Saturday, September 4, 2010

McCartney Memories

Yesterday I learned about a newly released (in North America) DVD titled PAUL McCARTNEY REALLY IS DEAD, The Last Testament of George Harrison. Based on my readings of various commentators it's both interesting and discredited. We will, naturally, have many who find the conspiracy's details fascinating and indisputable.

For me personally, Paul McCartney was more than just another rock star, and I'd like to share here some of my own connections to this singer/songwriter who achieved megafame and fortune as a member of the Fab Four.

In the beginning, as a young teen I was not a superfan of the Beatles. That is to say, I was put off by the Beatlemaniac hysteria I saw in the girls in my junior high school during the Ed Sullivan/Hard Day's Night/Help period. Yes, I had some of their records, and I did like the music, but I found the fawning girl-fan teeny-bopper excesses just a bit much. So I got into the Stones, had their first albums, attracted to their bad boy image.

Everyone had to have a favorite Beatle, of course, and I somewhat identified with George, the quieter guy who didn't make a fuss about being the front man. I didn't relate so much to Paul and John, with their magnetic smiles and pretty boy antics. Then, one day, everything changed.

I'd gone to a dance at Hunterdon High School with a girl I liked from there named Donna. At one point during the evening she had her girl friends all look at me from a certain angle. I couldn't tell what all the fuss was about. Their eyes would light up and they laugh and be like silly girls get sometimes, and I had no clue what was going on. Finally, after they all agreed, I learned that Donna had a poster of Paul McCartney in her room, and I looked just like Paul McCartney.

By this time my opinion of the Beatles had already shifted somewhat, now that Sgt Pepper, Magical Mystery Tour and the White Album were in circulation. But the big shift that evening was in my self-image. I must not have been as homely as I imagined, I thus concluded. O.K., so I had some acne issues to still deal with, but....

Over the next ten years I must have been asked a hundred times, "Has anyone ever told you... you look a little like Paul McCartney?" It was always amusing. Years later, when my son was five years old, there was a McCartney solo album cover on the piano where one would put their sheet music. Micah looked up, pointed at the album and said, "Daddy!"

All this is setup to my two favorite McCartney stories. Here's the first.

Around 1975 when I was attending First Christian Assembly in New Jersey, there was a married couple in our youth group who had gone through a terrible crisis. He had a nervous breakdown of sorts and shot his wife several times in the back with a gun. She went to the hospital, he was sent to the state mental hospital. After she recovered, about four months later, she asked me to visit her husband at the state mental hospital. She wanted me to tell him that she understood what he was going through, that she still loved him and that she had forgiven him. I agreed to go there and convey her message to him.

The New Jersey State Mental Institution at that time was a dreary, sprawling facility and when I entered I was led to a spacious, somewhat dark room with couches and chairs and no one around. The receptionist went down a long hall to fetch the fellow I was there to see. While I was waiting, a young man in his late twenties wandered in, strumming an out of tune guitar, a vacant expression on his face. As he neared where I was standing, his eyes lit up and he approached me. "Are you... Paul McCartney?" I dismissed his remark, but then went with it and said, "Please don't say anything to anyone."

"Can you play me a song?" he asked.

I don't play guitar, but I know how to tune one. I allowed him to give me his guitar and I proceeded to tune it for him. (The strings were all loose and it needed tuning.) Once I had everything tuned, I looked at him and said, "I noticed a piano in the room as we walked by. Maybe I should play a couple songs for you," whereupon we went to a somewhat sunnier room where there was a piano.

I played Hey Jude, and a couple songs from an early solo album. He was thrilled and pulled out a scrap of paper. "Can I get your autograph?" I did my best to write in the free flowing manner I recalled of Paul's hand, and guiltily wondered afterwards what his therapist would be thinking when he shared all these things.

The second story is of more recent vintage. I have performed a half dozen times with De Elliot Bros. jug band at Amazing Grace. The night before the annual Battle of the Jugbands, we did a couple sets, and a young gal from Twin Cities, who was to perform the following day and joined us for a couple songs, was seated in the front row with her boy friend, small dog and accordion. When we finished the second set, I went and chatted with her for a few minutes. After a brief exchange, she finally got a somewhat hushed tone as if to ask something confidential.

She said, "You've probably heard this before, but I was wondering.... has anyone ever told you... you look like George Harrison?"

I laughed.

The photo montage wat the top of the page was assembled by Susie a couple years ago to show friends. Click to enlarge.


Valerie Kamikubo said...

What a delightful post... made me smile :)

ENNYMAN said...

Yeah, life is funny like that. Thanks for the comment and visit.