Carlin's interviews with two members of Wings also shed some light on McCartney's "benevolent dictatorship" of that band - prone to Macca stinginess with credits and royalties.Carlin does promote the true thesis - most vociferously waged by his subject - that while Lennon gets the credit for his experimental and avant-garde life and music, it was in fact McCartney who first dabbled with films and sound collage - an offshoot of his living in the heart of Swinging London while his bespectacled bandmate was married and miserable in the stockbroker suburbs. He also notes that McCartney and his musical contributions are also unfairly (and, perhaps, unavoidably) looked upon in light of Lennon's post-assassination ascension to "secular sainthood" and real rock and roll martyr. But Carlin is hardly in awe of his subject. At times, the Paul on page comes off as highly thin-skinned, narcissistic, cheap, and obsessed with image and credit. And while some of that is certainly true, there's still a bit of a hit-job aspect to A Life. Still, it's ironic that Paul McCartney has found his greatest success in the past decade by getting back. Sold-out concerts around the world and plenty of live albums that lean heavily on Beatles tunes - many of which the band itself never did live. The concluding chapters paint a portrait of an active and engaged man pushing 70 who is reclaiming - and reminding - his audience (and their kids and grandkids) of his legacy, with time as his only enemy. The recent Beatles edition of Rock Band and the (finally!) remastered catalogue have continued to put the group and its most recognizable face forward more than 50 years after two gangly American music-obsessed teens met at a church fete. In the end, A Life is really just a taste of the monster McCartney bio yet to be written. And no, 1997's largely Paul-approved/guided Many Years From Now does not fill that space. Simon & Schuster, 374 pp. $26.