Shot in black and white in a dimly lit Abbey Road studio, the six-part documentary McCartney 3,2,1 proves you don’t need much else besides a recording console playing deconstructed Beatles and Wings songs — and Sir Paul reflecting on the very moment of creation.
Oh, it helps to have iconoclast producer Rick Rubin coaxing Macca along as well.
Rubin — the man who gave the world the metal-rap hybrid debut of Beastie Boys, the explosion that was Red Hot Chili Pepper’s “Blood Sugar Sex Magick” and a raw return to Johnny Cash’s brilliance in the “American Recordings” series — gently prods the former Beatle in ping-pong fashion, jumping from 1963’s All My Loving to 1973’s “Band on the Run” recordings in Lagos (where Paul recounts being robbed of the band’s demo tapes at gunpoint, sending them scampering home to London to recreate the vibe — literally, a “band on the run”).
Rubin, a self-confessed music naïf, does possess a certain ear for what’s provocative or new, and has band-whispered many studio-shy bands into brilliance — telling, say, Metallica to “write a song for someone else” as an oblique strategy in the studio.
Macca doesn’t require anybody’s prodding to bash out music. Even sitting at a standup piano in the studio, he proves it’s easy as breathing to come up with something from scratch, based around a bit of Fats Domino boogie or Bach chord blocking. (Listen to him improvise a fresh melody over George Harrison’s bare guitar chords from the original While My Guitar Gently Weeps sessions. It’s just in his blood.)
While avoiding the recent trash-talking he’s indulged in (telling Howard Stern that their rivals the Rolling Stones were “basically a blues cover band,” and laying the Beatles breakup blame squarely on Lennon), McCartney 3, 2, 1 manages to pull some fresh anecdotes out of the consummate media-friendly Macca: you may have heard some of these stories before, but likely there are new shadings and insights that are worth a casual, episode-at-a-time visit.
McCartney 3,2,1 is shown on Hulu.