Paul McCartney's new solo album hits stores Tuesday and both the title song "Run Devil Run" and cover photo were inspired by a chance visit to a drugstore in what the former Beatle calls the "funky" part of downtown Atlanta.
McCartney credits his inspiration to Miller's Rexall Drugs, a working pharmacy just south of the old Rich's department store at 87 Broad St.Over the years, Miller's also has come to specialize in products designed to ward off Satan and bring the good life. It's a down-home, laid-back store where bottles of demon-chasing bath beads and floor wash, incense, candles and even lottery-winning guides fill glass counters and line the walls.
The store, located at ground level in a nondescript stone-and- brick building more than 100 years old, was founded by Donald Miller, the uncle of current owner Richard Miller."There was a grocery store --- Miss Atlanta Supermarket --- in here, but it had closed, so this space was open," Richard Miller says (his semi-retired uncle works part time at the store). "This was the heart of Atlanta as far as shopping for black customers went at that time and he saw this as having a lot of potential."
The area today hosts a variety of mom-and-pop businesses, having lost large merchandisers such as Rich's and Kessler's. "But it's a pretty vibrant area," Miller says, adding that his customers "are a wide range of people --- high government officials, lawyers, janitors, schoolteachers and retired people. We see a lot of second- and third- generation customers.
"McCartney, 57, discovered the store in January when he was in town with two of his children. His daughter Heather was unveiling her household creations at a trade show at the AmericasMart Atlanta. (McCartney's wife, Linda, died in April 1998.)McCartney says his son James, 21, "wanted to visit the funky side of town. So we went down there and were just wandering around the block and we came across this sort of voodoo shop selling cures for everything."I was looking in the shop window and I saw this bottle of bath salts called 'Run Devil Run,' " McCartney says in a release accompanying the album. "I thought that was a good title for a song. So when I was on holiday after that, I started thinking of words for it and it came quite easily."Steve Rosenblatt, a marketing vice president for Capitol Records in Los Angeles, said that McCartney had taken "some snapshots" of the store, but later decided he wanted a professional photographer to shoot it."He ended up writing the song 'Run Devil Run' for the album and wanted it (the store) on the album cover," Rosenblatt said. The cover depictions have been altered slightly, with the name "Miller's" on the Rexall sign changed to "Earl's." But the rest of the two storefronts are very similar, right down to the Herbal Viagra advertisements."Run Devil Run is a merchandise line produced in Birmingham by Sonny Boy Products. Of the company's prospects for sudden fame, co- owner Sherry Sexton said, "We're in a wait-and-see mode, but we're getting a Web site up Friday (today)."Asked about McCartney's "voodoo" reference, Sexton said, "We don't call any of our products voodoo. All our products have prayers and Bible references."Alvin Whitehead, 37, a regular customer at Miller's who as a child accompanied his mother to the store, agrees, saying Run Devil Run and similar products bring "power to the mind" and compares their use to "taking an aspirin when you're sick."A soft-spoken man, Miller, who lives in Marietta, welcomes any exposure the CD might bring."I have two children in college, so I could use the extra business."Like wholesaler Sexton, Miller, who employs a part-time pharmacist, says the items are "spiritual not voodoo," but concedes, "the difference is connotation . . . there's really no difference.
"As it turns out, Miller didn't know of the McCartney connection until a journalist told him this week. At that point, he recalled an unusual incident that occurred "two or three months ago," when a long black limousine stopped in front of the store and three people jumped out."When I saw the limo pull up and people pile out in front of my store, I went out and asked all three of them --- there was a lady, a photographer and the limo driver --- what they were doing and they wouldn't tell me."I started asking more questions: 'Are you from the FBI? Am I in trouble?' They wouldn't even give me their names. They just told me they were on assignment for someone overseas with a lot of money."Now, Miller is convinced the party of three was working for McCartney, and that the former Beatle and leader of the band Wings may have been along for the ride."I'm just an average Joe," Miller says. "Maybe guys like Paul McCartney do hire companies around the world to take pictures for them, but not in my realm of reality. So I'm thinking Paul was in the limo. I don't think photographers usually rent stretch limos for a one-hour shoot."At this point, Miller doesn't expect to hear from McCartney, but he does have one request. "I'd like to invite Paul to sign autographs at the store the next time he's in town
"ILLUSTRATIONS/PHOTOS: Bath salts called Run Devil Run stocked by Richard Miller (above) in his drugstore started a flow of ideas for Paul McCartney's new CD (below). / WILLIAM BERRY / Staff McCartney's NEW ALBUM"Run Devil Run," a 15-track roots-rock CD features, in addition to "Run Devil Run" and two other McCartney originals, up-tempo covers of rock 'n' roll evergreens, including Gene Vincent's "Blue Jean Bop, " Ricky Nelson's "Lonesome Town," Big Joe Turner's "Honey Hush," Chuck Berry's "Brown-Eyed Handsome Man" and Elvis Presley's "All Shook Up."To hear "Run Devil Run" and other songs from Paul McCartney's new album, dial 511 and enter 8600 and Soundline number 424. Each call costs 50 cents.He never called.