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     Volume 4 Issue 3 | September 16, 2005 |

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When he is sixty-three

Subhajit Banerjee

Life's tough for a Paul McCartney fan. It was a wait of four years after the last album a rather disappointing one at that and then, frenzied activity in the past few weeks that has been almost hard to keep track of.

The 63-year-old ex-Beatle not to mention the richest rocker in the world is releasing his 20th solo album today. And fans many of them in the media can't seem to get enough of Sir Paul.

If, on BBC radio, McCartney is recounting the horrors and highlights of the new album Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, he's telling Time magazine that he hears bandmate John Lennon the late great in his head while writing songs!

As for his fans, songs have been trickling out from the new album at various stages of creation in the past two years. Some leaked out from the studio while others were previewed by the artiste in his live performances.

Things, however, changed when the first single, Fine Line, was released on August 29. The mid-tempo mild rocker, in which McCartney plays all the instruments himself, sets the tone for the upcoming album where he not only plays "traditional" instruments like guitar, bass, keyboard and drums, but also exotic ones like harmonium, block flute and flugelhorn.

Fine Line marked a digital leap for McCartney you guessed it, a Mac user who had firmly held out so far against making his catalogue available at online music stores. The new single and its b-sides Comfort of Love and Growing Up Falling Down were made ready for download simultaneously with the CDs reaching music stores.

There are also plans now to video stream one of his live concerts to an Oxford Circus store for a handful of select fans in London.

Following the release of the single, the fan forums and discussion boards went crazy with raves and rants on the merits of the song. A special section on McCartney's official site whetted the appetite further with previews of other songs and the video for Fine Line.

And then, a couple of days back, the torrent terror struck. To the file-trading community, BitTorrent today is what Napster was yesterday. This nifty file-sharing method makes downloading huge files a breeze for anyone with a broadband connection. The latest movies, soap episodes and albums… the content could be anything.

A high-quality, CD-rip of Chaos and Creation… a mere 64 MB in size was made available for download. No one knows how, but fingers are pointed at the Japanese release, which preceded the US release date of September 13.

The raging debate among fans now is whether a true Macca devotee should download the torrent of the new album. "Promise me you'll go out and buy the album nevertheless," pleaded one, after posting the download link on a forum. "You're playing with fire, man. Think how mad Paul and his men would be," warned a fellow forum member. "But we'd all buy it anyway, wouldn't we?" asked yet another.

As for the album itself, McCartney teamed up with veteran music producer Nigel Godrich, noted for his output with bands like Radiohead and Travis. Interestingly, Godrich was recommended by George Martin, the legendary producer for the Beatles as well as some of McCartney's solo discs.

As McCartney admitted in interviews after finishing the album, there were moments when the partnership went through rough weather. Particularly when Godrich spoke his mind clearly, trashing some of the tracks McCartney brought for the album.

It was also Godrich who made the veteran musician drop the idea of having a backing band on the album, and instead, play everything himself. "'I'd like to take you out of your safety zone,' Godrich said. 'You know these guys and you know what you're doing with them,' he said. 'I'd like to get you out of that zone,'" McCartney recalled in a recent interview.

This is not the first time McCartney has attempted something like this. McCartney, his first post-Beatles solo venture, as well as McCartney II, the start of a second solo innings post-Wings, were both created single-handedly.

Highlights of the 13-track new album include the acoustic ballad Jenny Wren (described by McCartney as the "daughter of Blackbird"), Too Much Rain (inspired by Charlie Chaplin's song Smile and McCartney's wife Heather) and Friends To Go (inspired by his Beatles bandmate George Harrison).

Besides the album, there have been other projects that have kept the rocker busy. He opened the Live 8 series of July concerts at Hyde Park with U2, recreating 60s' summer of love through a rendition of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. He returned 10 hours later to close the London leg with his solo set that ended with a mega singalong featuring all the day's performers, just like the original Live Aid, 20 years ago.

The album release coincides with the start of his 11-week 28-date US tour, while a children's book penned by him, High in the Clouds: An Urban Furry Tail, is due for release in October.

Will Chaos and Creation... reach the top of the charts and bring back some magic McCartney moments? That's for the marker to monitor. For fans, all that matters is he is back and rocking, even at a little shy of 64.

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