Monday, 18 June 2012

Paul McCartney at 70!

It was 70 years ago today…

Paul McCartney, James Paul McCartney, Macca!, the pretty Beatle is 70 years old today and as he tucks into his veggie birthday cake I have decided that 70 years is a milestone that needs to be celebrated with a quick look back over the solo career of the most successful pop star still alive today. Yes he has made some absolute shockers in his time but he has also wrote some stone cold classics as well. Here a few to remember, dig out and YouTube/Spotify if you don’t have them to hand.

Throughout his 42 year solo career he has only made in my opinion 2 strong full albums and they are ‘Ram’ and ‘Band on the Run’, although he has written many other great songs they have been few and far between and sandwiched between mediocre and generally half arsed work.

The reasons behind this pendulum of gold vs. shit is hard to explain although one would say that the fact that he has had so much success may blinker his vantage point to what should be left in the archives and what should be released as a single (no matter how many copies it might sell by the Beatles faithful). It seems that it just comes too easy to him to create, if you sit him down at a piano or with an acoustic guitar and leave him alone for an hour and you’ll have a song on your hands, it’ll be better than anything most can write but not better than tracks he himself has already written, and that is the crux of the problem, McCartney doesn’t have any internal editing tool in place to say “nah Paul ditch that one”, in short he’s missing a ‘Lennon’, now he has a gaggle of paid sycophants who applaud every twang and tinkle like he’s just created another ‘Sgt Pepper’ which creatively doesn’t help matters. Either that or to put it bluntly, the hobby that became a career has once again become a hobby to a man with no more peaks left to climb musically.

Here are a few gems that need to be extracted from the rotten tooth of ‘Ebony and Ivory’ type schmaltz and 30’s inspired rinky-tinky-tooty wartime ‘McCartney-isms’.

Maybe I’m AmazedMcCartney (1970) – Although the first solo album after the split (‘McCartney’) was patchy at best and not in the league of either George Harrison’s ‘All Things Must Pass’ or John Lennon’s ‘Plastic Ono Band’ it did include this track which shows that he was far from over musically, in fact he was just getting started. The stripped down and almost garage rock approach has held up surprisingly and has found a new generation of fans as the years have gone on thanks to the reissues.

Monkberry Moon DelightRAM (1971) – Criminally underrated track from ‘Ram’, showing that when the chips were down McCartney could get weird and heavy with the best of them, ‘Helter Skelter’ manic vocals and Dylan-esque word-play.

Uncle Albert/Admiral HalseyRam (1971)

Back Seat of My CarRam (1971) – Full production, polar opposite to the minimalist arrangements on the ‘McCartney’ album.

Let Me Roll ItBand on The Run (1973) – Using the sun studios slap-back tape echo on his voice that although had been popularised by Elvis and Gene Vincent was mostly recognisable from John Lennon’s use of it. Sparse verse punctuated by twin guitars and Hammond organ.

Band on The RunBand on The Run (1973) - A real showstopper and patchwork of genres from the man that inspired Brian Wilson to create Pet Sounds and the ‘Smile’ song cycle project.

JetBand on The Run (1973)

Coming Up!McCartney II (1980) – Proving that even though The Beatles were no more the relationship between Lennon and McCartney was always one of friendly competition, when Lennon heard this track whilst on holiday in Bermuda he was inspired to start writing the tracks for what would be his last album ‘Double Fantasy’. Apparently Lennon was content in playing house husband while Paul churned out what he would call below par rubbish but when he released good work the competitive side inside Lennon rose like a dormant phoenix and felt inspired to throw down his own gauntlet in retaliation to his old writing partner.

WaterfallsMcCartney II (1980)

Here Today Tug Of War (1982) – His slow tribute to John Lennon after his 1980 assassination.

The World TonightFlaming Pie (1997) – The ‘Flaming Pie’ album was seen as a ‘come back’, perhaps inspired by the recent Beatles ‘Anthologies’ that were released and he managed to write his strongest collection of songs for many a year.

Flaming PieFlaming Pie (1997) – The title song from the album of the same name. The war-time jangle piano starts it but pulling his trusty Epiphone Casino out off mothballs and chugging out a ‘fab’ guitar track saved this from the chopping board.

Shake A Hand Run Devil Run (1999) – Little Richard cover from this ‘oldies’ collection. McCartney always ‘did’ the best Little Richard impression and was in fact taught the trademark scream by the man himself in Hamburg. A nice addition to the album itself and a benchmark of artists ‘rediscovering their roots’ by actually choosing songs they want to record rather than the usual suspects of safe choices i.e. ‘Long Tall Sally’, ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’.

Friends To GoChaos and Creation in the Back Yard (2005) – Written as a tribute to George Harrison. McCartney began writing this song just as another track for the album that he was making with Nigel Godrich. Godrich had asked McCartney for some more material as some of the previous attempts had been refused by the ballsy studio wizard as being not good enough. In a move that both shocked and inspired to pull his song writing socks up and present some crackers worthy of his name and legend.

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