INTERVIEW: Mary McCartney Gets Honest About Abbey Road in ‘If These Walls Could Sing’
The last two years have been great for fans of The Beatles. For me personally, it has been bittersweet. My graduation gifts from high school included my mom taking me to London where I went to Abbey Road and did the walk across the street and my dad taking me to a Paul McCartney concert. So since his fairly recent passing, it’s been hard for me to watch documentaries about the band he loved so much.
Get Back was hard and If These Walls Could Sing hurt in a different way because I got to speak with Mary McCartney, director of the documentary and daughter of Paul McCartney and Linda McCartney. It was a big moment in my career when I wanted to call my dad and tell him about it and I couldn’t. I said as much when I got to speak with McCartney about her film, which documents the history of Abbey Road long before the Beatles began recording there and what has happened since.
Between my own connection to the Beatles and Mary McCartney’s memories of being there with her parents, our conversation was an emotional one. She was so open to talking with me about art, photography, and growing up that it was a beautiful conversation I’ll cherish. And wish I could tell my dad about it.
One of the best parts of If These Walls Could Sing is learning the history of the studio space, both as it pre-dates the Beatles and the more recent but still iconic history. I asked McCartney what her favorite thing she learned in her research for the documentary was.
“I think probably the breadth of what’s gone on there was fascinating,” she said. “But also just the longevity. Like, I think the thing that most surprised me was that it opened in 1931 and I was like, okay, I didn’t know that. So what happened from 1931 until The Beatles got there and that was sort of the journey. And then that was it. I didn’t know any of it. So I had to sit down with my team and go right, go through the session sheets, go through Abbey Road. Luckily had a lot of information they could give us. And so I went through and I sort of had a learning curve going through. I was really fascinated when I found out that Fela Kuti had recorded three albums there because I love his music. That was great.”
This documentary has such a fantastic scope as it looks at everything that took place at Abbey Road, including John Williams composing music and recording it there for Indiana Jones and more.
The movie journey of Abbey Road
While watching the movie late at night, I was shocked to suddenly see John Williams being interviewed. He ushered in a section of the documentary where Mary McCartney dived into the movies that got their score recorded there. “Well, the thing is there’s so many films, all of the Harry Potter films, all the Lord of the Ring trilogy. But I invited John Williams, you know, I said, can I interview you? And he agreed,” McCartney explained. “So then I thought from that I’m gonna hang the movie section of him because also when you see the documentary, I mean he’s literally the most eloquent man explaining things, I think it’s probably one of the highlights of the documentary is just the way he talks about the space and how eloquently in a way that nobody else can because he’s just John Williams, he’s a complete one off and he is the most Oscar-nominated, versatile movie composer of all time.”
“So to have his voice sort of to pin that section on and then have George Lucas as well and that was a real dream. And again, it made me so pleased that I did the documentary because it’s just the opportunity to learn that and speak to him was heartwarming. And I think he gave a lot, I wanted the style of the interviews to be very informal and relaxed and it worked. Because I hadn’t met him before and so a lot was relying on his interview because I did want him to sort of pin that whole film section in the documentary. And he did a wonderful job.”
The movie as a whole is beautiful whether or not you know a lot about Abbey Road or if you’re a Beatles fan or if you just want to watch a documentary about an iconic recording studio. McCartney was a joy to talk with I’m so grateful she was receptive to me talking about my personal emotional connection to her father’s work and how this documentary reminded me of what makes me love Paul McCartney.
If These Walls Could Sing is available on Disney+.
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