Paul McCartney – The Love We Make (2011)

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Paul McCartney, sitting in a plane waiting to return to his native England, saw the smoke rising from the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001. The son of a volunteer firefighter during the German Blitz of World War II, McCartney was moved to assemble an all-star concert in honor of New York City’s surviving first responders and the families of those who perished at the World Trade Center.

The forthcoming behind-the-scenes DVD The Love We Make, set for release today from Eagle Rock, chronicles the rehearsals, interviews and day-to-day events leading up to an event eventually dubbed the Concert For New York City, a gala event at Madison Square Garden featuring the Who, Billy Joel, Jay-Z, David Bowie, Eric Clapton, Elton John, the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.

The film makes clear, from the first, just how deeply touched McCartney was — and on a very personal level — by the devastating terror attacks.

[ONE TRACK MIND: Laurence Juber takes over our One Track Mind feature to discuss key songs from his tenure with Paul McCartney and Wings, along with favorite sides from his solo career and Al Stewart projects.]

“I started thinking what can I do,” he says, “because there’s going to be a spirit shift in New York and America. This is suddenly a place where people are going to feel vulnerable, for first time in a long time. Being born at end of World War II, I was only a baby then, but I grew up in the shadow of that. All my parents and the grown ups talked about was this idea of being in a war. You saw how they dealt with this. It was with humor; it was with music. That’s how they dealt with it.”

And, with that, McCartney and Co. tear into a spirited rehearsal version of the Beatles’ “I’m Down.”

Dan Rather arrives late for an interview with McCartney, because his office was in the grips of the subsequent Anthrax scares that followed the Sept. 11 attacks. It’s a shocking reminder of how fear continued to sweep through the city, and the country. Otherwise, so much of the film is frankly, and quite pleasantly rudimentary — the most striking proof there is that life would indeed go on — as people ask him about reforming the Beatles, talk about the World Series, steal away for autographs. Life had changed, forever, but then again — it hadn’t. The show goes on. There’s stage makeup to put on, and a set list to fuss over.

Once the concert gets underway, it’s easy to lose yourself in these timeless musical moments: The late John Enwhistle, just a statue of cool, performing with the Who. Mick Jagger’s ageless peacocking. Billy Joel eliciting tears with his “New York State of Mind.” But McCartney spends the bulk of it backstage reminiscing with friends, both old and new — James Taylor, who recorded his initial album for the Beatles’ Apple Records, and former president Bill Clinton among them. The wonder of it all for him remains the small things, the personal connections.

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Henry McCullough talks about his time with Paul McCartney and Wings, a period that included ‘Red Rose Speedway’ and “Live and Let Die.”]

The Love We Make ends, perhaps as it should, in another offhanded moment, with McCartney visiting a New York firehouse. First, a fire responder hands him a helmet with the engine company number on it, to which the former Beatle winkingly entones: “Number nine,” recalling the White Album deep cut.

“My dad was a firefighter in World War II,” he tells the gathering, more seriously, as the violin accompaniment for “Yesterday” colors the background. “He used to tell us these stories and I never used to really appreciate it. If he was not out there fighting fires, it was like, ‘oh, he’s just my dad.’ But when I saw all this, when I saw all you guys, it’s like, ‘whoa, my dad did that.’ It brought it all home.”

The Love We Make was filmed by Albert Maysles and Bradley Kaplan. Maysles rode with the Beatles as they drove into New York for the first time in 1964 with his brother David, who documented the seminal visit. That footage became the basis for two films, What’s Happening!: The Beatles in the USA and The Beatles: The First US Visit. The Maysles brothers later shot the Stones’ Gimme Shelter documentary, among others.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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