When Paul McCartney hailed punk rock and a Sex Pistol

This almost happened.
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The Beatles turned music upside down and gave it a shake. They had wild screaming crowds and at times turned their back on the establishment. So we shouldn’t be surprised to find a link and an appreciation between the band and punk rock.

The music they played may be quite different from punk, but the Beatles did develop so many different styles in their relatively short recording career. It has even been said that “Helter Skelter” from The White Album may have influenced future punk bands. Paul McCartney has also been revealed several times to be quite a punk fan. Even to the extent of chasing a Sex Pistol for a chat.

Back in 2008, McCartney gave an interview published in The Stool Pigeon. A now defunct biweekly music newspaper and reported via The Quietus McCartney spoke of his admiration for punk music and thoughts when it first emerged.

Paul McCartney rates and plays punk rock

“At first it was shocking because until then you'd known the status quo. It hoped to be shocking and in some ways it was. But the thing was that the music was great and suddenly realised, after a day or two of horror - [adopts posh voice] 'My God! What's going on? What's happening to our England?!' - that these guys were just shaking it up and it needed shaking up.”

"My daughter [Heather] was really into punk at the time. She went to Clash concerts and Damned concerts, Billy Idol and sh*t . . . she went to the whole thing. You couldn't deny that it sounded fresh, but I was coached by my eldest daughter. I understood that it needed to happen and it was a great thing and something like “Pretty Vacant” as a record, is really good.”

“It was produced by Chris Thomas, who we knew - he was George Martin's assistant and had worked on some Beatles stuff.” McCartney went on to give punk and the Sex Pistols a thumbs up. The sound of “Pretty Vacant” is really good and, of course, the energy of the band is sensational. It's not to be denied.”

That's followed by a story from a session musician calling himself Abner Doolittle on a private Facebook group a few years back. As The Daily Beatle explains, it tells of McCartney again discussing being a punk rock fan. But that wasn't the real surprise in the story. In the recording studio the next day, McCartney appeared with his Les Paul guitar at the ready and kicked off playing “Pretty Vacant” to the astonishment of everyone there.

McCartney hasn't dropped that punk love or music style though. It may not appear on his own material too often but there was a great example last year in another slightly surprising collaboration. The Rolling Stones album Hackney Diamonds had a song “Bite My Head Off” which is pretty punky. McCartney was signed up to play bass by Mick Jagger on the track and did an impressively spikey job of it too.

McCartney meets a Sex Pistol - almost anyway!

What about the Sex Pistols view though? Would they be happy about McCartney's endorsement of their music and “Pretty Vacant”? Well, lead singer Johnny Rotten has revealed what he thought of the Fab Four and what he did when he came face to face with McCartney and his late wife Linda. Rotten was speaking on Piers Morgan’s Life Stories TV show, as Far Out magazine explains. Rotten spoke of not liking The Beatles because his mum and dad were fans of the group. Typically rebellious thinking there. 

Less typical of our normal view of Rotten was him admitting to shyness and swerving the McCartneys outside Harrods in London. “I was with my wife and we were going to visit my brother. We were driving through London, and two people came running across the street, and it’s Paul and Linda McCartney. They were banging on the car window. I put the lockdown and just turned. I could not cope with it. My shyness took over.”

Apparently, McCartney wasn't giving up that easily and chased the taxi down the road. But without success. There’s not much that gets away from the Beatles, but it looks like the Sex Pistols star’s retreat won that day.

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