Hey there, time traveller! This article was published 13/11/2009 (2954 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
By Peter Ames Carlin
Touchstone, 340 pages, $34
Paul McCartney has been a former Beatle for almost 40 years.
In this disappointing biography, American journalist and author Peter Ames Carlin has unearthed a stack of information on McCartney's creative and business career. But two-thirds of the book precedes the point at which he actually deals with McCartney as an individual musician and artist.
This biography is more in line with one of the 3,000-plus Beatle books than with one dealing with McCartney individually.
Only two of the former Beatles survive. George Harrison died of cancer in 2001, and John Lennon was gunned down as he signed an autograph for his murderer outside his New York apartment in 1980.
Perhaps from the shock, and pressure to deliver a cogent sound bite to waiting reporters, McCartney flippantly muttered, "It's a drag, innit?"
Carlin details the acrimonious breakup of the Beatles, who, after six years in the limelight, had begun to tire of each other and the various bust-ups and ego-driven power plays. Love-ins and peace signs had given way to lawyers, Svengali-like girlfriends, accountants and spin doctors.
This was a tempestuous, carpet-chewing, tantrum-throwing time, but Carlin seems an oddly detached commentator.
There is little humour in this biography, which shows that Carlin, as thorough as he may be in his research, doesn't "get" his subject. McCartney, in spite of his rapidly expanding music and business empire, is a typical quick-witted Liverpudlian, enamoured of word play and irony. But you wouldn't learn that here.
Meticulously researched as the biography is, it somehow fails to grab the emotions. Its subject, often missing in action, is obscured by a barrage of ponderous research, much of it about the Beatles as a group.
What does work are the detailed descriptions of McCartney's creative process. Carlin, a former People magazine editor who has written a bio of the Beach Boys, gives a moving account of that most iconic composition, Yesterday, listed as the most recorded song in history.
With a melody that had haunted him for years, it was so beautiful that at first McCartney thought he might unconsciously have "nicked it" from someone else.
Then it came to him, the words of a man reflecting on his emotional isolation, "Now I long for yesterday."
Carlin shows another side of McCartney, who can be arrogant. Resentful of any criticism, he once turned on his producer as he made a mild suggestion, "How many number one hits have you written?"
Passing quickly and mercifully over the debacle of his subject's second marriage, to Heather Mills, would-be saviour of the world, Carlin ends on a high note, quoting Paul's approach to the future: "Everywhere a sense of childlike wonder!"
Let it be.
East St. Paul artist and writer Bernadette Phillips grew up near Liverpool, where she used to go to the Cavern and once got hit by a flying sandwich thrown from the stage by John Lennon.