“Dear sir or madam, will you read my book? It took me years to write. Won’t you take a look?” -Paul McCartney, “Paperback Writer”
Happy 75th, Paul!
• Confession: The “cute” Beatle, the one many girls liked best, was, initially and for a long time, not my favorite. Rather, it was the other guy who sang “It Won’t Be Long”, “Not a Second Time”, “Come Together” and “I Am the Walrus”. But, inevitably and for catchy musical reasons, Paul made his favorable impressions on me over time.
• One song not often referenced when recalling his hits was “Thank You Girl”, a single B-side. It was pretty direct, open and simple like so many of his early lyrics. I can still remember singing along to “I Saw Her Standing There” at high-school basement parties when guys would join in for the “and I held her hand in mi-eee-ne”. Pure fun and that song accurately describes the feel and goings-on of your average teenage party. Great bass line, by the way.
• “All l My Loving”, another signature song. Country-rock oddly enough. Hits the mark with the opening and the harmony later.
• “Till There Was You”–not written by The Beatles, but a classic ‘show song’ from The Music Man. Pure McCartney and the kinds of romantic love songs he would eventually go on to write himself. Great chords and Everlys-sized acoustic guitars.
• Another case in point, the acoustic-y “And I Love Her” and the killer “A love like ours” bridge.
• “Can’t Buy Me Love”–M. had a way of getting listeners really excited, up and moving. This has pretty much the same effect/affect as “I Saw Her”. George’s overlapping guitars solo is always a big reason to check out this one.
• “Things We Said Today”–moody and minor-keyed. One I’ve performed in public, though you need a harmony singer to make it quiver and shiver.
• “I’ll Follow the Sun”–Paul the Poignant. He wrote many philosophical goodbye songs, being the sort of nostalgic chap he still is.
• “Another Girl”–I’ll take over “The Night Before” as a song from the Help! album. More tension and truth: “There are options; I’ll get along fine.”
• “I’ve Just Seen a Face”–the fastest-moving acoustic-folk thing The Beatles ever did. Country rock again. The “falling” chorus is the hook. “I’m Looking Through You”–“Love has a nasty habit of disappearing overnight”.
• “Yesterday”–I learned this one just to play the chords and changes. A letter-perfect song. Many great hard-earned truths of personal experience. Maybe the best song about leaving and goodbye ever written.
• “Michelle”–first song with a name I’m aware of The Beatles did. Very romantic and sweet–well, it’s M after all! French words, so doubly romantic. “I want you, I want you…”
• “Eleanor Rigby”–I adapted this as a folky tune and played it with my folk group Clover back in Wpg. to open the 1970 Voyageur festival in Wpg in front of 1000 people. I believe we may have been the only English act that year. The fact I chose this song speaks volumes about my respect for it and its truthful lyrics. A ‘heavier’ song by M. and well-done with the string quartet. Very gutsy recording. The Stones did “As Tears Go By” quickly after, trying to keep up with the vanguard and their main competition!
• “For No One”–maybe my favorite ballad off Revolver. Excellent deep-sounding piano and French horn. “And in her eyes you see nothing….”An absolutely flawless lyric recording the process, again, of the end of a love affair.
• “Got to Get You into My Life”–see how he keeps coming back to write these rousers which leap out of the gate from the get-go. Great brass opening–ahead of its time again. M was every bit as much of an innovator as John.
• “Paperback Writer”–same thing/approach, this one even “leapier”. One thing to note is that this one is danceable despite all the catchy, interesting lyrics. A takeoff on John’s sidebar career as a published author. Typical M–cute, cheeky, and not mean or jealous (unlike John when they started doing solo albums).
• “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” tells you who the album-concept man was going to be from this point on (followed by Magical Mystery Tour). Paul the Performer, the guy who most wanted to be in a band and keep the band going (There would have been no last two albums if it hadn’t been for him. Even John acknowledged this.)
• “She’s Leaving Home”–no one writes schmaltz or melodrama better than M. And this one works with the overlapping voices and the storyline. This is one of the best and most archetypal story songs ever written by anyone. M could be very spot-on with the human truths and character studies at times.
• “When I’m 64”–he had a pretty good imagination looking ahead over three decades and imagining his old age. Most likely inspiring Paul Simon’s “Old Friends”. He was writing about changes more memorably on The Beatles’ best album.
• “Lady Madonna”–a shuffle-dance tune with puns galore. Good modern-myth mix lyrically. “Listen to the music playing in your head”–and then the music pours in on the track!
• “Hey Jude”–incredibly repetitive, but the main lyrics are strong. A very empathetic-sympathetic song which shows that he could still separate even when he and Lennon were at odds.
• “The Fool on the Hill” is Paul–the imaginer, the daydreamer.
• “Hello Goodbye”–word play at its best. Dealing with all the contraries, ups and downs. M’s song/take about dualities.
• “Penny Lane”–so-o fundamentally British and quaint. Chord-wise, a very difficult song to play. The Beatles pulled it off ultra-smoothly–a tribute to M’s and George Martin’s chosen arrangement.
• “Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da”–a cute song. I used to have to play it in my band from ’73-75 at dances. It was an obligatory piece. People just like the carefreeness and vaguely West Indian (Desmond) sensibility of it.
• “Martha My Dear”–a song for his dog, but you could have fooled a lot of listeners back then. Nice series of changes. Typical of his musical adventures on Ram, a few years away.
• “Rocky Racoon”–a tongue-in-cheek story song. A take-off on violence, Dylan folk songs and the Wild West.
• “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”–speaking of violence, this one’s a humorous song about a serial killer. Only M could have pulled this off. Pure fun and clever as his songs can sometimes be.
• “Let It Be”–best song from that album and movie. A song for everybody, much like “Yesterday”. I remember playing it during my first year at U of A at one of the last Edmonton folk clubs–The Stockade, or was it The Barricade? It worked as a simple folk song played on guitar. The religious imagery works.
• “The Long and Winding Road”–one of my favorite M ballads. Very wistful and nostalgic and romantic, of course. “…has left a pool of tears”–with a nod to Lewis Carroll.
• “Get Back”–M’s song. Simple but effective and fun–typical M shuffle. Another throwback to the English skiffle-band ’50s.
• “Another Day”–Paul finally on his own for good. A commendable attempt to capture the malaise, boredom, and dreams of a modern middle-class working woman. K and I used to hear this a lot on the radio–a minor epic of sorts. Very catchy with good changes.
• 1971–as I got ready to become a teacher, every Ed student had to get up and speak in front of a group (to show they could do it? had good language skills? could command an audience?) A very nervous moment, but we were told we could talk about anything. I got up and spoke about Lennon and McCartney and their differences. Basically, I said that Lennon was the poet, the thinker, the ‘inner guy’, the loner, the lyricist mainly, and that M was the performer, the player, the extrovert, and the musical guy–mainly interested in the music, the melodies, the tunes. And he was. Basically, M is about fun and pleasure and giving it/sharing it and his love of music with millions. He is very ‘out there’, relatively unselfish, and very giving. How can anyone not like Paul McCartney?
• “Every Night” from the first solo album. Great stuff and very much about the opening E7 chord.
• “Maybe I’m Amazed”–like “Another Day”, a complex enough tune to garner air play. His love for his first wife. He was so happy to be free of The Beatles and be able to make his own music.
• “Dear Boy” from Ram–anything was now possible for M. Writing about himself and finding love. A delight to listen to. ( I’ve tried many times to play it but it’s a killer. I’ve relegated myself to playing “Every Night” which is more my speed and me in actuality.)
• Ram, incidentally, is about as close to pure music as M ever got, making sounds, filling in every pause or opening with music or sound. It is not a profound album unlike Lennon’s Imagine, out at the same time, but it is pure M fun–“We’re so sorry, Uncle Albert, but we haven’t done a bloody thing all day”.
• Onto his best solo album Band on the Run, and “Jet”. “Jet” is M’s Beethoven’s Fifth piece–“Da-da-duh-dum, da-da-duh-dum–Dum!” Cheeky and punny, and pure fun again, though purportedly about women’s lib!
• “Bluebird” and “Mamunia”–a throwback to his acoustic-best with nice harmonies. Songs you never want to end. “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-five” and the Picasso song–about as nice and interesting a pairing of songs you could ever hope to end an album. Mini-epics within themselves.
• Well, there were many more songs, but those were his that stood out for me. (I haven’t mentioned ones Lennon wrote which he sang on.) Tonight 50 years later, I finally get to be about twenty yards away from him. He won’t sound as good as he did in the NYC concerts from a few years back–Good Evening NYC is the DVD concert to see and own, but he’ll be giving it his all and he’ll be his legendary self in front of 14,500.
Oh and yes, “Live and Let Die”. I was sitting in Club 41 on the Cold Lake air force base in ’74, waiting to play at the enlisted men’s mess when this epic and the Stones’ “Angie” came pouring largely out of a jukebox. Wow! it was strange; it was so cool; it was M writing for James Bond with one of his crazy typical altered-timing bridges. The opening notes and the frenetic repeated bridge notes. It was Rock’s Beethoven all over again. I wasn’t a believer in the beginning or even that curious hot summer day in’74, but some 38 years later, I am a major born-again fan. Yes, that will be the one song that will make the -25 degree C long-walk from the parking lot all worthwhile.
ps/ I forgot to mention the many times my daughter and I sang “We Can Work It Out” together with me taking the high harmony on the chorus. One of his best and most thoughtful songs by Macca.
pps/ after the show: 3 hrs. of music, he was in great voice with fantastic videoscreens and lighting effects–fabulous sound. Sat about 20 yds away from the side, eye-level, no obstructions. A love-in with the audience all night long. Highlights included him singing Lennon’s “Day in the Life” verses, a new song for John, and “Something” for George, beginning with a ukelele opening (G played uke). “Live and Let Die” ‘s pyro effects throughout with fiery videoscreens would easily be the most dramatic stage number I’ve witnessed in any concert–the heat from the real flames toasted us and two songs later, the janitor-crew had to clean the ash off the stage and instruments! It is really hard to imagine or remember a better concert or better song catalogue.