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5 things I learned from Paul McCartney’s HULU documentary

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Did you happen to watch Paul McCartney’s new HULU documentary called McCartney 3,2,1? The 6-part 3-hour special premiered on July 16, 2021 in the US and it offers fans an in-depth discussion between Paul and producer Rick Rubin about many Beatles songs and a few Wings and solo McCartney numbers.

It was a great idea to get Paul to sit down and talk about his career with a focus on the instrumental side of things (especially his bass playing) since he is going to turn 80 years old next year. The series was a joint venture between Paul and Rick Rubin, who are both listed as Executive Producers. Paul’s company MPL Communications is also listed in the credits. 

The series features short conversations about different aspects of McCartney’s career as well as samplings and analysis of songs like “Michelle”, “All My Loving”, “Let It Be”, “Eleanor Rigby”, “Penny Lane”, “Band on the Run”, “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”, “Yesterday” and more. It’s just a shame that they couldn’t go through virtually every Beatles song!

Some more highlights of the 6-episode series include rare early photos of John, Paul and George that are shown throughout the film (before they met Ringo).

Paul has told some of the same stories about his songs in previous interviews and books, but here are some interesting facts that stand out: 

(1) ALL MY LOVING (from Episode 1)

The series starts out on a high-energy note with an analysis of “All My Loving.” McCartney reveals that it was John’s idea to add the vigorous chord strumming to the song. Paul acknowledges it was a chore for John to play:  “You try doing that for three minutes – that brought it alive, I remember him doing that,” Paul said.  

(2) MICHELLE (from Episode 1)

Paul explained exactly how he learned the French words to sing in “Michelle.” It just so happens that Jan, the wife of his friend, Ivan Vaughn, was a French teacher. Ivan was Paul’s mate who introduced him to John Lennon back in 1957.

Paul asked her what French word rhymed with “Michelle” and Jan said “Ma belle.” She was able to translate the words (“These are words that go together well”) that Paul wanted to convey in the song. McCartney also explained how the song was inspired by French singer, Edith Piaf’s song “Milord.”  

(3) HARMONY (from Episode 6)

Part of the brilliance of The Beatles in my opinion was always the harmony – from the early days of “Love Me Do” to the later years with “Because.” I always wondered why either John or Paul sang backup harmony for the other on almost every Beatles song.

Rick asked Paul about John and Paul’s harmonizing and Paul responded: “We’d written the song together and we’d sing it together… And George Martin would say, ‘Who’s the lead singer?’ We’d say, ‘Well, me and John.’…It might just have been that both of us wanted to do the vocal. So there’s only one answer to that – both do it. (laughs)”  

(4) THIS BOY (from Episode 5) 

Ever wonder why The Beatles would sing ballads in the early days like “Til There Was You” and “This Boy”?

Paul explains: “When we got Brian Epstein as our manager, Brian said, ‘You could play cabaret clubs, but you’ll have to smarten up,’ – because we were a bit rock and roll – ‘you’ll have to do your more sort of ballady songs. It can’t just be a straight rock and roll set.’ 

“You could see this [‘This Boy[] at a cabaret club,” Paul adds. “Ladies and gentlemen, presenting The Beatles.” 

(5) JOHN’S PRAISE FOR PAUL (from Episode 5)

At the end of Episode 5, McCartney hears praise about his bass playing from someone he’d never expect.

Rick Rubin read this quote (which Paul said he never heard before) by none other than John Lennon: “Paul is one of the most innovative bass players that ever played bass, and half of the stuff that’s going on now is directly ripped off from his Beatle period. He has always been a bit coy about his bass playing, but he’s a great, great musician.”

“McCartney 3,2,1” is like a video version of Paul’s biography “Many Years from Now” by Barry Miles, who basically interviewed Paul for the entire book. The series is definitely recommended for anyone who appreciates The Beatles’ music – and it will leave you wanting more.

– Trina Young


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