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Paul McCartney at 80: The influence of a Beatle in the words of the artists he inspired

This weekend we see Paul McCartney, one-quarter of the most important band of all time, hit the big eight-zero. Most famous, of course, for his work alongside John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr in The Beatles, McCartney and his three bandmates changed the face of popular music almost single-handedly throughout the 1960s. They began their mission as the four mop-top likely lads from Liverpool who wrote primarily of love and ended it looking like the cast of Scooby-Doo singing about yellow submarines, meter maids, walruses, apemen, tangerine trees and marmalade skies. 

The larger-than-life personalities of the four were such that we feel like we lived through this period alongside The Beatles as we listen to their unparalleled back catalogue. After the band split up in 1970, attention dispersed as we welcomed the stars of glam-rock (David Bowie, Bryan Ferry and Marc Bolan) and the prog-rock era (Pink Floyd, Yes, Genesis). 

While the individual Beatles weren’t forgotten after the 1960s, their power was dispersed into an ostensible solo career battle. Indeed, this is how the post-Beatles climate was often publicised, but the group remained in each other’s fondest thoughts amid some friendly rivalry. 

McCartney’s post-Beatles activity saw him embark on a number of landmark solo exploits as well as the sterling work with Wings. During the 1970s, McCartney’s focus became increasingly placed upon his family, mainly from the comfort of their farmland retreat in Scotland. Where this shift in focus might limit the output for some musicians, McCartney welcomed his wife Linda into Wings – wherever he went, music would be coming with him. 

Paul McCartney at 80: Revisiting his 20 best songs for The Beatles

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While The Beatles’ legacy would take some beating, McCartney can be proud of some fantastic latter career highlights, including seminal albums like Ram, McCartney and Band On The Run. Just for added flavour, his name has been further immortalised thanks to one of the greatest James Bond soundtracks of all time and one of the most durable Christmas classics on our yearly roster. 

On top of McCartney’s undeniable and rather astonishing talents as a singer, bassist, pianist, guitarist, songwriter and so on, one of the most mind-boggling attributes this man has, is his tenacious creativity. Some will dismiss such heavy-weight rock stars as “lucky” or “entitled”. Indeed, McCartney and many of his peers have been subject to a fair dose of luck, but fame and fortune are hot rocks to handle. 

Throughout most of our lifespans, McCartney has remained a stoic figurehead in the music world, who, despite being treated as a deity for much of his career, remains ostensibly so down to Earth. To have kept his creative engine running for over six decades through a rollercoaster of dizzying highs and sobering lows, the man is truly one in 8 billion. 

Next week, McCartney is set to visit Glastonbury as he becomes the festival’s oldest ever headline act. 

In celebration of McCartney’s 80th birthday this weekend, we bring you some collated quotes from various interviews over the past year or so. We asked some of our interviewees to reveal their thoughts on McCartney as a fellow musician and cultural icon and this is what they had to say. 

Finally, all of us here at Far Out Magazine would like to wish Paul a very happy 80th birthday.

The influence of Paul McCartney in the words of artists he inspired:

Andy Bell (Ride / Oasis)

“Paul McCartney is in my opinion the greatest living musician. He’s also one of the very few people truly worthy of the term ‘genius’. His talent, in multiple areas of music, is astounding, actually almost unbelievable, and although he is rightly respected and loved for his music all over the world, if anything, he is also the most criminally under-rated musician on the planet as well. Best bass player ever. Part of the best songwriting team ever. One of the greatest singers ever. He keeps on moving forward and isn’t afraid to experiment, but really you feel like he is primarily making music to please himself. It’s just very lucky that we all get to share it as well.”

Jah Wobble (Public Image Ltd.)

“The British somehow produce these really great melodic bassists that are really imaginative. McCartney is very imaginative in playing inversions of the chord rather than just pedalling the root note, and he’s also, obviously, a great writer”.

Referring to ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ as his favourite Beatles track, Wardle added: “There’s something about that record, though, that drives me nuts, I absolutely love this record. It was so weird, Strawberry – Fields – Forever, beautiful.”

Peter Hook (Joy Division / New Order)

“As a bassist, he’s more of a songwriter. I think he’s confessed that he starts on the guitar and brings the bass in afterwards. He’s like, an orchestra leader”. Hook continued, explaining that he greatly admires McCartney’s songwriting abilities despite being more of a Rolling Stones man. Hooky later revealed how impressed he was that McCartney was to be headlining Glastonbury later this year at 80. “I never thought I’d have to go to 80. But now I’m gonna have to go to 80 to beat Paul bloody McCartney.”

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Chris Geddes (Belle and Sebastian)

“He’s just so talented, isn’t he? Like, a lot of people, I watched [Peter Jackson’s] Get Back and absolutely loved it. It was just great to be kind of lost in that world for the hours that it lasted for. I wish the documentary had gone on twice as long as it did because I love that time and place and could never get tired of being there.”

 “Paul, love his piano. If I was in a band with him, I would find him really annoying because he’s so good at everything. And you can understand, in Get Back, why George found Paul a bit annoying because he told everyone what to do. But, obviously, Paul could see how he wanted things to be.”

“I love his music … a lot of his post Beatles stuff as well, ‘Live and Let Die’ is an absolute banger. And a lot of his more experimental stuff, which he probably just kind of dashes off for a bit of a laugh, like ‘Temporary Secretary’.”

“And then there’s songs like ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ off his first album … I mean, it’s just awe-inspiring that someone can be that talented and still, despite telling everyone what to do, seem alright!” He elaborated on this last point as we discussed how artists of McCartney’s calibre will often let their ego run riot, but McCartney always seemed very down to Earth.” 

“I grew up listening to The Beatles because my folks had all the records, and as a kid, you just like the poppy stuff. And then maybe as a teenager, it was more trendy to like, John Lennon or George Harrison more. And maybe if I was to pick my absolute pinnacle of Beatles stuff, it might be Lennon. Songs like ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ and ‘I Am The Walrus’. But then ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ wouldn’t sound like it did if it wasn’t for McCartney, because the tape loops were all his idea.”

“At that period, he was just so open to influences. It’s inspiring that someone who was the biggest pop star in the world would be open to incorporating avant-garde techniques into the band’s songs.”

“It would be tremendous to meet him and say hello one day, and to let him know how much his music has touched you. But then, he doesn’t need to hear that from me, I mean, anyone in the world could tell him that, you know? Because he has touched the whole world, which is an amazing thing really.” 

Anton Newcombe (The Brian Jonestown Massacre)

“I can think of no other musician short of Bach that has influenced me in such a way, that I consider their technique in almost every song. That is down to Paul’s love of music, and his gifts as he is truly gifted. Naturally when I am playing something based on dub or krautrock or I dunno, a post-punk geometry, then his influence disappears, but Paul is my go-to mindset for bass, and it is so important in every song. So thank you, Paul.”

Andrew Loog Oldham

“He is the worker, always looking for new roads to hoe. Happy birthday, happy every day. Abrazo siempre.”

Adrian Flanagan (Acid Klaus/Eccentronic Research council).

“I think as a kid and in my teens, I always leant in the direction of John Lennon when it came to both the Beatles and their solo endeavours. BUT now, with a more eclectic and travel-hardened taste at work, I can say with great confidence that my favourite Beatle is, Yoko Ono!! However, I do have a real soft spot for the more weird electronic tracks on McCartney II. Tracks such as ‘Check My Machine’ & ‘Temporary Secretary’ – do more for me personally than the schmaltz fest of ‘Let it Be’. After seeing the recent Beatles film [Get Back] I do have a lot more respect for him as a musician, a man of great melody, experimentalism and pretty much the driving force behind The Beatles.”

Andrew Bird

“There are very few who are continuously obviously pushing themselves. Paul Simon can still pull out an amazing song and Paul McCartney is no different. There aren’t many people who make it that far and are still pushing themselves. John Prine never put out a bad record, McCartney is similar where every song is fully invested, but it is a very short list.” 

10cc

It was short but sweet from the 10cc guys.

Graham Gouldman: “No McCartney, No Beatles, No 10cc”.

Lol Creme (10cc): “Paul McCartney’s on another level completely.”

Jake Bugg

“I’ve always been a massive Beatles fan and have played their songs out many times, especially when I first started out at sixteen playing acoustic gigs,” Bugg told Far Out. “One of my favourite songs to play is ‘Like Dreamers Do’, but I’ve had a crack at loads of them over the years, and we’ll often play a few Beatles songs on the tour bus too.”

“Their influence is impossible to measure as they were true pioneers in so many ways from acoustic and pop to psychedelia and all the way through to the anthems that everybody knows. Classic songs that never age.”

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L’objectif

“I think as a band obviously his music has collectively shaped us as musicians. I know personally as a bassist I always found him hugely inspirational as he not only is one of the most prolific bassists when it comes to his writing but also as a songwriter in general. I remember being mesmerised by the bass part  in Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da from a very young age.”

“His ability to create such melodic bass lines that fit perfectly into a song is beyond us mere mortals.”

“On behalf of l’objectif, thanks Paul”.

Flyte

“You’d have to make a genuine effort not to be influenced by McCartney. To the point where anyone who says otherwise is acting out a shallow personality move. Anything experimental on a Beatles record, you assume came from John, it’s likely it came from Paul. His range stretches from the traditional to the heavy to the abstract to the kitchen sink. His work will always prevail.”

They added: “Considering the scope of his influence is like the sun- you can’t look directly at it. He’s a part of everything. The fact that he’s still with us, still emotionally intelligent, still experimenting, still sound, keeps us sleeping at night.”

SPINN

“As a Liverpool-based band, it’s hard to not be inspired by the works of McCartney. Albums like Band On The Run and RAM are mainstays in our playlists as we travel up and down the country on tour. A favourite of ours being ‘Mamunia’. McCartney is the master of creating infectious pop records and we owe him a lot when it comes to inspiring our songwriting style. Within our music, we take influence from elements such as his falsetto and his catchy bass-lines. He is without doubt a huge reason why we got into creating music and his hits from The Beatles, Wings, and solo will stand the test of time. Happy Birthday, Macca la x.”

Louis Dunford

“I think Paul McCartney’s genius was kind of lost on me growing up cause his tunes were played so much in my gaff that he almost felt like part of the furniture or part of the family.”

“Like a musical uncle, forever singing the soundtrack to our lives from the radio in the kitchen. It wasn’t until I picked up the guitar myself and started learning the piano that I realised just how prolific he is. I feel like I couldn’t come close to the quality or quantity of his body of work if I had ten lifetimes to try, so the fact he’s done it in one blows my little mind. He’s a hero.”

Courting

“I think what inspired me the most was Paul’s solo work like RAM and the DIY ethic that he has,” the band said. “I think he set a precedent for popular artists to keep innovating and pushing your own sound forward. Some of the tracks from that period still sound ahead of their time today.”

(Credit: Alamy)

Deap Vally

“You could say that the music of the Beatles is imprinted on my DNA. I wouldn’t make the music I make, write the melodies I write, if I didn’t grow up listening to Paul McCartney’s songs,” the band’s Lindsey Troy stated.

“Whether it’s the cool catchiness of ‘Drive My Car’, the angular riffs of ‘Helter Skelter’, the suspenseful melancholy of ‘Eleanor Rigby’, or the campfire singalong anthem, ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’, Paul McCartney’s music helped shape the musician I am today. Happy birthday, Paul!”

Jack In Water

“I was a pretty latecomer to The Beatles and was in my mid to late ’20s when I really got sucked into listening to all of the albums back to back. I can say for sure it definitely inspired and changed the way I thought about music and, in general, the way they use harmony in such an interesting way.”

Adding: “Songs that seem like simple progressions can quickly veer off moving to this whole new world, and I feel like The Beatles were able to use all of these tools in such a natural way without it feeling too contrived. They have changed the way I make music now.”

Novelty Island

“One memory sums up Paul McCartney to me. I was very lucky to see his tiny Cavern Club show in 2018,” Tom McConnell revealed. “The (then) 76-year-old doesn’t need to play in a swelteringly hot cellar at all, let alone care enough to remember to perform such minor production details like 2 bars of mouth percussion in the middle 8 of ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’. No one would notice if he didn’t do it, but he knows it’s wrong without it.”

Addressing McCartney, McConnel added: “Thanks for being my superhero with a Sgt Pepper cape and Hofner bass when I was six, thanks for still being my guru at 28, thanks for ‘Coming Up’ and Ram and all the rest (best!), and thanks for caring about the music since you lived in Speke. Here’s to McCartney IV in 2030.”

The Snuts

“For me, the Beatles are untouchable,” guitarist Joe McGilveray said. “They paved the way and shaped the mould for what a bread and butter guitar band was and is, but never stopped changing and adapting with every album. They comfortably bounce between genres but always sound definitively like ‘The Beatles’. The impact they’ve had on music can’t be measured.”

“When I first heard Abbey Road, I was 12 or 13, and I think it was the first time I’d ever really appreciated an album as a complete piece of work, rather than just the individual songs.”

“The contrast from the barebones rock n roll of ‘Come Together’ and ‘She’s So Heavy’, to the horns and strings on ‘Golden Slumbers’, but with songs like ‘Polythene Pam’ and ‘Her Majesty’ keeping things light and away from the grandiose. Without the Beatles, bands like ours wouldn’t exist today. Happy birthday, mate.”

The Sherlocks

“He’s obviously a huge influence musically,” singer Kiaran Crook explained. “But I think that to be doing what he’s doing still now, with his legacy, just shows he’s doing it for the love of it and if anything that’s more influential to me now.”

Tess Parks

“What an amazing 80 years lived! I shook hands with Paul McCartney once! In my late teens, my friend David and I were outside Paul McCartney’s hotel in Toronto and this car was driving by and rolled down the window and it was him! So we ran up to him and shook his hand and we were like ‘Wow, holy, holy, that’s the hand that wrote blackbird’. We went to the concert that night and you hear songs like ‘Hey Jude’ and everyone singing along and with every “Na na na na na na” a sad part of you can’t help but fall away. He is truly one of the greatest songwriters we will ever have the pleasure to live on this earth with at the exact same time. Happy birthday Sir Paul!”

Pearl Charles

“Although there is a special place in my heart for all of The Beatles, I’ve always had an affinity for Paul and specifically his post-Beatles material. My boyfriend and musical partner Michael Rault and I are obsessed with the idea of ‘couples rock’, and Paul and Linda were definitely pioneers of the genre with Wings.”

“I’ve been lucky enough to see Paul live a few times, most recently, I somehow managed to manifest an 11th-row ticket, and I laughed, cried, danced and sang along to every single song. From Ram to Rock Show, Paul is a national treasure, so here’s to another trip around the sun for the man who may quite possibly be my favourite Beatle!”

Joey Maxwell

“McCartney is a huge part of why I still make music,” Maxwell said. “The countless times where I’ve not felt good enough or inspired enough to write anything, I’ve always reverted back to certain McCartney records and had the spark re-ignited.”

“I’d like to think that elements of my sound are influenced by all the trinkets of information found within McCartney’s music; often his albums act as textbooks on the way things ‘should be done.’ My favourite McCartney album is RAM and my favourite song at the moment is ‘Long Haired Lady’!”

(Credit: Linda McCartney)

Fever

The band’s Sam Howell noted, “Growing up, I was always surrounded by music, it was a pretty big constant. One of those main constants was The Beatles, and specifically Paul McCartney. Their music was always blasting out around the house. Eventually, I was inspired to start learning an instrument, my dad bought me my first acoustic, and he’s a big McCartney fan. I stayed in the car as he popped into the music shop to get it, and when he came back, he told me he borrowed this from Paul himself.”

“Filled with excitement, I couldn’t wait to start working out how to play Beatles songs. From then on, it’s just been a huge sense of respect and love for The Beatles and McCartney’s music ever since. To this day, I still stick on a Beatles album and have that same amazement I got as a kid. Thanks, Paul.”

Singer James Harrod added: “In terms of how far the art of songwriting can take you, it’s Paul McCartney that takes me the furthest. I discovered The Beatles at a young age, and the sheer brilliance of McCartney’s melodies still resonate with me today the same way that they did back then. I think I’m speaking for most musicians when I say we owe a lot to that man! Happy Birthday, Sir Paul.”

Badly Drawn Boy

“The most inspiring thing about McCartney to me as a songwriter is that he just kept going…even after success and many great songs under the belt, like Bob Dylan, McCartney never stopped searching for his next great idea/song… and still does to this day.”

“It’s inspiring because it underlines the notion that every new day has the potential to bring with it a new idea, fresh inspiration. If an individual loses the urge to keep searching, they stop being an artist.”

Sophie Morgan

“I first heard ‘Yesterday’ in music class at school. We watched Paul perform it alone in black and white. I silently soaked it all up enraptured amidst the chatter of classmates. That soaring melody. The simplicity of it. The complexity of it. That first line. He’s my favourite Beatle. That old soft Scouse accent reminds me of my grandparents, so although he’s a superstar, somehow he always feels like home.”

Jana Bahrich (Francis of Delirium)

“So much of my childhood was soundtracked by Paul McCartney’s voice. From the ages of 5-9 years old, I used to listen to CD’s while falling asleep, and I had a pretty limited rotation. I would listen to the Beatles 1 album almost every evening to go to sleep and then would occasionally swap it out for the Secret Garden audiobook or a CD called Beethoven lives upstairs.” 

“Every time I put the 1 compilation on I would wait excitedly for ‘Eleanor Rigby’ to come on. I remember being able to picture the space and mood so vividly and feeling so affected by the tone of the songwriting. We bought the Wingspan compilation which accompanied us on most car rides. I think for a lot of people, the Beatles are the first pop/rock group that you listen to growing up, so a lot of people associate Beatles with their family.”

She continued: “I certainly do. When we’d visit my uncle, he’d bring out the guitar and we’d all sing ‘Let ’em in’, ‘Ob-la-di, ob-la-da’ or ‘Maybe I’m amazed’ together. Listening and singing along to McCartney’s music sort of established early on that music is communal and meant to be shared. His influence is one that affected me slowly. Every night I listened to his tracks I was absorbing his keen sense of melody and harmony and his sometimes poignant, often carefree lyricism.”

Cross Wires

Jonathan Chapman (vocalist): “I was aware of his songs as a kid before I even really knew who The Beatles were. They are woven into the very fabric of our country. People will still be listening to those songs in 100 years’ time.”

Matt Lazard (bassist): “The Beatles are a band that was always playing in my household when I was a kid. That hasn’t stopped to date. Paul was and still is the benchmark for me as a bassist and a songwriter. Inspirational musician and person. Reason why I have a Hofner.”

Pete Muller (guitarist): “Such a great songwriter and performer. I saw him in 2010 at Hyde Park, it was the same day we went out of the World Cup to Germany so we all needed cheering up! He played for 3 or 4 hours on one of the hottest days of the year and it was one of the best gigs I’ve been to. He has such a talent for writing a catchy tune that everyone can sing along to. He also adds an element of fun to songs and performances, even throwing in a cover of ‘Tequila’ that day!”

Ian Clarke (drummer): “The Beatles are one of the first bands that made me want to play music. Paul’s bass is one of the best of all the sixties bands; along with Ringo, he created one of the best British rhythm sections. Key tracks to illustrate this would be ‘Helter Skelter’, ‘Rain’, ‘Paperback Writer’ and ‘Come Together’.”

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