An ode to Paul McCartney, for his 80th birthday

“Mull of Kintyre, my desire is always to be here”




PART I: When I’m 64

Paul McCartney was approaching the age of 14 in 1956 when he wrote “When I’m 64”. It was one of the first songs he wrote. The song was in honor of her father, Jim, who reached that age that year.

In the mid-1950s, it was a landmark for the average British man to reach the age of 64. It was sentimental for Paul because the previous year he had lost his mother, Mary, to breast cancer. Mary was only 47 when she died.

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Maybe that’s why the lyrics sound like Paul’s father is asking his mother, “Will you still need me; will you still feed me, when I’m 64?”

“When I’m 64” found a place on the B-side of the psychedelic album, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles in 1967. A trio of clarinets replaced the guitar. Paul’s voice has been sped up to make it look younger. It was one of the first experiments with using clarinets in a rock song. Listen carefully. Do you hear a guitar? The bass could be a cello.

A year after Paul wrote “When I was 64”, he met John on July 6, 1957, at St Peter’s Church in Liverpool. It was a year before John’s mother, Julia, died in a car accident on July 15, 1958. The two teenagers and motherless children developed a natural bond. Years later, John wrote “Julia” in The White Album in honor of his mother.

Paul wrote “Let it be” in honor of his mother; Mother Mary who would come in Paul’s dreams to “speak words of wisdom”. Paul also wrote “Yesterday” in honor of his mother. Paul just couldn’t understand “why she had to go”. “Yesterday” has become one of the most covered songs in history.

From the day John and Paul met, The Beatles have always been guaranteed to bring a smile. Paul has passed the milestone of 64 years. In 1956, Paul would not have imagined that today, June 18, 2022, he would celebrate his 80th birthday. And here he is, nearly 65 years since he and John first met, still going strong as the “jet” in “band on the run.”

PART II: The long and winding road

Almost 60 years ago, in October 1962, the Beatles began their journey with their first single, “Love Me Do”. Paul wrote the song in 1958. On the B-side of the 7 inch EP was “PS I Love You”. Paul was the main author of this song.

Years later, John admitted, “Even in the beginning we used to write things separately, because Paul was always ahead of me.”

“Love Me Do” and “PS I Love You” were included on the Beatles’ debut album the following year in 1963.

And so began an era in history that was coined Beatlemania. Four boys from Liverpool conquered first Britain, then the United States and finally the rest of the world with singles and albums that were commercial and critical successes. They revolutionized popular music. They broke down social class barriers. They have influenced many artists and bands.

As a Beatle, Paul’s songwriting was impeccable. Although all songs are credited as Lennon-McCartney collaborations, Paul was the primary writer for “Love Me Do”; “PS I love you”; “I saw her standing there”; “All my Love”; “I can’t buy myself love”; “Paperback Writer”; “Yesterday”; “Michelle”; “Eleanor Rigby”; “Here and everywhere”; “When I’m 64”; “Blackbird”; “Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da”; “Hey Jude”; “So be it”; “The Long and Winding Road”; and others.

Photo: AFP


Photo: AFP

Although it’s sad, it was probably inevitable that the Beatles would disband in 1970. They had grown too big to handle themselves. Added creativity and personality clashes to the final hit.

“And in the end”, as Paul’s words in Abbey Road said, “The love you take equals the love you make” didn’t turn out right. The Beatles gave the world more than they took back with them.

Since the Beatles disbanded in 1970, Paul has been making music for over half a century. He has made 26 studio albums. Seven of those studio albums were with his 1970s band Wings which was another commercial and artistic success.

Paul has also released nine live albums, 37 video albums, 111 singles, 17 box sets and 79 music videos.

Paul has collaborated with Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. In 2012 (on the date of 12.12.12), Paul found himself in a meeting of Nirvana. In 2015, he collaborated with Kanye West and Rihanna.

Outside of music, Paul is a painter, animal rights activist. He even campaigned for peace between Israel and Palestine. This year, Paul will be the oldest solo headliner at the Glastonbury Music Festival. Rumors are circulating that he could sit in the House of Lords as a peer. Not bad for a group that wasn’t sure they were from the House of Lords.

PART III: Mull of Kintyre

Every person, whether musician or listener, has their own Beatles story. One of them is your favorite. One of them influenced you in one way or another at some point in your life. For me, Paul is the Beatle who has matured over time. I met him in a “dream”. As life progressed, he became the cute Beatle to me.

George was the first Beatle I met. My maternal uncle, Taju Mama, presented me with an Abbey Road audio tape. The first song on this version was “Here Comes the Sun” by George. The guitar intro and youthfulness of the song stunned me. I found the Concert for Bangladesh vinyl in my father’s collection. The more I played the three albums, like many others from Bangladesh, the more I developed a natural love for George. And why not?

Ringo may have been the “sad-eyed clown,” but the more you dig into his closet, the more you develop a love for him, too, for his wit and humor.

John was the leader and the rebel. He was the epitome of what teenagers aspire to be. His round glasses, his mother Julia, aunt Mimi; his wives, Cynthia and Yoko were the strong women who shaped him.

Paul came to me in another form.

Photo: AFP


Photo: AFP

My first meeting with Paul dates back to 1978. I lived in a university town, Aberystwyth, in mid Wales, with my family. My father studied at Aberystwyth University. 1978 is a special year. It was the year of “Grease lightning”. It was also the year of “Mull of Kintyre” by Wings and Paul McCartney.

Radio and television airwaves were awash with “Mull of Kintyre”. I was too young to appreciate anything at that time. But I fell in love with the ballad. He stayed in my mind. Early in 1979 we left Aberystwyth, but Aberystwyth never left me.

Today, every time I listen to “Mull of Kintyre”, or play it on my flute, or try to play the guitar, the song brings me back to my childhood in Wales. Paul McCartney and Denny Laine wrote the song as a Scottish ballad. But it sings my heart out in Wales, another Celtic nation. It gives me the feeling of the Welsh word that has no English equivalent, Hiraetha desire to go home.

Paul wrote many great songs. Each of them has a special story for each listener. For me, it’s “Mull of Kintyre”. For me, it’s Hiraeth. The song brings tears to my eyes. I can no longer return home to Aberystwyth. The song also makes you smile. The lyrics remind me of a very special and innocent time in my life.

“Mull of Kintyre” is my signature Paul McCartney song. On Paul’s 80th birthday today, June 18, 2022, like many others, I wish Paul many more healthy years to continue giving us great songs that will leave us with fonder memories.

Asrar Chowdhury is Professor of Economics at Jahangirnagar University. He is the author of Echoes in SHOUT of The Daily Star. Email: [email protected]; [email protected]

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