Mike McCartney, aka Mike McGear from Sixties trio The Scaffold, whose hits included Lily the Pink and Thank U Very Much, is talking to us from 20 Forthlin Road in Allerton, Liverpool. It’s the childhood home he shared with brother Paul, dad Jim, and, for a short while before her death from breast cancer in 1956, mum Mary.
The property was purchased by the National Trust in 1996 and faithfully restored to the way it looked in the Fifties. It is open to the public, and recently the Trust announced the finalists of the ‘The Forthlin Sessions’, a competition that has given unsigned artists the chance to write and play music in the small, terraced house where Paul and John Lennon wrote some of their best-loved hits, including Love Me Do, Please Please Me and I Saw Her Standing.
For Mike, though, visiting the house always stirs up a host of memories.
“I’m in the living room right now,” he reveals in his warm, Liverpudlian accent. “And I’m remembering what it used to be like in here in the winter. We’d be close to the open fire as obviously, we didn’t have central heating.
“Dad would be sat in the chair to the right of the fire, Mum – before she passed away – to the left, and me and ‘our kid’ would sit on the couch. That’s where I’m sitting now. Back then, your front would be nice and warm because you’d be facing the fire, but the back of your head would be freezing!”
As a rule, older siblings tend to be a tad high-handed with their younger brothers and sisters, and Paul was no exception! “Yeah – he could be bossy!” laughs Mike. “Plus, he was always the well-behaved one, whereas I was naughtier. As kids, we shared the back bedroom at Forthlin Road and if ever I wanted to get my own back, I’d play tricks on him after we’d gone to bed.
“I’d wait for him to go to sleep then find a feather and start what I called my ‘tickle torture’.
“I’d stroke the feather under his nose and around his face. He’d sniff, shake his head and start stirring in his sleep. I’d stop for a while then start the tickle torture again, and I’d carry on the same routine for quite a few hours!
“He never woke up, although when I first started doing it, I remember thinking he’d caught me as his eyes were half-open. I thought, ‘Oh bloody hell! He’s gonna kill me!’ Then I realised he wasn’t asleep at all, but slept with his eyes half open at times.
“Coincidentally, the other day I heard him telling someone about how he slept with his eyes open.
“When we were kids and I saw his eyes weren’t shut tight, I just thought I’d get beaten to a pulp! Anyway, the next morning he’d wake up and say he’d had the worst night’s sleep ever.
“I’ve never told him this before, so when he reads it in Yours that’ll be it! He’ll come round and, well, I’m dead!”
Once The Beatles became famous, did Mike and Paul’s relationship change? “Are you asking me what The Beatle Paul McCartney was like once he’d become so successful?” Mike enquires. “To me, no different. He wasn’t the famous Beatle to me. He was the same as he’d always been – James Paul McCartney – like I was Peter Michael McCartney.
“The same as he was when we were kids and we were part of this lovely family with our dad Jim and mother Mary. Then after she was ripped out of our hearts and souls, our dad brought us up and really encouraged us to follow our interests – Paul with his music, and me with photography.
“Dad was always encouraging us to make something of our lives; that was his mantra, giving us the confidence to go out there and make something of ourselves.
“Me and our kid keep in close contact. The other night he sent me some cartoons of air guitars – or rather images of guitar stands, as being air guitars there weren’t any actual guitars. I liked that!”
Mike (78) must have some great memories of Paul and John writing songs in the sitting room at Forthlin Road in the early Sixties.
“Oh yeah, although our kid would play everywhere in the house – even the outside toilet,” he says. “I took photos of them writing and rehearsing at the house and playing gigs in the very early days.
“I hadn’t intended picking up a camera, in fact I’d drummed with them very early on, but I’d broken my arm at Scout camp when I was 13 and it was weakened as a result, so Pete Best got the job in our kid’s group. That’s when I started taking photos on the family box camera.
“It was fortuitous, though, because if I had become the Beatles’ drummer, we’d probably have gone the Oasis route. I’d go everywhere with the Beatles. I was part of the act. It’s like if Rembrandt’s kid brother was in the corner with a pad and paper, sketching his older brother.
“I was lucky – you couldn’t have had a better group to practise on, could you?” He can say that again!
To find out more about 20 Forthlin Road and the Forthlin Sessions, please visit nationaltrust.org.uk/the-forthlin-sessions