Critical 10: Paul McCartney Deep Tracks
- Best of List
Macca in all his guises.
On the occasion of Paul McCartney's 70th birthday, let's have a trawl through some of the lesser-known gems of his post-Beatles career.
After John Lennon misinterpreted Ram's mocking "Dear Boy" as being directed at him (it was actually a middle finger to the former Linda Eastman's first husband), he wrote the withering "How Do You Sleep?" in response. Typically, McCartney's parry was this haunting piano ballad tucked at the end of Wings' Wild Life, the lyrical gist of which is "Dude...seriously?"
Alternately overblown and half-baked, Red Rose Speedway is a hard album to love without reservation, but this barely two-minute gem is a perfectly-realized example of Macca's knack for pop songs that somehow manage to be melancholy and sprightly at the same time. The sudden crash-in of the horn section near the very end is oddly perfect.
Yes, the lyrics to this Band on the Run hidden gem don't make a blind bit of sense. But they're delivered with such casual aplomb that it's clear that everyone involved knows that, and is okay with it. The busily melodic bass line is the real point of the song, anyway.
San Ferry Anne
This tiny little acoustic shuffle, decorated with jazzy little trumpet and flute flourishes, is one of the few true high points of 1976's spotty Wings at the Speed of Sound. Overall, the album put paid to the concept that Wings was a genuine collaboration simply because the five songs written and/or sung by the other members of the band simply aren't very good.
So Glad To See You Here
In many ways, Back to the Egg was McCartney's response to new wave: it was the most eclectic and experimentally-minded record he'd made in years. One of those experiments was a pair of songs recorded with a massed band he called the Rockestra, bringing together members of bands old (The Who, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin) and new (Rockpile, The Attractions, The Pretenders). The instrumental "Rockestra Theme" was a toss-off, but "So Glad To See You Here" manages a decent head of power pop steam.
Originally released as the b-side of the 12" single of "Temporary Secretary" in 1980, this nearly 11-minute electronic tune probably seemed like a formless mess to most listeners at the time. Now it sounds like a direct progenitor to the likes of Boards of Canada, Air and Black Moth Super Rainbow. Indeed, all of the synthesizer-driven McCartney II makes a lot more sense than it did at the time.
That Day Is Done
The temporary songwriting partnership of McCartney and Elvis Costello resulted in some of the best songs either man came up with as the '80s turned into the '90s. This R&B-influenced ballad is hampered a bit by its of-the-moment production, but it's still good enough to make me wish the pair had kept working together.
McCartney's first collaboration with Killing Joke's Youth under the name The Fireman, Strawberries Oceans Ships Forest, sucks. Surprisingly, the partnership's later records, 1998's Rushes (from which comes this bit of abstract psychedelia) and 2008's Electric Arguments, are among the strongest records McCartney has made in the last 30 years.
Long Haired Lady (Reprise)
Even more under-the-radar than the releases by The Fireman is Twin Freaks, an album-length collaboration with British mash-up DJ Freelance Hellraiser released in 2005. Hellraiser had opened for McCartney on some dates of his 2004 tour, playing DJ sets that transformed various McCartney songs in his usual style. This double-album-length collaboration, complete with a McCartney painting on the front cover, is the studio equivalent, creating new songs out of elements of McCartney's old recordings.
The clear highlight of 2007's Memory Almost Full, this oddball character study is a rare example of McCartney's darker side, with disorienting vibe oddly reminiscent of some of Peter Gabriel's '70s work.