The Beatle talks about schooldays, the 1960s, 9/11, FR Leavis and the responsibilities of wealth and celebrity with his old schoolmate Jonathan Powerby Jonathan Power / January 17, 2009 / Leave a comment
I went to school with Paul McCartney in Liverpool nearly 50 years ago, and we have remained friends, albeit distant, ever since. I joined the school a few months after most of the boys in my class. Alan Durband, our form master, asked Paul to make me feel at home. And he did just that. It was an act of kindness I remembered long after. I knew how boys could be.
The Liverpool Institute High School for Boys was then the city’s top state grammar school, drawing some middle class but, in the main, the brightest of the working class and lower middle class—one of our old boys, Charles Glover Barkla, won the Nobel prize for physics. The Institute was the choir school of Liverpool cathedral. Paul auditioned for the choir but didn’t get in—apparently the music teacher didn’t think he was good enough. Another Beatle, George Harrison, was in the year below Paul. (John Lennon and Ringo Starr were educated elsewhere in the city—at Quarry Bank grammar school and Dingles secondary modern respectively.) The Liverpool Institute closed in 1985. Eleven years later, Paul opened the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, a fame academy for aspiring artists, on the site.
Paul is not known for his political views—John was always thought of as the political Beatle. But having been a political journalist for most of my life I wanted to talk to Paul about, among other things, the great political events of our lifetimes. I wanted it to be a casual conversation, like two old men sitting on a bench reminiscing about school days and some of the things that have happened since.
JONATHAN POWER: In different ways, me as a journalist you as a rock star, we have both had a ringside seat on the last 50 years—the 1960s, Vietnam, Nixon, Thatcher, Blair, the end of the cold war, Iraq and so on. But let’s start with the second world war. In your classical work of 17 years ago, the Liverpool Oratorio, you included a lot of wartime memories.
PAUL McCARTNEY: Yes. My dad had a hearing defect and couldn’t join the army, so he was in the fire service which was pretty hazardous because Liverpool was bombed heavily. He was quite a jovial guy and didn’t talk about it much himself. But I did know about incendiary bombs and so on. And I remember sirens; I was…