Paul McCartney at 80: Classic acoustic guitar interview – “I never learned the proper way of picking”

The following interview was conducted in 2004

“Yesterday,” sings Paul McCartney, “all my troubles seemed so far away.” It is the Ed Sullivan Show, and as his fellow Beatles wait in the wings, Paul does it on his own with nothing but an Epiphone Texan acoustic guitar and an off-screen string quartet.

One month later, on 12 September, 1965, 73 million people watch the performance on TV – among them some of my American family: brother James, who is 12, cousin Goldie, just one year younger, and me, about to turn seven.

“This is so old-fashioned,” complains James. “Shh,” interjects the awestruck Goldie, today a grandmother who staunchly denies that she ever collected Beatles cards. I say only: “It’s such a pretty song.”

I know that if I were to insert my present-day self into that scene, I would say something like, He doesn’t really have much of a fingerpicking technique, does he? His hands are all over the place. Or, He’s playing an Epiphone acoustic. He’s a Beatle – couldn’t he afford a Gibson J-200, or a Martin?

But I also would have admitted that McCartney’s playing, for all its inelegance, was spot-perfect and beautifully conceived, with flowing chord changes effortlessly anticipated by bass runs.



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