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Credit: BBC

Music

How Paul McCartney got into France without a passport

@TylerGolsen

There were no musicians in the entire world more recognisable than The Beatles were in the 1960s. From every corner of civilisation around the world, the names John, Paul, George, and Ringo could be heard in casual conversation. Mop tops could be found in every culture, no matter what the normative hairstyle was. Countries that didn’t speak English, or were barred from Western media, still heard the infectious sounds of the Fab Four through bootlegs and illegal pressings. Beatlemania wasn’t just confined to the US or the UK: it was global.

So if you happened to come face to face with Paul McCartney anytime in the previous 60 years, there is a decent chance that you would recognise him. That’s what McCartney was banking on when he flew to Nice, France, in late October, 1967. McCartney decided, rather impulsively, that the then-recently completed track ‘The Fool on the Hill’ should be included in the Magical Mystery Tour film.

Most of the film had already been shot and was in the middle of the editing process when McCartney took photographer Aubrey Dewar and roadie Mal Evans to France for the new sequence. McCartney had neglected to bring his passport, and had arrived at French customs with no money and no proof of identification. Evidently, all it took was a little persuasion to get through.

“I told them, ‘You know who I am, so why do you need to see a picture of me in a passport?’” McCartney would later recall. Obviously, this kind of thing would never fly in the post-9/11 airport drudgery that we all suffer through. But air travel was a little more fancy-free during the ‘60s, and McCartney was somehow able to ride his notoriety and charm all the way into an opposing country.

The French officers were lucky that McCartney wasn’t a British officer intent on starting a new war. McCartney had actually been to France before as The Beatles had a multi-day residency in Paris during 1964 when McCartney got the idea for ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’. With EMI’s French Studio open, George Martin and engineer Norman Smith were flown out to help record the song’s backing track.

But by 1967, McCartney evidently didn’t believe he needed all that identification any longer. It wouldn’t be the last time that McCartney got into a sticky situation at the airport either: in 1980, McCartney was detained in Tokyo when Wings flew there for a series of shows. McCartney had brought eight ounces of cannabis with him, and the Japanese police detained him for ten days before deporting him without a formal charge.

Check out the footage for ‘The Fool on the Hill’ down below.