4/17/70 – Paul McCartney – McCartney
To wrap up my makeup work on some of the key 50th album release anniversaries I missed this spring, I thought I’d share some thoughts on the McCartney album.
As a kid I thought this album was titled Bowl of Cherries. I like it a lot, always have. My brother’s copy got a lot of spins when I was growing up, and since it was Paul McCartney I automatically accepted it as good, just as I did with all his solo and Wings albums through Tug of War. There’s definitely a degree of psychology involved in some of our musical preferences, which is another way of saying we like what we like. There are also plenty of folks who don’t like it. They hear some if not all of the songs as weak and sloppily recorded. It’s another example of McCartney’s ego run amok with him playing all the instruments. And worse, he slipped that little “interview” into the album jacket in which he announced the breakup of the Beatles, even though he later claimed that wasn’t his intent.
When artists achieve a certain degree of critical acclaim, they have as a result set a high bar not just for their peers but for themselves as well going forward. The most creative and ambitious among them welcome the challenge, though rarely are those peaks reached again. Though Paul would later attempt to scale those heights in his solo career with varying amounts of success, that’s not what McCartney is about. It was largely a vehicle for Paul to pick himself up again after the Beatles had come undone because he didn’t know what else to do. The McCartneys had retreated to their farm in Scotland after the difficult Get Back sessions in January 1969, and Paul sank into a dark emotional space of fear and depression. That’s a real thing. He was also compelled to reassure the world he was still alive via some uninvited guests on his farm from Life Magazine (hard to believe that was a real thing, too).
That’s not to say Paul didn’t care about moving product, because of course he did. With Linda’s help, he pulled himself together and wrote some songs which he combined with a couple he’d already written and demoed with the Beatles. You can hear John mocking Teddy Boy on The Beatles Anthology Vol. 3 during the Get Back sessions, for example. McCartney also features a couple of tracks in Maybe I’m Amazed and Every Night which I think are up to standard for any McCartney album or Beatles for that matter. Plenty of musicians can only dream of writing two songs that good. But for me as an adult it’s not just that I still enjoy listening to it. As with much of the music from past eras it’s also the context of the creation of this record that interests me after all this time.
And what of the other tracks on the album? The lack of flow to me is in itself the flow, beginning with the brief and whimsical The Lovely Linda which opens the album, a song whose inclusion makes perfect sense considering Linda’s role in motivating Paul at the time. In the instrumentals such as Valentine Day Paul shows off a bit of lead guitar work – something he did occasionally in the Beatles but which the casual fan wasn’t very aware of since Paul was “the bass player.” Man We Was Lonely is a goofy autobiographical song, and it’s just now dawning on me as I write that it’s a country song. I’d never thought of it like that. Oo You and Momma Miss America are improvised rockers, the latter with a cool tremolo guitar effect. I like Paul’s drumming on these tracks, simple as it might be. Teddy Boy and Junk are from the same mold as Another Day which was released the following year. And what McCartney fan hasn’t, at least in the privacy of their home, sung along to the karaoke that is Singalong Junk?
My first copy of this album came in the form of a low quality Maxell D-90 cassette onto which I recorded my uncle’s LP. During Momma Miss America the music cuts out and there’s a piercing, high pitched noise that lasts two or three seconds. My uncle later admitted he had inadvertently hit pause while it was recording. It just became part of the song for me for about ten years until I bought a copy on CD.
- The Lovely Linda
- That Would Be Something
- Valentine Day
- Every Night
- Hot as Sun/Glasses
- Man We Was Lonely
- Oo You
- Momma Miss America
- Teddy Boy
- Singalong Junk
- Maybe I’m Amazed