Paul McCartney: 10 Musical Moments

It’s June 18th, and on this day in 1942 one James Paul McCartney was born in Liverpool.  He would later go on to great success as a member of the Beatles of course, and a successful solo career which I’ve summarized in a post I wrote last year celebrating Paul McCartney’s birthday.  So, this year, I wanted to do the same thing I’ve done for John Lennon and George Harrison when their birthdays came around – present 10 musical moments in the career of Paul McCartney.


Now, to reiterate this, the following 10 are not meant to be the 10 best. No.  I don’t think it works that way.  Well, at least not for me.  This list is just about 10; 10 moments in the musical life of a hero of mine: Paul McCartney .

I Saw Her Standing There – The Beatles 1963

One Two Three FAAAAAAAW!  It’s one of the best openings of any song ever written, appearing on the Beatles Parlaphone debut album Please Please Me.  And what a song it is!  A story of teenage love, or is it lust, with an impossibly fluid bassline and sterling playing from all four Beatles. But, Macca’s voice on this is what gets me, full of youthful vigour, and delivering one of the greatest rock n roll couplets ever: she was just seventeen, you know what I mean.  Yes we do, Paul!

Things We Said Today – the Beatles 1964

One thing about the Beatles as songwriters was that they seemed to be young men with the songwriting brains of those much older.  This is one of the best examples I can think of when it comes to Paul songs.  With the young rush of love established in “I Saw Her Standing There”, this song as taken from A Hard Day’s Night talks about what may come after that, with the eye that nothing ever stays the same, including perspectives.  What is true now, may not be true later, says Paul.  In some ways, this is something of a sobering love song, and from a 23 year with the world on a plate by 1964.  If fame affected McCartney, perhaps he was saved by this self-same perspective.

Hello Goodbye – the Beatles 1967

By 1967, The Beatles had been through the grind of tour-album-tour, all the while becoming disenchanted with celebrity that was weighing them down in every way including creatively.  So, when they cast off their pop group shackles and became a studio band, the songs did the work for them.  And why not, since that was their strength.  And despite the movement toward harder edges on rock songs, McCartney was still interested in writing pop songs with a bit extra.  And this is one of my favourites of his, quintessential Macca from Magical Mystery Tour, with tons of optimistic and colorful ear candy for the kids, with a few interesting chord progressions for the eggheads to enjoy too.

Helter Skelter – The Beatles 1968

And where the Beatles were in tune with the colorful and kaleidoscopic psychedelia the year before, by 1968 even the Beatles knew that the world was a starker, more violent place than could be papered over with paisley and Lewis Carroll.  The Who had released “I Can See For Miles”, and McCartney wanted to go one louder.  And so he did, with a raucous rock growl of a voice, a bludgeoning bassline, shreds of distorted guitar, and an inspiration in waiting for Charles Manson who interpreted this song taken from The Beatles (The White Album) quite liberally for his own diabolical ends.

Maybe I’m Amazed – Paul McCartney 1970

The Beatles were effectively over as a group in the first few months of 1970.  But, by then McCartney had other forces in his life holding him together, which came out thematically on his first solo album McCartney in 1970.  These were his new wife Linda, and her daughter Heather from her previous marriage.  But, as one marriage ended and another had begun, with the feelings of heartbreak from the lost camaraderie of his band blurred into those of amazement at being in love.  This was a potent emotional punch that was waiting to be expressed.  And here it is, one of the best songs Paul McCartney ever wrote.  It was later re-recorded live in 1976 on the Wings Over America album and released as a single.

Dear Boy – Paul & Linda McCartney 1971

One thing that we often forget when looking at songwriting deities is that they too have their heroes.  For McCartney, his hero stands as a legend in his own right; Brian Wilson.  And McCartney was not unaffected, writing his “Getting Better” from Sgt. Pepper under Wilson’s influence. But, this is my favourite of McCartney’s Wilsonesque tunes, a lighthearted jibe at a figure who is too misguided to know what he’s given up in favour of a prize which may turn out to be not worth having.  That this figure may have been one John Lennon is beside the point.   This is pure pop, the pop at Lennon notwithstanding, taken from the classic 1971 album Ram.

Junior’s Farm – Wings 1974

One criticism often leveled at McCartney is that he tends to stray on the side of whimsy, and doesn’t often, well, rock.  Another one is that when in the Beatles, it was John who was the imaginative lyricist, while Paul was strictly the melodist of the pair.  “Junior’s Farm” puts all of this to rest, recorded as it was as a single in 1974 (later to appear on the Wings Greatest album) after the release of his, arguably, breakthrough album with Wings the previous year Band on the Run. Wings was his attempt at getting back into the groove of being in a band.  They tried it democratically in terms of the writing and attention, which was noble.  But, ultimately, McCartney’s ability to write songs and sing in such a monumentus way as he does here makes that decision seem naive at best.

Here Today – Paul McCartney 1982

Speaking of criticisms, when John Lennon was shot, and after the initial shock had worn off, media at the time ghoulishly clamoured to get the impressions of the other Beatles; how did they feel about the whole tragedy?  Paul disappointed everyone by giving a very brief “what a drag” statement to the press, making him seem in print to many to be callous, to say the least.  Yet, he loved John.  And not to prove it to anyone, he wrote this tribute to his friend, placing it on his excellent Tug Of War album in 1982. Listen to the above clip, recorded in 2007, and with his voice heavy with emotion.  He is holding back the tears no more…

Calico Skies – Paul McCartney 1997

Paul and Linda had something of a unique rock marriage.  For one thing, they stayed together for 29 years.  And this song is something of a testament to their commitment, not just because they stayed together that long, but because they seemed to have a game plan – “always finding new ways to love you” as this song says, and one of the greatest love songs he ever wrote too which is certainly saying something.  The song appeared on the ‘comeback’ record Flaming Pie, and album recorded quickly and virtually solo but for a few guests, after the Beatles Anthology project was completed.  There are shades of his earlier composition “Mother Nature’s Son” in there, an English folk feel that offsets the modern notion that in order to keep a marriage healthy, it can’t be taken for granted.

Fine Line – Paul McCartney 2005

McCartney has put out albums over a long career that not every fan has been happy with.  In some ways, being Paul McCartney has been something of an impediment to his artistic growth, for who is going to tell him that one of his songs needs a bit more work before it’s committed to a final take?  Well, the answer is Nigel Goderich, producer best known for his work with Beck and Radiohead.  And Nigel, if reports are to be believed, put Sir Paul through the paces on this record and song, and it shows.  This song, and the album off of which it comes Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, represents a career high in a span of four decades, and one of the best albums by anyone in 2005.  This proves of course that talent doesn’t get old, and that artistry knows no age.


So, happy birthday Sir Paul.  You’re still my hero, and these 10 songs are 10 just reasons to thank you.


The Beatles Play ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’ On the Rooftop: 40 Years Ago!

Here’s a clip of the latter-day Fab Four, forty years ago today, playing their massively underrated track “I’ve Got A Feeling” from the rooftops of the Apple Corps offices, Saville Row London.  It was a key scene in the Beatles’ Let it Be film, which was meant to be a document of their comeback as a live band, and became something completely opposite instead.

Some original ideas for this concert, their first since San Francisco’s  Candlestick Park in August 1966, was to film it as a grand finale appearance at the Parthenon, or Pompeii, or on a luxury cruise ship.  In the end, the Beatles settled for the lunchtime London bowler-hat-and-brolly set, an audience several storeys below them.  It was the middle-class business man’s lunch rush, interspersed with their secretaries, messengers, and tea boys filling the streets on their breaks, or on errands.  It would have been impossible for any of them to guess that the Beatles would never play in public again after this.  They would never know in that moment how lucky they were to have been so surprised to hear the Beatles during their lunch breaks.

This lack of historical foresight  is best evidenced first by the complaints in the street as captured by Let it Be director Michael Lindsay-Hogg, and later by the borough council who sent a few bobbies up to the roof to shut the whole thing down.  It was hoped that the police would drag the Beatles away in a dramatic fashion.  But, being British, the police politely asked them to stop.  And the Beatles and their friends, being British (except for keyboardist Billy Preston of course), complied.  And that was it.

But, it was never about defying the police.  That was just an idea for an ending of the film. It was about them, as a band, playing together, and making an album.  Or, it was supposed to be.  By this time of course, they all had their own interests. Ringo was acting in movies.  George spent had time in upstate New York, visiting with the Band and envying what they had made of themselves as a supple musical unit without much fanfare or glamour.  John Lennon’s relationship with Yoko Ono had him wondering why he needed to be in a group at all.  And Paul was becoming increasingly autocratic by all accounts, trying to hold everything together.  The whole thing was doomed, and each Beatle knew it.  And as a result the movie becomes  a study in artistic dissolution, rather than one of a band working as a unit to mount a comeback.

But, despite the state of the Beatles union, they still had their songs.  This one, “I’ve Got A Feeling” is an amalgam of two songs.  The main body is Paul’s, and the middle eight “Everybody had a hard year” was a fragment that John had been tinkering with.  In effect, this is more a Lennon & McCartney effort than most, from a writing point of view anyway.

But more importantly, it showcases the Beatles as a solid rock ‘n’ roll band, with Paul’s growling rock voice, John’s jagged guitar, George’s effortless rhythm, and Ringo’s thudding rock stomp.  Billy Preston’s laid back Fender Rhodes is an emollient to the brashness of Lennon’s guitar, which creates a really interesting contrast.  But mostly, this represents the Beatles as a rock group.  This tune has balls.  And you can tell that when they’re playing, all of the other stuff doesn’t matter.

The group would come together again later in the year to make their final album, Abbey Road.  And the soundtrack to the Let it Be film would be released the following year.  But,  by April 1970, the Beatles were over as a working partnership.  But as many have said, whatever happened they could count on a legacy which remains unsullied.  Everything else aside, they really were a great little rock ‘n’ roll group.


The Beatles Perform ‘Revolution 1’ From the White Album

Here’s a clip of a recently released from Maharishi summer camp fab four with the original version of their single “Revolution”, billed as it was on the The Beatles (The White Album), released 40 years ago in November 1968, as “Revolution 1”.

The clip is a bit of a dodge in that the footage is taken from the promo of the single which was re-recorded and released in August of 1968.  That version, as you may know, is a bit louder, faster, and shoutier to suit the times.  The clip slows everything down to match the more languid pace of the original.

The White Album version is like a stoned acoustic doo-wop, with Lennon’s voice a little on the sleepy side.  Yet, there’s a real groove there, with a somnambulant veneer, a dreamy vibe which draws your ear into the lyrics a bit more than the single version does.   And of course there’s the “count me out…in” lyric that still has critics wondering what Lennon was getting at.  It was argued that the track was too slow to be a single.  So it was re-recorded as a double-A side with “Hey Jude”.

“Revolution” the single remains to be one of the hardest dirtiest statements the Beatles ever released.  When the group performed the song on David Frost’s show, featured in the clips, they performed it semi-live, with the record backing their live vocals.  Paul and George put the “a-womp, shoo-be-doo-wop” backing vocals back in, even if the single had taken them out.

Nineteen Sixty-Eight was a turbulent year historically, and for the Beatles it was certainly one for contrast.  It was a year of both self-contemplation and politicization too by the time the year was over.   In many ways, this year was the beginning of a new state of affairs for the Beatles, who since 1963 had lived in the insular world of recording studios, stages, radio stations, movie sets, and hotel rooms.  Times were changing, even for the fab four.

They had met with the Maharishi Mehesh Yogi, the founder of Transcendental Meditation, the previous year in Britain, and had attended a number of his seminars.  This included a weekend in Bangor, Wales, a kind of spiritual retreat.  This served as a means of introducing the group, their wives, and some of their friends, to the world of TM.

While away in Bangor, their manager Brian Epstein died of an accidental drugs overdose.  Even in this, they knew that things had shifted from one era to another.  Epstein had been the band’s manager in nearly every sense, from logistics, to finances, to publicity (with the help of press officer Derek Taylor).  Above all, Epstein had held them together as an entity, as a package.  When he was gone, part of the work cut out for them was to redefine who they were as a band, as people within that band, and ultimately what the relationship was between each.

Maybe this is why the group’s interest in TM would inspire them to take some time off and go to Rishikesh in India to take an expanded course in TM under Maharishi’s tutelage.  Along with their wives, they were also joined by celebrity friends, and other TM enthusiasts in a sort of spiritual summer camp, even if the span of months stretched from February to April of 1968.  And while there, each Beatle wrote songs – lots of them.

George Harrison, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Donovan, and Patti Boyd.  Wheres Ringo?  He left early.  He was allergic to Maharishis cooking.
The Beatles in Rishikesh India. From Left: George Harrison, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Donovan, and Patti Boyd. Where’s Ringo? He left early. He was allergic to Maharishi’s cooking.

But even if the Beatles wrote about various subjects in their India-written songs, they certainly began to write about their times in a more direct way.  Paul McCartney’s “Blackbird” is a direct reference to civil rights.  George Harrison’s “Piggies” discusses the narrow-mindedness of the middle-classes.  And of course, it’s Lennon who later pens “Revolution”, in the wake of the Paris student riots after his return from Rishikesh.  It seems that the look inward actually produced an opposite effect.  And with no Brian Epstein to rein in their political impulses in the songwriting, it was the first overtly political statement from the Beatles.

It was a tough year, particularly for the counterculture.  Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were both assassinated, the war in Vietnam raged on, and Richard Nixon came to power as President of the United States for the first time.  In many ways, the Beatles eponymous next album being something of a darker beast than the colourful Sgt. Pepper the year before was understandable.  And “Revolution” captured something of the zeitgeist, a feat which had always been something of a Beatles trait. Yet, it could be argued that this was the beginning of the end of the Beatles, as each member of the band began to realize that there was life outside of the bubble that had been made for them to live in up until then.


[UPDATE, Aug 2, 2012: Check out these rare photos of the Beatles in India.]

Elvis Costello Performs “So Like Candy”Co-written with Paul McCartney

Here’s a clip of Elvis Costello with a tip top tune from his early 90s “beard years”, “So Like Candy” as featured on his Mighty Like a Rose album. If you think this tune sounds slightly Beatlesque, it’s because there are bona fide Beatle ingredients in it, and I don’t mean Costello’s Lennon bed-in facial foliage. I’m talking about the song’s co-writer – Paul McCartney.

In 1988 or so, Costello and McCartney got together a wrote a bunch of songs, which was big news whenever either was interviewed.  On McCartney’s part, it was significant as he was about to bring out his Flowers in the Dirt album, featuring the Costello-abetted “My Brave Face” as the lead single.  McCartney had been saddled with a reputation for being the ambassador of twee when it came to writing pop songs.  The last number one he had was “Say Say Say” for gosh sakes!  So, the news that the two would be writing together was big news for many a rock fan.

As for Costello, when approached with this opportunity to write with one of his heroes, he was initially and understandably a bit apprehensive.  After all, everyone expected him to play the part of Lennon.  But in interviews at the time, he revealed that his  self-confidence in his own writing abilities (Lennon too had been a Costello fan, mind…)  sealed the deal; “why not me?”, mused Costello.

And indeed, the results were pretty great, even if they didn’t set the world on fire for the public at large the way that “I Want to Hold Your Hand” did.  Still, the collaboration produced Costello’s hit “Veronica” along with McCartney’s perceived return to form in “My Brave Face”.  And other co-written tunes were to follow on subsequent albums by both men into the mid-90s.

This song appeared later in 1991 on the Mighty… record, and a shining gem of tune it is too. Lush in arrangement and heavy on melody of course, I think Costello’s delivery adds to the undercurrents of darkness in it too. Although much like a Lennon-McCartney collaboration, it would be a mistake to think that the ironic elements in the song’s lyrics are down to Costello alone.

Allegedly, the collaboration was not as clearly demarcated along the words and music dichotomy as one might assume.  This fact of course is not unlike the assumptions popularly made during the Beatles era that positioned McCartney as the melodist, and Lennon (like Costello) the wordsmith.  Not so, not so.

For a bit of contrast, here’s the original demo version of “So Like Candy”, featuring its two writers singing it together.


‘Two of Us’ Beatles Movie with Aidan Quinn and Jared Harris as Paul & John

Here’s a clip of the 2000 film Two of Us, starring Aidan Quinn and Jared Harris as Paul McCartney and John Lennon respectively.  The two musicians are depicted in a fictional account of what might have gone down between them during an historic 1976 meeting which took place the day of the famous Saturday Night Live plea to get the group back together for $3 000.  The movie is directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg who also directed the real Beatles in the 1970 film, Let It Be.

Two of Us was directed by Let it Be director Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who had watched the real Beatles interact during the running on fumes period in the Beatles career.  Its hard not to think that this movie is what Lindsay-Hogg, and the rest of us, wished that Lennon and McCartney had been able to say to each other, rather than what they did say (or avoided saying).
Two of Us was directed by Let it Be director Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who had watched the real Beatles interact during their 'running on fumes' period in 1969. It's hard not to think that this movie is what Lindsay-Hogg, and the rest of us, wished that Lennon and McCartney had been able to say to each other, rather than what they did say (or avoided saying) before the end of Lennon's life.

By 1976, Paul and John had gone down entirely separate roads.  Lennon was a househusband by then, and in contrast, McCartney was the biggest show on the road with his “Silly Love Songs” as a number one record and his smash Wings Over America live album in play in the top ten.  The film brings out these differences in career paths and lifestyle contrasts.  But in the film, historical details are secondary to the drama, the heart of which is the hope  that although the Beatles never got back together as everyone hoped they would, Lennon and McCartney were able to get it together in the end as friends before the end of Lennon’s life.

And this is where the film excels.  It hits an emotional stride, helped along by a very smart script that traces the course of a single day in April 1976.  Act one portrays McCartney’s visit to the Dakota, with the initial hesitancy and misgivings of two old friends catching up.  Act two follows the two men to a trip to Central Park while disguised as two English gentlemen, and then to a confrontation with fans in a local coffee shop.  Act three finds them back at the Dakota, talking over the past on the roof, and then in front of the TV, watching the now famous SNL sketch which, as legend has it, very nearly did tempt the two men to hightail it to the studio which was not far away from where they watched the broadcast.  Through out, this film takes its subject seriously, paying a great deal of attention to these musical giants firstly as people.  These are characters, not impersonations set to dialogue, which would have been an easy trap to fall into.

The range of emotions in the film is wide, from suspicion, to affection, to anger, to humour, and back again. My favourite scene is right after the elevator scene in the clip.  On the roof, Lennon explains that pain is his reality, the thing that drives him.  McCartney asks if whether or not it’s possible that the pain is in his own head, that if he lets it go long enough to love himself, he’d be OK.  A bemused Lennon asks, “what do you see?” to which McCartney answers:

“I see a scared little boy who is blaming himself for his father’s mistakes … I see a frightened man who doesn’t know how beautiful he is…”

The best bits are from Quinn in this scene.  Yet, the film lives and breathes due to the interplay between him and  the excellent Harris (son of Richard), who embodies Lennon as the man-child trying to find himself after basking in the limelight for so long.  It’s hard to tell whether or not the real people were as self-aware as they’re portrayed to be here.  But again, this is a fantasy, a version of history as it should have been, not necessarily as it was.

And to me, I think that even if the film was not about Lennon and McCartney, it would still be powerful.  Utltimately, it’s a story about friends who have a shared past which is tumultuous, a mixed blessing for both.  It’s about how people change, and how relationships must change along with it.  It’s about wanting to change someone’s mind, and getting them to look at themselves differently, even when they stand at opposite ends of the spectrum in every important respect.  It is about the glories of the past and the uncertainties about the future. And finally, it’s about how illusory fame is, and how unimportant it’s pressures are when compared to the value of love and the strength of friendship.

For more information about the film, check out the Two of Us Wikipedia entry, which fills out some of the details.

And just because I think a bit of music is needed here,  here’s a clip of the 1974 McCartney single “Junior’s Farm“.  And here’s Lennon with his single that same year, “#9 Dream“.


Happy Birthday, Paul McCartney

Happy birthday to the cute one – Beatle Paul!

young Paul McCartneyJames Paul McCartney was born in Liverpool this day in 1942, to a part-time musician father and a mother who was a nurse. McCartney would follow in his father’s footsteps as a musician, although he left behind the trumpet in favour of the guitar. He met 16 year old John Lennon at Woolton Fete in 1956, watching John’s band The Quarrymen make up their own versions of popular skiffle favourites for the crowd. At the end of the show, Paul tuned John’s guitar for him (which made an impression), and then played Eddie Cochran’s “Twenty-Flight Rock”. After that, he was in the band. Later, Paul encouraged his school friend George Harrison to bang out a version of Duane Eddy’s “Raunchy” for John while they all road together on the top level of a Liverpool double decker bus. Then, George was in too.

The band gigged around town, and was picked up by a local promoter to go abroad to play rock n’ roll in Hamburg night clubs. The group was a quintet, with Pete Best on drums, and Stu Sutcliffe on bass guitar. Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison played guitars and did so for eight hours at a stretch for the patrons of the seedy Reeperbahn section of Hamburg, kept upright only through the use of uppers. Later, McCartney would pick up the bass and make the instrument his own in the earliest version of the Beatles when former bassist Stu Sutcliffe (who never really played) decided to quit the group in order to pursue an art career in Hamburg. The swtich was successful, as was the band (now a foursome) who went on to become arguably the greatest rock band ever.

After sacking Pete Best in favour of Ringo Starr who was another Liverpudlian drummer they’d met in Hamburg, the group was signed to the EMI-owned label Parlophone in 1962. After they signed and formed a relationship with producer George Martin (a perennial McCartney collaborator even after the Beatles broke up), they scored a number of UK hits, then going on to break America with the Lennon/McCartney original “I Want to Hold Your Hand”. In February 1964, the band consolidated their hold on the record buying teen market when they appeared on the National broadcast of the Ed Sullivan show on February 9th of that year. They would later break away from writing strictly for teen audiences, and begin writing for their own peers, and for themselves too, which indirectly raised the artistic profile of pop music as a whole from that point on.

The BeatlesMcCartney was turned on by rock n’ roll while still in grammar school – most notably by Buddy Holly who was a songwriting role model, and Little Richard, who informed Paul’s own rock n’ roll shout which served him well in songs like “I’m Down” from the Help soundtrack, “Helter Skelter” and many others. His voice could also be sweet, which informed love songs like “And I Love Her”, “Here, There, and Everywhere” and “Golden Slumbers”. Of all the Beatles, McCartney was probably the most well-rounded musician in the band, playing bass, guitars, piano, and even drums when Ringo wasn’t available. His songwriting partnership with John Lennon, which was really more of a healthy competition than it was a collaboration, produced some of the most famous songs in the world, covered by artists ranging from country/easy listening chanteuse Anne Murray to gothic rock band Laibach.

While in the Beatles, McCartney spearheaded their most ambitious album in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, took the lion’s share of the directing of the Beatles’ TV film Magical Mystery Tour, and was the first of the Beatles to admit to the press that he’d taken LSD. Starting in the mid-60s, rumours abounded that he’d died in a car crash and had been replaced by a lookalike – the Paul is Dead rumours.

After the release of the band’s final album Abbey Road, which featured the famed “medley side” that McCartney had championed, The Beatles broke up in April 1970, although their partnership wasn’t fully dissolved until 1974. McCartney would go on to enjoy the most success as a solo artist of all the Beatles. He would score nine number one singles, and seven number one albums during the 70s and early 80s, and would be entered into the Guinness World Book of Records for the world’s most successful songwriter, with his “Yesterday” as the world’s most popular song.

In 1970, he released his first solo album, McCartney which was recorded entirely solo while at home. Some of the songs were recorded in his bathroom for the acoustics. Songs like “Every Night” and “Junk” were understated gems. And his power ballad “Maybe I’m Amazed” stands as one of the best songs he’s ever written. In the 1970s, he made records with his wife Linda (neé Eastman) whom he’d married in March of 1969, a partnership that would last until her death from cancer in 1998. The best of these musical collaborations was 1971’s Ram, which featured the songs “Too Many People”, “Dear Boy”, “Back Seat of My Car”, and the whimsical “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” which was an unlikely hit. He formed another band, Wings, with former Moody Blues singer Denny Laine, and recorded a James Bond theme, “Live and Let Die” in 1973.

Paul McCartney WingsMcCartney recorded Band on the Run in Nigeria that year, and had his greatest success with it to date with the title track and another single, “Jet” both getting top ten status on American and British radio and the album going triple platinum. Even Lennon liked Band on the Run ! He toured America in 1976 on the back of his smash hit “Silly Love Songs” and recorded the live album Wings Over America, one of the singles being a live cut of his early solo song “Maybe I’m Amazed”, which is arguably the definitive version. In 1978, Wings recorded “Mull of Kintyre”, which is one of the best selling British singles of all time. Soon after the release of his 1980 solo album McCartney 2, Paul was jailed in Japan for possession of marijuana for ten days, only to be released without charge.

During the 80s, he would have some success in collaboration with both Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder on separate tracks, although his Beatles fans weren’t as impressed as the greater record-buying public were. Jackson and McCartney fell out by 1985, when Michael Jackson bought the rights to the Beatles catalogue and wouldn’t negotiate a sale.

By the end of the 1980s, McCartney collaborated with Elvis Costello. Some of their songs were written especially for McCartney’s 1988 album Flowers in the Dirt, and others initially appeared on two of Costello’s albums – Spike, and later on Mighty Like a Rose. These collaborations didn’t have the same immediate commercial success when compared with songs like “Say, Say, Say” (McCartney’s last career number one single to date), but McCartney’s credibility was vastly improved by the Costello association. Two more albums would feature McCartney and MacManus (Costello’s real last name) songs – Macca’s Off the Ground in 1993, and Costello’s All This Useless Beauty in 1996.

Beatles AnthologyBy the early 90s, McCartney began work on what would become the Beatles Anthology project along with former bandmates George Harrison and Ringo Starr. The project was a documentary made for television about the Beatles, narrated by the Beatles themselves. A coffee table book was also produced as a companion item to the series, along with three volumes of two-disc compilations, outlining the bands’ career from the earliest homemade recordings to alternate versions of popular songs, to unreleased tracks. Contributions from key Apple Corps head, early road manager, and childhood friend to the band Neil Aspinall were also included to round out the narrative of the band’s mythic rise and fall. The television show was broadcast in 1995 to warm critical reactions.

The project produced another significant outcome – two new Beatles singles – “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love”. Both songs were John Lennon demos which had been submitted with approval by Yoko Ono, which the other Beatles embellished, creating the finished tracks with the help of producer, former ELO frontman, and Beatles enthusiast Jeff Lynne. The music video of “Free As A Bird” evokes the best of the group, an affectionate tribute to what they had created as a band.

The Anthology project helped to ignite McCartney’s interest in recording a solid album of original songs, which resulted in his best studio effort in years, Flaming Pie, in 1997 which McCartney once again recorded with his son James on electric guitar, Jeff Lynne on various instruments, guitarist Steve Miller, and for the last time, Linda McCartney taking pictures and singing back-up. Among many songs on the album, the most poignant would be his love song “Calico Skies”, one of the finest love songs he’d ever written. The album’s title was a reference to an early John Lennon piece published in Merseybeat fan magazine in the early 60s in which, when addressing the question as to where the name “Beatles” came from, John wrote:

… it came in a vision. A man appeared on a flaming pie and said unto them “from this day forth, you are Beatles with an ‘A’. “Thank you, mister man,” they said, thanking him.

The record was the end of an era. Linda died the next year.

Sir Paul McCartneyAfter Linda’s death, Paul continued to be busy, releasing rock albums as well as classical ones, along with continuing involvement in various charity efforts. In 2002, he married former model and self-styled activist and charity worker Heather Mills. They divorced acrimoniously in 2007, with final settlement this year. His Grammy-winning 2005 album Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, recorded solo with Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich at the controls, was not only one of the best albums of his solo career, but one of the best released that year by anyone. His follow-up Memory Almost Full had been started before the Chaos and Creation sessions with a full band. It was the first album released on the Starbucks record label.

When I was young, I wanted to be Paul McCartney. I wanted to look like him, sing like him, and be a musician like him. I used to sing “I Saw Her Standing There” in the shower, dreaming of rock stardom. I learned to play guitar so that I could play Beatles songs.

Paul is still one of my heroes.

Happy birthday, Macca! Thanks for all of the little ditties and good dreams!


Here’s a recent interview with Paul McCartney as shown on Jools Holland’s Later program, which talks about his recent single “Dance Tonight”, Wings, and the Beatles too. And here’s the segment of Paul performing “I’ve Got A Feeling” as referenced in that interview. That song of course is originally taken from the Beatles’ Let it Be, one of the last songs the group performed live, doing so on the rooftops of Apple Corps in January of 1969.

And for those of you who have just woken up from a 45 year coma and want to get caught up, here’s the Paul McCartney MySpace page.

The official Paul McCartney site has even more goodies for fans to appreciate. Send Paul your regards.

Enjoy!, thanking him..

Fantasy Albums: The Beatles 1971 comeback album

Or, how music history should have unfolded if I were in charge.

This is another possible series, should the spirit of the Delete Bin move me further. That is, the geekiest of all geekery among music geeks – the fantasy album. Most of these either come about because the albums haven’t happened, are unlikely to happen, or could never happen. But, fantasy albums are the stuff dreams by music geeks the world over (I have proof that this is the case, good people…). Here is one of mine, with more to (possibly … well, probably) follow. My Beatles album 1971.

Here’s the story:

Paul McCartneyThe Beatles decide to take a breather at the end of the Abbey Road sessions, knowing that they’re running on fumes. John makes the Plastic Ono Band album. George puts out All Things Must Pass as a double album (but holds back a few tunes). Ringo makes some coin as a guest musician on albums by Badfinger and Harry Nilsson, among others. Paul McCartney retreats to his farm in Scotland to write his first album, with some tunes held back. 1970 is otherwise a quiet year. But, by the end of it, The Beatles feel refreshed enough to come back to the Beatles with a renewed sense of vigour. This is because they’ve decided to take control of it, and not have it define them.

George HarrisonThey decide to have solo careers, while coming back to the Beatles by treating it as their hobby band. They deflate the myth by taking it less seriously, while at the same time always making a commitment to bringing their best to it, out of respect. This attitude will create a certain thematic cohesion for the ensuing sessions for their next record. Meanwhile, they’ve cut ties with Allen Klein to find new management in a local firm out of Liverpool with a charismatic leader at the head of it who also happens to be a fan of the music. Through this firm, they are able to re-negotiate their publishing deal with Northern Songs so that they own their own back catalogue outright, as well as control of all materials they put out going forward, either as a group or as solo artists. So, the first year of the decade is a good year indeed.

Ringo StarrThey go into Abbey Road studios with George Martin to record this album, with Geoff Emerick as engineer. And Klaus Voorman will do the album cover (as he did for 1966’s Revolver…), as well as playing bass on a few tracks. Billy Preston will appear playing organ and Fender Rhodes.

Beatles ’71

1. Too Many People – Now not about how obnoxious John and Yoko are, but a song about the disillusion of the hippie ideal. I think John Lennon would add some interesting lyrical content to this. The arrangement would be the same, but with Macca/Lennon/Hari three part harmonies on the “this was your first mistake/you took your lucky break and broke it in two” section. And Harrision would get a slide solo somewhere.
2. What is Life – with more three-part harmonies. It would otherwise remain unchanged.

3. Jealous Guy – No strings on this one, but a bit bluesier, with some Billy Preston organ to make it sound more like a gospel tune. Macca’s bass would be almost a lead instrument on it (his compositional contribution), providing a counter melody under the vocal. The first verse would be John at the piano, and the band would come in on the first chorus.
4. How Do You Sleep? – Equally, this is no longer about Macca, but about the American government and its involvement in Vietnam. John’s lyrics are bolstered by tougher playing and grittier production, making this rock harder than anything they’ve done up until this point. Still featuring the blistering Harrison slide riff, it will also feature a lead guitar as played by Macca that offsets the riff , making it about 12 bars longer. Also, there is a new middle-eight section added by Paul as well, which features his vocal.
5. It Don’t Come Easy The Ringo song! This time, it’s not a mercy track.

Side Two

1. Maybe I’m Amazed Pretty much as is, but with more three-part harmony bits. John would still get a co-writing credit.
2. Wah-Wah George leads an extended version of this tune, allowing for riff-trading with John, Paul, and Preston on Fender Rhodes. This will be the collective statement of the group in many ways, since the sentiment of the song is not being tied to someone else idea of your identity. All the Beatles faced this, and this tune would speak to that issue, along with George’s personal ones. As such, the song would be even harder, and more exhuberant!
3. Gimme Some Truth More chances for cascading “ah” backing vocals a la “Because” on this. Macca would add an intertwining countermelody sung as a backing to John’s lead. It will rely for the main on the strength of the vocals, both lead and backing. As such, it will be entirely a cappella.

4. Reeperbahn Days– This will be a tune that uses the melody of “Oh Yoko!” with Lennon/McCartney/Harrison/Starr contributions to the lyrics. The song is about their Hamburg days, and about their sense of innocence, just playing rock n roll and discovering the world as young men before they were famous. It will feature a rockabilly middle eight section contributed by McCartney which ups the tempo, and on which they will play as a four piece without any keyboards or production flourishes. The song will resolve back to the descending Lennon melody. It will be good natured and celebratory, but the sentiment will resolve on the idea that the past is behind and serves only as a means to understand the present.

5. Imagine – This would be as is, sans strings, with John doing this entirely solo, no drums.
6. Junk This would be a laid back, back porch acoustic guitar strum, with Ringo on a streamlined drum kit and brushes. George would play a tasteful acoustic slide. It would be cut live, with as much of a “just felt like playing” feel to it as possible.

The Beatles would not do a full tour, but would appear at the Concert For Bangladesh, organized by George Harrison. They will perform three songs together: “I’ve Got a Feeling”, “Across the Universe”, and “Too Many People”. In addition to Harrison’s solo set, John Lennon will have a solo tune (“Imagine”), and McCartney will perform “Blackbird” solo to close the record. The money from the concert would be more effective too, with less of it going toward administration, and more to the people who needed it. Royalties from the record would continue to serve development agencies in the sub-continent for many years to come.

In 1976 after the four concentrate on solo careers, there’s a live album …

So there it is, good people. This might be my geekiest article yet. So, there’s no reason for you not to tell me about your fantasy recordings, ones that never were or never can be.

PS- In December 1980, a city bus would jump the curb in New York City and take out a single victim standing outside of the Dakota apartment, knocking a signed copy of Double Fantasy heavenward…