TV documentary series
Two blocks stand in front of a mixing desk in a dark recording studio. One looks like a cross between a Venice Beach hippie and a garden gnome. It would be the famous American producer Rick Rubin (The Beastie Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Johnny Cash). And the other is constantly chewing gum, wearing a frayed jacket and has finally – thankfully – let his hair turn gray. That would be 79-year-old Paul McCartney.
This is the simple setup of McCartney 3,2,1, a six-part, black-and-white documentary series in which Rubin takes McCartney’s songs apart one by one and asks him about them. For Beatles obsessions — and I am a card-bearing member — McCartney hears intimate details about his music.
He’s honest about not being able to read or write musical notation: at one point he was sitting at the piano to show Rubin how he learned the basics by trial and error. As he moves his fingers up and down on the keyboard, he finds the basic shapes and soon enough the familiar chord sequence of leave it emerges.
Talk to any musician about their songs and you will learn about their lives. Sure enough, as he listens to the isolated soundtracks, McCartney is reminiscent of John, George and Ringo.
At times, I wish Rubin had been a little less “Wow!” in his answers and followed up with several exploratory questions. And then there is the eternal awkwardness of two men of a certain age moving to music with accompanying head-shaking and fatherly dancing. But it’s great to see McCartney listen to what he and his three comrades created all those years ago and look really wondering what he’s hearing. “For me, I’ve grown to be a fan of The Beatles,” he explains. “Because back then I was just a Beatle.”
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