I wonder what it must have been like in the Middle Ages to witness a knight passing by — sunlight gleaming in his armor, his mount festooned with green and gold straps, flowers and bells, a banner coiling in the breeze above. Surely, such a vision must have evoked awe, delight and, most of all, inspiration. A symbol for a better world.
We would sing songs as he passes. We would never forget. We would tell our friends and family, our kids and grandkids, "Yes, we were in the same place, at the same time with a knight."
This is how my son Michael and I began talking about Sir Paul McCartney, during — of all things — a sword fight on the gray lawn beneath an icy February sky.
TIX STILL AVAILABLE!
Despite reports of an early sell-out, there are Paul McCartney tickets available as of press time. They start at $225 for the show Thu, April 28. Visit spokanearena.com for details.
Retreating from the cold, we head inside. Soon, butter sizzles in a pan. I lay the cheese sandwiches on top. Our swords lean in the corner beside the turntable. From a shelf Michael pulls out his first and favorite record, Let It Be. I got it for him a few years ago when he was six. It was my first record, too. He puts it on. Paul and John sing, "Two of us riding nowhere / Spending someone's / Hard earned pay." Michael hums. I tap the spatula on the counter.
"Is he really a knight?" he asks.
"Yes, the Queen knighted him for outstanding achievements in music." I shake my head and add, "And for so much more."
"So, not a knight that sacks cities?"
I grin. "Well, if you mean sacking cities with sheer rock and roll euphoria, absolutely." I flip the sandwich.
Michael's fingers trace over the black four-square album jacket. On the cover, Paul's face is bearded, thoughtful, kind. I wonder how many households in the world have some portrait of Paul — his face in a stack of CDs, on posters, magazine covers. A face so recognizable that it would be a challenge not to mistake him as a close friend, even family.
After all, his voice has been there singing to us through countless experiences: first kisses, road trips, parties, heartbreaks, life and death. From out of silence, his melodies suddenly form in our mouths and burst out. When we wake, "Good day sunshine" lilts out of memory into the air. Or, when it rains and we're sad, "No more lonely nights / Never be another," might trickle out as a quiet cry. He's counseled us with song. He's taught us to believe in yesterday, that there will be an answer, and that there's absolutely nothing wrong with placing your heart inside a silly love song.
Paul was in our house when I was growing up. I heard him for the first time singing through my older brother's bedroom wall. Ringo was bashing the kit. Paul was there as I learned to play drums. He was in my car when I went out and started playing music for a living. And he's still here. Our little family just watched the documentary Get Back. It was a thrill to watch him and the Beatles create. As if they were in the room.
"What do you think he is doing right now?" Michael asks.
"Eating a sandwich," I laugh as I serve up a golden-brown grilled cheese. "Or he's dreaming about songs. One of the two, I'm sure."
"Do you think you'll ever meet him?"
I smile. "Wouldn't that be wonderful..."
"What would you say, if you met him?"
I sit and look out into the colorless sky. A squirrel dashes along the fence line.
It is always a strange concept to consider — meeting celebrities — meeting heroes. To meet Sir Paul McCartney. . .
"I think I would tell him thanks, thanks for writing Band On the Run."
"That's it?" he replies with some incredulity.
"Well, if the moment was right, I'd ask if he'd like to jam."
"What if he knocked on the door right now, Dad? What would you say?"
I laugh at Michael's persistence. "I'd point to the piano and tell him, 'It's right there. Be right back with my drum kit.' Then I'd offer a grilled cheese."
We both laugh.
Who hasn't considered such chance meetings with larger than life icons?
Think of it, Sir Paul sits down at the piano in the living room on a Sunday in April. Auntie Mel sips a glass of red beside the window. Lime green buds tip the fingers of trees outside. Bread bakes in the kitchen. Michael and my lady, Sheree, sit on the couch. My brother Bob and his wife, Bobbi, pour a scotch at the counter with Uncle Stan. Dad and his partner, Laura, hold hands. My niece Gerry and her hubby, Nic, sit beside Paul, and they sing, "I've got a feeling / A feeling deep inside / Oh yeah!"
"That's right!" my bandmates Cristopher and Cary bellow from the bar.
Someone knocks on the door. It's sister Suzie, Brother John, Martin Luther, Phil and Don, brother Michael, and Auntie Gin. Open the door and let 'em in. Oh yeah.
I tell Michael that young Paul McCartney learned piano from his father in a living room much like ours, surrounded by family. Eventually he became the house pianist. He played all the old songs for all of his old aunties as they sipped their cocktails and sang and sang, and laughed, and shared song. Shared magic.
My eyes tick up to the piano across the room. Wouldn't it be something?
And maybe that's how he became a part of all of our families — a part of all of our lives. Whether singing to us from a television studio, a movie screen or a stadium stage, it somehow feels like he could be in our living room, sharing a bottle of wine with Auntie Mel and Auntie Jo. Counseling us. Inspiring us. Getting us to sing together.
And he's coming to Spokane. Our house.
"He's a Beatle, he's a knight, and quite possibly the greatest songwriter ever," I say to Michael. "He's the family pianist. It's a comfort to know he's out there and making the world better. Awe, wonder, inspiration."
Michael says, "As a knight should." ♦
Michael B. Koep lives in North Idaho, is an author, visual artist, father and drummer for bands Kite and The Rub.