Paul McCartney, the type of man who washes out his one pair of socks after the gig, is polite, profanity-averse, and still a prolific performer to this day. In Chris Heath’s GQ profile, he talks about getting mugged with Linda while recording Band on the Run in Nigeria, killing frogs on his childhood estate to “toughen himself up,” and collaborating with Kanye West.

It is not so difficult to get Paul McCartney to talk about the past, and this can be a problem. Anyone who has read more than a few interviews with him knows that he has a series of anecdotes, mostly Beatles-related, primed and ready to roll out in situations like these. Pretty good stories, some of them, too. But my goal is to guide McCartney to some less manicured memories—in part because I hope they’ll be fascinating in themselves, but also because I hope that if I can lure him off the most well-beaten tracks, that might prod him to genuinely think about, and reflect upon, his life

The public face that McCartney has tended to push forward is of someone who, even given the extraordinary circumstances of his life, is some kind of genial everyman. It’s a good bluff, and there may be some truth to it, though the more time I spent with him, the more I glimpsed other McCartneys—ones much weirder, or more fragile, or cockier, or harder, or needier, or nerdier, or more eccentric, or more playful than his advertised persona—and that made sense to me. Because I think it’s probably taken all of them to do what Paul McCartney has done, and to work out how to be who he is, as the glorious surprise of the life he made for himself has continued to unfold.

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