Paul McCartney’s Multiple Bids to Back Out of ‘Carpool Karaoke’
The Late Late Show segment was so successful that it was credited with helping McCartney secure his first-ever U.S. No.1 album when Egypt Station topped the chart a few weeks later. An hour-long special edition aired the following month. But in a recent interview with the Paley Center for Media (below), Corden said he and his production team had fought hard while McCartney kept changing his mind – with the host eventually telling the singer that his behavior was “unacceptable.”
“He said, ‘I’m in, I’ll do it, I can’t wait,’” Corden recalled of the initial invitation to shoot in Liverpool while his show took residency in London for a week. “About a month later the message came through to us that he’d canceled, he didn’t want to do it; he’d got cold feet for some reason. Then he was back in again two weeks later.” He continued: “[A]bout eight or nine days before we were due to fly to Liverpool to do it, it was one of those nights where I woke up around 1 a.m. … and there was an email saying, ‘Look, I’m sorry, I don’t know how to write this – Paul has changed his mind. He just feels this is the wrong sort of thing for him right now. He’d still like to do it one day.’”
Corden admitted his reaction was to do something he’d “never really done before,” which was to reply directly to McCartney without consulting his team. “I just wrote him an email saying, ‘I think that this is unacceptable… I completely respect your decision not to do it. But I need you to understand what the knock-on effect is for our show.’” He explained that with the people, time and money already invested in researching and preparing the segment, the show couldn’t sustain the losses. He told McCartney: “I guarantee you, I promise you, that it will be great. And the reason it will be great is that you are Paul McCartney.” He added that, should the artist stick with his decision, he should consider doing “something in return” for the show during its London run. “And the next day [McCartney] said, ‘Alright. I’m sorry. I just had a wobble. I’m back in; I’ll do it.”
That wasn’t his last change of heart, however. When the pair met in a Liverpool hotel on the morning of the shoot, McCartney told Corden: “I don’t want to be doing this. I’m a Beatle!” But then he offered a hint as to why he was so uncertain: “He told me… in this hotel room, ‘I don’t want to go into my [childhood] house. I haven’t been there since I left. I feel uncomfortable with it.’ I just went, ‘Paul, your only day’s work today is to have a great time… and if you have a great time this is going to work.’”
Corden was proud that the recording met and exceeded all expectations, and while he didn’t try to take credit for Egypt Station’s success, he hinted that he’d like to think there was a connection. “I got a text saying, ‘We did it – thank you for convincing me for doing it!’” he recalled of the day the album reached No. 1. He reflected: “I never expected it to be as moving as it was… singing ‘Penny Lane,’ driving down Penny Lane with Paul McCartney…”
James Corden on Paul McCartney's 'Carpool Karaoke'