Happy Birthday to Paul McCartney: Undercover Deadhead

Raffaela Kenny-Cincotta on June 18, 2018

June 18, 2018 marks Paul McCartney’s 76th birthday, and what better way to remember all of the Beatle’s accomplishments than to ramble on about the Grateful Dead. 

It seems gratuitous but, in fact, Macca’s history intertwines with the Dead quite a bit. In 1996, he compiled a series of ’60-era photos taken by his late wife Linda McCartney, and created “Grateful Dead: A Photofilm.” 

Within the nine-minute film, Paul pulled from four rolls of Linda’s film, featuring stills of a Dead show in Central Park and portraits of the band taken at the Grateful Dead House in Haight-Ashbury. Speaking with the New York Times, McCartney described the flip book-like nature of the film, which also included his hand-written  title cards and credits. ”I noticed where [Linda] was trying to get a portrait of Bob Weir, she would take a whole roll of him, one photo after another,” he said. ”Of course, she only needed one shot, but in looking at the whole roll it looked like a movie. Your eyes almost ran it all together.”

And while “Grateful Dead: A Photofilm,” seems to be lost in the ether of time (If you can find a copy online, please send it to Relix!), Weir did give McCartney and The Beatles a shout out in a 1992 issue of Relix Magazine, mentioning a particularly “transcendent” experience seeing the Fab Four in San Francisco.

“I had seen them play a couple of times before at the Cow Palace in SF, but you couldn’t hear anything there but screaming girls,” Weir recalled. “This time was different. The Beatles themselves were playing their new Vox Super Beatle amplifiers, which seem to be a bit of a rodeo for them; after years on a smaller back- line setup, these newer, bigger amplifiers seemed to be getting away from them just a little bit. That said, the instrumental blend and interplay was pretty spectacular. The vocals were better still. They used no onstage monitors—they hadn’t been invented yet—but their lead vocals and harmonies were wonderful. They did “Yesterday” in a four- part harmony, and it was transcendent. The years of growing up playing together showed through in every song, every note…”

Interestingly, for all of their overlap Weir and Macca didn’t share the stage until a 2016 show at Boston’s Fenway Park.

First, Weir koined McCartney for a performance of Wings’ “Hi hi hi,” and then, in one of music’s weirder moments (see what I did there?), McCartney, Weir and New England Patriots star Rob Gronkowski performed “Helter Skelter.”

To celebrate McCartney and his lasting, yet subtle, love for the  Dead, watch him perform with Weir and Gronkowski below.