A close-up study of Paul McCartney’s first post-Beatles decade.
It’s one measure of how messed-up the music business is and of how competitive the former band mates were that John Lennon lamented, in the 1970s, that McCartney had amassed a $25 million fortune, much more than Lennon had. Lennon’s pile would quickly grow, though he would not live long enough to enjoy it all, thanks in part to the battery of lawsuits that McCartney fired off to get out of bad deals that the Beatles had signed over the years. By Q magazine contributing editor Doyle’s (The Glamour Chase: Maverick Life of Billy MacKenzie, 1998) account, McCartney left the Beatles bruised and bleeding—and with a penchant not just for a little of the grass he wrote of in “Get Back,” but also for countless bottles of whiskey. His depression cleared and his spirits improved when, holed up on his Scottish farm, he hatched the band that would become Wings, complete with wife Linda as keyboardist and vocalist—even though, as observers were quick to note, she couldn’t quite sing or play. Finding plenty of good to write about Linda all the same, Doyle looks behind the chipper, thumbs-up McCartney to find the complex personality beneath the image: He was an extraordinary musician beset by self-doubt, a countercultural hippie who also had a gift for square-jawed business. (His net worth is estimated at more than $1 billion.) Doyle’s asides are puzzling at times—the McCartneys were famously vegetarian, but he has them enjoying “hot biscuits and country ham”—but he manages to say something new about a public figure about whom countless thousands of books and articles have been written, and he says it well.
McCartney emerges as more admirable than many readers might have imagined—and more human, too. They’ll want to give his albums of the ’70s a fresh spin as well.