"The kids of AD 2000 will understand what it was all about and draw from the music much the same sense of well being and warmth as we do today," Beatles publicist Derek Taylor wrote in 1964, in the liner notes to Beatles For Sale. "For the magic of the Beatles is timeless and ageless."
There were times in the last four decades when some of the Beatles themselves disagreed with him. John Lennon sometimes disparaged the band and famously sang that, "I don't believe in Beatles." But Paul McCartney never stopped valuing the music of his former group, and he's guarded its legacy carefully. He plays his Beatles hits live, looks at projects involving the band's music and, most recently, helped the team of videogame designers that made "The Beatles: Rock Band" make the title as accurate as possible, down to the color of the walls in Liverpool's famous Cavern Club.
McCartney spent the summer of 2009 playing a tour that was light on dates and heavy on crowds -- he performed strings of shows at select stadiums, with time in between. "It's summer, and we're getting to do the thing we love best, which is play, and the thing we love second best, which is to have time off in the summer," he said in an interview before his show in Tulsa, Okla. "That makes us very enthusiastic." The crowds have felt the same, cheering loudly for a set that mixes new material, Wings hits and Beatles songs.
Those songs will find another life on Sept. 9, when Harmonix releases the Beatles "Rock Band" game and EMI puts out remastered versions of the band's studio albums. Although the Beatles have not made their songs available digitally, their music sells well anyway, and the new releases are expected to give record stores a much-needed pre-holiday boost. All of this looking back has also given McCartney cause to reevaluate his old songs, which he says have never sounded better than they do on the reissues. "It sounds," he says, "like we were in the room."
It looks like you're having the time of your life onstage. Do you still get the same charge out of performing that you used to?
It's been feeling very good at the moment. We haven't been out for a little while, so that's always cool. Because we're not flogging away on a great big tour --we're picking and choosing certain dates, some of which are events like the opening of Citi Field -- they're special events. We've got plenty of time between them to hang, so we're almost combining it with a holiday. And the band has playing great. Also, the audiences are super-fab. They're going bananas. We haven't been around too much, so they're not fed up with us yet.