Paul McCartney Reveals 'Embarrassing' Moment That 'Melted' His Career as a Lead Guitarist

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Paul McCartney recalled the moment on a new episode of his podcast 'Paul McCartney: A Life in Lyrics'

Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images Paul McCartney in London in September 2019
Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images Paul McCartney in London in September 2019

Paul McCartney may have spent his time with the Beatles playing bass, but in another life, he could’ve been a lead guitarist.

The rock legend, 81, revealed on a new episode of his podcast Paul McCartney: A Life in Lyrics (from iHeartPodcasts and Pushkin) that one fateful night onstage shaped the rest of his playing career.

McCartney said that in the early days, he was good at guitar while “at home,” and that bandmate John Lennon’s Aunt Mimi Smith used to praise him as being “much better than John” at playing.

“Mind you, when I first met John, he played banjo chords,” McCartney explained. “He didn’t play guitar, ‘cause I had to show him guitar chords because he’d been taught by his mum [Julia], and she only knew banjo chords.”

Though he’d been the one to give Lennon lessons, McCartney says his dreams of being a lead guitarist went up in flames one night as the group played a venue called the Conservative Club, located above a shop on Broadway in their hometown of Liverpool.

Related: Paul McCartney Says an Early Beatles Car Accident Led to Mantra That Helped Their Careers: 'Something Will Happen'

<p>Getty Images</p> Paul McCartney and John Lennon on The Ed Sullivan Show

Getty Images

Paul McCartney and John Lennon on The Ed Sullivan Show

“We had this gig and it was like, the first thing I ever played, and I was lead guitar player. John was rhythm,” he recalled. “And I had a solo and I totally froze. Could not move my fingers. … It was like, just so embarrassing. My lead guitar playing career melted at that moment and I said, ‘Well, I’m not doing this again. I’m not cut out for this. I’m no good.’”

It remains unclear just when the fateful performance took place, though Beatles history websites indicate it was likely around 1957, when Lennon and McCartney were still playing with The Quarry Men and had yet to become the Beatles.

Related: Remembering John Lennon and Paul McCartney's Last Recording Together — Four Years After the Beatles’ Split

McCartney, of course, went on to become the bass player for the Beatles, while Lennon was rhythm guitar. George Harrison played lead guitar, while Ringo Starr was the drummer.

Paul McCartney: A Life in Lyrics is a 12-part series, which each focusing on a different song in McCartney’s iconic catalog.

On the podcast, the star teams up with poet Paul Muldoon, with whom he collaborated on the 2021 book The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present.

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