How crazy is it to randomly run into Paul McCartney? And to chat for twenty minutes about everything from rattlesnakes to stage fright?
You know, I am a little embarrassed to admit it, but I have these cards I use sometimes - to meditate with. Yesterday morning my card said "Nature". Get out into nature. Usually I put these types of cards right back in the deck and draw another one - preferably something about "abundance" or "power". But I didn't this time. Instead, we decided to take the day off and go find some nature.
So there we were, J and I, in some obscure Hollywood Hills park, coming down a trail carrying a big stick - when a funny old gentleman, sitting on a bench in an enclosed area says - "Oh, now that's a big stick. Much bigger than the one I've got." I took a look - thought he looked familiar - thought he looked like Paul McCartney. "Yeah" said I, "I need it to fend off the rattlesnakes." J said "Hey, I know that face - you're Paul" - and so we introduced ourselves. My heart started to race so I used my years of meditation practice to slow it down and... breathe...
It was obvious Paul McCartney was in a good mood, friendly and engaging - and kind of chatty - so we started talking about rattlesnakes and the other little creatures and birds you see in that park.
Because some of you have asked, here's a summary of the highlights I can remember about our conversation.
He asked what we were doing in LA and J told him we were here to promote our music, etc. - that we both performed and I played guitar for her. J said she had left her career working with disabled children to follow her music passion – and she wanted to have success partly so she could do benefit concerts and “give back”. Paul really got animated at this point and told her with conviction - "You've done plenty for others, now it’s okay to take for yourself – give back to yourself." (or similar words).
J took that opportunity to boldly say she would love it if he would listen to her CD and if he felt called to help, she would love that too. (that girl has chutzpah). I stood there a little embarrassed, chopping my big stick on the dirt as she took the CD out of her purse and gave him mine too. He took a close look and then put them in his shorts pocket. I said - "You don't have to listen to them." and he laughed.
He said when he and John first started playing, they did it strictly for work (and girls). I joked - not in that order, right? - he grinned. He said folks in Liverpool were desperate just to have a job, never thought about “giving back”, not in their vocabulary. He said they (he and John) worked and worked in the old days – constantly playing shows just to make ends meet. Said they couldn’t even afford guitars at first – had to work hard to get them. He said (to J) you got to play and play a lot so you can get seen - especially here in LA, you can be seen by music execs, etc. anywhere. He told a story that he and John once said – "Let’s write a song for a pool." (because they wanted a pool and knew the only way to get it was a hit)
We talked a bit about the legacy of the Beatles and their influence. I said "you guys crossed the generation gap, even my mother loved you" He said yes, the music in those days inspired/influenced people about the possibility of freedom - it was really remarkable. I told him how I missed out when I was six - my sister and brothers went to the concert in Toronto but I was too young. "Little Robbie wanted to go" he said - which is weird because I was called Robbie back then.
We talked about performing and if he still gets a thrill from it. He said yeah - he loves playing nowadays because he now knows everyone who is there really has fought to get a ticket and they want to be there. And there are all ages out there - some of the kids know the lyrics better than he does - he's forgotten them. But he said he loves to just plug in his guitar into a big amp and make a racket.
We talked about songwriting and he said - yeah, he never stops writing, it's what keeps him fresh. He still gets nervous doing the new songs - they have six new ones for the Hollywood Bowl tomorrow. Said his girlfriend said if he isn't challenged he'll just "phone in" the performances - so he tries to challenge himself. The new songs still make him do that. Said he still makes mistakes on stage but doesn’t care and the crowd loves it – they love mistakes. I said, yes, when we do that, it shows your humanity.
(Isn't it great how I said "we" as in fellow musicians - as if "we" are in the same club. But I have to say, he was talking to us as fellow musicians and there was no condescension at all - he did it with a really nice humility.)
We made a move to go, but he actually started chatting again. So on we went...
I asked him what he learned first – guitar or bass – he said guitar. I asked him what songs he wrote first – he said he wrote a few by himself at first and so did John and then they got together and wrote (he thought) Love Me Do and I Saw Her Standing There. But the more they wrote, the songs started getting better.
Felt like it was time to move on, so J said "Very nice to meet you Sir Paul". He chuckled and said "Oh, so formal." We said our goodbyes and J complimented him on how great he looks and I said "I hope I look as good as you do when I'm your age." He seemed to like that.
After we left we ran into him again about a minute later down the trail and he said jokingly “Hey, I just met two people who looked exactly like you.” Then he jumped up to the fence, like some kind of gnome and started shaving his stick in a hole in the fence. I said "sharpening for the rattlesnakes, huh?"