There aren’t many groups of four people in the history of the world who have for more than 50 years had people asking, “Who’s your favorite?” From 1964 on, Paul McCartney has been my favorite Beatle, and I lucked into marrying someone who agrees. Long before he was Sir Paul, he was “the cute one.” I suppose what influenced me was that the left-handed bass player had the happiest face as he, George and John shook their moptops as they followed “yeah, yeah, yeah” with “oooooh” while Ringo nodded his head behind them.
Kathy and I were about 40 feet from Paul on a recent night in Lubbock, sitting by coincidence next to a couple from our Amarillo church. For almost three hours, the former Beatle kept 15,000 people enraptured with music that for most of us is as familiar as a spouse and almost as beloved.
I know, Paul makes big bucks off our infatuation, but the fact that he’s 72 and still plucking that Hofner bass, still crooning “Yesterday” and still truly rockin’ tells me he loves doing it. He doesn’t need our money, but I think he still craves our affection.
The deep bond that many still feel for the Beatles and this half of the Lennon-McCartney songwriting team was evident in people who arrived at United Supermarkets Arena three hours early. We talked to a 70ish woman from Big Spring who had driven up by herself just to see Paul.
A Hispanic couple — maybe 50 years old — was in line because the wife is a huge Beatles fan and the husband’s a musician whose family band plays gigs in the area. The man appreciates the musical influence of the Beatles. The wife knows details such as how Paul met John at a St. Peter’s Church fête in 1957 and how the Fab Four cut their rock’n’roll teeth in sweaty Liverpool and Hamburg clubs.
The crowd included a fair number of middle-aged fans who appeared to have their children with them — some of the kids wearing Beatles shirts – and a huge contingent of what I have to call senior citizens. I saw a man carrying an oxygen tank and at least two people using canes. Of course it makes sense that those screaming girls at the Ed Sullivan Show are in their 60s and 70s now, and this concert was as much a return to their youth as it was a performance by a man who released a new album (called “New”) this year.
In addition to the creative magic that Lennon and McCartney generated, I think people still flock to see Paul just because he’s fun. Millions of serious words have been written about the Beatles’ cultural influence, but it was pure energy and joy that got them started. Paul continues that.
He began one of two encores by running onto the stage with a huge Texas flag. Two band members followed with American and British flags, and the three waved them around for a minute before picking up their instruments. The cynical would say Paul was pandering to the Lone Star crowd, but I don’t care. It was an amazing moment, and I don’t say “amazing” often.
Equally impressive was his seemingly sincere praise of Lubbock’s Buddy Holly, who along with Elvis, Chuck Berry and others heavily influenced the Beatles. Paul sang Buddy’s “It’s So Easy” in front of a massive video screen showing images of Holly and the Crickets.
McCartney’s mostly upbeat approach appeals to me just like positivity does in other areas of life. I’m a Christian who would rather attract people with love than scare them with hell, although I believe spirituality is a serious business. Jesus certainly warned people about sin, but Paul (St. Paul, not Sir Paul) also wrote about the Philippians’ “encouragement from being united with Christ” and their “comfort from his love.” (Phil. 2:1)
The Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” is a little too simplistic, but McCartney was right when he wrote, “In the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.” He ended the second encore with those words, and Kathy and I walked to our car with big smiles.
Mike Haynes teaches journalism at Amarillo College. He can be reached at AC, the Amarillo Globe-News or email@example.com. Go to www.haynescolumn
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