James Corden: he of a thousand faux-outrageous-banter award ceremony presentations and annoying price comparison website ads. A man with whom I suspect I would enjoy sharing a short trip in a speeding 4×4 little more than I would a short trip under a speeding 4×4. And yet, much as it pains me to say so, he earns my and I’m sure many others’ newfound respect for bringing to pass a moment of rare and bona fide music television magnificence, by taking Sir Paul McCartney on a drive down memory lane in Carpool Karaoke.
Born as a feature on his Late Late Show and subsequently spun off as a standalone series, Corden’s slebs-singing-in-the-car segment is a veritable golden goose of shareable video content. Carpool has become no stranger to phenomenally big names – everyone from Stevie Wonder to Britney to Adele has done it so far, and many more stars of their calibre will do it yet. But in not simply getting Macca, but getting him on a visit to his old Liverpool haunts, from Penny Lane to his teenage family home – the latter a preserve of the National Trust not revisited by Sir Paul since The Beatles days – Corden has pulled off a televisual coup, reversing the story of the greatest band that ever was all the way back to its origins, with joyful purity, innocence, simplicity and bonus wonky singalongs.
As Macca concedes near the start of the 20-minute clip, not even he gave the lifespan of The Beatles’ music any more than 10 years. And yet here we are today, currently celebrating a 50th anniversary reissue of Yellow Submarine, a film named after probably the band’s worst song (sorry, Ringo). So firmly embedded are the Fab Four’s music and near-mythical story in our collective consciousness, it’s easy to forget sometimes that one of its two chief architects is still very much among us – living, breathing, performing and sporting slightly strange thin long hair.
We’re treated to the fantastically bizarre spectacle of seeing the knight of the realm momentarily recreate practicing singing She Loves You on the bog as a teenager
As McCartney zooms around town with Corden, he’s greeted everywhere he shows up by disbelieving hugs and handshakes from fans who excitedly point to Beatles tattoos or tell him his music was played at a parent’s funeral. At his old house at 20 Forthlin Road, we’re treated to the fantastically bizarre spectacle of seeing the knight of the realm momentarily recreate practicing singing She Loves You on the bog as a teenager.
Corden’s tears after he and Sir Paul belt out Let It Be are only so moving, coming from a man hardly averse to blubbing for effect on the telly. Much more apt to raise a goosebump or two is the bit when, in the final sequence, during Hey Jude, one fan is literally bubbling with joy at getting to share an intimate gig from Macca and his band in a Liverpool pub – surely every Beatles fan’s ultimate fantasy. Not even the thinly veiled promotional conceit of the whole enterprise – Macca’s not-all-that-bad new song Come on to Me is one of those sung in the car – serves to rob the Carpool episode of a sense of naturally occurring wonder.
Sure, their biggest songs are so comfortingly overfamiliar as to feel like the pop equivalent of the nation’s beat-up old three-piece suite. Granted, none of the four members’ post-Beatles output is anything if not wildly inconsistent (except maybe in Ringo’s case, his music being as rubbish now as it was then). But there’s something infinitely inspiring and uplifting about their legend, such that it could withstand atom bombs of cynicism. I’d still rather take the bus than get a lift off him, but the fact James Corden did such a fine job of reminding us of all of this is deserving of anyone’s kudos – however grudging.
Paul McCartney’s new album Egypt Station is out on September 7