Acoustic Sounds
By: JoE Silva

January 31st, 2023


Book Reviews

The McCartney Legacy: Volume 1: 1969-73

book review and interview with Allan Kozinn

It’s difficult to say who’s doing better – the record labels and book companies, or the people making all the shelves you need to store the ceaseless tide of Beatles-related titles that annually cram their way into our lives. It seems like we just finished making space for the deluxe “Revolver” reissue and now we need room for “The McCartney Legacy,” the first of three volumes that dive deeply into the life of “The Cute One” following his exit from the biggest band of all time.

Coming in at well over 650 pages, Allan Kozinn and Adrian Sinclair’s examination of Paul’s solo work is a detailed look at the near daily goings on of a man who didn’t have the easiest time redefining himself as a solo artist. It’s not an unfamiliar story —not even for someone as immensely talented at Sir McCartney. The intense pressures from a failing business, the wilting relations with his friends and closest musical associates, as well as the challenges of a young family all stack up nicely to create the kind of drama that would be hard for almost anyone to navigate. And that’s to say nothing of the fact that every right or wrong move you make is being scrutinized either by the press or by the fans who are camped practically 24/7 outside your home. 

That’s where we find Paul at the end of 1969 and the beginning of Volume 1—trapped by fame and wondering how he’s next to reinvent himself in the wake of his collapsing musical partnership with boyhood friend and collaborator John Lennon. He is chucking buckets of food waste at prying journalists, drinking too much, and doing not a lot in terms of writing or recording new material. But with the help of new-ish wife Linda and a titanic ambition that’s not going to be easily struck down by the bottle, McCartney springs back into action with some four-track therapy that would begin to yield the songs for his first solo album.  

Even if you’re already au fait with his story, you are quickly swept into the narrative here because of the eagle eye Kozinn and Sinclair apply to the quotes they’ve harvested and the facts they’ve lined up regarding the sessions we watch McCartney engage is as he finds his footing. The authors opted to not press their subject directly for his involvement and instead wound up conducting loads of new interviews with those who witnessed these events close up. In a way it makes a lot of sense, since Paul’s long ago shifted into autopilot when it comes to recounting his own history. It’s an effective blend of straight up biography and meticulous journalism that starts to feel immersive the further and further you get into the book.

One keen example of this comes once we fast forward to the press launch for Wild Life,the first official album to be released by Wings—the new band framework that McCartney assembled following his first two post-Beatle outings. As Paul is drawn into the more contentious issues surrounding his relations with the other Fabs, we see one of his nervous employees darting out into the gaggle of journalists to see if she can have the conversation steered back to safer ground. It’s these small accounts that puts the readers in the room as witnesses and give them the sort of insight into the shifting nuances of a career that no longer has a particularly clear trajectory to it. 

Further on we watch Paul’s new outfit stumble and recover, shed members and work tirelessly to find some sort of uneasy equilibrium. When they begin preparations to record in late 1973 what would we be Wings’ first real triumph, the McCartneys find themselves suddenly reduced to a trio as they head to Lagos, Nigeria. Problematic sessions aside, Paul’s writing is so on point that there’s seemingly little that the universe can do at this point to stave off success. Band On The Run is showered in deserving praise and our tale ends with the record reaching the top of the U.S. charts in 1974 not once, not twice, but three times.

It's all a fascinating, swirling coaster ride that paints one of the more genuine McCartney portraits that you’re likely to read. In a life that’s often reduced to a zillion questionable anecdotes, Kozinn and Sinclair’s efforts yield a multi-faceted appraisal of our former Fab that’s likely to become one of the definitive takes on his life. Indeed, before it even rolled off the presses, the book already had the gold seal of approval from Beatle brain Mark Lewisohn – which is among the highest of endorsements a project like this could hope for. 

And if we’re being honest with one another, the type of people to which this book is probably being marketed were bound to eat it up no matter how comprehensive it turned out to be. The book’s success, however, is that it plays to even the more casual McCartney fans—the ones who repeatedly turn up to hear his fading vocals belt out “Hey Jude” without ever knowing half of the deeper cuts that are illuminated so well within these pages. If it's able to draw in even a small percentage of those admirers, it’s bound to make the grade. 


Tracking Angle Interview with Allan Kozinn 

Tracking Angle: You and Adrian opted not to rely on getting Paul on the record again

Allan Kozinn: The last time I talked to him was when Memory Almost Full came out… in our archives we've got so many audio and video and print interviews that he's done, anything we would want to know we have in there. Sometimes in multiple versions. I mean “Jet,” when he wrote that the title came from the name of a puppy that they gave away (because) it was the runt of the litter. But if you ask him now or if you look in his lyrics book, or one of his more recent interviews, he says it's about a Shetland pony. But the Shetland pony wasn't born by 1973. I mean, there’s definitely a Shetland pony called Jet, it's just that that's not where he got the title for the song. 

TA: Can you talk a little about how the overall structure of the book evolved?

AK: Adrian originally contacted me. We knew each other from some of these collectors’ forums that we both hung out on. And at one point he approached me and said ‘I'd like to do basically a McCartney sessionography something like Mark Lewisohn’s “Complete Beatles Recording Sessions,” but for Paul's stuff’. And I thought ‘Well, we're not going to get let into his archive to listen to all of his outtakes, so I'm not sure how that will work.’ And he said, ‘I'll take care of the session stuff, but what you would do is you would write wrap-around chapters discussing what was going on in his life at the time he made each of these albums.’ So we started working that way. I've been friends with Mark Lewisohn since the recording sessions book came out and I interviewed him for the (New York) Times and he began sort of talking both of us into the idea of doing it as a full-fledged bio.

TA:  When I heard about this book coming I was very skeptical, but when I got to the Wild Life press conference and all the details there, all of a sudden I felt like I'm in the room. 

AK: That's what we try to do… to basically put people there as if they were in the studio watching him work or wherever it was. Any time we had enough information to paint that full picture, we did it right. 

TA: Who was the hardest person to track down and to get on the record?

AK: Well, we never did get Denny Laine. We have lots of interviews with him archivally, but we haven't been able to get him to talk to us. And we thought, well with Denny there is this four-hour interview he gave to a film company at one point, and he did a lot of interviews over the years as well. Otherwise, there weren't that many. We just want to use as much of our own research and interviews as possible, like any author would. Because if you're using archival sources, you run the risk of people saying, ‘Oh well you know it's a cut and paste job.’ But what if you’re writing about Lincoln or Washington, those are going to be archival sources too. None of those people are alive to talk to! But we're trying to get everyone we can.

TA: I'm curious if over the process of putting this particular volume together if you got a greater appreciation of some his earlier pre—Band On The Run material. 

AK: Absolutely! I used to really kind of dislike Wild Life,  especially side one. It didn't seem to me that there was much point in putting out a song like ‘Bip Bop.’ But I found because we were writing this the way we did where once we get to the session for a particular song where we're listening to outtakes, I ended up with an appreciation for that record that I didn't have when I went into this…especially with side two. I mean side two (has) much more sophisticated stuff, which I hadn't really thought much about before. But he thought of sides one and two as almost two different albums. The first is a sort of a hot party album and the second one is the more ballad-y kind of, sitting in the corner making out album kind of thing. 

TA: Now that you’ve dug into so many of these sessions and know the things that are out there, which haven’t been released, what do you think about the McCartney Archive Collections that have been released so far? Do you think they’re good value?

AK: I haven't really looked at it quite that way, but I have looked at it in terms of what we know is out there and what isn't on a box. And I really kind of think that they’re saving stuff for the next archival box. I mean how many deluxe Band On The Run (sets) have there been over the years? And one thing that we don't have are the Band on the Rundemos. And the story out there is that Paul was mugged and they took the demo tapes. Well, they took the cassette copies of the demos. The demos were recorded up in Scotland on a four track and then mixed for the cassettes Paul (too with him). But those masters still exist and according to (original Wings drummer) Denny Seiwell, the demos they made were better than the album!



  • 2023-01-31 09:26:16 PM

    Azmoon wrote:

    Not sure you could have picked a worse cover picture. Total turnoff.

    • 2023-02-01 02:47:06 AM

      Somnar wrote:

      Read much?

    • 2023-02-04 05:50:19 PM

      Michael Fremer wrote:

      "You"? Who do you mean? The book's authors?