1 May 2011
Such a shame why bother taking questions if you’re going to select bland ones?
It’s a feature that will get followers who expect Paul to one day answer questions more interesting than ‘When putting your socks on do you go left or right first?’. ‘Thanks, I tend to put my left one on first and then the right. Love Paul x.’
"I told you everything I could about me, Told you everything I could" ('Before Believing' - Emmylou Harris)
20 December 2021
9 December 2017
Whilst visiting Liverpool last September, myself and my better half decided to walk from Mendips to Forthlin Road. We crossed Menlove avenue, climbed some steps and found a lovely walk parallel to Allerton golf course bringing us out at Mather avenue right next to Forthlin Road. Took us 15 minutes.
I would love to ask Paul if, seeing as it seemed such a shortcut, he regularly walked this route to Mendips (to the back door of course) where Mimi would alert John by saying…”John, your little friend’s here”…..
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And my bird can't sing......!!
20 August 2013
Why did you play Back In The USSR after Putin entered Red Square?
By Geoff Baker
I met President Putin once. His eyes scared me when they locked with mine across Red Square and I got the feeling from his hard, cold look that we weren’t going to be mates.
It was back in May of 2003 and my then-boss Paul McCartney was performing for the first time in Russia as part of a European concert tour on which I was the head of Macca’s publicity team.If you’re the Beatle who wrote Back In The USSR for The White Album in 1968 and you finally get to play in Moscow 35 years later, then there’s only one place that you want to do the gig – beside The Kremlin in Red Square.
And so that’s where we built the huge stage. We were told that there was only space for about 60,000 in Red Square. We had a look and said no, we think you can fit in at least another 40,000. The Russians said no, our eyes deceived us, there wasn’t the room. So we put 60,000 tickets on sale and they went in a flash. Oddly enough, come the night of the gig, another 40,000 had squeezed in. The Russians said that had nothing to do with them…
The Russians also said that Putin wanted to come to the show because he was a Beatles fan, as if that was a big surprise, most Russians are – during the days of the Soviet Union, “decadent” Western rock music like that of The Beatles was banned in Russia and their records were not sold there. Russians got around that by buying the records from crewmen on visiting merchant ships and then bootlegged them onto discarded X-Ray sheets, they called them “records on the bones”.
The first thing that struck me about Red Square was the number of police and Army who were providing security at the gig, hundreds and hundreds of them. The second thing was the concern that some of the Russian team had that the weather forecast had given rain for the gig.
I remember something I’d once read that the Russian air force had developed technology that meant that if fighter jets sprayed rain clouds with some sort of flakes of aluminium it held off the rain. Was that true? They nodded. Could they spray the clouds? Yes, I was told, but it would cost £10,000. Do it, I instructed, without asking permission. I don’t know whether they did or not, I was told that they did; anyway, it didn’t rain.
The third thing that struck me was the surprise when I was sitting with Paul in his dressing room before the gig and former President Gorbachev burst in, sweating and bearing gifts of his autobiography and bunches of lily of the valley from the garden of his dacha because he had heard that they were the favourite flower of Paul’s late wife Linda. He was a jolly chap.
Not so jolly was the experience a short while later when I went out to see how Red Square was filling up and discovered that Putin’s security team had positioned snipers along the roof tops of the buildings facing the Kremlin.
“Somebody’s got it in for you, mate” said one of my team and when I questioned why he pointed to the four or five red dots of red laser light that had appeared on my chest. Spetsnaz special forces had me in their sights, although I would prefer to believe they were just finely adjusting the scopes on their rifles.
The gig started and there was no sign of Putin. It was a long gig, Paul’s, at least 35 songs, so we weren’t bothered, Putin was probably in the shower or something, I figured he’d come along eventually. But as the show progressed there was still no sign of him.
Then Paul got to the place in the setlist when he always played Back In The USSR . He did and the crowd went berserk. But still no sign of Putin, he’d missed it.
Minutes later we looked behind us and a phalanx of people were coming out of the Kremlin, walking down to the gig. Putin was in the middle of them. As he passed, he locked eyes on me. His eyes bored into me and he didn’t look happy, maybe he was amazed that I’d had the audacity to order the spraying of the clouds, either way I could tell in that moment that this was no pussy cat.
He and his entourage took their seats in the crowd and some of them stood next to me, by the side of the stage. One of these was a Russian admiral in full uniform. I glanced down and noticed that, oddly, he was wearing handcuffs on his left wrist.
Attached to the other end of the cuffs was a briefcase – they had brought the nuclear briefcase (the specially-outfitted briefcase used to authorize the use of nuclear weapons which is kept nearby the leader of a nuclear weapons state at all times, and which in Russia is code-named “Cheget”) to the gig. As you do.
I wondered what on earth could have delayed Putin in arriving, it not being every day that Paul McCartney performs on your doorstep, and then it dawned on me – that Putin had arrived after Paul had played Back In The USSR possibly because he didn’t want to be seen jigging about to a song that in some part celebrates the old Soviet regime that Putin allegedly wants to see reinstated.
By arriving after the song has been performed, no “decadent” Western TV news footage could construct implications of him getting down to it.
Perhaps Paul had the same thought, because once he realised that Putin was now “in the house” he did something he had had never done in the 15 years that I worked for him – he performed the song again.
The President did not look knocked out with delight at that.
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6 May 2018
Thank you for posting this article, AG. I wasn’t aware of it before, although I certainly know about the author, Geoff Baker.
Firstly, although it’s highly relevant to the context of his article, Geoff Baker completely fails to mention that Paul McCartney met President Putin before the concert; they had tea at the Kremlin in his private rooms, and they got on very well at the time, with Paul saying that Putin “seemed to be a really nice guy”. I know Paul has since revised his judgement in this regard.
Paul commented, “So we met Putin in front of all the cameras, then he sent all the press out and eventually, he even sent his translator out, because he speaks pretty good English, and he was fabulous. We had a quite intimate conversation about his life, which was quite refreshing.”
Then Paul asked, “Are you coming to the show?” and he replied, “I’m not sure I’ll be able to get there.” There was a piano, so Paul played him an impromptu version of Let It Be , which was reportedly very well received.
Strolling through the Kremlin grounds, Paul said his trip to Russia had dispelled many notions he had held. He said, “It was a mystical land then. It’s nice to see the reality. I always suspected that people had big hearts. Now I know that’s true.”
Here are some relevant reference links:
In his article, Geoff Baker seems to suggest that it was known in advance that President Putin would definitely be attending the concert at some point, but the quote above shows that this was not the case. Baker writes: “Paul got to the place in the setlist when he always played Back In The USSR . He did and the crowd went berserk. But still no sign of Putin, he’d missed it.”
In fact, Putin was already there – he had not missed the song. He had arrived during Calico Skies, which was played three songs earlier than Back In The USSR – so Baker is utterly wrong in that respect.
Here is a video of the concert, which shows Putin arriving at 1:06:15 while Calico Skies is being played. Paul was clearly well aware of this, and he says at 1:07:45, “We’d like to welcome some new arrivals.” Back In The USSR is played at 1:21:40, with the special Moscow reprise version at 2:25:55.
Baker writes, “I wondered what on earth could have delayed Putin in arriving, it not being every day that Paul McCartney performs on your doorstep, and then it dawned on me – that Putin had arrived after Paul had played Back In The USSR possibly because he didn’t want to be seen jigging about to a song that in some part celebrates the old Soviet regime that Putin allegedly wants to see reinstated.
“By arriving after the song has been performed, no ‘decadent’ Western TV news footage could construct implications of him getting down to it.”
An interesting theory, except that it’s absolute nonsense because – as shown above – Putin was already present at the concert at that time.
Baker continues, “Perhaps Paul had the same thought, because once he realised that Putin was now ‘in the house’ he did something he had had never done in the 15 years that I worked for him – he performed the song again.”
In fact, Paul said: “The reaction to Back In The USSR was just electric. I knew it was going to be good, but nothing could have prepared me for the actual reaction. And I should have known really, logically and intellectually. Lots of people said to me, ‘This is the only song that anyone ever wrote about Russia’ – in the pop genre. … Everyone was like, ‘We can’t wait for you to play it!’ We usually play it in the middle of the set, and for most shows it works well there. But when we did it, I just thought, it’s in the wrong place. … I just added it to the encore and razzed it up a little bit more, and I introduced it by saying, ‘We’ve had a special request for this one again.'”
Here is the setlist for the concert:
Setlist – Paul McCartney , Red Square, Moscow, Russia on 24 May 2003
Geoff Baker was sacked by Paul in 2003 after tipping off a photographer regarding a private visit. Paul subsequently retracted the sacking, but the employment ended a year later:
In these times of raised tensions, Baker’s sloppily inaccurate article is reprehensible.
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And in the end
The love you take is equal to the love you make
20 August 2013
You put paid to him! Good job, @Richard!
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7 November 2022
Paul, you began singing “Kansas City ” in 1962. The aggressive vocal stylings you employ in that song seem new for The Beatles and it seems you didn’t really get into that style until a few years later, so Kansas City was sort of an early “test run”. I realize you say you were inspired by Little Richard, but with all due respect, your way of doing it is far cooler than his. How did you first realize you could do that? And how did you practice doing it? Just with the other lads during rehearsals? Did you first just try screaming all alone in a room with a guitar to see what it felt like? Or did you plop it in de novo in some early concert at the Cavern? Did you have the knack for that aggressive screaming right from the start, or did you have to work at it to get it right? If the latter, how long did it take you to get it right?
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Now today I find, you have changed your mind
6 November 2023
OK, I have a question for you Paul, or maybe it’s just a simple request. Or actually – a fantasy.
It’s time you visited New Zealand just as a tourist. I’m sure you could come up with a disguise. I’ll give you directions to my city and my address and we can just sit on my sofa and chat about the 1960s when Beatlemania was a thing, and whether you feel a bit of nostalgia for that utter adulation that came your way. I could relive it with you and for you and resurrect the frenzy authentically because I experienced it…
We are both getting old now and have seen a lot of life so we wouldn’t run out of conversation (Well, if I could get over my being rendered speechless in your presence, which is the more realistic scenario).
But, we are by no means dead yet, and we needn’t just talk.
I reckon, since I read a way back on this thread that you like massages, I could do a pretty good job…………..
Time to turn on the fan.
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I'm taking the time for a number of things that weren't important yesterday. (Fixing a Hole)
20 August 2013
Oh, yeah! Great question and an even greater possible outcome.
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