Monday 31 August 2020

The Beatles in Gwynedd (Welsh Wales) part two

Day two of my recent road trip around North West Wales, visiting some Beatles locations along the way.

After spending the night in Porthmadog we were up and out early and heading towards the west coast of North Wales. 

Originally I’d thought about driving to Pwllheli to see the site of the Butlins' holiday camp where Ringo had appeared with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes in 1960.  

However, a bit of research beforehand confirmed the site as it was back then had been obliterated by redevelopment and I thought it was unfair to drag my family to look at something that ‘used’ to be there. 

Instead we headed North to Caernarfon (or Caernarvon as the English used to call it).


Like Harlech, the small town of Caernarfon is dominated by another English-built castle, this one counted amongst Wales's most prized architectural treasures. As you approach, it’s easy to imagine how formidable it must have appeared in medieval times.

In addition to being one of the largest castles Caernarfon is also one of the best preserved and much of the structure is still intact.

Unfortunately due to the current lockdown restrictions the Castle wasn’t open to the public. In fact most of Caernarfon was shut, either due to the pandemic or the earlier recession. Even the charity shops looked to have permanently closed down. The Specials should write a song about it.

So, we didn’t get to go inside the castle this time, though we have done on a previous visit. This was a little disappointing because I wanted to take a Now and Then style photo recreating the image of the Harrison family taken on the grassy central area here in the late 1940s, on pretty much the same spot where Prince Charles was invested as Prince of Wales in 1969.

Instead we settled for a nice pint at the Anglesey Arms, enjoying the fresh outdoor air on the harbour front and admiring the views of the Island of Anglesey just across the Menai Strait whilst sitting suitably socially distanced from other customers. 

The Harrisons: George's sister Louise, George, his father Harold and his brothers Peter and Harry snapped on the same trip to Wales.

In 1956, Ringo Starr, then plain 15 years old Richy Starkey, was hired as a bar waiter on the TS St. Tudno,  one of three pleasure steamers operated by the Liverpool and North Wales Steamship Company. From the 1890s until 1963  the company would ply their main route from Liverpool and Llandudno along the Menai Strait and around Anglesey, carrying up to 2,500 passengers a day during the summer season. Richy saw it as a stepping stone towards joining the Merchant Navy, which he thought would exempt him from National Service. 

Being a sailor had a certain appeal for the ladies as well, Ringo later recalling chatting up girls using the line 'I'm in the navy. I just got back'. The suitably impressed young lady would then say 'when did you leave?' and he'd reply 'Ten o'clock this morning.'

He lasted about 5 weeks, arriving for work hung-over and insolent one morning he had words with his boss and was sacked on the spot. 

Monday 24 August 2020

A Christmas Carol (a Linda McCartney photograph)

Linda McCartney Retrospective
Walker Art Gallery
William Brown Street,
L3 8EL

The major retrospective of Linda McCartney's photography hosted by the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool finally opened on 8 August after the original  launch date was postponed by the Covid-19 outbreak.  

As is often the case when one of the Beatles (OK, Paul or Yoko on behalf of John) has an exhibition or show in their birthplace there are special extras for the local audience not seen or heard elsewhere. In this case the Walker has a selection of Linda's photographs taken on family visits to Liverpool and the Wirral, some taken in late 1968 during the early months of her relationship with Paul which have never been on public display before.   

These images form just a fraction of the 200+ photographs on display which reveal Linda's love for the natural world, her surreal sense of humour and an exceptional eye for capturing the spontaneous [1] and I know that everyone who's visited so far has been impressed.

Of course, the previously unseen photos taken on Merseyside are what I'm particularly excited about and some superb examples have been used by the Walker to promote the exhibition. The photo of Paul and Heather walking around the marina at West Kirby is a particular favourite and one of the 'local' photographs chosen to be sold as a print in the gift shop alongside some of Linda's more well known images such as the Sgt. Pepper launch party 'hand-shake'. 

Predictably, all the local prints have already sold out.                

The Liverpool photographs excite me the most. It's the little details you can pick up from them, a private trip home we didn't know about, a random place Paul visited that can be added to the list of Beatles' Liverpool locations, the locals he met during the stay.

Unfortunately photography is officially banned in the exhibition. I had hoped that this was because all the Liverpool photos would be included in a book available to purchase at the gallery but sadly I have been told that this is not the case.

Instead we will have to make do with any sneaky shots visitors take and post on-line. Personally I think they've missed a money making opportunity here, especially when, as noted above, the Liverpool photos are currently the best selling prints in the gift shop!

Perhaps there's a book planned combining ALL the McCartney photos taken here by Mike, Paul and Linda. I'd buy that for a dollar. 

The previously unpublished photo above was taken at Rembrandt, the house in Heswall Paul bought for his father Jim in 1964.

At Christmas 1968, days after Paul, Linda and Heather returned from a holiday in Portugal a group of Carol singers knocked at Jim's house. Can you  imagine their surprise when Paul McCartney answered the door, guitar in hand, and joined them for a festive sing song?! 

What's truly remarkable about this photo is that the young man on the extreme right of the photo, over Paul's left shoulder is Neil Harrison.

In 1979, aged 28, Harrison joined the cast of the West End musical Beatlemania, playing the part of John Lennon. In March 1980, after the musical's last West End show, Harrison formed The Bootleg Beatles with fellow cast members Andre Barreau and David Catlin-Birch, the musicians reportedly investing their dwindling finances in two guitars – an Epiphone and a Gretsch – as well as two Vox amplifiers, four black polo-necks and a wig.

From humble beginnings playing their first gig at a small student gathering in Tiverton they went on to perform a 60 date tour of the Soviet Union followed by tours of the Middle East, Israel, the Far East and India before being invited to perform in America in 1984 on the twentieth anniversary of the Beatles first visit.   

Initially success in the UK eluded them. They played to small but enthusiastic audiences, eventually building up a following that necessitated larger venues. A gig in Southampton brought them to the attention of self confessed Beatle-nuts Oasis who invited the Bootleg Beatles to support them at their sell out shows at Earls Court in 1995 and the record breaking gigs at Knebworth House the following year where they preformed in front of 125,000 people (including me!). 

Beatle Paul / Bootleg Beatle John

One of the questions most asked of the Bootleg Beatles must be 'have you ever met any of the real Beatles' and in interviews Neil has admitted to meeting two of them on three separate occasions.

The first meeting is captured in Linda's photo. Neil said he'd been a serious Beatles' fan ever since he went Carol singing in Heswall in 1968 and Paul came out of his father's house with a guitar and started playing. 

He met his second 'fab' in 1996 at Dave Gilmour's 50th birthday party. Gilmour booked both the Bootleg Beatles and the Australian Pink Floyd Show as he'd "always wanted to have the Beatles support Pink Floyd". George Harrison was at the party and quipped "you probably know the chords better than I do" and, typically George: "Where's the Bootleg Brian Epstein? 'Cos he's got all the money!" 

Thirty four years after their first meeting Neil met Paul again at a location even grander than Heswall, Buckingham Palace. The Bootleg Beatles were part of the line up for the Party at the Palace celebrating the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in June 2002. McCartney headlined and reportedly told the Bootlegs that 'I'm gonna come to your next gig and heckle ya!'

On 26 March 2011 at a gig in St. Albans, Neil shocked the audience after coming to the stage to perform 'Imagine' as an encore by announcing that he was leaving the group 'to bring the average age down a bit'. After shouts of support and thanks from the crowd he was presented with a bouquet of flowers and gifts from the band. The Bootlegs then performed "Back in the U.S.S.R." followed rather fittingly by the medley of songs from the Abbey Road album that culminates with "The End". The band left the stage to a standing ovation and further shouts of thanks to Neil.

Neil is apparently amazed by the existence of the photo as he didn't even know it had been taken!  

The Linda McCartney Retrospective runs from 8 August 2020 – 1 November 2020



Friday 7 August 2020

The Beatles in Gwynedd (Welsh Wales) part one

In previous blogs I’ve covered the Beatles appearances in Mold and Rhyl in North Wales. 

Last weekend I headed to the amazing Portmeirion in Gwynedd, North-West Wales, a two-and-a-bit hours drive from Liverpool through the spectacular scenery of the Snowdonia National Park.

Portmeirion was designed and built by Sir Clough Williams-Evans between 1925 and 1975 as an Italianate style village.

It is probably most famous as the location of 'the Village' in the cult 1967 television show The Prisoner, starring Patrick McGoohan but fans of Britpop may recognise it from the video for the song 'Alright' by Supergrass. In 2020 it was the subject of a four part ITV series 'The Village'.

Of course there are several Beatles' connections too.

Brian Epstein holidayed here with both family and friends, staying frequently until his death in 1967. Portmeirion was something of a retreat for him, somewhere he could go to escape the pressures of being the manager of the most popular act in the history of entertainment, and all the demands that came with it.

On at least one visit he was accompanied by George Martin, the Beatles' producer.

At the start of August 1966 Brian came here to recuperate from a serious bout of glandular fever after his doctor prescribed a quiet vacation to convalesce.

Unfortunately he had only been in Portmeirion for four days when John Lennon's 'more popular than Jesus' comments sparked outrage in America after they were published out of context in Datebook, a teen magazine.

Initially Epstein was unconcerned by the news that disc jockeys in the American South were organising Beatle bonfires to burn their records and 'paraphernalia' telling Datebook's editor Art Unger that people wishing to burn the Beatles records 'would have to buy them first'. However, it soon became clear that the furore threatened the Beatles forthcoming tour of America which was due to start on 12 August, and Epstein, in damage limitation mode, cut short his holiday and flew to New York on 4 August where he held a press conference the following day to explain what Lennon had really meant.

So frequent were Brian's visits to Portmeirion that he became friends with Williams-Ellis. Staying in the Gatehouse cottage, close to the entrance to the village Brian suggested that the property might benefit from a dining room where he could entertain guests. Sir Clough duly obliged, building a large and ostentatious room not entirely in keeping with the original cottage. 

Not only that but the fashion conscious Brian once commissioned a renovation of his room at the Gatehouse having complained that there was not enough space for his clothes when he came to stay in his cottage every summer.

Brian's room in the Gatehouse with wardrobes made to his design (photo: Alli Devine) 

Reportedly the Beatles were great fans of 'Danger Man' and the 'The Prisoner' series, both filmed in Portmeirion, and starring Patrick McGoohan, who also created and directed the latter. Looking for a third movie they once had a discussion with McGoohan to see if he was interested in writing a script for a spoof spy film. 

It came to nothing but they did allow McGoohan to use 'All You Need Is Love' during the last episode of 'The Prisoner'. It's still one of the very few TV series that's been granted permission to play one of the Beatles' original recordings.

Several articles on line suggest that Brian Epstein brought one or more of the Beatles here.  There's no evidence of that although Wikipedia does claim that Paul McCartney has visited, if that can be trusted.

Of the Fabs, George Harrison was Portmeirion's biggest fan famously celebrating his 50th birthday in the village in February 1993. 

George originally wanted to stay in the Watch House, one of the village's most popular cottages which is high up on the cliff side of the upper part of the village.

However the Watch House only has a low wall around it so his security men persuaded him to stay in the much safer Peacock Suite of the main hotel. No establishment wants to be remembered as the place where an ex-Beatle in celebratory high spirits accidentally fell to their death off a cliff. Especially on their birthday. 

The Watch House is the white cottage below the bell tower in the centre of the photo above. The photo below shows the Portmeirion Hotel. 

It was during this stay in Portmeirion that George was filmed for several interviews which were used in the The Beatles Anthology and had some pictures taken in the mirror room.

(see left)

George's interviews undertaken at Portmeirion can be found on discs 6 and 7 of Anthology, covering the 1966-7 period.

These two interviews were conducted in the mirror room of the hotel. The Watch House can be seen over George's shoulder in the photo below.

The wall on the path leading to the quayside in front of the hotel has been altered since the mid1960s. 

A third interview was conducted after dark under the Bristol Colonnade

In this interview George discussed losing interest during the Sgt. Pepper sessions and the satellite broadcast of 'All You Need Is Love' which ties in nicely with the Patrick McGoohan story above. 

Me under the Bristol Colonnade where George was interviewed in 1993.

Portmeirion is a beautiful gem, reportedly the second most instagrammed village in the UK. A visit is highly recommended.

Just across the bay from Portmeirion is Harlech. We went there next.


Harlech is a seaside resort landmarked by a late 13th century Castle which stands high on a cliff face overlooking the Irish sea. 

Paul McCartney and George Harrison stayed here during a hitch-hiking holiday in August 1958.

"Best times with George? I'm thinking now, there’s me and George, roadside, it’s a sunny day and we’ve got a little camp thing, a little stove that I’d brought with me, and we’ve got our methylated spirits to put in it. And then we go to the shop to buy some Ambrosia Creamed Rice and we sit at the side of the road with this little stove, boiling it up, sharing it with each other and thumbing down lifts. Once we’d finished, we’d have sore thumbs.

We hitch-hiked to a place in Wales called Harlech, when we were kids before The Beatles. We had heard a song “Men Of Harlech”, saw it on a sign post, yeah, there was a big castle. And we just went there. 

We had our guitars, took them everywhere and we ended up in this cafe. You know, we’d try to go to a place, a central meeting place, and in Harlech, there was this little cafe that had a jukebox. So this was home. So we sat around there. So we met a guy, he started talking, he was into rock and roll, you know, we went and stayed at his house. So it was great, me and George top and tailing it in a bed.” (Paul McCartney)

The guy was John Brierley, then 16-years-old who lived on a farm nearby. He told Mark Lewisohn: I guess Paul and George were wandering around – they didn’t know us. It was just ‘Can we stop in your field?’ We had quite a bit of land at the back. Mum said that was fine, so they put up this crappy little tent and started camping. It poured with rain during the night, and because their tent was useless they were wet through. So Mum said, ‘You can’t stop out there, come in.’ 

Whereas Paul, probably over romanticising the memory remembers 'top and tailing' in a single bed with George, Brierley states that they stayed in the bungalow, 'both of them sharing a double bed, and Mum fed and watered them for the duration of their stay.' 

It was funny, we had this room, and George and I were from an estate, but our folks were very hygenic, it wasn't like dirty where we lived, and now we were in the country, Wales, and there were these spiders in the room and we were like 'arrrghh! What?! The menace, the, me or George, or both of us took a rolled up newspaper and went [bam!] and got them, and then we could sleep safely. 

We went down to breakfast the next morning and the Mum said 'how did you sleep, alright?' and we said yeah, fine thanks, great. And she said "did you see Jimmy and Jemima?" Pardon? "Two little spiders?".. and we went no. No! Jimmy and who?   (Paul McCartney)

By chance, Paul and George had found a kindred spirt in John Brierley. He owned Elvis's first LP, 'Rock 'n' Roll' which they played repeatedly through the week while they played snooker.

John Brierley: My abiding memory is Paul playing my crummy acoustic guitar upside down for the left-hander. George also played it, and we had a piano in what we called ‘the bottom room’. Buddy Holly’s Think It Over had just come out and I remember Paul working on it and working on it until he’d completely figured out the piano solo in the middle.

My younger brother Bernard loved the way Paul pounded away at the Little Richard songs and kept bothering him to play them again, over and over, and Paul was always happy to oblige.​  

The house where Paul and George stayed for a week. It's longer now than it was in 1958 and the field behind it where they planned to camp is now a housing estate. It's the first building on the left as you come into Harlech from the North. (photo: Jean Catharell)

Postcard home from George (c. August 1958)

When they weren't listening to music or playing snooker they had a look around Harlech, undoubtedly walking up to have a good look at the castle, considered to be one of the finest examples of military architecture from this period in Europe.

George noticed that one of the Brierley’s Alsatian dogs had an arthritic hind leg, and this was the spark of a joke he'd tell for years – ‘Did you hear the one about the woman who had a dog with no legs? Every morning she’d take it out for a slide.’​

There were so many laughs with these welsh guys, one of them was John and another was Aneurin, big welsh guy who played bass and we sat in with their band one drunken night in a welsh pub (Paul McCartney).

Yes, the castle aside, the week's high point in Harlech was when Paul and George sat in with the Vikings skiffle group and played a few numbers at the Queens Hotel pub. Their host John Brierley was one of their singer/guitarists, and a couple of the lads stepped down to allow Paul and George use of their guitars.

There were four other Vikings besides Brierley: Glyn ‘Gwndwn’ Williams (guitar/vocal), Bernard Lee (guitar), John Diggle (snare drum) and Aneurin Thomas (tea-chest bass). Aneurin's Dad ran the Queens Hotel and allowed them to play in the saloon bar from time to time, usually on Saturday nights.

Earlier in the week they'd rehearsed with the Vikings in what was then a barber shop and is now a cafe. I didn't get to see this, or the cafe where George and Paul met John Brierley. I had to use an image from Google.

The reason i had to cut my visit to Harlech short was because I experienced one of the hairiest moments of my life. No exaggeration. After photographing the Queens Hotel I suggested we drive up to the castle and take in the views (and also see the shop above which is close by).  

Unfortunately I made a catastrophic mistake in the route I chose. I mention it here so you don't do the same.

Just past the Queens Hotel towards the castle is Ffordd pen Ilech*. I didn't realise when I started driving up it but it was soon apparent that what I assumed was a residential street that would wind gently up to the castle on the summit was in fact incredibly steep. On the first bend I encountered an old lady driving down the hill so I stopped to let her past. My wife said 'that lady is laughing at you',which unnerved me truth be told. On the second bend the road was suddenly much, much steeper and I had to change down the gears until the engine of our car (only a year old) was practically screaming.

It was the third, almost blind bend that finished me off. Just as I was about to turn sharp left up the hill another car emerged from it causing me to stop to let him pass. 

And that was it. The car simply didn't feel like it had the power to restart from stationary and make it up that hill. I feared we were starting to roll back but I was probably just panicking. 'What's that smell?' the kids asked. That'll be the clutch burning I replied though in truth some of it was probably me. As it's a new car it has one of those stupid buttons instead of a proper, trustworthy handbrake.

I wasn't going anywhere. The other driver who'd pulled in to a lay-by, probably thinking he'd given me enough space to swing into that last bend gave up in the end and made his way down the hill.  

After an age I finally found the clutch bite and managed to get the stupid button brake off. We were moving but the only direction I wanted to head at that point was back down, off that road and as far away as I could get from Harlech.

It turns out that this particular road is officially the steepest signed, public, sealed road in the UK with a 40% gradient. Until recently it was the steepest road in the world!  

Oh, and reading up on it later, I think it's also a one-way street, heading downwards.  No wonder the old lady was laughing at me. 

If I ever go back it'll be on foot.     

In part 2 we visit the gentler inclines of Bangor.        



Stills from The Beatles Anthology (c) Apple Corps Ltd (2003)


The video of Paul talking about the Harlech trip is from the George Harrison documentary 'Living In The Material World'.

* Old Welsh for 'Bastardly Steep Hill', possibly.

Diolch Meurig! 

Thursday 6 August 2020

At home with Paul McCartney: His most candid interview yet (GQ Magazine, 4 August 2020)

It may well be that after all these years journalists have finally learned how to ask Paul McCartney interesting questions. After the excellent interviews in Esquire (2015) and GQ (2018) the current September edition of that latter publication has another superb piece, ostensibly to promote the reissued super-deluxe edition of 'Flaming Pie', though it barely gets a passing mention. Instead, a relaxed Paul seems happy to talk about a vast range of subjects (anything you like)*   

As always, the most interesting bits for me are when he discusses those 'early days' 'in Liverpool', to name just two McCartney songs or, as I call them the 'Tune In' days, to name just one Mark Lewisohn book. 

While his memories of Beatlemania can sometimes appear a bit blurry around the edges, unsurprising when you consider how much they did in such a relatively short period, and the anecdotes can sound tired through the constant retelling+, when he's asked about the more carefree, pre-fame days a light switch seems to flick on and he's right back there.

I've said this before,  somebody really needs to sit down with him and get all of the pre-fame stuff written down instead of asking him about the Beatles again. Likewise Ringo who has said in interviews that he's occasionally asked to do an autobiography but refuses because the publishers really only want to know about those seven years. He's said the really interesting stuff is the pre-fab days. I agree. There's so much fascinating material in 'Tune In' about Ringo's life up to the end of 1962  that it would almost make a stand-alone book. He's 80 years old now. I for one would love to read about the first 20 years of Ringo's life growing up in the Dingle. That said those years doing Thomas The Tank Engine were pretty special so I can understand the interest from publishers.

In my fantasy world I would drive Paul or Ringo around Liverpool stopping at various locations and get them to go into great detail about their memories of the place because sadly when they're gone they're gone. Of course, Paul is not averse to doing this to an extent, albeit on his own terms. He's often mentioned how he gives his passengers a guided tour whenever he's driving in the city. In fact he mentions it below in the new interview. It's a pipe dream I know and I suppose the closest we'll ever get to it is by watching "Carpool Karaoke" but for a moment just imagine driving him to Garston bottle works for example and saying "right, tell me about the night Allan Williams brought you all here to try and persuade Tommy Moore to rejoin the group."  He's probably never been asked about that in 60 years. 

Anyway a great interview (accompanied by some nice photos by Mary McCartney).  Here's the bits about Liverpool which will be of interest to readers of this blog.

By Dylan Jones, 4 August 2020

What’s the first thing you do when you go back to Liverpool? 
Most of the time I fly up. So I’ll get to Liverpool airport, the John Lennon Airport, and I’ll have a car [waiting for me] and I’ll drive myself from thereon. I’m normally with someone, one of my mates... One time was with Bono, actually, and we drove together because we were both going to the same event at Liverpool Arena. 
I like driving and I don’t want to be driven around Liverpool. And I know all the routes, you know? Most of the time I’m driving to LIPA [Liverpool Institute For Performing Arts, co-founded by McCartney in 1996] and on my way I pass all the old haunts and it’s like a guided tour, with me as the tour guide. I’ll say, “And this is where John’s mother, Julia, lived and we used to go round and visit her. And this is the street here where I had my first girlfriend.” 
So it’s all that. “This is where I did this; this is where I took this girl out...” I can remember lots of stuff. “This is where we did our first little gig, at a place called The Wilson Hall, and then over here me and John used to walk down this street with our guitars and then I would walk up there, to his house, across the golf course.
This is very interesting. Paul recalls his first little gig with the Quarry Men as being at the Wilson Hall. This ties in with Colin Hanton's memory that their first paid booking was Wilson Hall for Charlie McBain. It's been suggested elsewhere that Paul's first appearance was at the New Clubmoor Hall in Norris Green.
When Paul's thinking about Wilson Hall he's clearly just come out of Liverpool John Lennon Airport, driven past the old airport and the Matchworks on his left and is heading for Aigburth Road which will take him straight through to town. As he comes over the railway bridge he can see Woolton Carpets on his right, the site of Wilson Hall in the late 1950s. 
So I give the guided tour until I get into the city centre and I say, “This is a little place where we used to play in the basement, a little illegal club run by this Liverpool black guy called Lord Woodbine. That’s when it was just me, John and George. I was drumming as we didn’t have a drummer at the time.” Just millions and millions of memories all come flooding back. 
When I went back to Liverpool with James Corden for the “Carpool Karaoke” special, he was very good, because he just kept me going, asking me questions, plus he’s someone who it’s cool to hang out with, you know? He’s entertained as well as entertaining. 
I did the same thing: “This is the church where I used to sing in the choir, this is Penny Lane and this is the barber.” Every time I go up there, it’s the same. The only difference with the thing I did with James is that I’d never been inside my old house. I hadn’t been back since I left it. James suggested doing it. I was always a little apprehensive about going back. I didn’t know if it was going to be nice or whether I would get bad memories or whatever, although I don’t really know what I was worried about. But it was fabulous – really great. I was happy to be able to tell him all the stories, of my dad, my brother and our time there. It brought back a lot of nice memories actually, so I loved it.
How much Scouse slang do you still use?
A little bit here and there. When you’re not actually living there, you don’t come up with much, but I still use a bit. If something’s a bit old you might say it’s kind of “antwacky” or somebody’s going “doolally”. They’re good words, so they occasionally creep into your conversation, but obviously not as much as when I lived there. Someone reminded me not so long ago that I’ve actually lived longer down south than I had in Liverpool, as I only lived there for 20 years. But I love it. I love Liverpool. I love the history of it. I love my old school, which is now LIPA, and I go there a couple of times a year and take songwriting classes and for the graduation, which was cancelled this year unfortunately.
Paul (centre) at the LIPA graduation, 26 July 2019.  Every year he personally presents every graduate with a scroll and poses with them for an individual photograph. 
Tell me about your school. You loved it, didn’t you?
The memory of the school, I always think, is very important, because I say to people, “Half The Beatles went there!” Me and George went to that school and John went to the art school next door, which is now part of LIPA so three quarters of The Beatles, in one way or another, are connected to LIPA. That always hits me. Whenever I do a speech at the graduation, I always remember my mum and dad coming to events at the school when we were kids, like speech day, and your mum and dad would be there all proud of you and stuff, so when I’m standing there, talking to all the parents and all the kids, I get quite emotional. I’ve got a million memories in that place and most of them are great, most of them are lovely. 
I was very lucky. I had a great family. I don’t remember anyone ever getting divorced or anyone being weird. There were a few drunks, but outside of that, it seems to be a very loving family. So I have a lot of very affectionate memories of that time and of those people.
Liverpool FC supporters often sing “All You Need Is Klopp”. Do you have any other favourite terrace appropriations of Beatles songs?
I’m not sure, really. There’s a great old piece of film from the 1960s of the Liverpool fans singing “She Loves You”, with the Kop all singing, “Ooooooh!” All the kids, everyone, it’s quite moving. The camera goes in on the crowd and there are all these young Beatles, all these kids with the hairstyle, and they’re all singing “She Loves You”. They know all the words. That piece of film was always a high spot for me. [Check it out on YouTube, as it’s magnificent.] I know a lot of crowds do “Hey Jude” and when we go on tour, especially in South America, the crowds are like football crowds anyway – “Olé, olé, olé, olé!” You get a lot of that. What we do is we quickly figure out what key it’s in and then we back the audience. We become their backing band.
18 May 1968: Paul and Ivan Vaughan arrive at Wembley to watch Everton play West Bromwich Albion in the F.A. Cup Final.
As a proud Evertonian, would you have been fine with the Premier League cancelling this season so Liverpool couldn’t be named champions?
Years ago I decided I was going to support Liverpool as well as Everton, even though Everton is the family team. A couple of my grandkids are Liverpool fans, so we are happy to see them win this year’s Premier League. When people ask me how I can support them both I say I love both and I have special dispensation from the Pope.
Unfortunately, and this is coming from me, a devout red, we all know that if you're born a blue you're forever a blue. Paul just doesn't want to offend (at least) 50% of the city.
Two months on from Everton at Wembley here's Paul with a Liverpool FC rosette, 28 July 1968 (Don McCullin)
Do you ever reflect on the uniqueness of your position?
Do I ever! Like, always. Just give me a drink and sit me down and ask me questions. I tell you, I’m sitting there and I’m thinking, “My God, what about that?” The Beatles. I mean, come on, there are so many things. Obviously a lot of other people say things [too]. I remember Keith Richards saying to me, “You had four singers. We only had one!” Little things like that will set me off and I think, “Wow.” That is pretty uncanny. And writers. Not just singers, but writers. So you had me and John as writers and then George was a hell of a writer and then Ringo comes up with “Octopus’s Garden” and a couple of others... I love to go on about it, because in going on about it, it brings back memories. I do think it’s uncanny. 
You know, number one: how did those four guys meet? OK, well I had a best friend, Ivan, who knew John, so that’s how I met John. I used to go on the bus route to school and this little guy got on at the next stop and that was George. So that was kind of quite random. And then Ringo was some guy from the Dingle and we met him in Hamburg and just thought he was a great drummer.
But the idea that all these quite random people in Liverpool should come together and actually be able to make it work? I mean... the thing is, we were pretty bad at the beginning. I mean we [The Beatles] weren’t that good. But with all the time we had in Hamburg, we just got good [through practising]. We became good. If somebody said, you know, “I’m gonna tell Aunt Mary ’bout Uncle John,” we didn’t all look at each other wondering what key it was in. It was, “Bam!” Everyone knew. “Bang! It’s ‘Long Tall Sally’. Here we go.”
We had a lot in common and that’s just the musical aspect. Then you go into all the other aspects. One thing about The Beatles is that we were kind of like an art band. John went to art college, so with him and Stuart [Sutcliffe] there was that connection. I was very into art anyway and it wasn’t just art, it was, like, culture, with a small “c”. So we all liked stuff. We liked people such as Stanley Unwin; we liked mad things. Like there was a little film called The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film that Dick Lester did with Spike Milligan and we were attracted to those zany little things, which I think gave us a personality as a group. And we would have fun with this. 
The other groups were just not like that. They were like guys who might work in a factory or something. I remember once being in the dressing room in Hamburg and we knew that the sax player of the bands was coming in and I happened to have a poetry book with me, which my then girlfriend had sent me, and before he came in we all sat round looking like we were all in deep contemplation as I read this poem out. And the sax player came in, saw us all, with me reading this poem, and he said, “Oh, sorry,” and very quietly put his sax away. When he left we all burst out laughing. We knew we were different. We knew we had something that all these other groups didn’t have. It gelled.
I often think of things like this, as there are a million of them. I remember making a guitar with George, going on hitchhiking holidays... I was a big hitchhiking fan, so I would persuade George and John, mainly, to come on holidays. So George and I hitchhiked one time to Wales. We went to Harlech and stayed in a little place there and played a little gig, just me and George. Then me and John went down to Reading, where my uncle had a pub. And we played a little gig there as The Nerk Twins. 
John asleep in Paris, October 1961 (photo: Paul)
And then me and John hitchhiked to Paris... So all of these things, all these little things you might do as a kid, but when you start thinking about them in detail...
And I’m thinking now, there’s me and George, roadside, it’s a sunny day and we’ve got a little camp thing, a little stove that I’d brought with me, and we’ve got our methylated spirits to put in it. And then we go to the shop to buy some Ambrosia Creamed Rice and we sit at the side of the road with this little stove, boiling it up, sharing it with each other and thumbing down lifts. Once we’d finished, we’d have sore thumbs. Just all of these memories, there are just so many of them... So I do like to go on about The Beatles, because it was magical. People say, “Do you believe in magic?” And I say, “I’ve got to.” And I don’t mean, you know, Gandalf or wizardry or that sort of thing necessarily. For me, it’s how life can be magical, these things that just came together. Me and John knowing each other, the fact that both of us independently had already started to write little songs... I said to him, “What’s your hobby?” I said, “I like songwriting,” and he said, “Oh, so do I.” You know, no one I’d ever met had ever said that as a reply. And we said, “Well, why don’t you play me yours and I’ll play you mine.” That is most unusual and most fortuitous, the fact that we should meet and get together.
When did you first realise that you were a gang?
Hamburg. We were mates. Me and John knew each other beforehand, from when I joined his little group, The Quarrymen, so we were mates then, but not a gang. And me and George were mates, having done all this hitchhiking together, living close to each other... But it was only when, as a group, we got the Hamburg booking that we started thinking like that. We were living on top of each other, so we weren’t socially distancing, let’s put it that way. It is socially crowding. You’d be in a room, the four of us, trying to find a blanket, or you’d be in the back of van in the freezing British winter and the heating’s gone, so you had to lie on top of each other... This is the kind of thing that makes friends of people.
You’re not averse to showing yourself in public, are you?
When I was a kid, I’d get on a bus, just going three or four stops, and get off, look around. I remember years later, George Harrison said to me, “Do you still go on buses?” And I said, “Yeah. I like it. I find it very grounding.” And I actually do like it. I also like a nice car and I like driving too. But there’s something about that, being ordinary... I mean, I know I can’t be ordinary, at all – I’m way too famous to be ordinary – but, for me, that feeling inside, of feeling like myself still, is very important.

The full interview is available to read here

+ not entirely his fault. They keep asking him the same damn questions. 

* The reissued super-deluxe edition of Flaming Pie is out now!

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