Happy Birthday, Sir Paul

By: Ben Fong-TorresSat, 06/17/2017

It doesn’t sound right, but on June 18, Paul McCartney turns 64. Will you still need me? Will you still feed me? When I’m 64?

Plus ten. That’s right. The perpetually youthful Macca was born in 1942 in Liverpool, England. And, as you well know, he’s still rocking. Like a couple of his peers, including Bob Dylan and Rod Stewart, he’s dipped into the American Songbook of standards, but unlike them, he continues to mount full concerts of songs his fans want to hear – in his case, Beatles, Wings, solo – while Dylan obliterates his classics and most of his voice, and while Rod the Mod works a tightrope between oldies and really oldies, like “It Had to Be You” and "Moonglow."

The last time I saw McCartney, in San Francisco, he did nothing but rock. It was August, 2014, and he was personally closing down Candlestick Park – the site of the Beatles’ last paid concert ever, in August, 1966. It was headed for demolition, and, like he did with the Mets’ old Shea Stadium – the site of another early Beatles conquest – McCartney, a sucker for nostalgia, returned to bid it hello/goodbye.

Funny thing. The first time I saw McCartney was at Candlestick, when none of us knew it’d be the last Beatles concert ever. I was just a fan, although, as a college student with a part-time gig at a local paper, I’d managed to get press credentials for the show and watched it from the Giants’ press box.

Ten years later, and now an editor and writer for Rolling Stone, I saw him again and met and interviewed him, while on the road with Wings.

What can I say? It was a gas. Actually, I said what I can say in my book, Not Fade Away: A Backstage Pass to 20 Years of Rock and Roll, a compilation of my articles for Rolling Stone and others. As I recounted in an intro to my June, 1976 cover story, “Yesterday, Today & Paul”:

“I was thrilled to be meeting McCartney. I’d been one of those swept up in Beatlemania twelve years before. Without knowing exactly who had written which parts of all those Lennon-McCartney songs, I admired them equally, although Lennon’s sharper wit got to me. But I loved Paul’s sweet voice, his ability to switch from ballads to Little Richard-raving, and his overall Beatleness.

“In this first visit with McCartney, which stretched from Detroit through Toronto, and in subsequent encounters, I came to see him as a good deal more than the artist formerly known as “the cute Beatle.” He was also, quite possibly, the smartest, the savviest of the Fab Four – at least when it came to marketing himself. He was not only unfailingly charming and cooperative in interviews, but he also knew how to switch gears, depending on who his visitor was and which publication he or she was representing.”

And when, as an interviewer for a syndicated TV show, I had reason to meet up with McCartney again, he slid, with ease, into broadcast mode, even doing, without any prompting, an introduction of me for our segment. It is, I’m sure you’ll understand, a prized possession. Thank you, Paul, and Happy Birthday.

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Ben Fong-Torres was a writer and editor at Rolling Stone from 1969 to 1981. He was a DJ on KSAN, has published ten books, writes the Radio Waves column in the Chronicle, and created the online station, Moonalice Radio, where his DJ show runs from 9 to 12, day and night.

This article was originally published on qello.com. Reproduced with permission from the author.