Paul McCartney 'Didn't Know What to Do' with Himself Post-Beatles: 'Impossible Act to Follow'

"I didn't know what to do with myself, and trying something new was really risky," said the legendary singer

Sir Paul McCartney arrives at the Stella McCartney show as part of the Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Fall/Winter 2016/2017 on March 7, 2016 in Paris, France.
Paul McCartney. Photo: Pierre Suu/Getty

Paul McCartney is opening up about life after The Beatles.

The 80-year-old icon was a member of the 7-time Grammy-winning group with John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr until it disbanded in 1970. McCartney then ventured out into a successful solo career.

On his website, the "Coming Up" singer answered a question that a fan asked via Twitter on the biggest risk he's taken in his decades-long career.

"The main question I had was whether to keep going after The Beatles," he wrote in the post published on Tuesday, "because it was a hard act — some might say, an impossible act — to follow."

Praising the group's talent, McCartney added, "The ingredients in the Beatles were so unique. You had John right there, who could have made any group brilliant. Then you had George's talent, and Ringo's, and then me."

McCartney confessed that once the members went their separate ways, "I didn't know what to do with myself, and trying something new was really risky."

He continued, "Then, of course, having [McCartney's first wife] Linda [McCartney] in Wings, when she was not a 'musician', was a risk too. When the reviews started to come in a lot of them focused on her, asking, 'What's she doing in the band?' And that was hurtful. But I rationalised it by thinking about when we started The Beatles and none of us knew our chords - over time we got better and picked things up."

26th October 1965: British pop group The Beatles, from left to right; Ringo Starr, John Lennon (1940 - 1980), Paul McCartney and George Harrison (1943 - 2001), outside Buckingham Palace, London, after receiving their MBE's (Member of the Order of the British Empire) from the Queen. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)
The Beatles receive their MBE's at Buckingham Palace. Fox Photos/Getty

He recalled feeling like he was starting all over and "earning my fame again."

"In the early days of Wings, we decided to go right back to square one, taking a van up the motorway and playing little spontaneous gigs at universities for students, rather than jumping straight in with big live shows," said McCartney. "I'd doubled back to almost being nothing - just some guy in the band - and now I was earning my fame again. By the time the mid-70s came around when we were doing a big American tour, that was the vindication of it. We were so tight and had come up together, as it were. The risk paid off."

He added that he's typically not one to take risks and came to a crossroad after his final days in The Beatles.

"I'm quite careful normally," said McCartney. "There's a couple of times in life when you are forced into taking a risk. After The Beatles, this was my situation: 'Do I keep going with music, or not?' Well, I want to keep going. So, 'How am I going to do it? Am I going to have a band, or am I just going to busk outside train stations? How's it going to work?' "

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He noted that Lennon is "the polar opposite" and often bravely took risks, making Lennon, for McCartney, someone who "was very exciting to be around."

"Obviously, I'm not completely square. I do a lot of zany stuff! That's in my character too, but I
don't live my life as a risk-taker. I try and work it out to some extent."

In October 2021, McCartney revealed the truth behind The Beatles' breakup on the BBC Radio 4 interview series This Cultural Life with John Wilson. He said that though many believed that he instigated it — it was actually Lennon who did.

"I didn't instigate the split. That was our Johnny," McCartney, 79, said of the band's breakup in 1970, which consisted of McCartney, Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

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He later added on his decision to go solo, "I am not the person who instigated the split. Oh no, no, no. John walked into a room one day and said, 'I am leaving the Beatles.' Is that instigating the split, or not?"

In fact, McCartney said that when it first happened, he wanted the band to go on — since after eight years together, they were still creating "pretty good stuff."

"This was my band, this was my job, this was my life, so I wanted it to continue," McCartney said.

McCartney also added that if Lennon had not quit, the band's musical journey would've gone on much longer, but Lennon was "always looking to break loose."

"It could have been. The point of it really was that John was making a new life with Yoko. John had always wanted to sort of break loose from society because, you know, he was brought up by his Aunt Mimi, who was quite repressive, so he was always looking to break loose," McCartney said of his late bandmate, who was killed at age 40 in 1980.

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