Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Paul was in a band before Wings?

Mr. McCartney took his lumps after the Beatles split, and some of the reasoning behind it is valid. Without John to prod him, he could be a lazy lyricist, and the fill factor on his albums is often too high. And My Love ranks with the worst of 70s radio. But consider these observations about his songwriting:
  • His average number of songs on a Beatle's record was five or six.
  • His best songs were recorded methodically over a period of time. Unlike Lennon, he was not well-suited to off-the-cuff recordings.
  • He was in a deep depression in 1969/1970 over the breakup of the Beatles
  • It took some time to find his "solo" voice. John had a head start, as he was releasing solo records before the split.
Call me a McCartney apologist, but I believe that his overall track record up to 1975 (ed. previously stated 1980) was successful, and that his catalog has a few masterpieces. Ram is a sleeper, and my appraisal of it has only increased over the years. Band On The Run is considered overrated by some, but recent listenings tell me that it was the pinnacle of his post-Beatles work. The singles that came just before and after it are some of his finest rockers.
Before BOTR
  • Hi Hi Hi - chunky rocker with lyrics that dared radio stations to ban it
  • Live And Let Die - absolutely the best Bond theme song evah!
  • Helen Wheels - chunky rocker #2 with a thudding bass that rocks the planet
After BOTR
  • Junior's Farm - chunky rocker #4 (Jet from BOTR would be #3); perhaps his finest single, and it contains a phenomenal coda with soaring harmonies and Jimmy McCullough's white hot guitar work.
Mention Wings and expect to get some laughs, or rolling of the eyes. But once the group found its legs, they created a recognizable sound apart from that of the Beatles. Nowhere nearly as good for sure, but certainly acceptable and with a few gems to remember them by.


Alex said...

Paul's track record in the 70s was wildly uneven. He had huge amazing highs (the Band on the Run and Ram albums, some great singles) and unfathomable lows (nearly all of Wild Life and Red Rose Speedway as well as much of Wings at the Speed of Sound, parts of >London Town, most of McCartney II, and some of the most syrupy singles in rock history).

Freed from the shackles of being Beatles, both John and Paul had some great moments in the 70s. But without each other as filters, they both put out their share of songs that never would have made it onto Beatle albums.

Mister Pleasant said...

Alex - we seem to be in agreement. Venus and Mars is not spectacular but not embarrasing either. What came after it was mostly dreck.

I admit to being one of the few that likes most of Wildlife, even if it is underproduced and sloppy. Red Rose Speedway however is a joke. I never listen to it, although The Mess - the non-LP B-side to My Love - is a great rocker.

So I enjoy the good John and Paul solo-period songs and have banned the rest from my playlist.

Holly A Hughes said...

I recently re-acquired a turntable and listened to those Wings albums again -- and they hold up surprisingly well, with little gems scattered throughout (remember Cafe on the Left Bank from London Town? Power Cut from Red Rose Speedway?).

I think it's the syrupy singles that really ruined Paul's reputation, and having lived for a while in the UK, I imagine that he was misled by the much more commercial pop context of BBC radio. To this day he is still guilty of choosing his most mindless and annoyingly catchy songs to release as singles. (John would have nixed those choices with one sarcastic snort.) I think Macca must have some vision of entire families listening to the radio together, the grandparents tapping their toes and saying, "This young fellow's music isn't so bad!" Except that now the grandparents are Paul's age and were raised on Led Zeppelin and the Kinks, so he really doesn't have to pander to that music hall sound anymore.

Personally I think Paul needs a companion whose musical taste he can trust who would help him edit his output. If you ever speak to him, let him know that I volunteer for the job...