Sep 022010

I don’t know if Paul McCartney blew his mind out in a car in 1966, but it’s clear to me that by 1969-70, he’d gotten pretty rich and tired — or maybe just lazy. His noble savage/country farmer persona — only hinted at during the Get Back sessions — probably reached its most fervent, greasy-haired expression in the music (and photos) that fill his first solo album, entitled simply McCartney.

Who knows why Paul decided to retreat to his farm/lighthouse/sheep station/rock studio and record this half-baked collection of unfinished demos? But he did — and, for my money, it’s a sad preview of the dozens (hundreds?) of half-assed songs he’s foisted on the world since then, just because he can.

As usual, there’s at least one jaw-dropper on the album (in this case, “Maybe I’m Amazed”) — the song that makes you want to sock the guy in the nose for betraying his talent on the rest of the record. But the rest of it is just stupid. I mean, really: is this LP any better than a bootleg collection of home demos — clearly never meant to get “finished” — would be?

Reading current reviews of this record, I’m sensing that the rock and roll revisionists are circling around this disc, telling us that it’s a hidden “rough gem” in McCartney’s otherwise polished catalog. Bullshit! The album sucks eggs.

Don’t you agree?



  32 Responses to “Revisionists Unite! Your Greatest Challenge, McCartney’s First Solo Album, Awaits You!”

  1. How DOES he sleep?

  2. Mr. Moderator

    You’ve done a MAN’S work, hrrundi. I’ll dedicate some time to this later tonight. Thanks, brother! The world of rock thanks you.

  3. misterioso

    No. No. No, I don’t agree.

    This is a hard one to approach inasmuch as everything that leads you to conclude “The album sucks eggs” is what I like about it.

    Right now it is too hot to sit at the computer, but trust me, a song-by-song assessment is not far off.

  4. junkintheyard

    I haven’t given this a full listen and I’ll have more to say later but this reeks of Paul Haters’ Club

  5. I haven’t listened to this album in years, but I really *really* love:

    That Would Be Something
    Every Night (C’mon HVB, you’ve *got* to give this one props)
    Maybe I’m Amazed (Of course)

    These songs kinda excuse the goofiness of the rest of the album, in my view. This album is McCartney trying to get his feet wet after the bust-up of the Beatles. Give him a pass. He’s made much, much crappier albums.

    BTW, this one has cred now because it’s kinda lo-fi.

  6. i think it’s just O.K.
    I like McCartney 2.
    I LOVE Temporary Secratary!

  7. Mr. Moderator

    Man, let me start with the YouTube clips that HVB has posted before I see if I can muster the energy to pull out my vinyl copy of the album. As I’ve already stated, “Maybe I’m Amazed” is excellent.

    “That Would Be Something” has that pseudo-unwashed mojo vibe of a few annoying passages by McCartney on The White Album. This would be all right if it were a deep cut on one of those fat, bearded post-Brian Wilson Beach Boys albums, but McCartney could have sat on this track until 1990, or so, when he could have released it on Vol. 1 of his “Bootleg Series.”

    “Oo You” could have been a Plastic Ono Band cut if Paul had put as many as 8 minutes into the lyrics. The lyrics of “She’s a Woman” read like the poetry of John Ashbery in comparison. Oh, and I’m usually not sensitive to this, but it would have helped if Paul had tuned his guitar before hitting RECORD.

    “Momma Miss America” seems like it’s going to suck based on the title alone – and it does not disappoint. I’m not a big fan of instrumentals; even when they’re done well they usually reek of a featured musician showing off. This just sounds like it’s made up on the spot.

    I’ve got to give Paul credit for one thing with his solo album: for all the outrageous John Lennon moves Paul would later claim he did first or he could have done first, he actually DID release a crappy, self-indulgent solo album that John probably wishes he would have had the balls to release.

  8. BigSteve

    Even though I’m not a fan of late period Beatles, I would love to hear what Maybe I’m Amazed would have sounded like if it had been recorded with his old band. It’s a very good song, but a real band take with overdubbed bg vocals worked out together with a group of pros would have improved it tremendously. At least McC put some effort into his own recording of the song, which he didn’t bother to do on the other tracks I’ve heard.

    To put it in context, though, this album is as effective in demythologising the Beatles as the Plastic Ono Band LP. Homey and homely works as well for Paul as bitter and artsy did for John. Not that I want to listen to either one.

  9. trigmogigmo

    Going solely on the songs HVB posted youtubes of, I have to agree with the premise. I’m definitely amazed that those songs made it onto the same record as “Maybe I’m Amazed”. Big fan of Beatle Paul here, but vastly less so for Just Paul because of this kind of stuff dominating the good. I say my childhood heroes were (1) John, (2) James T. Kirk, (3) Paul. Which makes Paul’s worst so disappointing.

    Over time I have gone back and bought CDs for lots of stuff I have on vinyl on the shelf, and to fill out missing parts of collections of artists I love, sometimes even the stuff that I know is not their best. But I can’t bring myself to buy this one, because it seems like one song is an A++++ and the rest are totally ignorable. Compare that with Plastic Ono Band and it’s night and day. P.O.B. is pretty raw and spare, but it packs hard punches; and even the sweeter tracks that don’t punch you are at least crisp and sound good. I can’t help but put these two albums next to each other — John and Paul’s first post-Beatle solo albums — and HVB is right on: McCartney sounds like half-baked unfinished demos; while Plastic Ono Band sounds like an artist’s distinctive and completed thoughts as finished songs, recorded simply but with care.

    (Curious, I just checked the liner notes on P.O.B. and was surprised to see that Phil Spector co-produced (no wall of sound here!), and Ringo played the drums.)

  10. mockcarr

    I agree mostly, but I think the flip side of the late Beatle period argument works in at least one case too. What if Paul had liberated the Long and Winding Road from Phil Spector and had it on this album as a simple piano piece?

  11. Mr. Moderator

    trigmogigmo, your list of childhood heroes is impressive!

  12. mockcarr

    That Would Be Something, as Mr. Mod intimates, is a G-rated version of Why Don’t We Do It In The Road, which probably is the progenitor for this whole all-Paul concept anyway. At least the instrumental isn’t given a scat Bip Bop treatment or something.

  13. alexmagic

    You’re wrong. This is a thoroughly enjoyable album, and Every Night, as Oats notes, is great. I have no interest in exploring this topic further.

    I now fully reject HVB in favor of EPG, regardless of whether or not the latter likes McCartney.

  14. i think Maybe I’m Amazed sucks.
    I also think:
    The Long And Winding Road
    Let It Be
    My Love
    Hey Jude
    Ebony & Ivory
    also suck.

    I like:
    You Never Give Me Your Money
    Let Me Roll It
    I Will
    Band On The Run
    No More Lonely Nights
    I’ve Just Seen A Face
    and many others

  15. I am in the minority but I really like the last two Wings albums:

    London Town


    Back to the Egg

    Denny Laine had a lot to do with both of these.

  16. BigSteve

    McCartney’s scat singing is a Rock Crime.

  17. misterioso

    I grew up on Ram and some of the Wings records. I didn’t grow up on McCartney. I don’t think I owned it until I was in college. The shortage of fully-formed songs was definitely disconcerting at first.

    But Maybe I’m Amazed that this record still has such a divisive effect after 40 years. I completely understand why it was greeted with such opprobrium when it was released. It was a time when a lot seemed to ride on everything the Beatles, collectively or individually, did; and the record came out before the Beatle corpse had even been given last rites.

    One of the things I find most interesting about McCartney (though not necessarily why I like it) is that is a definite aesthetic statement of sorts. Paul seems to have been deeply divided, post-Sgt. Pepper, between the desire to create perfectly crafted, polished, and orchestrated productions (e.g., Hey Jude, some of his White Album tracks, Abbey Road side 2, etc.) and the desire to create imperfect, rough, spontaneous rock and roll (some of his White Album tracks, the whole “Get Back” project, and McCartney).

    Mod is right—although I disagree with him on the merits of Plastic Ono Band as much as on the merits of McCartney—that McCartney is more of a perverse gesture than Lennon ever dared with one of his own records (as opposed to the Unfinished Music records he made with Yoko), and in its way is similar to the giant f-you that is Dylan’s Self Portrait. (Dylan went one better and made it a double album.)

    But just as the hubbub over Self Portrait has faded and people can admit to actually listening to some of it for pleasure (though its sheer perversity endures), I’d have thought the fact that Paul chose to issue such a seemingly tossed-together collection would have dissipated and it could be met on its own terms. Seems not.

    But on to the record itself.

    It is never going to be a record that works, if it works, in terms of individual songs (except for a couple). I like the whole feel and sound of the record. Thus, the fact that “That Would Be Something” is a less than a proper song is secondary. It sounds good in its context. The instrumentals—okay, there are too many of them, probably—also sound great to these ears. Especially “Momma Miss America,” Mod! What a cool song! “Valentine Day” and “Hot As Sun/Glasses,” also very good. “Singalong Junk” is nice but a bit too much. “Kreen-Akrore” I just skip.

    As for the songs with vocals, setting aside “The Lovely Linda,” which is a snippet of less than a minute, we have “That Would Be Something,” “Every Night,” “Junk,” “Man We Was Lonely,” “Oo You,” “Teddy Boy, and “Maybe I’m Amazed.” One is a certifiable classic (“Maybe I’m Amazed,” obviously), but “Every Night” is also great. Me, I’m a fan of “Junk” (and I was startled to see that townsman junkintheyard said he had never given this a full listen!) and “Teddy Boy,” even if Lennon didn’t like it. “That Would Be Something,” “Man We Was Lonely,” and “Oo You” are obviously more off the cuff. I like them a lot—again, it is almost entirely a matter of the sound and the overall feel of it, which, apparently, includes out-of-tune guitars.

    If McCartney (the lp) is guilty of anything, it is being ostentatious in its unpretentiousness. I accept that assessment—but it doesn’t bother me.

    Interesting that his next album, Ram, which to my ears is great, and certainly more crafted than McCartney, was also slaughtered by the critics. Wild Life is more of a return to the (anti-)aesthetic of McCartney, in some ways, albeit with a band. I think it’s mostly terrible.

    His first 3 records came out within 18 months in 1970 and 1971. If he’d been sensible, he would have taken a deep breath and put out one great record instead of 3 variable ones. A first record that had: Every Night, Junk, Maybe I’m Amazed (from McCartney), Another Day, Oh Woman Oh Why (non-lp a-side and b-side), Too Many People, Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey, Dear Boy, Smile Away, Eat at Home, Back Seat of My Car (from Ram), and Some People Never Know (from Wild Life) would have been formidable.

    But he didn’t, he rushed out three records. And to these ears, he went a solid 2 for 3.

  18. Mr. Moderator

    Thanks for that in-depth analysis, misterioso. I hope to get time to pull out the vinyl tonight. I’ll keep your words in mind as I listen.

    It’s funny, when you asked why some people still react so poorly to this album I was thinking, “It’s because McCartney’s greatest strength is his craftsmanship,” getting somewhere around HVB’s Holy Trinity of Rock/Prock perspective. Then I thought about the superbly crafted Ram and how I don’t care for that album either. Now I’m wondering if what *I* get most from McCartney is his ability to match music with emotional content, and maybe I only love his music when I get that match. When I don’t get emotionally involved with whatever he’s singing about, be it a tremendous polished arrangement or his looser, off-the-cuff stuff, I have NO interest. His songs on Let it Be, for instance, have a lot of emotional resonance for me. To me many of those songs are as great as Paul’s best-crafted, most complete songs. On the other hand, a few of his contributions to Abbey Road are devoid of emotional content, in which case I don’t care how well they are crafted. Does that make sense?

  19. I don’t know what album it’s on but can we all at least agree that Junior’s Farm kick ass?

  20. misterioso

    Junior’s Farm definitely kicks ass.

  21. misterioso

    Mod, I do get what you mean. I would be tempted to agree, except that with so much of his work that I do like–McCartney, Ram, Band on the Run, Venus and Mars, and of course “Junior’s Farm”–I have little or no emotional involvement. I mean, after more than 35 years, I still have no idea, for example, what “Junior’s Farm” is even about, in any sense. My only involvement with it is as a great record. (Non-lp single, cdm.)

  22. Mr. Moderator

    I hear you, misterioso, but somehow, many of the songs I do love by McCartney that are complete nonsense on the surface somehow resonate with me. “Junior’s Farm” is a great example. For artists like McCartney (Matthew Sweet is another guy who falls into this, for me), I actually call what I get out of their best music a sense of DESIRE, a sense that they badly want to communicate something. When I get this sense from a song, it doesn’t matter how dimwitted or nonsensicle the lyrics are, I simply FEEL something that I don’t always feel from these artists and their similarly dimwitted, saccharine, or nonsensicle lyrics. Maybe this plays into BigSteve’s Sincerity Fallacy, but that’s how I feel and that’s what I meant by McCartney’s gift for using music to convey emotional meaning.

  23. junkintheyard

    Hey misterioso, at full disclosure, I was turned on to the song via Anthology 3 and found it haunting and beautiful even with the chuckles. I assumed it was a Beatles demo and didn’t look further. I made up for the rest by giving the album a listen last night.

    I believe this was released the same day as Paul announced that The Beatles were dissolved, yes? It explains some of the rushed production feel. If Paul is anything, he’s a Marketing genius. He only needed one solid to sell it, especially since there were no more Beatles albums to come.

    As far as the music goes, I am really struggling to see what the complaints are about (except Kreen-Akrore, that IS a turd). Yes, there are some undeveloped ditties on there and it doesn’t hit me the same way Plastic Ono Band did, but it doesn’t need to. I don’t take this album seriously (like its detractors have) since the author didn’t. Is this a well thought out and constructed lo-fi masterpiece, no. But it isn’t the shit ball you are hailing it to be either.

    All in all, I found it pretty enjoyable. Not Band on the Run enjoyable, but good none-the-less.

  24. pudman13

    Though I have a reasonably fair viewpoint on McCartney’s solo oeuvre, nothing spells nostalgia for me like solo Paul, so I get a warm and fuzzy feeling from even some of his mediocre solo stuff.

    I range between the two ends of this particular argument, both of which were given above. Is this a huge waste of talent and an insult to his audience or is it an enjoyable break from taking himself seriously with a lot of enjoyable little bits and pieces we would never have been treated to otherwise? It’s both, of course, and I’m willing to live with its warts because he did take himself seriously next time with RAM (which I love.) Revisionists tend to like this because so much of his later solo work was so disappointing, but I think most of Lennon’s solo work is just as bad, and Harrison’s even worse than that. The real crime as fans and critics was in hoping that these guys could sustain this quality far beyond the Beatles, when it was really an impossible thing to do, especially given that the Beatles broke so much new ground and rock and roll is such a limited field to begin with. I really like the last sevral McCartney albums and think they’re the best things he’s done in ages, but I’m not kidding myself that there’s anything important or truly great about them…but the lifespan of influence of a rock and roller is short so we need to eventually learn to enjoy people like him on a lesser level.

    I’ve seen arguments, such as the recent one here about Robyn Hitchcock, that some artists can make their best work at an advanced part of their careers, but even when they do something great (Dylan’s LOVE & THEFT comes to mind) it’s not something *new* but rather a really good version of what made them great in the first place. I’m willing, even desperate, to be proved wrong, but I just don’t see where someone can point out to me an example that will blow my mind. And no, Scott Walker doesn’t count.

  25. First, I’m very disappointed that Kilroy doesn’t understand Maybe I’m Amazed. That song is great. You should work much harder to understand it.

    I think Misterioso is giving Mac too much credit for the aesthetic he chose for that turd of an album. Mac grew rabbit ears from hearing Lennon complain about all over-production of the latter day Beatles albums. I bet he was desperate for Lennon’s approval, so he released an enormously under-written and under-produced record to prove he could be loose and less uptight. I think Paul’s arranging and production skills are usually excellent, and he purposely shelved them to poor results. He would have been truer to himself and his capabilities if he’d put in more effort. Those half assed songs are fake sincere by being so simplistic.

    I also don’t doubt there was the thought that after the GREATness of the Beatles, he released a crappy album in order to theoretically reset the odometer to zero. Everything else he would do would then be compared to an awful album and could be judged as far superior.

  26. I’m O.K. not understanding the song.
    If work is involved, then to me, it’s not a great song. I really like the one guitar riff he has in there, but the rest is kind of jive.

  27. I don’t think McCartney is a crappy album. I don’t think it’s GREAT either. I enjoy it and I think I understand what it’s about. with the exception of the boringly long drum solo (place effectively at the end), I think it has a nice flow. The songs are decent and ti never takes itself too seriously. It’s the appropriate answer to the end of the Beatles. Seems like three of the Beatles were about that (John’s primal scream and George backlog of epicness). Paul’s the homey catchy outing. Good, proper fluff.

    This is my breakdown of solo Beatles, post-1970 (It may be a simplification, but it works for me): Paul had some moments. His GREAT stuff is pretty GREAT, but when he was off (or betraying his talents), it was bad. Turds of epic proportion could be laid by Sir Paul. John was also hit-or-miss, the only exception for me is that John’s bad stuff is at least interesting. I don’t think I’m being unfair to Paul, because I like him, but Paul’s biggest problem is that he lived longer than John. John was ushered into sainthood while Paul had to endure the 80s. George was okay. He had some pretty decent albums and they’re pretty consistent. I enjoy most of George’s solo records. Ringo was less than George, but still consistent.

    I like Wild Life. It’s a fun record.


  28. Funny, I just listened to this album last week – first selection for hitting the highway off of Cape Cod – and it was totally hitting all the marks for me in that scenario. It’s a transitional album, right? He was trying to break out of his Beatle habits and do something looser. I think “Junk” is a killer tune.

    One of my 1st posts on RTH mentioned my love of “Back To The Egg” and it still astounds me that it is so loved here.

    I just listened to Temporary Secretary for the first time in eons. Yeah, don’t need to hear that again.

    Incidentally, I understand there is a new mix of Double Fantasy coming out to mark what would’ve been Lennon’s 70’s birthday, I’m told it is “stripped down.” (But unfortunately, I don’t think it means they removed Yoko’s songs.)

  29. trigmogigmo

    Mod, cdm, misterioso — good comments all. The Wings era stuff I grew up listening to a lot as well, though some of it hasn’t aged quite as well for me. Probably the big difference between the Paul records I like and don’t care for is just the density of good stuff. As misterioso noted, 3 records in 18 months…. Maybe should have been 1 good record, and save all those demos for the anthology. I’d be curious to analyze the total output and “batting average” of Paul and John.

    There’s some familiarity/nostalgia in any old preference, but to me the Band On The Run album has almost no weak spot, whereas on too many of the others, there’s too much to fast forward over. (Makes me wonder, playing vinyl albums perhaps we listened through those songs until we came to appreciate them, but now we click “fwd” and don’t take the time to get to know them.)

    Count me in the pro-Back To The Egg column for sure!

    “Junior’s Farm” — great! I remember being disappointed I couldn’t find it because it was only a UK single or something. I see now that the “Wingspan” greatest hits has it, with MP3 single option. As to the impenetrable lyrics, I agree it doesn’t matter! I recall that “Jet” (what’s all that stuff about the Sgt. Major was a little lady suffragette, etc.) was, it turns out, the name of Paul’s new black lab puppy dog. Works for me.

  30. Mr. Moderator

    I’m thinking Band on the Run is my favorite solo Beatles album, although I’ve argued in the past, tongue only partly in cheek, that Ringo’s standard greatest hits album may be the great of initial solo Beatles greatest hits albums.

  31. pudman13

    By the way, I’m the world’s biggest WILD LIFE apologist. I actually picthed a 33 1/3 book on it whereby I use each song to illustrate one aspect of Paul’s solo career and how he differs from John, but they were having no part of it. I’m not saying it’s a masterpiece or even a great album, but I think it’s a good one with a few very good songs, and for whatever reason I never tire of it.

    As to the three albums in 18 months thing, that’s what the Beatles always did, and RAM was a really fertile time for Paul. Those sessions produced several additional songs, including the great “Another Day,” and also two of the three best songs on the otherwise dreadful RED ROSE SPEEDWAY, “Get On the Right Thing” and “Little Lamb Dragonfly.” (the other best song on RRS is “Big Barn Bed,” which of course was briefly previewed on the reprise of “Ram On.”)

  32. misterioso

    Love Back to the Egg. London Town not so much, but it is still pretty good: I’ve said before, when someone dissed it, how much I love With a Little Luck, and that in my alternate universe it would have made a great Beatles reunion single, both thematically (“there is no end to what we can do together”) and musically (albeit with less synth and a nice George slide solo).

    Everything that the McCartney (lp) haters hear in that is what I hear in Wild Life. Only a couple of fully-formed songs (of which I think Some People Never Know is the best). Mumbo and Bip Bop just irritate me beyond belief. I can’t stand Love Is Strange or I Am Your Singer.

    Red Rose Speedway is better but still weak.

    Again, he would have been better served waiting a little. pudman13 is right, of course–the idea of cranking out records was deeply ingrained. When the juices are flowing it’s great: when they are not, you look stupid. (The same arguments apply to George, post-All Things Must Pass.)

    That said, based on the bootlegs and non-lp singles, he could have come out of things looking a whole lot better.

    Among the Wild Life-Red Rose era material that did not make lps, there is a lot of high-quality material, including:

    Hi Hi Hi
    C Moon
    Little Woman Love
    Give Ireland Back to the Irish
    Live and Let Die
    I Lie Around
    Country Dreamer
    The Mess
    Best Friend
    Momma’s Little Girl
    Night Out
    And let’s throw Linda a bone and include Seaside Woman, too–it’s better than a lot of the material that got released.

    That’s a whole lp of material right there, and that’s just the stuff I know about.

    I have long argued (on street corners, in bars, anywhere people gather) that if McCartney had played his cards right, exercised better “editorial control” over his work in the early 70s (rather like Dylan in the 80s), he would have looked a lot better. Band on the Run would have been seen as part of a continuum of good material, though still as a peak, but not a dramatic “Oh my God, who knew?” moment.

    I can only ascribe the poor judgment to some sort of post-Beatle crisis of confidence. I mean, how else do you explain releasing Loup (First Indian on the Moon) and leaving The Mess in the can? (If you’ll pardon the expression.)

    He could have done better by randomly choosing songs to release, really.

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