egypt Station, McCartney III is a stripped back, self-produced and, quite literally, solo work in the tradition of 1970’s McCartney and 1980’s McCartney II. Recorded earlier this year during “Rockdown” in Sussex, McCartney III is mostly built from live takes of Paul on vocals and guitar or piano, overdubbing his bass playing, drumming, etc. atop that foundation. The process first sparked when Paul returned to an unreleased track from the early 90s, “When Winter Comes” (recorded with George Martin). Paul crafted a new passage for the song, giving rise to album opener “Long Tailed Winter Bird”—while “When Winter Comes,” featuring its new 2020 intro “Winter Bird,” became the new album’s grand finale.
The newest and most in depth look at the McCartney III creative process surfaced this week in the form of the “Find My Way” video Directed by Roman Coppola, the shoot utilized no less than 46 cameras to capture Paul on every instrument and from every angle, resulting in an unprecedented and intimate glimpse into Paul creating and performing a McCartney III highlight.
Just as McCartney’s classic 1970 solo debut marked Paul’s return to basics in the wake of the biggest band break-up in musical history, and the 1980 avant-garde masterpiece McCartney II rose from the ashes of Wings, McCartney III finds Paul back on his own, turning unexpected circumstances into a personal snapshot of a timeless artist at a unique point in history.