I Saw Paul McCartney in Real Life Today.

File the above sentence under “words I never thought I’d write today.”

Around noon, I was doing my usual Twitter troll and noticed this tweet from Paul McCartney’s account:

WHAT?

After investigating, I decided this was legit: Not just Paul recording at some studio near Times Square. Not just a video of Paul airing in Times Square. Actual, living, breathing Paul McCartney was going to play real, live music. I looked at the clock and gauged my workload. This was doable. My co-workers, who know more than they’d like to about my Beatles fandom, encouraged me to go. As did my boss. So, my cubemate Emily and I hopped on the 1 train to Times Square (two stops from our office) and were watching Sir Beatle and Music Revolutionary Paul McCartney half an hour later.

*Disclaimer: This was not my first time seeing Paul McCartney live, but I had known about the first concert in advance. My dad took me to see him at the Rose Garden in Portland in November 2005. He opened with Magical Mystery Tour. My dad bought me an exorbitantly expensive commemorative t-shirt that I will keep forever. We left early so I could get to sleep at a reasonable hour before the state cross-country meet the next day. The concert was still awesome.

It’s a weird feeling, seeing celebrities in person – and in this case, a celebrity I spend an inordinate amount of time obsessing over. Like, that’s him. The nature of the concert – impromptu, brief, in the middle of a busy public space – had me thinking about the Beatles’ rooftop concert in 1969. The rooftop concert is one of my primary obsessions within my Beatles obsession (Sub-obsession? That sounds kind of pathetic.), for everything from the songs they played to the way George wore green pants and the way it turned London on its head, even if only for a few minutes. A couple songs in to today’s show, it hit me: The same person who performed in the rooftop concert is performing in front of my eyes, this very minute. He wrote “Yesterday.” He gave an interview for the definitive documentary about his band while piloting a boat. He witnessed everything from the clubs in Hamburg to the Cavern Club to the Abbey Road studios. And for this awesome, unexpected moment, he wasn’t in Hamburg or London or any number of other places: He was here!

Paul and his band played out of the back of a flatbed truck stretched across 46th St. in Times Square. When we got off the subway at 42nd, we couldn’t see a huge crowd forming or hear any noise, but as we walked toward the open public spaces nearby, we saw what was obviously the concert crowd. We were in place around 12:50, and pleasantly surprised at how close we got to be.

Here are a few snippets of the show, taken on my iPhone and clumsily uploaded to YouTube:

“Well this is something else, isn’t it? Let’s stay here all day!”

“We’re only allowed 15 minutes up here! Mr. Andy Warhol predicted I would get 15 minutes of fame. This is it.”

“Welcome to Times Square…thank you to the NYPD for looking after us…”

The set consisted of a handful of songs from his forthcoming album “New,” which will be released Tuesday. I knew the title track, but wasn’t familiar with any of the other songs. While part of me wishes he broke into a rousing “Hey Jude” chorus, I kind of love that he played exclusively new stuff. One thing I love about Paul is how he hasn’t retired to some remote island and closed off his talent. He would be totally entitled to do so, of course, but he still wants to be out there – creating new music that fans will grow to love, and indulging them in the hits he knows they already adore. Today, it felt like he was saying, “I’m Paul McCartney. I changed music forever so I can basically do whatever I want. And I have a new album that I want to promote the heck out of.”

As everyone filed out, a guy nearby us perfectly summed up how we all felt: “I’ve never been so happy to be at a concert and not know any of the words.”

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Step on the Gas and Get in the Limousine

Editor’s Note: I haven’t followed the Oregon baseball team closely enough this year to devote a whole post to their playoff success (they won their four-team regional this weekend), but what’s better than your team handing you opportunities to watch live baseball for free? Yay for a Super Regional.

Baseball note aside, this post is really about the Beatles since that’s pretty much all I think about these days. (Though I have devoted a little time in the last week to defending my Honors College thesis, which, after a few revisions are made in the next few days, will pass with honors!)

Since we talked about it in class Thursday, I’ve wanted to write about Abbey Road – specifically, the album’s 16-minute ending medley. Though I’d now consider Sgt. Pepper my favorite album, the Abbey Road medley is probably my favorite “chunk” of Beatles music. (Some people have favorite songs, I have favorite chunks. Reading it back, that sounds pretty gross.) Before I launch into exactly why I love it so much, hear its brilliance for yourself:

“Changed perspective” seems to be the theme of my experience in Beatles class. “You Never Give Me Your Money,” the medley’s opening track, has long been a favorite jam of mine, but more for the EPIC guitar section (2:09-2:28) than anything else. Paul McCartney wrote the song as everything in the Beatles’ world was going to pieces (the “you” refers to Allen Klein, their manager at the time, whom McCartney distrusted). To give you a sense for how depressing the time was, Ian MacDonald, author of Revolution in the Head, says this: “To anyone who loves the Beatles, the bittersweet nostalgia of this music is hard to hear without a tear in the eye.” I’m not crying over this music, but the joyful innocence was gone once I understood its context.

That aside, this song contains one of my favorite Beatles lyrics: “One sweet dream/pick up the bags and get in the limousine/soon we’ll be away from here/step on the gas and wipe that tear away.” I have no idea what these words really meant to Paul, but to me, they’re a symbol of freedom: escaping a dreary situation by getting in a fast car and riding off into the sunset, toward your dream.

I don’t want to ruin the medley by picking apart every song, but I will say I’m partial to Paul’s contributions. “Sun King,” “Mean Mr. Mustard” and “Polythene Pam” (all John’s songs) are alright, but “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window” (Paul) is another favorite, especially because I now know there actually was a girl who came through the bathroom window of Paul’s house and stole a picture of his father.

MacDonald calls “Golden Slumbers” and “Carry That Weight” the “heart of the medley.” I remember the latter tune being a favorite when I was younger, before I understood its place in the medley, and I still love it today for the way it incorporates sections of “You Never Give Me Your Money” while featuring all four Beatles in the chorus vocal.

Writing about “The End” depresses me. Its final line is arguably the Beatles’ most famous, but what I really love is the opener:  “Oh yeah/alright/are you gonna be in my dreams tonight? Paul’s rock n’ roll voice gets me every time.

Of course, “Her Majesty” was tacked on as a hidden track so it’s technically the end of the album, but man – what a way to go out. I almost feel guilty for analyzing the medley as much as I just did. Sometimes, you just have to sit back and listen to that 16 minutes of musical brilliance.

While nothing can really top that, I had to toss in a few other highlights from the past two weeks (and no, this was not a conscious attempt at writing the longest blog post in history):

Highlight 1: We Have a Crush on Paul McCartney c. 1967

My friend Kelly (also in the class) and I have come to terms with the fact that, to meet our biggest celebrity crush, we’d need a time machine. Any out-of-class conversation devolves into gushing about Paul’s status as the handsomest and most important of the Beatles. (Why am I admitting this?) Anyway, we just can’t get over this video of “Hello Goodbye” from 1967 (the Beatles recorded it for the Ed Sullivan Show in lieu of performing live). Watch and see how Paul is obviously the most endearing.

We also think Paul is the highlight here (His meta-reference to “Fixing a Hole”? Adorable!):

Highlight 2: The White Album

I was disappointed we didn’t spend more time on this one in lecture, but in listening to the album on my own, I found two songs I always knew existed but never really listened to: “Martha My Dear” and “Happiness is a Warm Gun.” I now count both among my all-time favorites.

Paul is the only Beatle performing on “Martha My Dear”; since the band members worked separately on much of the White Album material, Paul recorded this in a day with the help of session musicians. No one considers it a standout in the Beatles’ catalog, but I think it’s beautiful (and for whatever reason, I envision it as theme music to a Mary Tyler Moore Show-esque sitcom).

Opposite the simplicity of “Martha My Dear” is “Happiness is a Warm Gun,” a Lennon song. It sounds like three songs in one, and I really love Lennon belting the title lyric in his best ’50s do-op impression (around 1:38).

Highlight 3 – The Rooftop Concert

The Beatles’ rooftop concert is an iconic image for any music fan, but I never understood the circumstances under which it was played. On January 30, 1969, during the Let It Be recording sessions, they decided to play an impromptu concert on the roof of Apple Records’ building, without announcement (or the proper permits). Police shut them down after a few songs, but what a set. This footage of the concert (later included in their Let It Be movie) is awesome, but the true brilliance is in the footage of office workers and cops on the street finally catching on to the madness.

Tuesday is our last lecture and we’ll cover the band’s legacy. If gleefully writing 1,000 words about it is any indication, I’m not ready for that class to end! If you have a favorite moment/song/video from the Beatles’ later years, or would like to divulge your embarrassing Beatle crush details, I am eager to hear.