“We didn’t need to do another Beatles doc,” Producer Jeff Pollack says. “We didn’t want to do a touring Beatlemania doc. We didn’t want to really explore the stories … that people knew so well.” Instead, he says, “We wanted to talk to the musician who happened to be a Beatle.” The pitch to Paul, who had some downtime during the pandemic, was less about McCartney as a cultural icon than about his bona fides as a bloke who plays bass (and piano, guitar, and drums, among many other instruments). Pollack continues, “We felt that what might appeal to Paul was to really focus on his extraordinary musical chops. … He really hadn’t been approached about that sort of focus before. And I think it felt fresh to him.”
It’s a simple format that sparks magic.
This is Paul at his most charming — he’s like the barber in “Penny Lane,” giving us a tour of every mind he’s had the pleasure to blow.
Take, for example, one of the series’ most delightful moments. McCartney tells the story of seeing trumpeter David Mason play a piccolo trumpet during a BBC broadcast of a Bach concerto and deciding he’d be perfect for a solo on “Penny Lane”. The tale is one thing – the inside story of how an incredibly familiar piece of music came to be – but McCartney’s reaction to hearing the original recording played loud is quite another. The camera lingers on him as he air trumpets along, sheer ecstatic joy painted all over his face.
He describes the moment a roadie asked him to pass the salt and pepper: “And I thought he said Sergeant Pepper.” McCartney evokes the moment of inspiration striking with characteristic modesty.
“We had a laugh about it, but then the more I thought about it I thought: ‘Sergeant Pepper, that’s kind of a cool character’,” he reveals.
During a playback of 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps', he points out, through isolated tracks, how the rhythm section is almost playing a different, more rowdy song.
In another memorable sequence, McCartney recalls Lennon playing him a fast-paced song he’d just written, “Come Together”, before they realised it was too close to Chuck Berry’s “You Can’t Catch Me”. McCartney’s suggestion that they slow it down to a swampy groove takes the song in a whole different direction, and to a place only The Beatles could have reached.
it was too close to Chuck Berry’s “You Can’t Catch Me”. McCartney’s suggestion that they slow it down to a swampy groove takes the song in a whole different direction, and to a place only The Beatles could have reached.
Perhaps the most exciting moments for Beatles devotees come when McCartney digs deep into his relationship with Lennon. He neatly sums up their differing personalities with examples from their songwriting (McCartney would write a line like: “It’s getting better all the time”, to which Lennon would reply: “It couldn’t get much worse.”) and talks in depth about how they would push each other’s songs into unexpected directions.
Or how George Harrison created that “Nowhere Man” guitar shimmer. He recalls the first time Ringo Starr sat in on drums, playing Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say.” “He just lifted us,” Paul says. “He just brought the whole band together.”
Super producer Rick Rubin is an excellent host for this format, which is another way of saying he knows when to shut up and listen. He keeps his contributions to a minimum, just steering McCartney with enough questions and prompts to keep his memories flowing.
McCartney 3,2,1is maybe not the first film you’d choose to show to someone who’d never heard of McCartney or The Beatles, but for old fans and aspiring musicians alike it contains enough fresh stardust to make it feel like a thrilling few hours spent in the company of a genuine musical genius. More than that, it will send you back to The Beatles with new ears and a fresh appreciation for how a few lads from Liverpool changed music forever.
Article sourced from The Independent, The Ringer, and Rolling Stone.