An excellent article appeared in the Guardian UK over the weekend. "Percy Thrillington, Magritte & me" by Michael Odell explored Paul McCartney's avant garde side. We all love it when Paul compares himself to that Paul McCartney guy:
Sometimes I am Sir Paul McCartney who got the Mega Lifetime Icon Award from Bono at the MTV Awards and was knighted by Her Maj," says the man with appealing crinkled eyes. "And I like that role. But I am also James Paul McCartney a school kid from Liverpool who got sort of ... elevated. Sometimes I have to let go of Sir Paul just to achieve creative freedom. That's when I become The Fireman."
But this article was sprinkled with delicious details, such as the decor of his Soho office that includes a two-foot Mutant Ninja Turtle made of plastic. [Some might call that a mock turtle.] There is a painting on the wall by McCartney friend and inspiration Willem de Kooning pictured below. [Find more at maccafan.net.]
The article also contained the obligatory Sgt. Pepper reference. Now remember, Ringo said he learned to play CHESS while recording Pepper, George said, "For me it was a bit boring," and John said he couldn't remember anything other than "A Day in the Life." But, Paul to this day continues to worship that album, as he tells O'Dell, "Youth and I approached The Fireman in the same way that John and I did Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."
In one of the most interesting parts of the article, Paul explains the evolution of the Percy Thrillington character:
We took personal ads in Private Eye and the Evening Standard saying, "Percy Thrillington seeks the love of his life." People eventually began to ask, "Who is this Percy Thrillington who keeps taking out small ads?" And then on holiday in Ireland with Linda we decided to find an actual Percy. We found a lad working in a farmer's field. We went up to him and asked, "Would you mind doing a photo shoot?" And so for a modelling fee we persuaded him to put on a dinner jacket and Linda took some pictures. And this Irish farmhand became Percy Thrillington.
I don't know where that picture is, but you can listen to Thrillington at WFMU.
In a very unusual moment of introspection and humility, Paul says:
The common perception of me is that I did some good work in the Beatles, I may be doing some good work now, but there was a very bad patch full of rubbish in the middle. When I look back I think maybe I didn't work quite hard enough on that track as I could have. There is a period which maybe isn't as good as the other stuff.
I guess that explains why Wings fans feel short-changed at his concerts.
He also tells how he became "The Fireman." In addition to honoring his dad, who was a Fireman in World War II, he reminisced about chopping down trees to clear a path for Linda's Horseback Riding and then using the wood to make his own fires.
But the biggest revelation in the whole article comes at the end when Paul pulls out a present that Linda had given him on one of his many birthdays. It was a pair of paint spattered glasses that once belonged to surrealist painter Rene Magritte. Fans of the Beatles will remember that it was Magritte who invented the apple. Well, it was actually the devil who invented the apple according to John Milton. But Magritte's apple probably influenced Paul when he was thinking of a name and logo for the Beatles new company. [For a mind-blowing interpretation of the Apple logo and its relationship to another member of the fab four, see the "Apple Starr" thread at "Nothing is Real."]
Magritte's "Son of Man" painting can be seen in many YouTube videos.
Paul McCartney is as big of a fan of Magritte as I am of Paul McCartney. He owns many Magritte paintings. He expresses his view of the artist in the closing paragraph of the article:
What I love about Magritte is he turned the world upside down and inside out in terms of meaning and significance. Science and philosophy and religion are starting to converge on this idea that, whatever hat you put on, you are still you. Dickens writes Little Dorrit but he still comes through in her character. Burroughs and Ginsberg show through in their writing. Magritte's specs are a reminder: the world is a jungle of crazy interpretations.
"The world is a jungle of crazy interpretations." Have truer words ever been said?