Rick Rubin’s Take on Paul McCartney

paul mccartney

Several tributes to The Beatles will hit the airwaves this year including Peter Jackson’s biopic based on recordings made for an unaired 1970 special called Get Back, Mary McCartney’s release about the band’s Abbey Road album, and Paul McCartney’s autobiographical Lyrics. Add to that the release of McCartney III, Paul’s 18th solo item, and you’re probably thinking “that should be plenty.” But if like me, you can never get enough of The Beatles, famed record producer Rick Rubin is about to give us even more.

Slated for release as “coming soon,” a short trailer for the special was released in late 2020 on Paul McCartney’s YouTube channel providing a glimpse of what’s in store for lucky viewers. In the 90-second black-and-white video, Rubin and Macca are in a stark room that includes a playback /mixing board where they listen and comment on some Beatles’ classics like “Come Together” and “Lovely Rita,” often with Paul on drums or playing his classic Rickenbacker bass. McCartney can be heard joking that “We realized we were writing songs that were memorable, not because we wanted them to be memorable, but because we had to remember them.”  A few Fab Four clips are interspersed along with snippets of Paul describing thoughts about the role of the bass in their music.  It ends with the crescendo from “Live and Let Die” – fade to black.

Allegedly this marks the first time the original Abbey Road analog tapes have left that studio.  The duo seems to be using these tapes because Paul and Rick are clearly isolating various instruments on the tracks, and discussing interesting thoughts on each one.

However, for such a project, getting the right person in the driver’s seat is key. Rick Rubin was one of the key forces behind introducing the general public to rap music, including starting Def Jam Recordings and signing LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Run DMC, and The Beastie Boys. He produced Jay-Z’s The Black Album, an obvious reference to The Beatles’ White Album. Rubin has been nominated for over 20 Grammy Awards, winning 9 times, including several Albums of the Year.  In 2007, he was also selected as one of Time’s “100 Most Influential People in the World.”  So, this man has music creds.

But does he have the respect for The Fab Four that would be needed to truly create a loving tribute to the talent at work? Well, when asked by The Daily Beast, “What is it about The Beatles? What made them work?”, his reply was, “It transcends everything. It’s much bigger than four kids from Liverpool. For me, the Beatles are proof of the existence of God. It’s so good and so far beyond everyone else that it’s not them.”  That would be a “yes.”

Although we don’t know the release date yet, the documentary is planned to be delivered in six-parts and is being produced by Frank Marshall, who recently completed The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart.

Some sad day, there will be a time when no Beatles will be around. In the meantime, the more we can document the magic behind one of the greatest bands of all time – with the help of the founding members – the better.

-Will Wills

Photo: Screenshot from Rick Rubin/Paul McCartney documentary (YouTube)

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Will Wills — a native-born Italian, raised in the US — does a killer impersonation of Mario (“a-letsa-go!”). Generally, you’ll find him frenetically bouncing between software development at a large US firm, leading a local dance/pop band, playing COD and watching MST3K. Yes, he’s sleep deprived, but you can follow his resulting incoherence at @WillrWills or his band at @WillsAndTheWays or his blog, "A Day in a Monkey's Life," if you’re suffering from insomnia, too.

8 comments on “Rick Rubin’s Take on Paul McCartney

  1. Steven Valvano

    Amen to your closing sentiments, brother! Well done….

  2. Will be the saddest day when Paul and Ringo are gone.

  3. Rich Dickerson

    He is associated with the classic Hofner violin bass.

    • Michael Grubb

      I think the Hofner bass is associated with him.

    • Paul’s Hofner was his signature guitar in the early days but Rickenbacker gave him a 4001 model bass which McCartney used in their mid period Rubber Soul three Sgt. Peppers. He preferred it for recording as it was clearer louder and stayed in tune better than the Hofner

  4. Will, you’re killing me. “An unaired 1970 special”? This ain’t The Rolling Stones Rock n Roll Circus. In 1969 the Beatles recorded 56 hours of footage with director Michael Lindsey-Hogg, who edited it down to a semi-depressing 80 minutes that was released in 1970 as the theatrical documentary film “Let It Be”. All four Beatles took home Oscars for Best Original Song Score for that little “unaired special”. Oscars, Will! Peter Jackson went into the vaults, took another look at the 56 hours, and re-cut it into what will be released as “Get Back” (the original working title of the sessions.) Paul and Ringo have reported that Jackson’s version reminds them of the joy of making that music, versus the negative stuff that Lindsey-Hogg focused on.

  5. It’s an understatement to say I’m looking forward to it. Rick Rubin is one of the most genuine people in the music biz. I enjoyed a chat with him once, and he was genuine, humble and informative to chat with. I’m glad he is involved with Macca in what looks like a splendid series.

  6. I would also love to see a Ron Howard sequel film: The Beatles, The Studio Years.

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