Paul McCartney has been on a publicity tear over the last month to promote his new album, “Egypt Station.” Last night, he was on “60 Minutes” in what was billed as “a wide-ranging interview” by Sharyn Alfonsi, who opened with this:
How is it that we enter the 51st season of 60 Minutes and are only now profiling the most successful musician and composer in popular music history? Maybe it’s because it’s nearly impossible to try and find something new or surprising to talk to Sir Paul McCartney about. How do you jostle a new memory from a Beatle who, over the decades, may be the most written about person on the planet?
I was hopeful that Alfonsi would actually ask McCartney some different questions than the ones he’s answered thousands of times over the last six decades, but was disappointed when the interview turned out to be more of the same old thing — his relationship with John Lennon, the breakup of the Beatles, a tour through his farm, blah blah blah. At one point, she even asked McCartney, “What do you think of this album?“ You mean the one he’s trying to promote, Sharyn? Do you expect him to say, “It sucks, and I’m only doing it because I’m bored”?
Earlier this year, I bemoaned a similar problem with another show business legend, Carol Burnett, who was promoting her new Netflix series. Every interview she gave was focused almost entirely on her old primetime CBS sketch show, with little attention paid to her career since then. At the time, I came up with five questions off the top of my head that I would ask Burnett that no one else has (to my knowledge).
Let’s see if I can do the same with McCartney:
- In 1991, I was interviewing Pete Townshend and asked him what a typical day was for him when not touring. He mentioned that the night before, he and his family had had dinner with you and your family at a restaurant, and at one point, his one-year-old son had started crying, so he took him outside and sang him a song that he made up on the spot. Since you have five kids and eight grandchildren, Paul, did you make up songs for them when they were little? If so, can you give me a sample?
- Did any of those improvised kiddie ditties inspire tunes you later recorded?
- After all these years as a songwriter, how do you know when you’re done writing a song? Is there a moment where you think, “That’s it!”?
- Do you write songs faster now than you used to? Do you sit down to write a bunch, or one at a time when something strikes you?
- You’ve been touring with the same musicians for many years. What is the process for auditioning band members? What did these guys have to do to earn a spot on stage with you?
- You’re famously vegetarian and an animal rights activist, even starting a line of frozen foods with Linda many years ago. Why haven’t you gone full vegan?
- Why weren’t there more George Harrison songs on Beatles albums?
- Since “Ram” is my favorite Paul McCartney solo album, I’ve always wanted to ask, what does “Ram On“ mean?
- In 1981, a Dutch group called itself “Stars On 45” and had a big hit with a kind of disco medley of Beatles songs. What did you think of it?
- There has never been an official DVD release of the movie “Let It Be,” supposedly because George’s estate and Yoko Ono don’t want us to see the acrimony that was dividing The Beatles at the time. Is that true, and have you tried to convince them otherwise? Would you like it to be released?
Okay, that’s ten. I’m sure I could come up with a few more if given the opportunity. The bottom line is that when Alfonsi said, “it’s nearly impossible to try and find something new or surprising to talk to Sir Paul McCartney about,” she simply wasn’t trying hard enough.