Sunday, June 8, 2014

My Life With Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney’s Lubbock concert is less than a week away. In honor of that historic event (he’s appearing for the first time in the hometown of his musical hero, Buddy Holly), I’ve been reflecting on my favorite McCartney moments.

Mind you, these aren't about his life and achievements, but about times when his iconic presence and music played into my life in some form or fashion:

1966 (first grade at Greenbriar Elementary in Fort Worth) – Robbie Tarvin came to school with a Beatles lunchbox, which was about the coolest thing a six year old could do. As he pulled out his baloney sandwich with way too much mayo and began adding Fritos , he made the ridiculous suggestion that John Lennon was the leader of the Beatles. I pointed out that McCartney was not only the best looking Beatle, but also clearly the leader, since he sang lead on the two greatest Beatles songs, “I Saw Her Standing There,” and “Michelle.” Before long, classmates Regina, Jess, Kent, and Charlie had joined the discussion and the whole table was involved in a Beatles debate. The worst part was the silly six-year-old who couldn’t keep straight the difference between The Monkees, Beatles, and Herman’s Hermits. Miss Hunt, the incredibly attractive fourth-grade teacher who had lunch room duty that day came over to see what the fuss was about. After hearing the crux of the matter, she quickly sided with me, noting it was also McCartney who sang lead on “Nowhere Man.” Turns out she was wrong about that, but nobody in first grade knew it. Robbie and I were never close after that (which was fine, because his breath smelled like mayonnaise). For the rest of the year, every time Miss Hunt saw me in the hall, she would engage in a short but sweet bit of Beatles conversation. That’s heady stuff for a first grader.

1973 – Ellen Jobe, the blonde who lived across the street from my grandparents in Fort Worth, apologized for saying Paul McCartney wasn’t a real rocker. This came after he and Wings released the regrettable “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and many rock fans cashed in their chips and moved on. While I still can’t figure out what he was thinking, I chose to focus on “My Love” as a rock ballad for the ages, rather than the goofy “Mary.” When “Live and Let Die” came out, McCartney got his “cred” back with Ellen and gave us an excuse to strike up a conversation. Thanks, Paul. Ellen Jobe was a cutey. 

1974 – At church youth camp, the always cool Steve Marsh brought his guitar. He knew how to play “Rocky Raccoon,” but mangled the lyrics a bit. When he reverted to la-la-la-something-or-other, I jumped in and helped him out. Since I was only a freshman and he was a senior, that was either a heroic move or a huge faux pas.  As Rocky rode off into the North Dakota sunset, Steve said, “You’ve got a nice voice. What else you want to sing?” Cha-ching!

1978 – A sad moment which still embarrasses me. I went to see Peter Frampton, The Bee Gees, Alice Cooper, and Aerosmith in the movie version of Sgt. Pepper’s. I enjoyed it and said so to anyone who would listen. Then Rolling Stone magazine declared it the worst rock music movie of all time. Whatever cred I got back in 1974 was now pretty much gone. Looking back, Rolling Stone was right and I was clearly an idiot.

Early- to Mid-1990s – Singing my daughter to sleep each night with a medley of songs that started with “I Love You” from Barney the Dinosaur and ended with “Blackbird,” by McCartney. Maybe that’s a connection he was hinting at way back in ’73 with “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” 

1976 – Winning a KZEW t-shirt for being the first caller to correctly identify the snippet of a “new” song they played and name the band. It was “Got to Get You Into My Life,” which was originally recorded in 1966 but not released as a single until a decade later to promote the “Rock ‘n’ Roll Music” Beatles compilation album. Always one of the Beatles most underrated songs and a key reason why Revolver is the second best Beatles album of all time.

1971 – The TCU Theatre in Fort Worth was running a Sunday afternoon double feature: Yellow Submarine and Let It Be. It was my father’s weekend to see us, but he was a no-show on both Friday night (we were supposed to go camping) and Saturday (“Got held up at work. We will go camping tonight.”) He showed up Sunday afternoon as my little brother and I were walking out of church and about to get on the “blue goose” church bus to be driven home. He told us to come with him and he would take us to do whatever we wanted. Knowing how much he hated anything even remotely tied to rock music (he never forgave Buck Owens for “letting” the Beatles do a cover of “Act Naturally), I said I wanted to go to the movies. My mother had refused to take me to see the Beatles double-feature for fear there would be “hippies with drugs” lurking about. Turns out, she was right. I got my first whiff of marijuana sitting in that theater. My father, who couldn’t backtrack after promising to take us anywhere we wanted, sat and stewed for four hours while I rocked to the Beatles and my brother (nine years old at the time) curled up and took a nap.

1965-69 – Sunday mornings meant two things: getting ready for church and watching the Rankin Bass Beatles cartoon, followed by Bullwinkle. Both of them remain two of the wittiest, best-written cartoons of all time.

1965 – Music has always played an important role in my life. In 1965 my grandparents asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I told them I wanted a new record player and a Beatles record. I got both. Score!

1997 – Going through security at the Tokyo airport and seeing a large picture of McCartney in handcuffs following his 1980 arrest for marijuana.
 The caption, in multiple languages, read, “If we will arrest him, we will most certainly arrest you. Please follow the rules.” I pulled out a camera to take a picture of it and was quickly reminded by a man in a uniform that one of the rules was NO CAMERAS IN THE SECURITY AREA.

See you Saturday, Paul.

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