Affectionate and immaculately researched biography of one of the most popular people on the planet.
McCartney comes across as charming, natural, witty and funny, only slightly straining under pressures of the fame (when he snaps at fans, it becomes front news) and by far the most likable of all his ex-colleagues. Most of the people, when faced with immense wealth and crazed adulation, found it very difficult but McCartney was apparently balanced enough to focus on his family, countryside life, occasional joint and lovely songs. I understand that because he is sunny and upbeat person, McCartney somehow appear less "artistic" and "serious" than John Lennon (who by all accounts was bitter, angry and cynical) but in my opinion world needs upbeat, energetic and sunny people more than moping and depressing ones, so here's my three cheers for McCartney.
There are tons of stories and anecdotes - the book is divided in "The Beatles" and "Paul Solo" halves - at first I expected it too be too detailed and planned to cheat and skip first part but everything was so entertaining and well-connected that I read it with greatest pleasure. Yes, the guys were young and impossible to work with, yes George Martin comes across as genius in the shadow who orchestrated everything, yes the wives were the final nail in the coffin. Paul's solo years were even more interesting because he constantly faced pressure to keep up with oh-so-arty Lennon, crazed adoration from fans and criticism for being lightweight. He was also by far the most successful ex-Beatle and worked darn hard to establish himself as an solo artist.
Howard Sounes traces every relative, neighbour and musician who had ever crossed McCartney's path, but author is not hell-bent on exposing dirty secrets or scandals - he is actually surprisingly clear-eyed about the whole pop superstar phenomenon and describes his subject as a well balanced, likable and decent human being who took good care of his family, relatives and hometown. Its funny to read about all the important business people who had to pinch themselves while making a deals with him ("I am talking to Paul McCartney") because truly he is one of the biggest stars in the world. Contrary to most celebrity biographies, this is not a story of someones downfall and epic tragedy - basically, McCartney became one of world's greatest pop composers at the age of 21 and he just went on to became more and more successful with time. Even under immense scrutiny of media, he appears cheerful, easy-going and lovable personality who loved quiet family life in countryside and worked really hard to step outside of impossible large shadow of his old band. Hard as newspapers might look, there's not much you can put on him except occasional joint, vegetarianism and absolute devotion to his wife - none of which actually means anything bad. One thing that strikes me is how much his easy-going, prince charming public persona was criticised in media for decades, until it became grudgingly accepted that after all he genuinely might be happy, sunny, upbeat person - if he had been suicidal drunk or drug addict he would probably have this romantic appeal of misunderstood, bohemian artist who dies in hunger and poverty, but McCartney basked in success all his life so there is this strange feeling of envy and rejection because he "had it easy" - truth is, we don't know was it easy and his happy, upbeat personality is probably more conscious decision and choice than reality. Everybody can be miserable and depressed, but it takes a real strength to keep on with a smile on your face. I believe McCartney genuinely made a world a better place with his music and that he is at the very top of the most important composers of 20th century.