- ABOUT US
Nathan Gunter, Managing Editor
Photo by Lori Duckworth
To Sir Paul, With Love
By Nathan Gunter
July 19, 2017
I was in my late twenties before I realized that nearly everything I knew about the Beatles had come by osmosis. We had Rubber Soul on cassette when I was a kid, and my mom had some original LPs, but it was never a major part of my life’s soundtrack. I knew every word to all the hits and had some opinions about what among the Beatles’ collective and individual catalogs I liked (“Blackbird”; “Get Back”; “Photograph”; Memory Almost Full) and didn’t—there’s a whole story behind “Imagine” you don’t want to hear—but none of this had been intentional. It had all just sort of . . . happened. I was born seventeen years after BeatleMania began and a decade after the band broke up. By the time I was beginning to listen to and choose music for myself, the Beatles were like the electrical grid: Always there, always on, but taken for granted.
So just shy of my twenty-ninth birthday, I decided to buy each of the Beatles’ albums on CD in chronological order and dive into them one by one—to try to really hear in a way I hadn’t before, in the way all my most trusted music-loving friends do.
It took a little minute—so much of this music is so deep in our cultural DNA, it was hard to hear it as new. But Help! finally broke my ears open, and with every passing year since, my appreciation has grown deeper, my tendency to head straight for Beatles albums on my iPod during road trips stronger. I became grateful that this music was attached to no particular personal nostalgia. This was a friendship made in adulthood, mature and appreciative and deep and free of drama. It was easygoing and freewheeling, without expectation.
Then, last Thursday, I got an email: “Are you interested in sending someone over to cover Paul McCartney’s show in OKC next week?”
I felt that familiar burning sensation in my sinuses that precedes tears, and I typed out a response in the affirmative. Somehow, after a lifetime of what I thought was a fairly casual listenership, I discovered how deep this music had gotten in me. So, last night, there I was at the Chesapeake Energy Arena, Section 2, Row K—in a far better seat than I deserved—watching Paul McCartney take the stage without a sound check (his arrival had been delayed by weather) and, to borrow a phrase, blow the roof of the place.
There were funny moments—Paul ribbing the audience about not being quite so animated during the new stuff or making the audience repeat a series of increasingly goofy sounds. There were tender moments—his story about the conversation he never got to have with John Lennon; his introduction to “Maybe I’m Amazed” (“I wrote this for Linda.”)
The three-hour, uninterrupted set list ranged from the beginnings of his career (The Quarrymen’s “In Spite of All the Danger”) to the big hits (“Hey Jude,” “Love Me Do”) to the rare and unexpected (“Temporary Secretary”) to the very recent (“FourFiveSeconds,” his 2015 collaboration with Rihanna and Kanye West) and everything in between. He opened the show with “Hard Day’s Night,” which, before this tour, he had scarcely played live since the Beatles days.
During “Live and Let Die,” the pyrotechnics on stage were so intense I was worried they’d singed off my eyebrows—and I considered it a small price to pay.
During “Yesterday,” there were tears. During the Abbey Road medley that closed the show, we begged him not to go.
And, like any good performer, he honored his audience. He talked about staying in Oklahoma City, where a hotel bellman mistook him for Paul Simon, while he and his wife, Nancy, were road-tripping down Route 66 several years back. He mentioned the heat.
Before the encore, he and his incredible band came out waving four flags: the Stars and Stripes, the Union Jack, the rainbow Pride flag, and the flag of Oklahoma. And he promised to come back. The audience stood, and danced, and sang along, and cheered, and beamed love back at him.
When, taking his final bow, I saw him mouth the words “Thank you” at the audience, all I could think—wiping a couple tears away—was “No, sir, thank you.”