‘Everywhere I Go People Are Happy’
by Craig Playstead
Saturday, March 15 2014
Paul McCartney lives in a world where it’s all about him. And he turns it around. (image by ZioWoody).
You open the door and quickly slide into another forgettable Starbucks to escape the rain and an audible gasp emits from the packed store. After realizing they’re not dreaming, the group breaks into a frantic applause.
All because you walked in for mediocre cup of coffee.
Faces light up like Christmas trees, camera phones are out so fast you’d think they were in holsters and one woman in her 50’s is crying. This’ll be a story she tells for the rest of her life. It doesn’t matter if the person you encounter is a regular Joe in the men’s room or the President of the United States, the reaction is always the same: they can’t believe it’s actually you.
This is how Paul McCartney has lived every day for the past 50 years.
Can you imagine people reacting to you like this, every day? It would flip your brain inside-out and seriously warp your sense of reality. It would turn you into a monster. Or at least someone whose self-importance is so off the charts they lose touch with what it means to be a real person. It’s happening to Justin Bieber right now, and I don’t have to tell you it’s not going well. And with Paul, it’s Bieber times ten. No one could handle this for a month, let alone for the past 50 years. Except for him.
A-list celebrities who duck people for sport on a daily basis are turned into giggling school girls and teenage boys with crushes when they see McCartney. We’ve all dreamed about being famous, and those who’ve had this dream come true talk about how it consumes them. Especially when they’re out with their kids, or just want to grab a sandwich. It killed Kurt Cobain. It would have killed me in my 20’s to go from living in an old house that leaned too far to the left with five other guys, to international super-stardom where I gave hope to an entire generation who grew up in a broken home. It’s a lot of pressure, especially if you don’t have the tool to deal with it like Kurt. It’s too much for almost everyone on this planet, except for, well, Paul McCartney.
How does he deal with it? Well, a story first. I was listening to the WTF podcast by comedian Marc Maron, and he was interviewing one of my favorite people in the world, Dave Grohl. They were talking about Dave’s incredible documentary, Sound City (the best movie I saw last year) when the conversation steered toward the time Grohl spent in the studio recording with Paul McCartney for the movie. Few musicians are more famous than Dave right now, and he was giddy and blown away working with Sir Paul. He said it was an entire day of his life flashing before his eyes, but in a good way. McCartney was the entire reason he ever played music.
Grohl: “Paul McCartney understands his place in the universe.” (image by Nizzam Udin)
The conversation downshifted to how anything gets done when people are so starstruck. Literally every person working on the record from the musicians to the engineers were, at one point in their youth influenced listening to the Beatles laying on shag carpet while a 45 spun on their record player. Then clarity came when Dave explained how Paul McCartney is so damn good at being Paul McCartney.
“He gets it.” Grohl said. “He understands how you feel when you meet him, and he let’s you know you’re ok. He’s a wonderful person, and totally understands his role in the universe. In a very realistic sense.”
How many of us understand our role in the Universe? Hands please.
To add a little more context to Dave’s explanation, a rock journalist who interviewed McCartney asked about this phenomenon that everywhere he goes, people go bat-shit. The former Beatle remarked on how great it was.
“It’s one of the great luxuries of my life. Everywhere I go, people are happy.”
Wow. You could see it during the big 50th Anniversary Beatles celebration on CBS a couple weeks ago. Every star who played a Beatles song was looking for validation from McCartney, and he was happy to give it – whether he they butchered the song or not. And many did (including Ringo). He understood how happy those musicians were to play those incredible songs that only get better with age, and how much it meant to them.
So, in a world where it’s all about him, Paul McCartney makes it about you. And if you step back and look at it, this is the only way to handle a level of fame that maybe a handful of people in the past 50 years have ever attained. You don’t fight fame that intense, you embrace the feeling it has on others.
In a time where celebrities are epic disasters, the biggest one on the planet is teaching us all about how to be happy and deal with people: make life about them, not you. Maybe, in time he could have taught Kurt that instead of fighting the wave, he should have been riding it.
Probably good advice for all of us.