GQ&A: Sir Paul McCartney talks teasing Stevie Wonder and meeting Kanye West

By Andy Morris 24 November 12

Sir Paul McCartney's bookshelf speaks volumes: sitting alongside Hunter Davies' exhaustive collection of John Lennon's unpublished letters is Miles Davis caustic autobiography, an Arne Jacobsen coffee table book and a copy of Jeremy Rikfin's vegetarian tract Beyond BeefGQ has come to McCartney's office in London's Soho to discussLive Kisses, a short film of an intimate gig of tracks from his rapturously received (and smuttily titled)Kisses On The Bottom album. McCartney himself is in good humour with an impish sense of fun - as I enter the room Bobby Darin's booming "Baby Face" is ringing out from his Wurlitzer jukebox. To mark the film being shown on ITV, McCartney discusses teasing Stevie Wonder, chatting to Jay-Z and punching Stu Sutclfffe...

GQ: What was the best record in your parent's collection?
Sir Paul McCartney: My father didn't have a record collection! He played piano but he never had a record player - amazing isn't it? My cousin Cath did and my Auntie Jen did but we didn't have records and just listened to the radio. One of my favourite songs that my Dad would play is a song called "Lullaby Of The Leaves" - just an old tune.

How has your friendship with Stevie Wonder changed over the years?
I've always been an admirer from the early days when we first heard him as "Little" Stevie Wonder with "Fingertips". Then I met him on and off [for a few years] and going to his shows. Eventually I asked him if we could record together "Ebony and Ivory". I spent some time with him in Montserrat  to make that record. As guys you can have a good laugh - he's a lovely fellow. I just admire him so much and I think that its kind-of mutual - he's always saying really nice things about me. He's such a musical monster. You sit down with him and piano and immediately he's off.  I know some of his old stories so I can joke with him and take the mickey. He was originally "Steveland Morris" and he was in a little blind school in Detroit. He was just one of the blind kids who just happened to be musically gifted. He went to Motown to make "Fingertips" and then he was famous. He came back as "Little Stevie Wonder". So he once told me all the blind kids in the school used to call him [adopts mocking tone] "Wundurr". They didn't like him and were jealous of him. So now when I see him and if we pass in the corridor I say "Wundurr" and he immediately knows its Paul. We have little things in common which is cool.

You've discussed how Kisses On the Bottom relates to your work with the Beatles but can you also see links between it and your other solo work?
In the organic way of making it, yeah. You don't always use that strategy but when you do it pays off. I think what Kisses On the Bottom did was remind me of how cool it is to get a bunch of musicians who know what they're doing in a room and then kick it around. It's very much what we did with the Beatles. I'm doing some new recordings and I'm doing that a bit with the band I play with now - it's very nice to do. I like sitting down in a room and letting people have ideas and then trying to organize them.

Was the challenge of a smaller gig part of the appeal of Live Kisses?
It really was. It was something completely alien to what I do.  I didn't have an instrument as my good luck charm, my safety valve or my blanket to suck on.  It was just me on a stool in front of a mic. At first it was very nervewracking but there was no way out so I had to work out how to do it - I grabbed at every resource I could and every scrap of knowledge and eventually found a vocal style that eventually made the album a lot easier to do. I was going into it with almost a Vegas mentality. I'd written a song that we didn't use that [his wife] Nancy and I used to laugh hysterically about. She used to say "Where's the pinky ring? Where's the rhinestone jacket?" There's always a danger of going into that area and leaning a little too far that way. It can look just like a parody. It's hard to pull it off because we know Sinatra was that. We know Nat King Cole was that. But we're not that and we know we're not that - to find your place in that is a little bit difficult. I decided to play it very simply and very honestly. That's why the musical selection is just things we loved rather than [sings] "The way you look tonight!" I love all those songs  but they're done so much! There's a danger you're going to interpret them in a little bit too Rat Packy style which we avoid.

You met Kanye West at British GQ's Men Of The Year in 2007. What did you talk about?

I imagine I would just have said I loved what you do. With Kanye, I'm always so excited that he knows who I am and he's come up. I'm a fan of his. I met him and "Jay Zed", as we call him, at the Met Ball that Stella was being honoured at. I never know what to say. They were just saying "Hey man, you're really a Knight!" Their perspective on that, as Americans, as ex-Project guys - for them a knight is like Sir Lancelot. It's always funny as I'm just Paul, one of the guys.

When was the last time you threw a punch?

In Hamburg. At Stu Sutcliffe. We threw punches at each other and found ourselves locked in a death grip. The bouncers had to prise us apart eventually. I'd said something, he's said something and we got into it on stage. Very embarrassing. And neither of us were fighters so we ended up in a lock trying to suppress each others abilities!

What's the strangest gift you've got from a fan?

Old knickers. Too old to talk about - I don't mean vintage! Just not freshly laundered...

The Live Kisses concert is on ITV1 on 24 November 11pm.  Kisses on the Bottom - Complete Kisses' (Hear Music/Concord Music Group) is out 26 November



Sissialexandra said...

Great interview thanks for sharing!

Adriana said...

Is very honest when he confess that his father doesn't has a record machine...who would have thinking off?