Book Review: Conversations with McCartney by Paul Du Noyer

By , Contributor
Music journalist and MOJO magazine founding editor Paul Du Noyer first spoke with Paul McCartney at a press conference in 1979. At the time, McCartney was about to take what would be the final configuration of Wings on a 19-date UK tour. Du Noyer managed to get a question in, though he was just one face among many in a swarm of journalists. Little did he know at the time, it was the first moment in an association that has continued for nearly 40 years.

Du Noyer's book Conversations with McCartney provides a outline of McCartney's entire career largely via the artist's own words. Over the course of many hours of interview time throughout the decades, Du Noyer has amassed enough material straight from the artist's mouth to put together a "biography" of sorts. He's added his own text to give context to the interviews and lend some shape and structure to the story. But the title is about as accurate as it gets. A certain level of intimacy and apparent trust between Du Noyer and his subject allowed for a conversational tone.

The career-spanning aspect of Conversations is a large part of its appeal. Pick up the average, traditional McCartney bio and flip through it until you find the first chapter charting his post-Beatles years. Odds are you'll be at the halfway point, at least. In some cases two-thirds or three-quarters of the way through. Even McCartney's own authorized biography, Barry Miles' Many Years From Now, spends the majority of its pages chronicling the Fabs. And maybe that's what the market, in general, demands.

But for fans who truly desire more stories about the Wings era and far beyond, Conversations with McCartney belongs on their shelf, placed prominently for quick and easy reference. This book includes generous sections with McCartney reflecting back on the '70s, '80s, and beyond. It's limited in scope in the sense that, when compared directly to standard biographies, you're only going to hear about the specific things Du Noyer spoke with McCartney about. Gaps are filled in, but again these editorial sections are brief. What we're here for—and what Du Noyer knows we're here for—are McCartney's own, unique reflections.

Avid fans will have read some of the interviews from which this material has been culled. They may have some of the various original issues in which they first appeared (Du Noyer's additional writing and editorial credits include NME and Q). But while many of the stories—and even direct quotes—may be familiar to the devoted, Du Noyer has done a terrific job of arranging the material in loose but sensible narrative form. Entire chapters are dedicated to McCartney reminiscing about his first wife Linda and working with John Lennon.

The extensive blocks of text transcribed directly from McCartney's own words paint, taken as a whole over the course of some 384 pages, paint a more complex portrait of McCartney than we typically see in smaller doses. It might've been even more helpful if each interview segment had been assigned a date, so we'd know if it came from 1989 or 2010 or whenever. Sometimes the time frame is stated by Du Noyer, but given McCartney's tendency to revise history now and again it would be instructive to always know when any given chunk of dialogue was spoken.

The hardcover edition of Conversations with McCartney was released by The Overlook Press in late-2016. The more economical paperback edition is more recent, having been made available near the end of 2017.

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Chaz Lipp is a Las Vegas-based musician and freelance writer. His new jazz album 'Good Merlin' is now available.

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