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March twenty-third was the date of a right royal occasion, as Paul turned over his new Leaf to a receptive audience at the Palace. Our man doing up the second button of his tuxedo was Geoff Baker...

Club Sandwich 74

            As someone once said, "The rest of you can rattle your jewellery.''
            Just as well they didn't, mind, because you'd never have heard the guitars above the clink of the silver-set sapphires.
            We're in The Picture Gallery, one of the many, many rooms of a royal maze known here in London as St James's Palace, and we're here for An Evening With Paul McCartney & Friends - a benefit night in aid of the Royal College of Music.
            We're also here to hear the world premiere performance of Paul's latest classical composition - a ten-minute piano piece entitled A Leaf - performed in the presence of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. As president of the RCM, Charles has invited Paul & Friends to play, and you know that he's coming because only one of the 300 chairs has been plumped up with port pillows to make it look throne-like.
            Most of the other 299 guests are, as they say, bedecked in the sort of glittering gems that I find always draws your eyes embarrassingly towards a lady's chest. As their frocks and vowels suggest that a good many of these ladies are Ladies with a capital "L", I conclude that it's probably not such a good idea to be seen ogling the aristocracy and hop it backstage. Club Sandwich 74
            Forty-five minutes later, aided by a pocket sextant, I find backstage, where Paul, Elvis Costello, The Brodsky Quartet and old Liverpool Oratorio friends Willard White and Sally Burgess are going through the sort of shoulder-flinching exercises you do when you're, well, nervous.
            Did I just say nervous? Surely not. How can a man who's played to 184,000 Brazilians on one night be nervous ever again? Granted, it's his smallest show in maybe 30 years but surely gigging for 300 folks is only like playing to a crowded night in the Cavern Club? (Except that here the future King probably won't be passing up notes to the stage asking "Hey wack, can youse play 'Searchin" for me Judy Irene?") Hell, everyone gets nervous.
            So spare a thought for a 22-year-old Russian named Anya Alexeyev. In her hands is the premiere of A Leaf and while she may be the daughter of the internationally famous pianist Dmitri Alexeev (she changed the spelling of her surname to avoid allegations of nepotism) this here is Big Night time.
            I first met Anya Alexeyev the week before, at the RCM, -where, behind closed curtains, Paul, Elvis and pals were running through the set and thinking about throwing 'The One After 909' into the programme, unannounced, just for the crack. Watching them was a young woman in a black mini-skirt. "Hello," I thought, "a fan has got in." Then somebody asked if I had been introduced to Anya.
            Anyway, back then, Anya was sitting back and enjoying the rehearsals. As were the rest of us, privileged to be sitting in a small hall watching and listening to Paul and The Brodsky Quartet perform 'For No One', 'Eleanor Rigby' and 'Yesterday' like we'd never heard them played before.
            "Very nice," muttered Paul, after 'For No One'. Club Sandwich 74
            "It sounds bloody great," confirmed Elvis.
            "Different, eh?" I had murmured to Bill Flanagan, editor of Musician magazine, after Paul and the Brodskys had completely rearranged 'Eleanor Rigby' to give it a new middle-eight and a frenetically-bowed climax. "Yeah," whispered Bill, "but doesn't it show how versatile they are as songs, that they can be played like this?"
            It ought to be mentioned here that within the gothic turrets of the RCM there had been a little, ah, disquiet over some of the lyrics of the songs that Paul had set aside to perform at the Palace.
            Given the fact that the House of Windsor has had its share of marital stress over recent years, it was wondered whether the lines "a love that should have lasted years" in 'For No One', "all the lonely people" in 'Eleanor Rigby' and "why she had to go, I don't know, she wouldn't say" in 'Yesterday' might be construed by some as rubbing it in a little bit.
            No problem, we soothed, hoping like mad that those empowered to worry over royal sensitivities weren't that clued up on the other song that Paul (with Elvis) would perform: the track from Off The Ground entitled