As the tenth anniversary of the tragic events of 9/11 grows closer, Showtime is premiering the documentary The Love You Make, which features Paul McCartney’s Concert for New York. The film is shot by Albert Maysles in black and white cinema verite-style that he used when he did his documentary on The Beatles first visit to America in 1964. It follows McCartney in New York immediately after the attack, prepping for his now famous concert in Madison Square Gardens.
Paul, who was on tour in the States, spoke with TV critics in Los Angeles via satellite from Cincinnati, Ohio.
Why did it take 10 years for this film to come out?
I think the fact of the 10th anniversary spurred me into thinking, wait a minute, Albert Maysles took some great footage back then that we never did anything with. And it just seemed like it would be a good opportunity. So I got in touch with Albert and said, ‘Is it still all around? [Could it be made] into a film?’ And he was very enthusiastic. He said, ‘Yeah, it [could].’ So I said, ‘Let’s do it then.’
Where were you on 9/11?
I was on my way back to England, and we were at JFK on the tarmac. The pilot suddenly said, ‘We can’t take off. We’re going to have to go back to base.’ And out the window, on the right hand side of the airplane, you could see the Twin Towers.
You could see one plume of smoke, and then you could see two shortly thereafter.
Then suddenly one of the stewards came to me and said, ‘Look, there’s been something really serious happen in New York, and we’ve got to get you out of here.’ So I was got out ahead of the other passengers for some reason.
I ended up not being able to go into New York. I ended up in Long Island watching the whole story unfold on TV like everyone else in the world.
How long did it take you to think up the idea of doing a concert?
While I was sitting out [in Long Island] twiddling my thumbs thinking of what to do, was there any role I could play in this, the idea came to me that maybe we could do a concert, maybe get something together.
That grew into a conversation with Harvey Weinstein, who said that MTV was putting one together and maybe we should all get together on that. So that’s how it happened.
New York is the scene of some of your biggest triumphs, Shea Stadium, the Ed Sullivan Show, but being there for 9/11 plus what happened to John there, when you think of New York, what comes to mind?
I think that my original connection was The Beatles, with Shea Stadium and Ed Sullivan as you said. When you talk with me about New York now, it’s the people, because I married a New York girl, Linda. And I’m about to marry another one.
I think I would think first of Linda and her family and our family and our connections with New York, and then my upcoming connections. So I have a lot of connections. I love New York.
When you were doing the Concert for New York, what could you as a performer feel that was different about that crowd? What mood was set off as you were playing?
The whole mood of the world, the country of America, and particularly the city of New York had been change. There was fear in the air, and I never experienced that, particularly in New York.
I was born in World War II in Liverpool, which was subjected to a lot of bombing.
I grew up with these people who’d just recently survived a war, and I noticed how they dealt with it. It was like, [sings] ‘Roll out the barrel, we’ll have a barrel of fun,’ boom, boom, while they were getting bombed, they were singing.
I thought that maybe I could bring that to this, to get that kind of feeling, that kind of courage that I’d seen my parents and their generation exhibit. Maybe I’d be able to help America, help New York, out of this fearfulness.
The choice of Let It Be kind of sums up the concert and the documentary, what actually inspired the writing of that song more than 40 years ago?
Let It Be happened during a time when there was a lot going on. I think people were overdoing the use of substances. We certainly were. It was kind of common. It was the fashion. And I think I was getting a little bit over-the-top with the whole thing, getting pretty tired and pretty wasted.
I went to bed one night and had a restless night. But I had a dream where my mother, who had been dead at that point for about 10 years, came to me in the dream, it was as if she could see that I was troubled.
I remember quite clearly her saying to me, ‘Let it be. It’s going to be okay, don’t worry; let it be.’
I woke up and I remembered the dream, and I thought, that’s a great idea, and I sat down and wrote the song using the feeling from that dream and of my mum coming to me. When I said ‘Mother Mary,’ I meant my mother – I had my mother Mary and my father James – she was a good Catholic girl.
When I put that in the song, it became quasi-religious with Mother Mary, Virgin Mary, which is fine by me, if that’s how you want to take it. The actual reason was my mum came to me in my dream and actually said, ‘Let it be,’ which turned out to be great advice. Thanks, Mum.
We will be posting more of what Paul McCartney had to say on Sunday (August 28, 2011)