Considering how well documented his life has been for the past fifty years, it’s still somewhat rare to get Sir Paul McCartney to sit down and talk about Wings and his career during the Seventies. He’s always been a little wiggly, but fortunately, journalist Tom Doyle has had the rare fortune to get him to open up about that tumultuous decade.
For McCartney the era from 1970 to 1980 was one of peaks and valleys. The Beatles broke up in part because McCartney wanted to “get back” to their roots, to get them out of the studio and to play live, to make it like the good old days. It didn’t work, and proved the death knell of the band, even if they rallied one last time with Abbey Road. With his wife Linda by his side, Paul did exactly that–starting over, literally getting in the van and playing unannounced shows, going wherever his fancy took him, and in the process, he worked to turn his band into one of the biggest of the decade. In his own roundabout, often puzzling way, he replicated the Beatles formula, and once again wound up successful.
McCartney has received the brunt of the blame in breaking up the Beatles, and that hung over him, as well as the animosity he built up as a result of the “Paul is Dead” hoax. He wanted to retreat into family life with his new bride, Linda Eastman, and to be a family man. He eschewed the spotlight, especially when his first attempts at a solo career were blunted with mixed reviews and the nagging Beatles issues. When he sings, “When you were young, and your heart was an open book,” he’s really talking about himself: becoming guarded, carefully thinking about what he says and does, because being off the cuff seems to backfire badly on him. Witness his infamous “it’s a drag” comment about Lennon’s death—an unfair accusation after an intrusive reporter sticks his camera his face on one of the worst days of his life.
One of McCartney’s biggest problems during the 1970s was that he was subconsciously looking for someone to replicate his most important relationship. He came close with guitarist Denny Laine, but his relationships with the revolving cast of backing musicians and Wings members weren’t so strong, due in large part to the same problems with overbearing control that caused the Beatles to split, and as witnessed in the Let It Be disagreement with George Harrison.
One must commend Doyle for Man On The Run, because it’s perhaps the first time this era of McCartney’s life has been so thoroughly researched. With insightful and blunt interviews from many of the musicians who worked with him, as well as open details from the man himself, Man On The Run is an essential biography for any Beatles or McCartney fan.