Paul McCartney Thought The Beatles ‘Would Look Silly’ if They Were Still Touring at 35

In the 1970 film Performance, a gangster on the lam named Chas (James Fox) has a hilarious encounter with Turner, a reclusive rock star played by Mick Jagger. “You’re a comical little geezer,” Chas tells Turner. “You’ll look funny when you’re 50.” The line gets funnier every year, and Paul McCartney probably laughs about it as hard as anyone.

Long before the music became “classic rock” and The Beatles made massive arena shows the norm, Paul and other musicians of the day couldn’t have imagined selling out packed American stadiums one night after the next. For starters, they didn’t know how long their fans would listen.

In late 1966, just after the Fab Four stopped touring, Paul checked in with The Beatles Book Monthly fanzine for a chat about the state of things. On the subject of touring, Paul sounded as if he agreed with Chas in Performance. He thought The Beatles would look silly if they were still flogging it on tour a decade later.

Paul McCartney said The Beatles would ‘hate to be touring’ as ‘bald’ 35-year-olds

Beatles pose in 1966
The Beatles in 1966 | Roger Viollet Collection/Getty Images

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Paul didn’t have a crystal ball with him at the time, so he couldn’t know what the future held for him and his bandmates. However, his words echoed those fans heard from John Lennon and George Harrison around the time of the Beatles’ breakup a few years later.

In short, there was more to life than being a Beatle. “If we wanted to be The Beatles forever, then we’d have to become like Sinatra and take dancing lessons and acting lessons, and just be all-round entertainers…you know, get slicker,” he told Beatles Book Monthly.

In 1966, when Paul was 24, he felt like his dreams of success had already come true. At that point, he was looking ahead to what a new chapter might bring. “Being a Beatle is not that big a part of life. There’s lots more things for us to do,” he told the fanzine.

As for touring, Paul didn’t sound like he considered that a long-term option for the band. “We’d hate to be touring when we’re 35 because we’d look silly,” he said. “Anyway we’ll probably be bald when we’re 30. They’ll be asking us to shake our hair, and we’d have to say, ‘We can’t because we’ve got a bald patch.'”

McCartney said musicians ought adapt as they approach 40

Beatles on 'Top of the Pops' in '66
The Beatles perform on ‘Top Of The Pops’ in June 1966. | Mark and Colleen Hayward/Redferns

Time marched on, but The Beatles didn’t go bald. In 1969, when they took to the roof of Apple headquarters for that final live performance, everyone in the band sported hair down to their shoulders (or longer). And, contrary to Paul’s prediction, they all still had their hair when they turned 35.

Paul thought the important thing was continuing to grow. “Everyone has to get old,” he said in the Beatles Book Monthly interview. “It’s just that a lot of people don’t adapt themselves. They do exactly the same as they did at 20, even though they are about 40.”

That didn’t happen with The Beatles, of course. By the time they turned 30, they’d all established successful solo careers. At 40, just before he was killed, a mellower John Lennon released is comeback album about love and contentment. He’d been watching the wheels go ’round.

Before the end of the ’80s, George would become a Traveling Wilbury, Paul would work with Michael Jackson, and Ringo Starr … well, he was still Ringo. For some people (even Beatles), staying young at heart just works. Next chance they get, expect to see Ringo and Paul back on tour.