Staff Writer Emma Burris spots
fellow Bwogger Paul McCartney mourning the death of beloved friend John Lennon at the Strawberry Fields memorial in Central Park.
Since it’s the reading period, I had some more time on my hands than usual. One chilly Wednesday afternoon, I decided to take a trip down to the Strawberry Fields memorial. I’m a big fan of the Beatles and visiting the memorial has been on my bucket list for a while. I expected something magical, but all it was was some tiled circle in the ground surrounded by barren trees, somber hippies, and Beatles impersonators. Feeling underwhelmed, I turned to go when I saw none other than Sir
SimonPaul PanfilioMcCartney wavering in the crowd.
At the old age of 80, you could tell he didn’t care much anymore about paparazzis. He still cleaned up for John though, sporting a button-down shirt and a tie. Since he was choking back tears, I decided to keep my distance for a bit. Once he turned to leave, I approached him and asked for an interview.
Paul sighed, ran his hands through his hair, and said, “Alright, mate. Got nothing else to do.” Below is a transcript from our delightful conversation.
Emma Burris: Are you Paul McCartney?
Paul McCartney: Um…what do you mean? I’m Simon—uh, no, I’m Paul! Yeah, yeah—I am Sir James Paul McCartney CH MBE.
EB: What are you doing in New York?
SPPM: I came to pay tribute to my friend John and remember and honor his memory. Oh what else am I doing…um…also I’m headlining Bacchanal…or I don’t know…
EB: You don’t remember?
SPPM: I don’t. Are you transcribing this whole thing word for word?
EB: Yes. Wait, did you just admit that you’re headlining Columbia University’s music festival Bacchanal?
SPPM: You didn’t hear that from me. But you may be seeing Ringo and I very soon. Wait, Ringo’s the one who’s alive still, right?
EB: How many instruments can you play?
SPPM: Well I’ve played all of them at one point in my life for a past life. But, regularly, one.
EB: Which one?
EB: Which member of the Beatles did you have the greatest friendship with?
SPPM: I think John and I were the closest because of all those times we had sex together. Uh, but Ringo and I have stayed in contact ever since the tragic passing of John and George. So…overall, John but right now I’d say Ringo.
EB: Never George?
SPPM: George and I were never really close. He would always throw things at me and knock stuff out of my hands and call me stupid just because I quote unquote “didn’t let him have any creative control over anything.” We always had sort of a tense relationship. There was a workman’s like, respect between us but he would just throw things at me all the time.
EB: What sort of things did he throw at you?
SPPM: You know, pianos, drums, one time he threw John at me. It was very impressive. These were during the cocaine days, so…
EB: Ah. I see. What would you say to John Lennon if he was alive today, standing right in front of you?
SPPM: I would say, “John, I wish it had been me that took that bullet from Mark David Chapman on December 20, 1980.”
EB: Which is your favorite piece of your solo work?
SPPM: The favorite solo song I ever released was probably “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime.” I’m really proud of that one. You know, the songs I did even with the Beatles but then on my solo career with Wings, I really didn’t just put much work into, you know. They’re fine. But “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime,” that was my magnum opus. I spent years and years working on this and perfecting my craft just so that I could release something as good as this. And I could say it paid off.
EB: Where did you get the inspiration for that song?
SPPM: I was, I first heard about Christmas when I was twenty-years-old and I was just fascinated by the idea of this sort of niche, exciting holiday where you could just celebrate, celebrate the seasons. So I set out to create something that could be, that could be what “Monster Mash” was for Halloween.
EB: But for Christmas.
SPPM: But for Christmas.
EB: Why does your voice sound American when you sing?
SPPM: I was actually born in Missouri and I moved to Britain to pursue my musical career in Liverpool. But I’ve actually never had a British accent—it’s just, it’s just I fake it for the media. But when I sing, you know, I don’t have the energy to fake it. I just let it all out. Cause music is passion. Music is personal. Music is you.
EB: What is your real name?
SPPM: My real name is actually Ringo but when we formed the band together we knew it would be too awkward to have two Ringos, so I agreed to change it. I grabbed a random book, the Bible, I flipped to a random page, and the rest is history.
EB: Why didn’t you wear shoes on the Abbey Road album cover?
SPPM: I forgot them that day. I just forgot them at home. And I was like, we only have this crosswalk booked for the next ten minutes. Like we really have to get the photoshoot done. So I just rawdogged it.
EB: How do you just forget shoes? Like, did you not feel the ground beneath your feet?
SPPM: I…when I go out, I feel the world all around me. And I feel the world all around me. So no, when I’m not wearing shoes I don’t know the ground. Cause I’m feeling it, just not through my feet. Also I was just really, really high.
EB: Have you ever stepped on glass and not noticed it?
SPPM: Not glass. I did step on a pit of spikes in an old temple I was exploring without shoes on. That was a whole incident. But no, never glass, miraculously.
EB: Wow. How long did it take for you to feel the pain?
SPPM: It took about 20 minutes before I realized that my foot was just sort of dangling there. Like, it wasn’t even fully attached anymore. And I was like, “Wow!”
EB: Wow. So that’s the spirit of the album Abbey Road, that’s what it’s about, that’s what it’s based on?
SPPM: That’s the, that’s the spirit that we tried to encapsulate with Abbey Road. You know, if you go back and listen to like, really any of the songs—you’ll notice that if you listen hard enough, all of the songs are about having your foot dangling from your leg.
EB: And that’s a metaphor for life.
SPPM: It’s a metaphor for life, but on a more real level it’s a metaphor for stepping on sharp things.
EB: Do you agree or disagree with John Lennon’s statement that the Beatles are “more popular than Jesus”?
SPPM: I would agree with John, as I would in most things. Rest in peace John. But you know, Jesus had some followers. But he had what, 12 loyal disciples that followed him around at all times? I think we had that beat. And you know, did Jesus write “Yesterday,” did Jesus write “Let It Be,” did Jesus walk bare—oh, Jesus did walk barefoot in a lot of places. Did Jesus write an entire album about stepping on sharp things and change the future of music forever? Did Jesus ever have a movie in which all of, a movie which explores the impact of the entire world forgetting that his songs existed? I don’t think so.
EB: But didn’t Jesus, didn’t sharp things go through Jesus at the end of his life? Like, how would you contend that?
SPPM: We’ll call it a draw, I guess. Jesus and the Beatles, we both had some sharp things go through us. It’s pretty even on that front. I’ll call it a 50-50.
EB: Okay. Did you wear a wig?
SPPM: What makes you ask that? Who told you?
EB: All four of you had the exact same haircut at the start of your career. What was that?
SPPM: We went to the same hairdresser who was just, had really no creative sense altogether. And we decided that maybe it’s best for our brand if we have a defining image, and that image was always our hair.
EB: So you never had hair transplants?
SPPM: No, no never, what makes you say that?
EB: How has your hair still not gone gray at the age of 80? What is your hair treatment like?
SPPM: Every morning I wake up, I splash some cold water on my face, I do a little face mask, and then I pour printer toner into my hair. I saw this episode of the Office, my favorite show of all time, I love the Office.
EB: The British or the American one?
SPPM: The American version.
EB: Because you’re from Missouri.
SPPM: Because I’m from Missouri. And I saw this episode where he uses printer ink to just dye his hair jet black. And I was like, “That’s exactly what I’ve been going for.”
EB: What would you say in response to the speculation that Paul McCartney died in 1966?
SPPM: You know, we sort of put that rumor out there to distract from the fact that George actually died. George just…fuck…
EB: You don’t remember?
SPPM: I don’t remember.
EB: Did someone just hit you very hard in the head at some point in your life? Did someone maybe kill you?
SPPM: Yeah, it was George. He threw pianos at me, I think one of those pianos took me out of commission for a few weeks.
EB: Did it kill you and maybe you’re now reincarnated?
SPPM: I suppose I couldn’t, I mean I wouldn’t know if I had been. So maybe I have been reincarnated. You’ve been reincarnated. Maybe I’ll meet John again someday, because he’s been reincarnated.
EB: So…in response to the speculation that Paul is dead, you have to say, “I don’t know.”
SPPM: I…I’ll leave that to you. I don’t know.
EB: Tell us about the nine days you spent in a Japanese jail.
SPPM: It was the year 2000 and NSYNC was just coming out, and I was like absolutely blown away at an NSYNC concert in Tokyo. I was just like, “These guys are the next Beatles. These are insane.” I tried to party with the band, me and Justin Timberlake went out for a night on the town. I don’t really know what happened next but I remember I woke up in prison. In jail.
EB: And what did you do there?
SPPM: Um…you know, I’m not going to disclose too much about the private and personal information about the people in the jail, but let’s say a lot of…a lot of the rumors you hear about prisons, especially men’s prisons, are true.
EB: Okay, last question—who was your favorite wife?
SPPM: My favorite wife was actually Heather. Even though our marriage ended a bit contentiously, she holds a special spot in my heart because she seemed very similar to John, she definitely reminded me of him.
EB: Interesting. One more thing—don’t I know you from somewhere?
SPPM: Uh, the Beatles?
EB: No, I feel like I’ve seen you around campus. You haven’t happened to enroll at Columbia, have you?
SPPM: Well, was Heather my favorite wife?
EB: Is that a yes?
EB: Hey, you’re not in Bwog are you? You kind of look like this guy I know—Simon Panfilio?
SPPM: Listen—keep this under wraps. I’m kind of…attending Columbia. But I don’t want people to recognize me as acclaimed Beatle and Wing Sir James Paul McCartney CH MBE. So, I got significant plastic surgery to make me look like a nineteen-year-old boy. I chose the name Simon Panfilio and decided to join an on-campus news organization to fit in more. You’re the only one who’s discovered the act.
EB: Are you really performing at Bacchanal?
SPPM: You tell me.
EB: As Simon or as Paul?
SPPM: I guess you’ll just have to wait and find out for yourself.
I feel like our interview gave me a lot of fresh insight into the life of Paul McCartney. I thought I knew so much about his life, but after speaking to him I realized I now stand corrected. I never knew the Beatles were so impacted by the use of the tambourine, or that John Lennon was shot 12 days later than I remembered, or that Paul regularly dyes his hair with printer ink. Most of all, I was impressed to hear that Paul is now enrolled as a student at Columbia—I suppose our days together are far from over!
Paul mourns John.
After I finished asking my questions, I told Paul I had to get back to campus. He grabbed my hand and said, “Wait. There’s one more thing I have to do.” He led me across the street to the Dakota, the very apartment building where John Lennon was shot. He got down on his knees and prayed. Sobbing, Paul exclaimed, “John, John, it should’ve been me. It should’ve been me.” Then, he took off his shoes and abbeyroaded into the distance, never to be seen again.
Paul McCartney/doppelgänger Simon Panfilio, via Emma Burris