tweaked: Happy Birthday, Paul McCartney! 🎵💿🎶🎧

Text and pics by Rosalie Tirella

Today is the Beatles’ Paul McCartney’s birthday! As I walked through my kitchen this early afternoon, here in lower Vernon Hill, my own private ghetto😉 … the coffee percolating, Cece keeping me company as she always does during meal time …

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… I caught the beginning of Paul’s “Fool on the Hill,” written when he was with the Beatles. I was struck by the aloneness of the tune and stopped in my tracks to soak in the lovely loneliness. To really listen to the song. The fool atop the hill, the only one around for miles and miles! Half crazy! Or at least the world believes he’s nuts. No matter to him: there he stands, indifferent to people’s mocking and prejudices, alone and unbowed, face naked to the sunlight, spinning around and around until he’s dizzy, his arms out like a pinwheel! Smiling at the cotton ball clouds, doing his thing, singing his song! He’s utterly alone, yet fulfilled.

This afternoon I thought about the fool. So inspiring! “He sees the sun going down, and the eyes in his head see the world spinning ’round …” Paul sings. The fool is no fool! He knows where his talents lie, he knows his place in the natural world …

McCartney was just a kid when he wrote the tune – around 20. Maybe even 19. He was just a kid when he wrote all his “sad” masterpieces: YESTERDAY, SHE’S LEAVING HOME, FIXING A HOLE, ELEANOR RIGBY – all the beautiful, alone Beatles tunes. …

They’re about abandonment, wistfulness, despair … Yet often the songs are stories (McCartney loves to tell stories) of a shining soul defiant in a hostile world! 1960s youth zeitgeist? I say, oh, to be so young! – at any time! TO SEE AND SPEAK THE TRUTH before it’s muddled in adulthood! Before the lies – big and small –
move in … . “SILLY PEOPLE RUNNING AROUND, WONDERING WHY THEY NEVER GET PAST MY DOOR!” Paul sings in “Fixing a Hole.” Cheers, brother!

Ensconced in gorgeous solitude, Paul McCartney songs get to me – got to me as a kid growing up in Green Island. All these Paul Beatles songs are GREAT – even though you may think they’re a bit melodramatic! They feel deeply … like the brilliant youth who wrote them. Like all youth! Remember when you were 16? Every day you let your heart out to twist in the wind! You unfurled it like a flag …

When I was a teen growing up in Green Island …

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… I’d listen to the Beatles in my bedroom, on my Emerson turntable, with its two big black speakers and dream – lose myself in all the sonic rivers and streams of a Beatles tune. Especially the ones written in ’67 and ’68. The Revolver (’68), Rubber Soul years (’67)…

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Rose’s new old speakers. She loves her vinyl!

I was 15 years old and looking in the mirror for the first time and seeing a pretty young woman’s face staring back at me. Then I’d riffle through my Beatles paraphernalia to find Paul’s prettier face staring back at me!

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It was beautiful! The soul behind the soulful eyes even more beautiful, to me! All the Paul sad songs, imbued with his longing, feelings of abandonment, despair, even prayers … feelings I felt at 16. Sexual feelings. For the blond haired boy in homeroom and the tall, tanned, dirty, lanky boy-man who dropped out of school and worked in the junkyard next door. He couldn’t read; I cried over him!

A beautiful, amazing world – wide open. My Green Island family slamming it shut! Piling up against the wooden door, their asses making a THUD. Abusive Daddy; prayerful, submissive Ma; my two, heart-breaking kid sisters; and always our feisty Polish immigrant granny, Bapy, yelling in her broken English: “Rosie, get me Sanka!! Heat me Sanka!!”

Trapped!

Shut up, Bapy! I wanted to scream in Polish as I jumped off my bed where I was stretched out on my belly listening to SARGENT PEPPERS LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND. Yep! Bapy called! And I had to come when called, just like a golden retriever. Bapy was demanding I get up out of my Beatles reverie to grab her dirty, cracked, hard-boiled-egg stained coffee cup half-filled with her tepid Sanka and put her crappy cup of instant coffee into a boiling pan of water. Gross! I wanted to be left alone with the beautiful Beatles in their beautiful nehru shirts! To lie on my bed, with the pink curtains billowing in, listening to “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” …

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Bapy!💜💜💜

Those Paul songs, swaddled in violins, horns, cellos, symphony orchestras … His lyrics, rough and tumble, from the streets and tenements: “We struggled hard all our lives to get by … She’s leaving home, Bye Bye!…” Mother, in the middle of the night, clutching her natty bathrobe, watching her favorite daughter leave home … forever. Her careworn face too tired for tears. Watching her daughter leaving home for good armed only with the foolish certitude of the young poet. Mother says: Bye Bye!! Bye Bye, Rose!!

When I was a young girl growing up in Green Island, Paul McCartney got to me in ways my mom, school, most books, couldn’t … . Sure, he was adorable and, like most Baby Boomer teenaged girls (and not a few boys!), I fell for his CUTENESS. Those big, sad, puppy-dog eyes. The flirty way, in the early days, he shook his head as he played his (left-handed) bass…(“Watching the skirts, you start to flirt, now you’re in gear!”) Yep! I was a Paul groupie! I knew, through Tiger Beat magazine and the cheap paperbacks I bought or got, …

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Rose still has the McCartney bio a friend bought her when she was a student at Burncoat HS!

… that McCartney was left-handed, that he dumped beautiful model Jane Asher for beautiful photographer Linda Eastman, that he loved all animals and had an Old English Sheep dog named Martha about whom he wrote a song …

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Paul, Martha and Jane

I read all his song lyrics, pored over his every sentence in every interview I could get my hands on, cut out his newspaper interviews, if I was allowed to, and pasted them into my Beatles scrap book. I tried to dress like Paul – blue jeans and loose, flowing, beautiful, flowery, colorful shirts …

But at the heart of my attraction was the sadness, the loss: Paul’s mother, a nurse, had died of breast cancer when he was just a little kid. His father, a cotton salesman, raised Paul and his little brother.

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Paul, right, and his brother, Michael

I understood Paul’s predicament. We were two peas in a pod: I had no real father. I missed a parent, too – a parent I needed to love and be loved by. I just had this asshole Daddy who popped in every other year or so to make Ma and the whole family miserable.

Beatle John Lennon also lost a parent – his mother Julia, who was too young and wild to raise her son. So she gave John up to her sister Mimi to raise …

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John Lennon

When John was a teenager Julia came back into his life – only to be run over by a bus!! She died just as John and she were beginning their relationship.

Lennon once said he and McCartney bonded over the loss of their moms. They were alone together. That meant everything. So the searching began, musically … these two working class kids, who just happened to be musical geniuses, remembering, trying to reach their mothers, through sound…

Rose, in Green Island looking for her father, hating her father, yet longing for a Daddy. The good Daddy who sang Frank Sinatra songs in the kitchen and liked to walk in the woods. But this Daddy seldom showed up on Lafayette Street and, when he did, he didn’t stay for very long. Went away … but where??? Died.

How does a working-class, 15-year-old girl figure it all out? Become the hero of her song?

She listens to the Beatles, of course! She buys all their records at Strawberries or Jordon Marsh downtown and replays them hundreds of times in her beat up old bedroom in her mother’s Lafayette Street flat.

Like Paul and John, Rose cries, too!

And always you are pissed off! A hard attitude to cop, if you’re a good Catholic girl. FUCK IT ALL! You snuggle under your bed covers and listen to “Let it Be” one more time. Paul sings: “When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, Let It Be.” Ma loves this Beatles song! She thinks it’s about the Virgin Mother in heaven and praying to her. You read somewhere that it’s really about Paul’s mother – her name was Mary.

All the things you love on Millbury Street … you see and hear them in Beatles’ songs. Their working class Liverpool is your working class Worcester. Their frustrated parents, your frustrated parents. Their neighborhood, your neighborhood! All the beautiful flowers, animals, rainbows and sky are in their music and lyrics! For you! How lucky you are to live in their time, when they made their melodies and lyrics.

You are in a secret society – the lonely hearts club band – a club whose members are fatherless, motherless, blue collar, alone Baby Boomer-strivers, chip-on-your-shoulder cool, bedraggled, glorious. You don’t say the word “artistic” cuz you’re poor. But you feel this way. You begin to write essays …all the time. Your father, whenever he’s home, laughs at you tapping at your cheap orange typewriter at the beat-up kitchen table. “Fuck nut!!” Daddy yells to Ma. “Poetry?! She should study to be a secretary!” Annoyed, he stumbles, pigeon-toed, to the refrigerator to grab a plum for his walk out.

But the fool at the kitchen table keeps typing away. She knows better …

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Paul’s brainchild