Saturday, January 23, 2010



“McCartney was very funky, down home, just me.”

Curiously, when irreconcilable differences finally splintered one of the greatest song writing partnerships of the 20th century, Paul McCartney chose to release an LP that came pretty close to demo quality. Going one better, despite having one of rock music’s greatest voices, he subversively filled half of the album with instrumentals. Rough hewn best describes the result, though Paul did take a couple of submissions that didn’t make the grade on recent Beatle LPs (“Junk”, “Teddy Boy” and “Every Night”) a few fragments and one truly powerful new song (“Maybe I’m Amazed”) to complete the program.

Going solo in the most literal sense, he played every note on the disc, with wife Linda occasionally joining in on harmonies, that is when there were vocal tracks present.

Listening to it forty years after the fact, Paul’s own evaluation of the record is pretty much on the money. On first airing, it certainly must have amounted to a moment of collective shock for those who had become accustomed to the elaborate productions that his former group had been turning out over the past few years.

What happened to the guy who had been the key driver of the impeccable song suite that comprised the second side of Abbey Road?


With his band on the rocks, longtime friends not speaking to him, earnings tied up in a company that would soon be at the center of a litigious shit-storm and a host of other miserable developments, it’s not surprising that his output would be anything other than low key. Reflective of his personal state at that time, the music on McCartney was portrayed as being a summation of “home, family and love” on the PR message track when it was issued. Cloistered in his makeshift studio at his farm in Scotland , he diligently tracked his parts at times opting to book the odd session in London . During these blocks of time, he would have an engineer assist with getting things to tape, though he would ask that no mention be made of what they were up to.

Production-wise, there is every indication that these sketches were homemade, with no effort to trim extraneous noises from the final mix. Close listening reveals a handful of minor incidences where you hear domestic background patter or a door shutting. Certainly, this is just the by-product of knocking out a few tunes at home, with no concentrated effort on McCartney’s part to emphasize these random sounds.

Interesting in these times to ponder that Paul prefigured the lo-fi movement by decades when he made his one-man show available for public consumption in early 1970. Being a McCartney vehicle, the songs that manage to amount to more than just musical jotting have killer melodies. Lyrically, there’s nothing substantive going on and he doesn’t trouble himself to include any tunes that lash out at his former band mates. Self-pity is also left out of the equation. Reverting to type, he provides no indication that anything is wrong on record, no doubt a product of the stiff upper lip he was taught to keep in place as part of a male-dominated, Northern Liverpudlian upbringing.

His one act of defiance came in crafting a mock interview that appeared as an insert with the original UK issue of McCartney. Bizarre, though the content made its way into the homes of thousands of unsuspecting Britons. Allen Klein deleted this from the US version of McCartney, no doubt because of the denigrating commentary aimed at himself and the other Beatles.

"Kreen Akrore" takes "Moby Dick" deep into the Brazilian jungle, from where few have returned to tell their tale...

"Junk" boasts a beautiful melody, ranking as one of his most underrated creations. Best in show here? You guessed it.

Life is a spilled bowl of cherries.


Dan said...

Love the whole album and you are right, when it came out, it was like what the hell is this? Nothing like the Beatles, but still it was Mac. It quickly grew on me and even now I love listening to it. I especially like the song "Momma Miss America" I can just picture Paul rocking away on every instrument.

Sean Coleman said...

Dan- It's really interesting to listen to the first set of solo LPs from Paul, John and George as you get to hear exactly what each of them brought to the table. McCartney (the LP) and Ram are always ones that I go back to. Paul's song structure was far more sophisticated than his former mates, though he did have a tendency to wander into more sugary territory at times, hence the bad rap he got as the 70s wore on.

Seano said...

I think Paul was exhausted and thrilled at the same time..when compiling these tracks..during the demise of the fab 4. Freedom? Disillusion? Yes. Well, just jam out and see what happens. That'll do... I also think there has never been more pot smoke in his studio before or since.....Junk is my personal fav, but Maybamazed a close 2nd.

Charlie said...

I never knew what to think of this album. I liked it but I never considered it high art. To me it was obvious that the best stuff on it was written for The Beatles to use. As for the rest, it didn't sound as if Paul tried to hard even though it turned out to be pleasant. However, the record was still tons better than most of his subsequent solo output. With only about three or four exceptions his music lacked substance to well into the 90s. A sad sate of affairs for someone who wrote the lyrically magnificent "Eleanor Rigby."

Dan said...

I think it was just Paul flexing his solo muscles and realizing he could do anything he wanted. I still think there is a lot of good stuff on here and much of it without words as Sean says. I picture it as a guy just living the dream without someone telling him how to live it. Junk is really cool too!

drewzepmeister said...

To me, it's simply a great album...

classicrockforthesoul said...

Ahh absolutely love "Maybe I'm Amazed" :)

Another fabulus write up!