My post yesterday got me thinking back to those halcyon days of the early ’70s and listening to all the releases of the Beatles in their early solo years. I was in my final years of high school then, and my friend Bob Noftle and I were totally into the Beatles in every which way but loose. For me, this was a long time ago, both time-wise and musically – this was before I was introduced to the Beach Boys (by Bob as well, for which I will always be grateful), and, through their early releases, surf music.
During those early ’70s years, Bob and I would garf onto any Paul John George Ringo release as soon as they became available. I forget how we would have known that in the pre-Internet days, but we did – I think it was because seldom a week went by without a visit to some department store or local record shop. For me, I stayed with them all pretty regularly right up until 1975, when my interest in their music (and, to be honest, the quality of their work) began to wane.
For Paul McCartney, I hung in there through 1974′s “Junior’s Farm” (still a pretty darned good single), buying everything he would put out for better or for worse, then had to finally abandon ship with his 1975 release of “Listen To What The Man Said” (from Wings At The Speed Of Sound), which, to this day, I can’t listen to, it’s that limp-wristed, smarmy awful. But even though by that time I was well immersed into the Beach Boys and their wonderful post-surf catalog, I still paid enough attention to enjoy a tune he’d do if it warranted a listen.
All that being said, here are my top five favorite McCartney songs from his post-Beatles career:
6. “Every Night”, from McCartney. He nicked the chorus from Abbey Road‘s “You Never Give Me Your Money”, but it’s still a great tune. 12-string guitar, a nice little bass flourish on the final verse that reminds me of just how great a bassist McCartney was – after all, it was his work on Abbey Road that made me want to take up the bass in the first place. Homey, intimate, great tune. Reminds me of playing baseball with my good friend Paul Porcella in the back of the Shawsheen School.
5. “Little Lamb Dragonfly”, from Red Rose Speedway. LLD is a lovely, charming tune – achingly so – very pretty and melodious. One of the best I think he’s ever done, showing some really cool chord progressions and a melody that shows just how talented dude could be when he dropped trying to be so damned quaint. I especially like the song’s tag – the fade-out with the violins, hand claps, and piano coming in to drive it home. This song reminds me of a spring afternoon in 1973, and my brother Mark and me sitting out on the roof of our front porch (you could walk out through his bedroom window), taking the warm late afternoon sun in. A nice memory. The lyrics “I can help you out, but I can’t help you in.”. Indeed. A very soulful song.
4. “Give Ireland Back To The Irish” (single). McCartney could rock when he wanted to, and this is a good example. I remember picking up this 45 rpm back in 1972 when I worked at W.T. Grant’s (my first job, I think). What was cool was the 45 being in green vinyl (at least that’s how I remember it). Still a good hard-rocking tune – very grungy. I find it interesting that Paul’s response to the so-called “troubles” rocks harder than that of his former Beatles co-writer, who chose a softer, more melodious route.
3. “Back Seat Of My Car”, from Ram. Supposedly, this was McCartney’s tribute to Phil Spector (not sure how), and a song that was presented to the Fabs for inclusion on a Beatles release back in 1969. I love it – starts off kind of dreamy, but wait till the close where it just explodes off the vinyl! The brief tag at the end is very cool, the echoing drums very reminiscent of what Lennon was doing with Spector at this time. Brings back memories of 1971 and mowing lawns in Billerica, and how pretty Mrs. Kirk was (the lady I mowed lawns for!).
2. “Smile Away”, from Ram. I love this song so much. Why? Simply, it freakin’ ROCKS. The driving bass line throughout. The greasy sounding lead guitar introduced in the second chorus and rambling from then out. Linda McCartney’s charmingly droll (and slightly off-key) “oba dabba dooba” background vocals (very Brian Wilson-esque, BTW – compare this with this Sunflower cut released just months before. McCartney was a huge Brian Wilson fan, so it’s not stretching things to think where he might have got the inspiration). At any rate, it’s just a fun tune – be sure you play it very loud, as it was meant to be.
1. “Mull of Kintyre” (single). I can listen to this song all day. Maybe it’s because my mom and my Auntie Marge have always been a sucker for bagpipes, it’s a transcendent tune for me. My grandfather loved it whenever I played it on my record player when we lived together on the first floor of our house after my grandmother died in 1969. The seven+ years we shared that floor together (until 1977 when he passed away) are great times I always hope to remember. We’d play pool together, and every now and then he’d boil a bunch of chicken pieces in water with a ton of onions, and we’d have them for breakfast before I’d go to work! He was a wonderful guy, and this song just kind of reminds me of those days. While I love the bagpipe sound, I’d bet my next fifty fifths of Johnny Walker Red those bagpipes are actually played on a synthesizer – they sound just a little too clean to these ears, and I know McCartney was heavy into the Moog synthesizer during this period in his artistic career.
Honorable mention: “Jet” and “Nineteen Hundred Eighty Five” from Band On The Run, “Maybe I’m Amazed” from McCartney, which, although all instruments are played by Paul, still has an incredible ensemble feel that sounds like a Beatles Abbey Road or Let It Be cut.
You’ll notice, no doubt, that my last fave is from 1977, and I’m well aware that Paul has done a lot of good work since then. If Bob (a.k.a. “Tightwad”) still checks out this blog, I’ll ask him to provide his own fave list because I know he still follows their work regularly and can speak far better than me about McCartney’s wide range of work since then. Not to mention that I owe him a dinner the next time I’m back in Massachusetts.
If any of you out there have your own personal faves, feel free to comment.
Tomorrow: 6 from John Lennon.