A Review of Paul McCartney: A Life

Paul McCartneyPaul McCartney by Peter Ames Carlin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was an interesting book to read. The Beatles were a little before my time, and I grew up listening to Paul’s Wings, but I’ve always been interested in the Beatles and Paul McCartney, so I enjoyed this book. While the author is clearly a fan, he doesn’t hold back his critiques either, which balances the book out.

I learned a lot I didn’t know. For instance, I didn’t know that Paul was the musical genius in the group and taught Lennon how to play the guitar. I also didn’t know he was so controlling, and tried to direct everything the group did himself. He took that to extremes at times, but it shows he was driven, that he had a good work ethic (which he got from his father). The book focused a lot on the Lennon/McCartney relationship, both good and bad, and often left out George and Ringo, which I thought was a shame. I didn’t know Paul was responsible for so many of the Beatles classics, and it was sad to read about Lennon’s increasing disillusionment with the group, even before Yoko was on the scene. And yes, Yoko was evil. She really did drive the group apart. Tragedy. We learn a lot about the Beatles in this book, but the author keeps a lot out — too much. For instance, early on, the boys are broke and playing lots of concerts, trying to make it. Several pages later, they’re all driving a Rolls Royce. Huh? How did that happen? I’d have liked to learn about how their empire started and grew and how they adapted to their new financial situations. We were also told how the other three Beatles bought houses in the suburbs with their wives. I didn’t even know they were married, and we are never told when or how this happened. We’re not even told how John met Yoko, which I think would be critical to a book that has so much to say about Yoko. The breakup of the Beatles is tragic to read about though.

When Paul met Linda Eastman, he was already engaged. I didn’t know that. When he and Linda married, it was no big deal. They had kids — well adjusted, by all accounts — and grew their family. Linda was a photographer, which I didn’t know, so when Paul tried to make her a member of his new band, Wings, she was a little nervous. Here, I don’t think the book treats her very well. She sings off key, can’t play the keyboards that she’s just learning for the group. She’s basically in the band cause Paul wants his wife in it. She really doesn’t get any credit for the Wings success, which I think is a bit unfair.

Paul was a total whore before he married Linda. Apparently he liked the groupies. But as far as I can tell, he and Linda had a great marriage, so when she died of cancer in the ’90s, it was sad to read about and difficult to read about Paul’s attempts to adapt to his new life without her.

Paul was also into drinking and drugs, and he and Linda smoked pot til the end. I didn’t know that. I don’t know that that makes a difference to me, but I hadn’t realized that. Lennon was into harder stuff though.

Paul was cheap. He paid the members of Wings 70 pounds a week for years, which was less than they could have made as session musicians. He promised they’d share in the royalties when they started selling albums and touring, but he never did it. He’s treated pretty roughly here in the book, but apparently it’s deserved.

When Paul meets Heather Mills shortly after Linda’s death, you can just tell it’s a bad idea, especially with no pre-nup. His kids were opposed to it. Virtually everyone was. And while Heather was a model, she had apparently done some lying about her past. She’s not painted well in this book, and after they’re married a few years, she becomes a first class villain. She’s truly evil, and fortunately, she got away with less of Paul’s money than I had thought or remembered.

Paul’s solo works in the ’80s through the present are interesting to read about. I didn’t even know about most of them. I’d be interested in listening to a few now after reading about them. One thing that the author does is give a brief run down and comment on virtually every song on every album Paul’s involved with, including all of the Beatle’s, Wings’, and his solo efforts. I’m not sure how I feel about that, because they’re just snippets of words about these songs, but I guess they’re there for a reason, so I won’t complain. Carlin is a big fan of Paul’s music, that’s all I can say….

It was a good book to read, and quite easy to get through. I would give it five stars, but it leaves out too much that I would consider to be critical info, so I’m downgrading it to four. Still worth reading though. Good book.

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