I was thrilled to receive a ticket to Macca in conversation at the Royal Festival Hall last night, thanks to favourite firstborn Mia Clementine Jones. There was a buzz in the air as we took our seats that energised the whole space. I even thought I heard screaming, at one point.
But they got the wrong interviewer. I don't say this only because Samira Ahmed and I have history. She interviewed me for a radio doc about David Bowie in 2016. It turned unfathomably into a diatribe against England's racist suburbs during the sixties. I was five years old when I first met David. We lived in the same suburb, the London Borough of Bromley. How could it have been my fault? She has since become the poster girl for diversity, and seems to be on a mission to promote a one-woman socio-political cause. She managed to shoehorn in a reference to the Windrush generation at one point last night. Paul made his point with disarming subtlety about Liverpool's ethnic population: 'We didn't see them as any different. We saw them as equals, 'cos they were.' She must have thought she was on 'Newsnight'.
Paul has never been a political animal. He tends to disguise his supreme intelligence with humour, projecting as instinctive rather than intellectual. Emotionally-driven, he writes from the heart, with his feet on the ground and a beat in his head which echoes that of the man in the street. He spoke openly and lovingly of his family, as he does. He said that the pennies dropped in his songwriting when he realised that most people have eccentric families, nutty aunts and a mad Uncle Jack. He realised that that's what he should be writing songs about: quirky individuals and characters with real stories to tell, rather than the abstract and the unattainable. Well it worked, didn't it.
He was disarmingly frank on the subject of his mother, Mary, who died of breast cancer when he and his brother Mike were boys, and who came to him in a dream so realistically that he saw her standing there. Her maternal reassurances were so real to him, her whispered words of wisdom so clear. 'Let it be,' she said. He wrote it.
The pace of the interview was too slow. From the start, it was flagging. Paul Muldoon, the poet and Paul's co-writer on 'The Lyrics', was often left to re-introduce himself into the conversation. Most of the time, there, he was superfluous. This needed someone who could match Macca in terms of his sense of mischief, his upbeatness, his infectious light-heartedness. Not a Jonathan Ross, exactly, but certainly a Graham Norton. I would have gone for Piers Morgan, who adores McCartney, but who would not have shied from the elephants in the room, not least Heather Mills: the second wife to whom Macca refers not even once in passing in the new book. It was Piers who introduced them to each other.
Oh, well. Hearing Paul recall cracking family New Year's Eves, his dad pounding away on the piano ('there's always one'), and of his love for John Lennon, is never boring. What a shame that Paul 'never got round' to telling John that he loved him. 'As 16, 17 year-old Liverpool kids, you could never say that,' he lamented. 'It just wasn't done. So I never did just say, "John, love you, man." Now, it's great to realise how much I love this man.'
I expect he knows.