Books: Gospel according to Paul

PAUL McCARTNEY: Many Years from Now by Barry Miles, Secker pounds 17.99

For several years Paul McCartney has been reclaiming his Beatle past. In concerts he plays a sequence of songs which any Fabologist recognises as a potted history, starting with Eddie Cochran's "Twenty Flight Rock", the song with which young Paul impressed John Lennon the first time they met; through "Ain't She Sweet", their first recording (John sang it during their sessions backing Tony Sheridan for Bert Kaempfert in Hamburg), and"I Saw Her Standing There", the first track on their first album. It is a quarter of a century since the band broke up and by now McCartney is comfortable with being an ex-Beatle. He would like to set the record straight. The TV Anthology was part of this process. Barry Miles's book is another.

Miles has known Paul since 1965. He was an intimate part of the underground swinging London scene, founding the International Times (Paul drew flyers for it for fun) and co-founding the Indica bookshop and gallery where John met Yoko. He already has huge amounts of material to draw on, having compiled The Beatles in their own Words, Paul McCartney in his own Words, and very probably Auntie Mimi in her own Words. This new book is not, therefore, any kind of an objective overview, but the work of a friend. Miles conducted 35 new interviews with Paul for this present volume and his approach is to let his subject largely speak for himself Forty percent of the text consists of transcriptions directly from these interviews - it is Paul himself speaking, which gives the book a chatty, personal feel. And in fact, that is the point. Miles is essentially an amanuensis. This is Paul's version of the Beatles' story.

It must be a bit daunting to go over such familiar ground. The phrase "the story of so and so is well known ..." recurs a good deal. Many readers will feel like grandmothers on an egg-sucking course. Bearing that in mind, it would have been wise to avoid such howlers as getting George Harrison's birthday wrong (it is 25 February, not 23) and asserting that Revolver begins with "Eleanor Rigby" (it starts with "Taxman").

But the book has other anorak virtues. Paul goes through the songs almost one by one, identifying his and John's contributions, much as John did in the famous Playboy interview.There are fewer contradictions than you would imagine, especially given John's notoriously revisionist memory and the quantity of drugs he had taken; principally, John did not write the middle eight of "And I Love Her" and Paul sent John to make a cup of tea while he knocked off the music for "In My Life". More to the point, Paul wants to correct the impression that after "She Loves You" Lennon and McCartney generally wrote separately. He insists that most of the songs were collaborations to some extent, even when they clearly "belonged" to one or other partner..

John and Paul always will be partners and they will always be compared. Paul has come to terms with this. The problem is that for the rest of the world John's genius is forever mysterious - great stuff seemed to have come from nowhere - while Paul's achievements seem more prosaically explicable in terms of colossal talent and application. This and John's murder have given a legendary sheen to his life and art. George Harrison's autobiography mentioned Lennon just eleven times. Paul's book (all right, Miles's if you absolutely insist) has him on practically every page. It doesn't try to be a full-scale biography. It is about the Beatles' years, and that means it is substantially about the John and Paul relationship.

The disproportionate attention previously given to John has had distorting affects on our perceptions of the time and place. Because John spent the mid-Sixties living in Weybridge with his first wife, Cynthia, and then focused his attention on LSD and Yoko and heroin, Swinging London has tended to recede into a rather fuzzy background. Paul, meanwhile, was living at Jane Asher's parents' house on Wimpole Street and then in St John's Wood, and he was in the thick of Renaissance England. Barry Miles was there too, and he gives a most vivid picture of how it was to be a pop god at the centre of the world. The book is also very good on the five-year relationship with Jane, and her replacement with Linda. Given Paul's fierce privacy and his knack for hiding behind his thumbs-up persona, this alone makes the book very well worth reading. If it fails the Anthony Clare test of delving deep into its subject's psyche, it is nonetheless a terrific social document.

See Michael White's interview with Paul McCartney on page 16

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
TV
News
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
art
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
    There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

    In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

    The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

    It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
    The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

    Staying connected: The King's School

    The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
    Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

    Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

    Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

    The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
    Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

    When two worlds collide

    Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?