Monday, 5 May 2014

Features: The man who refused to cash in on Beatlemania

His brother is one of the most famous men in the world, but Mike ‘McGear’ McCartney chose not to ride on the coat tails of Beatlemania and set out to carve his own career as a musician and photographer.

Tonight he will be at Square Chapel, Halifax, to talk about his extraordinary life, recalling stories and sharing photos and films from his childhood days in Liverpool, his chart-topping career with The Scaffold, and his career as a photographer.

Mike is as proud as ever not to cash-in on his brother Paul’s popularity and even went as far as changing his surname at the height of the Beatles’ popularity.

“Americans cannot believe that I changed my name from Mike McCartney to Mike McGear,” says Mike.

“Talk about killing yourself, talk about not cashing in, talk about going the hard way - that’s what we do in Liverpool.

“My family name was just too well-known - it would have been like being called Mike Presley or Mike Sinatra.

“It was the pride and determination not to cash in and because I did that, a lot of people only knew me as Mike McGear.”

As a member of pop group The Scaffold, Mike had a string of hits including Lily the Pink (1968), Thank You Very Much (1973) and Liverpool Lou (1974).

From 1970 to 71, Mike was a regular on children’s TV on the subversively titled Score With The Scaffold.

The show was characterised by a sense of mischief and improvisation that wouldn’t be allowed on TV today.

“Even from its title you could sense what we were doing - there’s one meaning of the word score that’s to do with counting, and then there’s another,” says Mike.

“In the 60s, if you had an idea to try something then you just did it - if it took off all the better.”

“Today, an artist working on TV has to jump through hoops with accountants and lawyers and so there’s no spontaneity on TV now - it’s all too clinical and clean - it’s a real shame, there’s definitely something lost there,” he says.

Mike says he can’t wait to see what his visit to Halifax has in store for him, as every town he visits on his tour brings up new stories and reunites him with old friends.

“I can’t wait to get to Square Chapel to find out who’s there, because every gig I have done I have had people come up to me and remind me of this and that from decades ago.

“For instance, at one of the points in my two hour show I show a video that was filmed all around Liverpool in 1967, and at a show in Devon a bloke came up to me at the end and said he was the cop in the video - you couldn’t make it up.”

Returning to the road has also put him in touch with old flames from his youth.

“I used to go out with a girl from near Scarborough and I have a picture of us from when we were 16 years old.

“I saw her on the Antiques Roadshow with the letters I’d sent to her as a 16-year-old lad talking about getting Scaffold together and I drew her all these cartoons,” says Mike.

“I hadn’t seen her for 54 years and on the day we were to perform in Scarborough, my manager told me she’d sent me message through Facebook.

“She brought the cards and letter with her to the theatre and allowed me to photograph them - it was absolutely extraordinary.”

Mike says each gig is completely different because he tries to tailor each show to the place he is perfoming and responds to the audience.

“I always go off on tangents during the shows because I think of things or someone in the audience will remind me,” he says.

lMike ‘McGear’ McCartney will be perfoming Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll (I Wish!) at Square Chapel on Friday.

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