McCartney 3, 2, 1 and the creative process on Disney+
For the last three nights I've been watching the first half of a six episode 30 minute series - McCartney 3, 2, 1.
It's been both a joy and revelation. Through laid back interviews with Paul McCartney, around a recording studio mixing desk, legendary music producer and Beatles superfan Rick Rubin teases out songwriting and production details that the most ardent fans might know, but I didn't
I've learned, for instance, that there's a piccolo trumpet on Penny Lane because the night before the Beatles recorded it, McCartney watched a TV broadcast of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos. Paul, who has never learned to read music, explained how he briefed the player on how he wanted it to sound with a crescendoing movement of his hand, and an acknowledgement that the final note would be out of the normal range for the instrument.
When Rubin played back While My Guitar Gently Weeps, McCartney spoke about how generous he thought George Harrison had been to allow Eric Clapton to play on it. By shifting a few levers, Rubin silenced Harrison’s tranquil vocals to highlight McCartney’s grungy bass, which he played with a pick. Rubin found this revealing - as if two songs were being played at once.
McCartney explained that this type of tension was at the heart of the Beatles. It meant each band member's individual style was kept, but in way that ensured harmony. He pointed to the balance between his lyrical optimism It's getting better all the time complemented by Lennon's cynicism Couldn't get much worse.
It's 60 years since the Beatles' first gig and debut single. My art tribute to them is a digital painting of McCartney, playing left handed bass. I've always loved the visual symmetry of McCartney and Lennon playing guitar together. So this portrait shows McCartney continuing his career as one of the most successful composers and performers of all time, without Lennon.
If you would like to see how it was created, click here.