EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ (AP) — It’s hard to think of a better way for Paul McCartney to celebrate his 80th birthday than by singing “Glory Days” on stage with Bruce Springsteen or being serenaded by some 60,000 well-wishers.
It’s true, the “cute Beatle” will be 80 years old on Saturday. It’s one of those cultural milestones that brings strong inspiration – has it been that long? – as well as an appreciation of what it still has to offer.
For it’s been over half a century now since the Beatles broke up, a realization that hits you like that 1970s joke about young people saying, “Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings?”
Like several other members of the “I hope I die before I grow old” generation, including Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and former Beatles pal Ringo Starr, McCartney continues to work, continues to share his music from the stage. Another 1960s icon, Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, is set to perform at the Starlight Theater in Kansas City on his 80th birthday on Monday.
“He has a youthful exuberance that has no age,” said Bob Spitz, a Beatles biographer. “There’s still a part of that 21-year-old boy that shines in all of his performances.”
It would be cliché – and wrong – to suggest that the weather hasn’t taken its toll. The fragility of her voice was evident as she sang “Blackbird” Thursday night at MetLife Stadium, the final night of a brief US tour. He struggled for the high notes of “Here Today,” his love letter to John Lennon, who was robbed of a long life by an assassin’s bullet.
The skill of a friendly group, along with the imagination and voices of the audience, corrects the difficult points.
“Yeah, yeah, that’s right, I have a birthday coming up,” McCartney said, scanning the signs in the audience that reminded him. “I’m not trying to ignore it, but…”
The crowd offered a spontaneous “Happy Birthday” serenade, even before Jersey guy Jon Bon Jovi brought out a handful of balloons during the encore to lead them into another verse.
Fellow Jersey guy Springsteen joined McCartney for the duet on “Glory Days” and a version of “I Wanna Be Your Man.” He later appeared to join the “Abbey Road” guitar duel.
For most artists, the appearance of such local royalty would be a hard time to come by. Most artists can’t immediately release “Let it Be” and “Hey Jude” to follow it.
To mark the anniversary, Stereogum magazine asked 80 artists to choose their favorite McCartney song, and the choices were remarkable in their breadth – from the pre-Beatles 1958 cut “In Despite All the Danger” (which McCartney performed to MetLife) to his 2016 collab with Rihanna and Kanye West “FourFiveSeconds” (which he didn’t).
David Crosby and Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys both cast “Eleanor Rigby”. The Flaming Lips’ master showman Wayne Coyne has chosen “Magical Mystery Tour”. Steve Earle selected “Every Night”, while Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott went against type with the sweet “Little Lamb Dragonfly”. Mac DeMarco chose the epic “Ram”, “The back seat of my car”.
Many have noticed the injustice of having to pick just one.
Stereogum’s feature film illustrated the varied entry points of musicians of different generations into a living, breathing catalogue. For example, he revealed that a widely overlooked album like 1980s “McCartney II” had a far greater impact on developing artists than its reception at the time would have suggested.
On Friday, McCartney’s team announced it was packing “McCartney II” along with its other DIY albums, 1970’s “McCartney” and 2020’s “McCartney III,” into a box set that will go on sale in August.
What is the scope of the songbook? McCartney performed 38 songs at MetLife, including 20 Beatles songs, and even managed to miss an entire decade. Do you remember the 1990s?
With the help of Peter Jackson, who reimagined the “Get Back” sessions for last year’s TV project, McCartney was able to perform a virtual “duet” with Lennon singing his part of “I’ve Got a Feeling.” of the concert on the roof of Apple. McCartney also paid tribute to George Harrison, who died in 2001, with a version of “Something” that started with Paul on a ukulele George gave him and built a full band version.
Spitz recalled a Beatles-era film clip of Lennon telling an interviewer he’d be flabbergasted if it lasted longer than 10 years. McCartney stood next to him laughing.
Lennon was right about the Beatles as a unit, but not about the music. He couldn’t have imagined that in 2022, an adult queuing to enter MetLife would be heard asking a companion, “Where’s Mom and Dad?”
Early birthday be damned, the irrepressibly cheerful McCartney left with a promise as the last fireworks erupted and he left the stage.
“See you next time.”
This story corrects the year from the third to the last paragraph to 2022.