Paul McCartney joins the BBC for his 80th

Saturday: Paul McCartney at the BBC - (BBC Two, 7.10pm)

By Claire Cartmill
Friday, 17th June 2022, 5:00 pm

Ageing stars should bow out of the spotlight gracefully, and not peddle their old hits, right?

In the case of some acts, that’s certainly the case, but Paul McCartney should never be considered alongside such hasbeens.

Macca is in a class all of his own – and for as long as he’s willing to trot out those well-worn Beatles, Wings and solo hits, there’ll always be an audience willing to listen; the phrase ‘living legend’ may be bandied about a bit too willy-nilly these days, but here’s a man who has actually earned and deserves the epithet.

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What’s particularly astounding is the fact that McCartney is now considerably older than 64 – the age at which he once declared he’d be losing his hair, mending fuses, digging weeds and renting a cottage on the Isle of Wight (if it’s not too dear).

In fact, Sir Paul is celebrating a landmark birthday today – he’s turning 80, but still has the energy of a man half his age; he was recently on tour in the US, wowing a new generation of fans who were probably not even a glint in the eye when he was penning songs for The Beatles with John Lennon.

After the band split in 1970, big things were expected from him. But what was there left for the singer and multi-instrumentalist to achieve? After all, the band had exceeded all expectations by topping the charts a record number of times, were highly popular both at home and around the world, and had broken new musical ground.

McCartney was devastated by the break-up of The Beatles and attempted to relaunch his career by driving around Britain with his family, including first wife Linda, asking for work and playing in small venues, charging 50 pence for admission.

“When The Beatles finished it was such a shock to me and my system,” he explains. “Besides being out of work, to my mind I’d lost one of the greatest jobs in the world. I thought, ‘I just must continue in music, because I just love it too much’. Linda said she was interested – I remember saying to her ‘Imagine standing on a stage behind a curtain and there’s an audience out there, the curtain goes up and we’re on, we’re a band – could you handle that?’ She said she thought she could and so that’s why we decided to try.”

The result was Wings, which also turned out to be hugely popular. After that, McCartney went solo, but backed by a regular band. He continues to record new music, but it’s his back catalogue that draws the crowds to his live gigs.

It’s those hits that form the basis of the BBC’s tribute on his landmark birthday. It begins with a compilation of post-Beatles clips from its archive in Paul McCartney at the BBC. Among the highlights are performances of Band on the Run, Jet and the evergreen Live and Let Die. After a break, the McCartney theme continues with a TOTP2 special at 11.25pm featuring the great man in action.

No doubt, when he turns 90, there’ll be even more delights to choose from – particularly as he’ll be back on the Beeb next weekend when he headlines Glastonbury.