I hope you’re all keeping safe and well as we head into what promises to be a busy period for Beatles fans. Some of you are no doubt already enjoying the 50th anniversary re-release of the Let It Be album and, like me, looking forward to watching the companion film, Peter Jackson’s three-part ‘Get Back’ on the Disney+ channel starting 25th November. Ahead of that we get Paul McCartney’s The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present book on 2 November, and the recently published sequel to his Grandude children’s book. Not only that, Abbey Road studios in London have today announced they are opening up their world famous Studio 2 for a series of lectures to be held over two weekends 13th-14th and 20th-21st November.
As you might expect, with so much to promote there have been all manner of videos, social media postings, press and television interviews, a surprising number of which have featured a little nod to Liverpool in some way, most of which involve Paul. I thought it would be interesting to compile them all here because any new photo, film clip, document or anecdote is always interesting.
On 22 September a one minute clip of Paul talking with comedian, actor and television presenter Bob Mortimer in the British Library was released as a teaser trailer for his new lyrics book.
Discussing the 1968 song Rocky Raccoon, Bob asked Paul to recount the story of the doctor stinking of gin: I was riding on a little moped to see my cousin Betty (Robbins) and it was a moonlit night, (stares up at the sky, mouth agog) ‘Wow! Look at that moon’ and when I looked back the bike is now here (mimes a 45° angle) and there’s no way to get it back up, so I’m, hitting that pavement. I smashed me lip and everything, bleeding away, and I go (covers mouth with hand) ‘Hey Betty, don’t worry but I’ve (reveals face) had an accident, arrgh oh my God and she says ‘I’ll ring the doctor’. I think it was around Christmas time, well he was pissed (impersonates a drunk)’I think you need a couple of stitches’ and I’m like, ok have you got anaesthetic? ‘No, I’ve got a needle and thread’ and he’s trying to thread the needle, but he can’t, he can’t see it, he’s seeing a few needles, so Betty takes it off him and she threads it. Well, he, was the doctor stinking of gin, I’ve never forgot him.
I’ve previously told the story of Paul’s moped accident on Brimstage Road, Wirral, and Doctor ‘Pip’ Jones in my blog about Neston here (Link)
Three days later Paul was spotted at the bus stop outside 398 Pensby Road in Pensby, Wirral, about four miles from the scene of his 1965 moped accident.
The sighting made the Liverpool Echo the following day. Colin Newitt and his family were returning from a meal in Parkgate when his wife spotted Paul at the bus stop.
Colin said: "So we had been to Parkgate for a meal with our son Mason when I heard my wife shouting 'look there's Paul.' He had just got out of a car and we had stopped at the lights. I wound the window down and shouted 'Paul.'
He shouted back 'You alright?'
I then told him that I went to the same school as him. He asked me which one and I said Liverpool Institute. He asked me who was my teacher and said I can't remember but that Mr Parker was the head.
The lights then changed and we had to go. I shouted 'See ya' and he waved goodbye. He had just got out of a car with his daughter Stella."
Colin’s son Mason managed to snap the accompanying photograph.
The following day Paul was spotted in Liverpool again, following what the Echo described as a poignant date for his family.
Paul was photographed at Lime Street station on the Sunday lunchtime with two of his daughters - fashion designer Stella and photographer Mary, as well as his wife Nancy Shevell and several grandchildren.
That same day there were posts on social media from both Paul’s brother Michael and their third cousins the Robbins (the children of Betty and Mike Robbins), all referencing a family event the previous evening.
It’s uncertain what the extended McCartney clan were celebrating but on Friday 24th September Paul had paid tribute to his first wife Linda, on what would have been her 80th birthday. It’s also been suggested that Mike McCartney’s wife Rowena was celebrating her 60th birthday.
There are unconfirmed reports that Paul and his two daughters also visited the Linda McCartney Cancer Centre while they were in Liverpool. I find this slightly more believable than the suggestion by one wag that Paul was back in town because Everton were playing at home.
Photos by Activate Digital
Although there’s probably no escaping the inevitable camera phones that emerge wherever he goes it’s notable that these particular images give the impression that Paul and his family were able to move around the station, apparently unmolested and in some cases barely noticed, before they took the train back to London together.
I can’t think of many high profile celebrities who would do that and it’s perhaps a measure of how safe he feels whenever he returns home unannounced.
Over the years Paul has said in interviews that he does this – walks around in public and uses public transport – and feels safe doing so because nobody expects him to be there and by the time people have realised he’s gone.
As someone once said, he’s a lovely lad, and so natural. I mean adoration hasn’t gone to his head one jot has it, you know what I mean, success.
Most annoyingly, I actually got off a train in Lime Street just over an hour later and missed them!
Three days after his weekend in Liverpool there was another important birthday in the McCartney family, that of Paul’s late mother Mary (born 1909) which he marked by sharing another lovely, previously unseen photograph of them together, taken at a holiday camp in the late 1940s. It’s been suggested that the photo was taken at Butlins in Pwhelli but having looked at a lot of 1940s-1950s holiday camps I’m pretty sure it was taken at the former Squier’s Gate camp in Blackpool.
On 30 September there was an invite only event at the Liverpool Beatles Museum in Mathew Street during which a new addition to the collection was unveiled.
Figurative artist Jonathan Hague became friends with John Lennon when they both studied at Liverpool College of Art and they kept in touch throughout the Beatles' subsequent rise to fame. In 1967 John Lennon and Paul McCartney sponsored Hague’s exhibition at the Royal Institute in London which included Hague’s first portrait of the Beatles in their Sgt. Pepper outfits. Lennon subsequently purchased the painting (he also bought Hague a house in Leamington Spa). The whereabouts of this painting today are unknown.
When John was murdered in 1980 Hague was inspired to paint again, producing a second similar, but not identical painting, which remained in his house until he passed away in 2015. When they started looking for a suitable place to display the painting a few years later, word reached the Hague family about the Liverpool Beatles museum, and following a tour of it they decided they had found the perfect home for their father’s work.
Roag Best had invited John Lennon’s half-sister Julia Baird along to do the honours.
This was a nice little get together with friends from the Liverpool Beatles scene, some who I hadn’t seen since the start of the pandemic and some I only knew on-line through this blog and the Facebook group of the same name.
Also on 30 September Paul McCartney’s second children’s book about the exploits of the magical intrepid explorer Edward Marshall Senior, otherwise known as Grandude, was published.
To promote the book Paul took part in a Q&A published in The Mirror.
Asked for his memories about the biggest adventure he went on as a child he recalled going to the Isle of Man with the school, which was pretty amazing because we didn’t travel much as kids.
He also remembered going to Butlins in Pwllheli, North Wales, around the age of 11 where he was photographed still wearing his school cap and short school trousers. He reflected ‘I think we were too poor for leisure clothes or I was amazingly proud of my new school uniform.
But, yeah, it was great, I loved it. Me and my brother Mike just zoomed round all day, going to all the various things going on – beauty contest or the knobbly knees contest or the singing contest or the rock and calypso ballroom.'
Ringo Starr would later play a summer season at the rock and calypso ballroom while he was a member of Rory Storm and the Hurricanes.
Asked about his own favourite bedtime stories as a child Paul said I didn’t get any bedtime stories. I would read stories myself, but it just wasn’t one of those households where your parents read you stories. I read Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson – I love that. I also read all the annuals like the Beano and the Dandy and the Eagle. It was very exciting when they came out around Christmas. So we didn’t really do the bedtime story, but my dad did fix up headphones that came up to our bedroom so we could listen to the radio, and in a way that was like storytelling – just a super modern version.
With the book being about grandparents Paul was asked whether he had any special memories of his own. He admitted, No, none at all. I didn’t know them, so that was a sadness. I didn’t realise that I didn’t have any until I was older – but, no, they all died before I was born so I didn’t meet any of them. It was more down to uncles and aunties than grandparents.
The Mirror noted that the book would appeal to both preschool and early primary school children and asked Paul for his own memories of primary school in Liverpool. Although he initially attended Stockton Wood school in Speke, severe overcrowding necessitated a number of children, including Paul and his brother Mike transferring to a new school, Joseph Williams Primary in the still rural Belle Vale area of Liverpool, not far from Gateacre.
Primary school was quite good, I enjoyed it. Even though I was living in Liverpool, I went to a school that was just outside. I liked going on nature walks. You went with the class and the teacher would show you this and that, and I became very fond of nature. I would do my own nature walks, and I was lucky because, even though we were in Liverpool, it was quite easy to get to the outskirts and be in the countryside.
The title of his new book drew obvious comparisons to the Beatles’ song ‘Yellow Submarine’ and Paul was asked whether it was intentional: When I wrote ‘Yellow Submarine’ it was just before I was going to sleep in that sort of nodding off period and I was imagining the scene and I imagined the place underwater like a submarine parking lot with submarines in all colours of the rainbow so there was a red, green, yellow, blue etc. So I’d always seen more than one submarine, the song, I chose yellow for this song but always felt that I left out the others so with this I thought it’d be nice to re-introduce my idea in the form of a green submarine which also gives a nod to ecological aspects.
A life size model of Grandude’s Green Submarine was created to promote the book in a Waterstones bookshop, and, as he often does, Paul decided that it should be in Liverpool.
Children could access the submarine from the rear and have their photos taken looking through the portholes. A 'Grandude' (Alastair Watson), and 'Nandude' (Terri Ann Hayes),were also on hand to meet them.
The green submarine docked at Waterstones on Sunday 2 October and remained there until close of business the following day when it was removed to its final harbour at Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. One of the busiest children's hospitals in Europe it provides care for more than 270,000 children, young people and their families every year. It's a place close to Paul’s heart. His mother Mary trained as a nurse here and he has often supported the hospital over the years. The hospital was reportedly delighted that Paul had decided to donate the submarine to them. What a grand dude!
The Echo reported people queuing from 8am outside Waterstones to get the book, the first 55 visiting the submarine receiving a £2 voucher towards the price of the book and entered into a raffle to win an exclusive signed copy. Paul had only released 100 signed copies of the book worldwide, with five going to Liverpool, of which three had been claimed before 10.30am.
As a promotional device it did its job because by the time I got to Waterstones mid-afternoon on the Sunday they only had two copies left. I didn't plan on getting my photo taken but the Waterstones assistant offered.
After trampling over several small children I managed to grab the last sheet of Grandude stickers. I think it was worth it.
On 9 October the world remembered John Lennon on what would have been his 81st birthday. It was also the 10th wedding anniversary of Paul and Nancy. McCartney posted messages and photos marking both on his official social media accounts.
Sixty years earlier John Lennon and Paul McCartney were on holiday in Paris, using the money Lennon had received for his 21st birthday from his Aunt Mater.
One is a torn photo-booth image but the location of the other took a little longer to establish. But not that much longer (!) as Roger Stormo of the Daily Beatle website quickly confirmed that the photo was taken close to the Eiffel Tower on Quai Branly. He even posted a photo of how the area looks now (see below).