A WALK DOWN MEMORY LINE

“Has anyone ever told you that you look like…”

It was nearly ten years ago when I learned about DVD titled PAUL McCARTNEY REALLY IS DEAD, The Last Testament of George Harrison. Based on my readings of various commentators, it was both interesting and discredited. Naturally, there are many who find the conspiracy’s details fascinating and indisputable.

For me personally, Paul McCartney was more than just another rock star, though. I’d like to share here some of my own connections to this singer/songwriter who achieved megafame and fortune as a member of the Fab Four.

In the beginning, as a young teen I was not a superfan of the Beatles. That is to say, I was put off by the Beatlemaniac hysteria I saw in the girls in my junior high school during the Ed Sullivan/Hard Day’s Night/Help period. Yes, I had some of their records, and I did like the music, but I found the fawning girl-fan teeny-bopper excesses just a bit much. So I got into the Stones, had their first albums, attracted to their bad boy image.

Everyone had to have a favorite Beatle, of course, and I somewhat identified with George, the quieter guy who didn’t make a fuss about being the front man. I projected my self-consciousness on him and didn’t relate so much to Paul and John, with their magnetic smiles and pretty boy antics. Then, one day, everything changed.

I’d gone to a dance at Hunterdon High School (NJ) with a girl I liked from there named Donna. At one point during the evening she had her girl friends all look at me from a certain angle. I couldn’t tell what all the fuss was about. Their eyes would light up and they’d laugh and be silly like girls get sometimes, and I had no clue what was going on.

Finally, after they all agreed, giggling with excitement, I learned that Donna had a poster of Paul McCartney in her room, and yes, I looked “just like Paul McCartney.”

By this time my opinion of the Beatles had already shifted somewhat, now that Sgt Pepper, Magical Mystery Tour and the White Album were in circulation. But the big shift that evening was in my self-image. I must not have been as homely as I’d imagined, I thus concluded.

Over the next ten years I must have been asked a hundred times, “Has anyone ever told you… you look a like Paul McCartney?” It was always amusing.

Years later, when my son was around four or five years old, there was a McCartney solo album cover on the piano where the pianist would put their sheet music. Micah looked up, pointed at the album and said, “Daddy!”

All this is setup to my two favorite McCartney stories. Here’s the first.

Around 1975 when I was attending First Christian Assembly, a church in Plainfield, New Jersey, there was a married couple in our youth group who had gone through a terrible crisis. He’d had a nervous breakdown of sorts and shot his wife several times in the back with a gun. She went to the hospital, he was sent to the state mental hospital.

About four months later, after she recovered, she asked me to visit her husband at the state mental hospital. She wanted me to tell him that she understood what he was going through, that she still loved him and that she had forgiven him. I agreed to go and convey her message to him.

The New Jersey State Mental Institution at that time was a dreary, sprawling facility and when I entered I was led to a spacious, somewhat dark room with couches and chairs and no one around. It was like a gigantic, drab living room. The receptionist went down a long hall to fetch the fellow I was there to see.

While I was waiting, a young man in his late twenties wandered in, strumming an out of tune guitar, a vacant expression on his face. As he neared where I was standing, his eyes lit up and he approached me. “Are you… Paul McCartney?” I dismissed his remark initially, but then went with it and said, “Please don’t say anything to anyone.”

“Can you play me a song?” he asked.

I don’t play guitar, but I knew how to tune one. So I allowed him to give me his guitar and I proceeded to tune it for him. (The strings were all loose and it needed tuning badly.) Once I had everything tuned, I looked at him and said, “I noticed a piano in the other room as we walked by. Maybe I should play a couple songs for you,” whereupon we went to the somewhat sunnier room where I’d seen the piano.

He watched and listened as I played Hey Jude, and a couple songs from an early McCartney solo album. I play by ear and can play nearly any tune I’m familiar with.

He was thrilled, and then pulled out a scrap of paper. “Can I get your autograph?” I did my best to write in the free flowing manner I recalled of Paul’s hand, and guiltily wondered afterwards what his therapist would be thinking when he shared all these things.

The second story is of more recent vintage. Over the years I’d performed a a number of times with De Elliot Bros. jug band at Amazing Grace. The night before the annual Battle of the Jugbands, we did a couple sets, and a young gal from Twin Cities, who was to perform the following day, was seated in the front row with her boy friend, small dog and accordion. When we finished the second set, I went and chatted with her for a few minutes. After a brief exchange, she finally got a somewhat hushed tone as if to ask something confidential.

She said, “You’ve probably heard this before, but I was wondering…. has anyone ever told you… you look like George Harrison?”

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon https://tinyurl.com/y3l9sfpj

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