McCartney Talks Carpool Karaoke

The Paul McCartney episode of Carpool Karaoke has been so wildly popular (about 130 million people have watched it on YouTube or Facebook, and it spawned an extended version as well) that it’s hard to imagine that the show almost didn’t happen. But it’s true.

McCartney and Corden in the car.

I saw McCartney play at Globe Life Park in Arlington, TX on June 14 (another three-hour marathon, featuring 38 songs), and the tour program includes a lengthy interview with the following exchange:

You made even more headlines when your appearance on Carpool Karaoke went globally viral, generating millions of views. And it’s been described by TV critics around the world as the TV moment of 2018. Were you taken aback by that reaction?

I was actually. And to tell you the truth, I almost backed out because I looked at what was going to be involved–I would need to rehearse with the band for a week because we hadn’t been playing, so I knew we’d have to get up to speed. And then there was going to be a day in Liverpool, and a day in London. I just suddenly thought: “Oh, it’s all too much . . .” So I kind of reneged on my half-promise to James Corden that I would do it. And I was about to pull out. But then he wrote me a really nice note saying how his team were so high when I said I’d do it, and now they were so low . . . And I felt bad, so I said, “OK, let’s do it, but let’s just keep it to Liverpool, and just do the five days rehearsal.” But on the morning of it, I was still thinking, “This isn’t going to work out.” Because I’d seen a few of the other Carpool Karaokes, and thought, “Wow, they’re really good–I don’t know if I can get up to that level.”

Really? You didn’t think you’d be good enough?

Yeah, I just had doubts about it. So right up until the moment we got in the car, I have to admit, I was a bit moany! But now I feel really sorry for James and his producer–they did not need somebody moaning before they did it! So I do keep planning to write him a letter to apologize for putting him through that. But anyway, the minute I got in the car it became fun and really just got better and better and better.

And it was a deeply personal journey for you too, right?

Yeah, I was a bit apprehensive about going back into the house where I used to live because I hadn’t been back there literally since I used to live there full-time. And also the Penny Lane barber’s–I haven’t actually been in that shop. I’d written about tit with John, but we’d never actually been and had our hair cut there. So that became a real joy, just visiting all these old places and going into my old house. That was like, wow. It was so great. I can’t describe how I felt. It was so many feelings of nostalgia for my family, all sorts of little memories of how we used to keep the condensed milk in that cupboard there . . . Silly little memories. But they all came flooding back.

So, lots to unpack here. It’s interesting that McCartney admits wavering about doing the show, and being “moany” about it (I really wonder what that entailed). It’s also weird to say in a published interview that he still needs to write a note of apology–I mean, how long would that take?

The emphasis on the amount of work involved is also telling. I thought about that work throughout the Arlington concert: carrying a three-hour, nonstop show takes a lot of effort, and at this point McCartney’s well into his 70s. It’s clear that he’s a perfectionist about performing, and that falling short publicly is about the worst thing he can imagine.

The scene at Globe Life Park in Arlington, TX on June 14.

I saw Ringo Starr last fall, and he handles his show quite differently, sharing the spotlight with the other performers in the current incarnation of his “All-Starr Band.” Thus we heard Steve Lukather of Toto lead “Africa,” Colin Hay of Men At Work lead “Who Can It Be Now?,” Greg Rolie of Santana lead “Black Magic Woman,” and Graham Gouldman of 10CC lead “I’m Not In Love.” Ringo played on a lot of those songs, but not all. At one point he went on a self-described “magical mystery break” and left the stage. In contrast, during the Arlington show McCartney took two sips of water and was perpetually on stage.

The other part of the interview in the McCartney program that struck me was this exchange, which features the shortest answer he gave:

You’ve collaborated with so many amazing people over the years. Who’s been your favorite?


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  1. Avatar Tasmin wrote:

    Thanks for this Nancy! When I originally watched Carpool Karaoke, I was wishing this blog was going, as I was curious what you and Michael’s impressions were.

    I loved it!! I watched it at least 10 times after recording it. I felt like I was getting a glimpse into Paul that I hadn’t seen before. When he remarked to James that James’ deceased grandfather was with them, it brought me to tears. I could feel Paul’s empathy, and see the pain in his eyes of the losses he has had.

    I read an article, can’t remember where, after the show aired. The author felt that it touched a nerve with so many people because with the current political environment, people are feeling uneasy and unsure. The Beatles bring back happy, joyful feelings. The music Paul and The Beatles created makes us happy, and hopeful.
    I agree with that, but there’s something about Paul that is so endearing and charming. It’s always been there, but as he’s aged, it’s become more pronounced.

    I think his insecurity about being on the show is maybe his reticence of opening himself up.
    You have discussed here before, about Paul not feeling comfortable sharing all of himself with the public. The format of Carpool Karaoke is not something he could control 100%. That probably made him nervous.

    I wanted to point out also, that the extended version program you listed is from last year. I watched it.
    Are they showing it again?

  2. Avatar Hologram Sam wrote:

    It was great seeing Paul tour his old home. I was deeply moved by that. It’s a museum now?
    And Ringo; here he is, still going strong:
    I honestly didn’t know until, like, a year ago that Ringo had TB as a child. I read all the books in the 1970s, but I don’t remember that detail. I always read that he was hospitalized with stomach (or intestinal) problems.
    Was there some stigma around TB back then, keeping it out of the official record, or did I just miss that detail?

  3. Nancy Carr Nancy Carr wrote:

    Tasmin, thank you for correcting my dates — I was posting in haste and wasn’t aware of the extended version, so I’ve now edited the post to reflect reality. Good thing I’ve made my peace with being imperfect in public! 🙂
    I think that’s a great point about McCartney’s probably being uncomfortable with the unscripted and unpredictable aspects of the show. Being able to control how much of himself he reveals is clearly very important to him. He also seems genuinely concerned about possibly letting people down with a performance.
    And what did you think of the extended version? I’m planning to watch it tonight!

    • Avatar Tasmin wrote:

      You’re welcome!

      The extended version is good. There’s nothing that’s surprising, but it’s fun. Worth watching for sure!

  4. You know, people assume that McCartney’s putting on a public persona quite a lot of the time, but I don’t think he is. At age 77, it’s just too consistent. I think this is who he really is. I think he realized quite early on that if you are just yourself in situations like this, people love you for it.

  5. Avatar Hologram Sam wrote:

    Sesame Street fans learned about the letter “B” from The Beetles. You never know where on TV Paul’s music will appear.

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