I always like having celebs at my gigs... and I need to get Wayne Rooney’s autograph for one of my grandkids
– says Sir Paul McCartney
By GORDON SMART, Showbiz Editor
Published: 21st December 2011
THE last 18 months have been pretty special for Sir Paul McCartney – even by his exceptionally high standards.
He played an intimate gig at the White House for Barack and Michelle Obama, sold out gigs from South America to Russia and managed to squeeze in a wedding in between.
Last night he capped off a series of stunning UK shows on home soil at the Liverpool Echo Arena before starting a well-earned Christmas break with his family.
And, as he always does, he pulled in a long list of celebrity fans to the concert, including Wayne Rooney, Peter Kay and JK Rowling — the kind of guest list that his old Beatles bandmates used to poke fun at him for getting excited about.
Speaking backstage at the Manchester Evening News Arena on Monday night, he said: "I always like the celebs coming. I've always been a bit like that.
"The Beatles used to make fun of me — 'You're a bit starstruck!' and I'd say, 'Come on! It's Prince Philip — he's a Royal!' I have an innocent excitement about it all.
"I knew Wayne Rooney was coming. Rooney, he's not a bad player, my boy. And I hear he plays guitar.
"Don't tell him but I've got to get his autograph for one of my grandkids. There's always a bit of that for the grandkids.
"Peter Kay is a great guy and JK is a lovely girl and I'm lucky to know them a little bit. I hope I put a good show on for them."
He certainly did. The 69-year-old played an energetic three-hour set featuring 35 of his greatest hits.
He said: "2011 has been a pretty special year. Well, I got married, so that's got to be the most memorable moment. Apart from that we have had a really nice time. The gigs we have been doing have been amazing.
"We've done all sorts of places, from the White House to South America to Yankee Stadium in New York to Moscow."
Manchester United star Wayne — who has swapped mobile numbers with Sir Paul — was born in 1985. It was a year Macca used as the subject of a track on Band On The Run, his hit 1973 album with Wings.
The reissue of that album has recently been nominated for a Grammy, proving how his classic material stands the test of time.
A proud Sir Paul said: "It is amazing that the music lives on. We didn't expect The Beatles to last ten years, we expected it to last a couple of years because that is how long everything lasted in those days.
"Suddenly it was ten years, then it was 20 years and now it's coming up for 50 years next year. It's just totally unbelievable.
"I still get one of our guys sending me things about iTunes — 'You've had ten million songs downloaded!'
"We should have been finished years ago but there's just something about the music that each generation comes up, discovers it and says they like it. I'm not complaining."
It's a gruelling shift, playing three hours on stage, but Macca feels like there are still many more miles in the engine yet.
He added: "People often say to me, 'You must be knackered' but actually it's invigorating. I wouldn't have thought that, if you had asked me ten years ago. If you had said, 'Will you still be doing it in 2011? Are you still enjoying it and do you feel energised?' I would have said to you, 'Maybe not'.
"In actual fact it is energising. It is knackering but I always liken it to a heavyweight boxing match. The guy who wins might get smacked about a bit but when he gets up the next day he still feels good.
"The guy who loses, well, maybe not. He doesn't feel so good. So it's that kind of euphoria. The crowd love it and we are getting great reviews. Whatever. We loved it, more importantly, so it gees you up."
Now the gigs are under his belt, Macca is looking forward to settling down for Christmas with his family — including eight young grandchildren.
But the multi-millionaire global music icon's wishlist from Santa is modest in the extreme.
He said: "All I want for Christmas is a pair of black socks, ankle length. It's true."
And he added: "Christmas is all about family for me, like a lot of other people. It is a time when all of your family comes together.
"There is family, food, drink, overdoing it, excess and then recovery. It's A Wonderful Life is always a great film to watch, and The Snowman.
"There's always some great stuff on TV even if it's not Christmassy, but it's really the people for me. I've got eight grandkids now, which I can't believe either. It's just great hanging out with them. You sort of just sit in the middle of it and they do things around you."
Macca will treat his wife Nancy Shevell to a guided tour of Liverpool during his time off.
It's a route he knows very well, as he makes sure he retraces his childhood footsteps every time he returns.
He said: "I will be showing Nancy the sights in Liverpool, absolutely, yeah. I can't help it.
"Whenever I get there, I always take the route that takes me past all my old houses because I lived in a few places over Liverpool.
"There are a couple in Speke, I'll show her them. Then there's Allerton and then there's where I went to school, where John, George and Ringo lived. There's LIPA (The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, which Sir Paul co-founded) and the coffee bars I'd like to show her. I can't help it, it's just memories for me."
Sir Paul has just announced another new solo album, which will be released next February. It features his old pal Eric Clapton on guitar and jazz singer Diana Krall.
During the writing process he admitted he still looks to his time with John Lennon for inspiration.
He said: "Sometimes when I am writing I look back and wonder what John would do, particularly with a sticky point if I think I'm going down the wrong track.
"What would we do if we were clever? I would think, stop. Okay, what might we do here? And sometimes it can give you a bit of a clue.
"The truth is though, the best songs kind of write themselves. So if it's going well it just tumbles out and you don't need the second opinion.
"But if it gets a bit sticky, I do think, 'Imagine we are sitting down at John's place, diddle-do' and most of it is printable."
With a new album on the way it almost guarantees more concerts in the future.
It's sad to think that one day Sir Paul won't be able to go on stage and entertain millions. But any suggestion that he is hanging up his famous Höfner bass soon is well wide of the mark.
He said: "The thing is, it started a few years ago. Some DJ — normally in America — would say, 'I hear this is going to be your last tour.'
"I always say, 'Where did you hear that from?'
"Then we suspected it might be unscrupulous promoters trying to sell tickets off the back of it being my last tour.
"I don't know where it came from but it isn't true. At the end of every show I am careful to say, 'See you next time'. We are enjoying ourselves too much."
And so are we. See you next time, Sir Paul.