By entitling this latest biography of Paul McCartney an “intimate life,” the author makes a promise to the reader to provide a perspective on the artist that is unique and insightful. For the most part, I think Sounes delivers.
The biography covers Paul’s life from birth to the present. That’s a lot of breadth, and Sounes gives his material depth with the information and perspective gained from interviewing over 200 people. The result is 562 pages of text detailing the life and times of Paul McCartney.
In Sounes’ version of history, the times are as important as the life. Nor should the places be ignored. I hadn’t realized how much Liverpool remained part of McCartney’s life, not only in terms of family connections but in his efforts to help revive the fading city. His love for his cottage in Scotland was also strong.
In this context, I like the way in which Sounes paints a more sympathetic portrait of Linda McCartney than we usually see, citing her ability to make friends with the local people. He skillfully demonstrates that she was much more at ease with “ordinary” people than in public situations.
The harmonious relationship shared by Paul and Linda contrasts sharply with Paul’s second marriage. Here Sounes presents some totally new and in many cases totally appalling material. Heather Mills’ seamy past is fully explored, and in general, their marriage seems to have been in trouble from the beginning.
Die-hard McCartney fans will doubtless disagree with Sounes’ assessment of the songs that emerged from Paul’s solo career, but that’s a matter of individual taste. More important to many is the issue of the many phases of the rivalry between Paul and John. That would make a fascinating book in itself.
It’s easy to dismiss Paul as the optimistic, superficial, and in many ways conservative songster, in contrast the moody, intense, and deep thinker John, but that ignores the magic of their collaboration. Sounes, I think, gives McCartney less credit for the magic than he deserves.
Is Paul fab? Upon completing this book, I think he’s better than that. McCartney was Linda’s faithful husband during a time of rampant promiscuity. In similar manner, McCartney is shown as a consistently loving father. The description of Paul’s devotion to his wife during her last days could only fail to move the unmovable.
Thus, Sounes fulfills his promise of an intimate portrait, one that, while showing particular enthusiasm for Paul the post-Beatles musical artist, demonstrates unfailing admiration for Paul the man.
And ultimately, that may be far more important.