Paul McCartney recalls ’embarrassing’ on-stage moment that changed his future with The Beatles

Paul McCartney revealed the “embarrassing” on-stage moment that derailed his future as The Beatles’ lead guitarist.

During a new episode of his “McCartney: A Life in Lyrics” podcast, the 81-year-old legendary musician recalled that he initially wanted to play guitar for the band instead of bass. However, his hopes were dashed after an incident at a show early in his career.

McCartney explained that he was good at playing the guitar while “at home,” and bandmate John Lennon’s aunt, Mimi Smith, used to tell him that he was “much better than John.”

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


The U.K. native recalled that he was the band’s lead guitarist during a show at a venue named the Conservative Club, which was above a shop in the Broadway district of The Beatles’ hometown of Liverpool.

“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,” McCartney continued. “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.’”

Poet Paul Muldoon, who co-hosts the podcast with the “Hey Jude” hitmaker, noted that McCartney continued to play guitar but avoided solos after his episode of stage fright.

McCartney did not specify when the incident occurred, but it may have taken place during his time with Lennon’s band The Quarrymen, which eventually evolved into The Beatles.

In 1960, McCartney, Lennon and bandmate George Harrison, who were members of The Quarrymen, changed the group’s name to The Beatles, and Ringo Starr joined the band in 1962.

Harrison became the band’s lead guitarist, while McCartney played bass, Lennon played rhythm guitar and Starr was the drummer. McCartney and Lennon were also The Beatles’ lead vocalists and main songwriters.

Known as the “Fab Four,” The Beatles would go on to become one of the most successful bands of all time. 

“McCartney: A Life in Lyrics” is a 12-episode podcast that features conversations between McCarney and Muldoon as they discuss the inspiration behind a dozen songs from McCartney’s iconic catalog from his early years with The Beatles to some of his more recent solo hits.

New episodes of the podcast, each of which focuses on a different song, are released weekly on iHeartPodcasts and Pushkin.