It took Paul McCartney nearly ten years to perform a Beatles song on tour again. After the Fab Four became a studio-only band in 1966, hearing a Beatles song live would be restricted to the lucky few who were in or around 3 Saville Row on January 30, 1969, when the band appeared on the roof of their Apple Corps building to perform a few cuts from the Get Back project, later assembled as Let It Be. If you happened to catch Wings on one of their college tours of the early ’70s, you weren’t going to hear any classic Beatles numbers, other than their cover of Little Richards track ‘Long Tall Sally’.
As the Wings over the World brought the band to America for the first time, McCartney relaxed his strict ‘No Beatles Songs’ policy and reintegrated some of his classic tunes into the setlist. Once Wings became a past-tense entity, McCartney felt more comfortable covering his entire career in the live setting, and although he occasionally pulls out a surprise now and again, he and his current backing back usually stick to the tried-and-true hits when it comes to playing Beatles songs.
Even as a beloved elder statesman with an openness to suggestion, McCartney still has some rules regarding what he plays, as he told The New York Times‘ Caryn Ganz: “I never used to do anything unless it was something that I had done the main vocal on,” McCartney explained.
“Which is still true, most of the songs, but now I’ve started to do things like ‘A Hard Day’s Night,’ which was mainly John’s vocal,” he added. “That I would have called a John song, but you know, I helped write it, and it’s a similar thing for a song called ‘Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!’ In the end, it’s just down to whether it’s a good song to do.”
McCartney has even integrated Lennon’s solo song ‘Give Peace a Chance’ into his modern setlist, along with other songs that he doesn’t exclusively sing, like ‘A Day in the Life’. But apart from primary authorship, McCartney considered ‘Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite!’ to be too hard to play and sing live.
“I had always said I could never do that song because it’s got such a complicated bass part that it’s almost impossible to sing the melody, which is kind of contrapuntal,” McCartney said. “But in the end, I thought, ‘stop being a wimp, let’s try and see if you can do it.’ And I manned up and learned it.”
At his most recent public concert, which took place at Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles two summers ago, ‘Bring For the Benefit of Mr. Kite!’ had a place in the setlist, sandwiched in between his Egypt Station track ‘Fun You’ and another Beatles song he didn’t write or primarily sing on, ‘Something’.