My Record Collection 147

Paul McCartney – 70’s and 80’s – Well, they don’t come much bigger than this ex-Beatle.  People talk about John Lennon, but really after the fab four split, we saw that John, apart from his first two brilliant albums, struggled to make a solo career.  True, he was murdered just as he was making a long-awaited comeback – and George was flagging a bit too.  But it was Paul who kept going and writing and making albums – some better than others.   In fact his first solo record, like George and John too, was made while still a Beatle.  Simply entitled McCartney (1970) it was a completely home-made affair; and has a simplistic charm and naivety that has only improved with age.   Some of the tracks seem little more than demos, some had already been suggested as Beatles tracks and some were written in the studio by Paul.   A bit of a curates egg really; some poor bits and bobs, a couple of mediocre ones and a handful of great songs not so brilliantly produced.  Best are ‘That Would Be Something’, ‘Every Night’ and the truly great ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ – the last of which; the only track capable of being on a Beatles album (with a little help from his friends) – this song was improved vastly by Rod and The Faces, but that’s another story.  The album sold fairly well, but I think a lot of fans were disappointed by the half-finished feel of the thing.  Much better was the following year’s effort Ram.  This time Paul enlisted a few good musicians and though self-produced, it was done very professionally.  It seems that Paul’s Beatles breakup induced depression had lifted and the album is generally very upbeat.  Though Paul and John were still sniping at each other in their lyrics, mostly the record’s words are nonsense – though incredibly infectious nonsense at that.  A huge hit all over the world, this was Paul’s biggest selling album – and for good reason.  It remains the best Beatles album not recorded by The Beatles at all.  From opener ‘Too Many People’ to closer ‘Back Seat Of My Car’ it barely puts a foot wrong; my only criticism is that it is credited to Paul and Linda where his wifes input (apart from zany lyrics) was minimal – but he was obviously responding to John and Yoko making albums together (where the same criticism applies).  Favourite songs are the medley ‘Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey’ – a sort of Yellow Submarine follow-up, Rocker ‘Monkmerry Moon Delight’ and ‘Heart Of The Country’.  This is almost my fave Paul album.

After this Paul decided to recruit his own band – Wings ( see W ) and had a string of albums of again mixed quality.

But by the end of the 70s that race had been run – and he seemed to run out of both band members and ideas,  So Paul decided to go solo again (though in truth almost all of Wings output was Paul, writing, singing and playing).  McCartney 2 came out in 1980.   It bears a resemblance to his first album in that all the instruments and production were by Paul – but a decade on and with much use of synthesisers and studio wizardry and experimental ideas it is a very different record.  I must admit I didn’t like it much at first – but it has begun to grow on me over the years.  But like it’s namesake it is a mixed bag; a couple of the tracks seem pointless fillers and there are a couple of gems – ‘Coming Up’ and ‘One Of These Days’.  And although I think I was quite disappointed by this album back in the early Eighties, Paul is one of the very dew artists I have bought almost everything of as soon as it was released.  Paul disbanded the practically redundant Wings in 1981 and has since pursued a solo career, though he has a regular live band.  The Eighties were a strange decade; new digital recording techniques and synthesisers meant that music was changing again (though not for the better) and most established artists from the Sixties and Seventies struggled; attempting to sound ‘Modern’ and ‘Relevant’.  Paul however soon established himself as a hitmaker on his own and had a string of successful singles and pretty good albums.  Next up was 1982’s Tug Of War.   Produced by long term Beatles team mate George Martin, this was a return to the form he had achieved with both The Beatles and Wings.  Three hit singles including the insipid but catchy ‘Ebony and Ivory’ with Stevie Wonder and the whole album is very accomplished.  Fave tracks of mine are ‘Wanderlust’, ‘Ballroom Dancing’ and best of all the tribute to John who had been shot the year before, the lovely ‘Here Today’.   Apparently a few songs recorded at these sessions were held over for next year’s Pipes Of Peace.   And somehow it wasn’t quite as good.  The title track was a huge hit and is very good, but not that much else hits the mark for me.  Again it sounds as if Paul was trying too hard to be modern.  Now, a confession – I have never really liked Michael Jackson despite his great voice and dancing – and Paul collaborated on two tracks with Michael.  The big hit was ‘Say Say Say’, and yes it’s okay.  The only other tracks I really like are closer ‘Through Our Love’ and ‘The Other Me’.  

Paul spent mst of the next year 1983 writing and filming Give My Regards To Broad Street.   As usual, and especially since John’s death, the film was panned by the critics, as everything Paul did was – as if he was somehow the lucky one and John, the real Beatle, had been denied the success that Paul was enjoying.  But I loved both the film and the soundtrack album which contained many of Paul’s recent songs and was a fictionalised look at the current life of McCartney, with a daft but almost believable script.  Great acting too from Paul and Ringo and Tracy Ulmann.  Anyway – the songs; live versions of earlier Beatles songs which add little, except an extended orchestral version of Eleanor Rigby which is brilliant.  The few new songs are pretty good, especially ‘Not Such A Bad Boy’ (written with Eric Stewart of 10CC {see T}) and the incredible ‘No More Lonely Nights’ which in a way the whole film is built around – this song one of Paul’s very best is infectious and one of my favourites too.   A year later and Paul got a few players together and recorded about 20 old Rock and Roll standards, 10 of which he released on an album called Choba B CCCP which is Russian for back in the USSR.  The sleeve was in Russian too, and Paul made arrangements for the record to be released in Russia too under the Melodiya label.   Well, it is quite good in its own sweet way; in fact I prefer it to John’s earlier Rock and Roll album (see L), there is a joyfulness in it, a sense of abandonment.  But no tracks really stand out for me.  Much better was his 1989 release Flowers In The Dirt.  In fact, this may be just about his best album to date, certainly a contender anyway.  Paul used three different producers including himself but not George Martin and co-wrote a few songs with Elvis Costello, who also sings on one song with Paul.  However Paul is notoriously hard to work with, on anything like an equal basis anyway, and has discarded partners along the way.  Costello would go the same way too – but he did add a much needed edge to Pauls, at times, syrupy sound, and predilection for pop over rock.  Anyway, the album is really good; a touch too long if anything (CD technology meant the old format of maximum 20 minutes a side was swept away and length and number of songs grew) but hardly a poor song in there at all.  Best for me were lead off single ‘My Brave Face’, ‘Distractions’, ‘Put It There’ and ‘Motor Of Love’. 

English songwriter and pop star Paul McCartney on his farm near Rye, Sussex.