"Meet Paul McCartney: the ultimate Beatles geek," says Rob Sheffield. "The excellent new Hulu documentary series McCartney 3, 2, 1 gets up close with the most legendary of rock stars, alone in the studio with Rick Rubin, telling stories and listening deep to the Beatles. It’s a fascinating thrill just to listen with him. Like anyone else, he’s mystified by how these four nowhere boys from Liverpool managed to create this music. As Paul says, 'For me, I’ve grown to be a fan of the Beatles. Because then, I was just a Beatle. But now that the Beatles’ volume of work is finished, I listen back to it, and you know, ‘What’s that bassline?’ McCartney 3,2,1 is Paul really stretching his wings as a Fabs fan. He breaks down the tunes track by track, isolating the musical details. He makes occasional (but welcome) detours into his solo and Wings years, using archival photos and film footage. Rubin, in his barefoot-Yoda mode, totally understands that his job here is to just listen and say 'Wow.' It’s just three hours of conversation, stretched out over six episodes, but it flies by. This is Paul at his most charming — he’s like the barber in 'Penny Lane,' giving us a tour of every mind he’s had the pleasure to blow...If you’re a Beatles fan, you’ve heard many of these stories before. But there’s always something new in them, just because he’s Paul, so intuitively tuned into music on a restless moment-to-moment level. He singles out 'Here, There, and Everywhere' as his proudest moment as a songwriter — no surprise there. But it’s different when you see him listen to the track, with a grin that’s half cocky yeah-we-did-this confidence and half eerie wonder."
Rick Rubin is the key to McCartney 3,2,1: "I have watched people even more famous than Rubin completely fall apart in McCartney’s presence," says Mick LaSalle. Rubin doesn’t. Clearly, he could — he’s a fan, and sometimes watching Rubin look at McCartney, you can tell he’s thinking, 'This is Paul McCartney. And he is looking — at — me.' All the same, Rubin holds it together and asks all the right questions, those anyone would want to ask McCartney, if they had the wit to think of them."
Executive producer Jeff Pollack wanted McCartney 3,2,1 to differentiate itself from the slew of Beatles documentaries: “We didn’t need to do another Beatles doc,” Pollack says. “We didn’t want to do a touring Beatlemania doc. We didn’t want to really explore the stories … that people knew so well.” Instead, he says, “We wanted to talk to the musician who happened to be a Beatle.” The pitch to McCartney was less about him as a cultural icon than about his bona fides as a bloke who plays bass (and piano, guitar, and drums, among many other instruments). Pollack adds: We felt that what might appeal to Paul was to really focus on his extraordinary musical chops. … He really hadn’t been approached about that sort of focus before. And I think it felt fresh to him.”