Book Review: Paul McCartney, The Biography by Philip Norman

Having read numerous books on John Lennon and the Beatles, I was intrigued to see what Paul’s nemesis biographer, Philip Norman, could add to the vast library of existing Beatles information. Norman sets out a three-fold premise during the introduction; firstly, until now nobody has extensively documented McCartney’s post-Beatles life; secondly, (in contrast to Lennon) the “real” McCartney behind the thumbs and the V-Sign continues to remain a mystery and thirdly, to Norman’s great surprise, McCartney gave him”tacit approval” to talk to those close to him during the development of the book.

Eight hundred pages on, does he succeed? With minor quibbles, the answer is a resounding yes.

The Author, clearly on home-turf, writes a cohesive narrative (not easy given the spread of characters/ subjects) using recurring imagery and sophisticated language. Intermittently throughout are sounds and images of dogs and horses from the police training ground at the back of Paul’s childhood home, the sayings and philosophy of father Jim McCartney, and references and influence of American artist Willem De Kooning. Likewise, the illness and passing of Linda McCartney are movingly portrayed.

Which McCartney shows up? On this one the jury’s still out. Obviously, there’s the souffle-speaking PR man/ Beatle we all know; there’s DIY Paul – fixing a leaking roof in his Scottish Campbeltown/ Kintyre estate and well as micro-managing guitar collaborators, Harrison, McCullough and Eric Stewart; there’s pot-smoking and Japanese-imprisoned Paul, oblivious to the social norms and laws of the time; there’s Paul the Conqueror, overcoming the two major legal battles of his life against Allen Klein and fellow Beatles and his second-wife, Heather Mills McCartney; and finally, there’s Paul the multi-tasking, multi-talented Artist and performer, morphing from pop icon, to artist/ poet, to rave experimentalist, to classical composer to supreme ballad-writer.

The minor quibbles – personal interviews with one of the Beatles’ off-spring or a few more of the ex-Wings members would have been nice. That being said there’s lots to enjoy including new interview material with John Eastman and ex-girlfriend, Maggie McGivern. And cleverly, the life-story is book-ended with Norman’s meetings with Paul, incidents and information pertaining to his original Liverpool Cavern violin bass, and live performance details.

The verdict? Is it Lennon and McCartney or McCartney-Lennon? This one “Phil”, is Pure McCartney.

PS – those interested in a first-hand account by the wedding video cameraman of the Heather Mills wedding in Ireland, might also read the excellent “Beatles and Ireland” book by Michael Lynch and Damian Smyth.

Pockets, Planet Parade gig review, Whelans 24 October

9.15pm on the Friday night of a Bank Holiday weekend in upstairs Whelans, and a dozen or so of us glance awkwardly at each other (and the Coal fire) and wonder if maybe there’s more action further along Wexford Street.

9.25pm and Pockets assemble on stage, and magically the room begins to fill.  Five minutes later and it’s eighty percent full and obvious the evening’s first-act has a core fan base that are committed and vocal.

Pockets don’t disappoint.  They take us through eight or so well-crafted, musical rollercoasters of songs, alternating between intricate soulful lament and punk-crashing breakout romps.  The highlight of the set is the new single – “Alone,” which showcases high-levels of musicianship and musically throughout.

A more critical eye may point to their initial lack of presence and band communication on stage.  However, make no mistake – this band can fly, and I look forward to hearing them again with more performance time on the clock.

10.00p.m. and a six-piece Planet Parade play to a packed house.  First impressions confirm a previous hearing about a month ago – this is a band who know where they are going, and have a grasp of superior songwriting processes. Songs like “You’ll be Sorry” and “You and The Devil” suggest traces of Arcade Fire, early Bombay Bicycle Club and something uniquely their own, influenced largely by leading vocals, quality guitar work and drums.

Perhaps the most important thing anyone can say about Planet Parade is, this band is progressing, not static.  There is something exciting about watching a band play a dozen or so quality songs, yet get the feeling, their best songwriting is yet to come.

Their musicianship is noteworthy too.  Delicate three-part harmonies; runaway safari rhythms; skilful combinations of major-7 and minor-7 chord progressions; and always the propelling-forward solid core of backbeat, bass, percussion and keyboard.  Defence and Attack; Attack and Defence.

The only real gripe of the night?  Both bands are worthy of a bigger venue with proper high-ceilings, decent sound mix and larger stage.  Based on the performances tonight, that wait will not be long.

Your Nominations for Bond 24 Movie Title Performer

We have only to wait until October 2015 for the next James Bond Movie – who would you like to see perform the movie title song?

Hozier?  U2?  Adele – again?

Here’s a brief reminder of some of the epic performers who have held the coveted role in the past-

Film Year Performed by
Dr. No 1962 John Barry & Orchestra;Monty Norman
Byron Lee and the Dragonaires
From Russia with Love 1963 John Barry (title sequence)

Matt Monro (vocal version heard in film proper and during closing credits)

Goldfinger 1964 Shirley Bassey
Thunderball 1965 Tom Jones
You Only Live Twice 1967 Nancy Sinatra
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service 1969 The John Barry Orchestra
Louis Armstrong
Diamonds Are Forever 1971 Shirley Bassey
Live and Let Die 1973 Paul McCartney & Wings
The Man with the Golden Gun 1974 Lulu
The Spy Who Loved Me 1977 Carly Simon
Moonraker 1979 Shirley Bassey
For Your Eyes Only 1981 Sheena Easton
Octopussy 1983 Rita Coolidge
A View to a Kill 1985 Duran Duran
The Living Daylights 1987 A-ha
Licence to Kill 1989 Gladys Knight
GoldenEye 1995 Tina Turner
Tomorrow Never Dies 1997 Sheryl Crow
The World Is Not Enough 1999 Garbage
Die Another Day 2002 Madonna
Casino Royale 2006 Chris Cornell
Quantum of Solace 2008 Jack White
Alicia Keys
Skyfall 2012 Adele

And your vote goes to??

Everybody Dance! The Le Galaxie, “Carmen”, video launch review

“Collaboration” is a word that features regularly in the Le Galaxie world (and I’m starting to understand why).  It’s obviously a concept (and theme) that weaves through the bands’ music, vision, process and approach to all things, great and small.

Their wildly successful video launch party at the Academy on Thursday night, was an example of seamless integration of elements on many levels – from the commercial relationship with Absolut (and yes, the food and the drink were delicious, thank you!), the bands’ desire to meld friends and fans into video and performance, through to musical collaboration of artist and taste.

And yes, the music – is a head-bending patchwork of Daft Punk, Talking Heads, maybe even some Nile Rodgers & Chic (and on this occasion, the valued addition of MayKay from Fighting Like Apes).  I jokingly referred in a Rummager tweet to “Heavy Metal” nite at the Academy in reference to the super-funk metal jackets – but yes folks, head banging is this is ok too.

So does 2+2 always equal 5? Not unless you’re Le Galaxie, computer says.

In case you missed it, here’s the Carmen video in full-