I came to a realization recently: I’m an old.
I didn’t feel old when I got married, or had a child, or even when I turned 30 a few months back. You’re only as old as you feel, so they say, and in my head, I just stopped growing old when I turned 22 or so (no, those are not the beginnings of crows feet around my eyes!). So if none of these telltale signs of domestication and maturity made me feel old, what finally did me in and made me realize I had ‘grown-up’ status? Paul McCartney.
I have always been ambivalent about Paul McCartney. While I’ve been a Beatles fan since birth (literally–just ask my parents, they made sure of it), I’ve always sort of ignored Paul. It isn’t that I didn’t like him; I just didn’t get him. Of the four Beatles, he was always the safest, the least confrontational, the least political. His songs were always lighthearted, sweet, and safe. He wrote unabashedly sentimental pop songs about love. The love he had for his lady, his dog, his country house, and yes, growing old. Paul looked forward to things. He enjoyed the mundane, he was content with the small things. He celebrated people and their everyday emotions. Even his more pensive, introspective songs, like “Yesterday”, or “Eleanor Rigby,” while sad, managed to have a note of hope in them.
Did you know that “Martha My Dear”, a sweet homage to a silly girl, was actually written about Paul’s dog?
As a teenager, I just couldn’t get on board with all of Paul McCartney’s poetic waxing on life. He was just too happy, too free, too content. He always seemed to be on some kind of all-natural high, writing his cheerful ditties in all major-chords, complete with horn solos, jazzy keys, and bouncy harmonies. It wasn’t that I hated him, I just didn’t care for his style. I was more interested in John’s abstract lyrics, impassioned soapbox jumping, and out there vocals. As I got older, I began to realize that George Harrison was my favorite of the four Beatles, with his quiet, solid faith in a higher power, otherworldly sitar and dusky-honey voice. Again, it wasn’t that I disliked Paul; my interests just lay elsewhere.
I had many an argument as a teenager about my ambivalence toward Paul. My Father was always aghast that any offspring of his could not appreciate the genius that is Paul McCartney. He would force me to listen to countless Wings songs, pointing out particular lyrics or passages, waiting triumphantly for me to just suddenly get it. And I never did. To my younger self, it just seemed like Paul lacked the depth and meaning that I sought in my music. Where I could connect with the Johns, Georges, Davids, Pattis or Freddies of the music world, I just felt no connection to Paul’s particular brand of sentimentality. He just didn’t invoke any real feeling in me.
“Just wait. One day you’ll get it,” he’d insist, and I’d shake my head determined that I’d never do so.
I’ve always loved the idea of Paul McCartney. As a person he seemed pretty awesome to me. His life reads like something from a quaint novel–I’m sure you’ve all read the stories about how he and Linda only spent one or two nights apart the entire time they were married, before she died of cancer in 1998. He supported her endeavours as an animal rights activist and author of cookbooks. He was a devoted father, a good sport in the press, and generally a likeable guy who always conducted himself with the utmost humility and grace. Even during the field day the press created after his marriage to his second wife dissolved, he still managed to conduct himself with quiet dignity.
I just felt blasÃ© about his music, that’s all. Until recently.
One day, a few months back, I was driving down the road with my husband and son. Cal was in the backseat, happily bopping along to Beatles tunes, as you do. I’d made him a mixed CD of my favorite selections, as well as some that I thought he’d enjoy. Among those were a few Paul songs.
As we drove toward home, I noticed the leaves changing hues, from deep green to glorious shades of vibrant orange and deep burgundy. There was a slight breeze coming through the open window. It was a happy weekend afternoon. Callum was almost-dozing in the backseat.
The track changed, and out from the speakers wafted the first few notes of “And I Love Her” off the album A Hard Day’s Night. Normally the type of song I’d skim past, but that day, I turned it up. And sang along. And it was just perfect. Suddenly, I had a flash of insight into what Paul was feeling. I got him. So this is what it was to have a moment in time, perfect, happy, and just want to sing about it. Nothing fancy, contrived, or super-evolved. Just a sweet melody, a voice like soft-toffee, and a feeling. Therein lies the genius of Paul McCartney. Why he was the ‘favorite’ Beatle of so many, and why his songs have managed to rake in millions of dollars over the past five decades. He evokes all those positive feelings that we strive for, day-to-day, and makes them believable.
So it was then that I came to the realization that I’m an old. Whatever that means. I get it now. I’m a grown-up. I love Paul McCartney. I can identify with him now, with what drove his beautiful melodies and simple lyrics about happy moments and being in love with life. I find myself out on walks, listening to my iPod, scrolling past my beloved John and George songs, seeking out the McCartney tunes. I’ve been listening to Wings and his solo work with new-found fervor. I find myself hoping to catch a few bars of his music on the radio so that my son and I can happily bop along together. I listen now with a new understanding and clarity.
I guess this means I’m officially an adult, and my Dad was right. I’m an old, and I love Paul McCartney.
Does it make me deeply uncool to admit this is one of my very favorite songs? Probably.