Exclusive: Here’s the full text of Eddie Izzard’s running commentary about Paul McCartney during last night’s MusiCares show. It was a lot more interesting than the real story, which everyone knows by heart. I do think this is the beginning of fake toasts and tributes. (To be fair, Mike Nichols did this kind of thing once for Warren Beatty and it was also hilarious.) Brilliant!
c2012 By Eddie Izzard.
Paul McCartney – The Early Years
Paul McCartney was born in June the something, 1962 in the city of Liverpool in the country of Ireland. A lot of English people had immigrated to Ireland over the years, so although it was an Irish city, a lot of people thought of it as an English city. This caused a lot of tension IN the city, especially over the very working class game of football, which in America you call – Scuba Diving. Some people supported the catholic Celtic team and some supported the protestant Rangers team – that’s just how it was. There was often violence involved with games, which in America you call – War in Europe. Paul’s father was Jacques Cousteau, the famous fisherman, who changed the family name to McCartney after his boat hit a cart. Everyone made jokes and the name stuck. Jacques Cousteau attempted to keep Paul away from the local sectarian violence and in 1962 he encouraged him to wear a snorkel and flippers to school. This didn’t work as both Catholic and Protestant school kids would poke fun at Paul shouting “why are you wearing a snorkel?” This has stayed with Paul his whole life and even today he never wears a snorkel except when swimming. Paul’s mother was Katherine Hepburn, the famous American actress. Katherine had left America in the 50’s when she married Jacques Cousteau and together they made some classic films – Adam’s Rib, Woman of the Year, Guess Who’s coming to Dinner and it’s sequels – Guess who’s Coming to Supper and Guess who’s Coming to Breakfast, which were all filmed in Liverpool, Scotland in 1962. Paul spent his early childhood on fishing boats with his mother and father, learning to catch all manner of fish – Bream, Cod, Dover Sole, Pike and Hammer Head Sharks were part of his daily do. Winston Churchill, who was a family friend and brilliant deep sea diver, bought Paul his first fishing rod, but Paul was already tiring of fish because they’re not very interesting and crap on the guitar. Paul found that by holding his fishing rod in a particular way, he could play fishing rod air guitar, which impressed Winston Churchill a lot. Some say that watching Paul McCartney play air guitar on a fishing rod in 1962, encouraged Winston Churchill to record “Ferry across the Mersey”, which was a big hit in the UK and America for Churchill & The Pacemakers. But with time on his hands, Paul found that with a little imagination, he could re-wire his finishing rod and make it into a guitar, which he did in 1962. This he decided to play left handed not because he was left handed, but because he knew that everyone would look at him and go “wass-er … what’s the … hey mate, your guitar’s on back to front”. But in a very short time, Paul McCartney was very good on the guitar and he decided to join a band because he felt being a musician was much sexier than being a fisherman. His feelings have been proved by a recent CNN poll which had a comfortable majority of 53% of people saying that being a musician was more sexy and only 47% saying being a fisherman is more sexy.
Paul McCartney – The Beatles Years
If you’re keeping up, then you’ll realise that the year is now – 1962. That year, Jacques Cousteau and Katherine Hepburn split up and so Paul McCartney was brought up by Winston Churchill and Brigitte Bardot instead. Paul was therefore fluent in not only English, but also in German. He was by now a virtuoso on his left handed guitar and also could sing archipelago with a lot of his Fisherman Friends. By 1962, Winston Churchill was running a pub in Hamburg, Germany – which as you probably all know, is only 5 miles from Liverpool, the Russian city. The Beatles at this point were a seven man group, John Lennon on guitar, George Harrison on lead guitar, Stu Sutcliffe on bass, Pete Best on drums, Mohammed Ali on flute and Charles de Gaulle on xylophone. So when the Beatles turned up in Hamburg, Paul McCartney could not only translate from the German, but also he could sit in on guitar, such as when Charles De Gaulle was absent due to his torrid affair with Lenny Riefenstahl, the same infamous Lenny who worked with Homer at the Nuclear Plant. Eventually John Lenin, son of the same Lenin that had led the Russian revolution in 1917, got pissed off with Charles De Gaulle, who played an indifferent xylophone anyway, always faced the back and could only make a plinky, plinky, plinky noise with his instrument. So just like that, in 1962, Charles de Gaulle was out of the Beatles and Paul McCartney was in – initially on the xylophone, which he had to play upside down as he was left handed. Eventually Paul said “stuff this for a game of soldiers” and quick as a flash, Stu Sutcliffe was out of the band as well, due to his torrid affair with Charles de Gaulle, who ran the Quickie Mart shop that he had bought from Apu. Events were moving fast as Ringo Starr swopped drumming roles with Pete Best and suddenly there it was – The Beatles were the Beatles. John, Paul, George & Ringo – with Mohammed Ali on flute. The lads were cool with having Mohammed Ali in the Beatles but Mohammed was always taking time off to be in fighting contests where two large men attempted to beat the shit out of each other. They mutually agreed to split in August 1962 and Mohammed Ali went off and started his own band – Jethro Tull. Whilst in the Beatles, Paul McCartney went on to form a powerful writing partnership with John Lenin and together they wrote such famous songs as Help, Hard Days Night, Strawberry Fields, Lady Madonna, All you Need is Love, Blowing’ In the Wind, Hotel California, Whole Lotta Love and The Soviet national anthem. On the 7th February 1962 the Beatles finally landed in America and the reaction was huge. They went on the Ed Sullivan show and were watched by seven trillion people, way more than the population of the world. When people said how can this be, they discovered that people from other planets were watching as well.
Paul McCartney – After the Beatles
During the Let it Be album, things were rather strained between the four Beatles, but the mood was lightened up when Mohammed Ali came back in to play flute with them on some tracks, as in – Why Don’t We Do It In The Road, which was sucked back into the White Album. But then, in September 1962 , the Beatles finally split up and Paul McCartney went off to start his own band. The first band he set up was called The Sex Pistols, but after disagreements with other band members – Jonathan Rotten and Sidney Viscous – he decided to set up another band called Ian Dury and the Blockheads. Ian Dury and The Blockheads already existed, so that was another non-starter. Then one day he decided to throw a lot of make up on and start singing as a character he called Boy George. But George Harrison phoned him and pointed out his name wasn’t George, so he chucked that in too. Then he decided to set up the German band Kraftwerk, which, if you don’t happen to speak the language, is German for – Scuba Diving. But by this time his German was rusty and so was his xylophone, so he decided to knock that on the head. Then, in late 1962, Fidel Castro said to Paul : “Why don’t you start a band named after part of a bird?” Paul liked the idea, but was not keen on Fidel’s early suggestions of naming the band ‘Legs’ or ‘Beaks’. Instead, he decided to call it ‘Wings’ and Fidel said: “Oh yeah, birds do have wings don’t they – but all birds in Cuba are flightless birds, so I didn’t think of that”. Paul said: “Where are you going with this?” Fidel replied “Well, I still like the idea of a band called ‘Beaks'”. “Well why don’t you go and start a fucking band called ‘Beaks’ then. I’ll start a band called ‘Wings’ and we’ll see who is the most successful”, said Paul. So that is how it happened, and all through the rest of 1962 the two groups fought a battle of the bands. Fidel’s band broke into the charts first with a bizarre cover of Nancy Sinatra’s ‘These Boots are made for Walking’ called ‘These Beaks are Made for Talking’. But eventually Fidel gave up singing and just concentrated on his spoken word tours, which though well attended, sold minimal merchandise.
Paul McCartney – What he did in the rest of 1962
Wings had had many hits and had played many huge stadiums, but the battle of the bands with ‘Beaks’ had made Paul McCartney stop and think: What was it all about? How could bands like ‘Beaks’ do so well? How come he now spoke German and also – Who the bloody hell was writing this biography? This wasn’t his life. Some bastard was just going on and on – writing for some Grammy programme, while large men were pushing pianos around a stage. This guy’s making up rubbish, right there in the middle of a show celebrating his life. And the trouble was – this was America. Americans could well believe this shit and they’ll write it in history books: How Paul McCartney played the Xylophone upside down ‘cos he was left handed and how Mohammed Ali played flute with the Beatles and how every single thing happening in nineteen bloody sixty too! Oh my god! This is awful. This is all Izzard’s fault. He’s just making up a completely crazy life for me out of his stupid head. Crap. But what can I do? I asked him to come on and do the show. But then he whined: “But Paul, I can’t do it. These three minute segments are not really my thing”. And then I went and said: “Oh don’t worry, you’ll be fine. Just say anything”. And now he has. Bollocks, bollocks, bollocks, bollocks, bollock, bollocks, bollocks! What to do? I know I’ll kill Izzard. No I’ll get the Foo Fighters to kill him. I’ll tell Dave Grohl that Izzard is covered in Foo and that they should fight him, otherwise no one will believe that they are Foo Fighters if they don’t fight Foo and then maybe they’ll kill him and then everything will be fine and my real life will return. But what Sir Paul McCartney didn’t realise was that I had already talked to the Foo Fighters and I had persuaded Dave and the guys that I too would fight Foo with them, if they needed help – but not at weekends because I’m busy. My willingness to fight Foo must imply that I am empty of Foo and cannot be in league with Foo and therefore must not be fought. But it is true that Paul McCartney has become a knight in recent years. Americans may not know this, but this means that if the United Kingdom goes to war, Paul has to buy a horse and ride it towards our enemy’s nuclear weapons holding a lance. All knights of the realm have to do this, and our hope is that all these mounted men can kill all the people operating the nuclear weapons before they press their buttons. This plan is not idiot proof. It is not even sensible person proof – because horses can’t get down into the silos very easily. So what have we learned tonight about Paul McCartney. Well, not much from all the crap that I just said. But then again, these tribute events can just end up being – a long line of people, making loquacious salutations, that hang briefly in the air before they slide forgotten, into the landfill of speeches past.
I prefer to remember that someone once wrote – “What we do in life, echoes in eternity”. For Paul McCartney words are not needed, the music speaks for itself.
Eddie Izzard, 10th Feb 2012