Dave Amitri on McCartney
As this is the first of my looks into the post Beatles career of Paul McCartney and just in case anyone wasn’t sure, I need to disclose some truths about me and the fab four. I know so many of their songs through radio, TV and some form of weird osmosis from being born in 1965. It must have meant that without ever really being aware their songs seeped into my memory. Probably but unfortunately through an unbreakable connection with Saville and his Sunday lunchtime Pick Of The Pops show which the whole family listened to while mum cooked a roast. Regardless of the year he was looking back at there was probably a Beatles song at number one. Unless it was Engelbert Humperdinck which always made my mum very happy. Anyway, back to The Beatles. I couldn’t tell you for sure which songs Paul wrote. I can mostly guess which ones he’s singing. Also, I don’t know which album most of the songs come from unless they were on Rubber Soul. I listened to it for research purposes for a novel I’m trying to write. But that’s another story. Boom boom… Their ubiquity means they just sort of exist in my mind but more importantly also in the minds of some of my favourite artists and writers which is why I want to discover more. I probably should have done The Beatles first but there’s something exciting about taking on McCartney and Wings without really knowing very much about what went on before. However, here’s a contradiction. After the first few listens of the strange and messy McCartney and because of some of the thoughts I was having I decided that to not have some context around where he was at personally and musically would be a bit silly and render my thoughts more pointless than usual. Thankfully there is a Nothing Is Real Podcast that the lovely Jason Carty recommended to me that covers precisely the time just before and during the recording of McCartney that confirmed some of my thoughts, helped explain some gaps and challenge other views I had. What follows are still my thoughts but I’m far happier expressing them now I’ve heard Steven and Jason’s forensic examination of what was going on.
The really important things I learned were. Paul was still technically a member of The Beatles when he was recording this in Scotland and London. He was very hung up on what John was doing. By the time of release, he’d declared The Beatles done. The final Beatles album Let It Be was released after McCartney which completely blew my mind. The details are all in the podcast which I recommend giving 90 minutes of your time to.
On to the record itself. Paul looks like a tramp but a happy one, with a new baby, under his coat. It starts with The Lovely Linda which I felt straight away was a statement of intent. 44 seconds long, hardly musically or lyrically a tour de force to announce his arrival as a solo artist. Except. Is he pronouncing “I’m OK. I’ve got Linda. The lovely Linda”? It’s personal, really personal and really sweet. At this point I was thinking this is no break up album, this is an I’m over it, I’ve moved on album. He’s Paul McCartney, a member of, arguably the most popular member of, the biggest pop band there’s ever been. Yet here he is, tucked away from the public gaze mucking about with his music and being grateful, for the love of his lovely Linda. I think it marks him out as a man who’s been through the ringer but is out the other side. The podcast talks a lot about his relationship with John at this time and how if there were only three Beatles in the room all was ok. All four in the room and it became toxic. That toxicity in any relationship is exhausting, added to being a Beatle it must have become intolerable. Anyone who’s been through that sort of toxic relationship and found their own lovely Linda will get this little 44 second ditty immediately. I know I do. It certainly opened up a whole raft of possibilities for me and this review as the album develops. But then….
When I first heard McCartney it felt like a collection of demos and outtakes. Full of those little bits and bobs and instrumentals that you find on disc 8 of a boxset. The last dregs from the last bit of tape found in a skip somewhere. There’s a guy on Twitter who has reviewed all McCartney’s albums one tweet at a time. I stumbled across him and this is what he said about McCartney..
McCartney (1970) – in which Paul dicks about for most of the running time but manages to pull out three stunners (Maybe I’m Amazed, Every Night and Junk) just to remind the world of his genius #listeningtoMcCartneysoloandWingsalbumsinorder
Now I could save us all a lot of pain and leave things there but where’s the fun in that?
That Would Be Something is almost a real song that relies on the repetition of 3 or 4 lines. It does however fit the dicking about narrative as he sings it in a pretty good Elvis voice. It’s a bit of fun but when he recorded it did he really intend it to be part of an album? Who is momma? I suspect it’s just the perfect Elvis word to mimic. Unless you know different.
Valentine Day is the first of a few instrumentals. It puts me in mind of one of those Beatles songs I’m aware of but I can’t quite place it. It’s something and nothing. Three songs in and we’ve had about two thirds of a real song. I imagine there was a lot of head scratching around now back in April 1970.
I just need to veer off a bit now if that’s OK. Back to the podcast where I learned that in February 1970 John and Yoko did Instant Karma on Top Of The Pops. Quite the moment. Some believe this shook Paul from his dicking about in Scotland and made him write some real songs. We’ve all been there, you’re leaving that toxic relationship behind and suddenly you see your ex with someone new and it still gets under your skin. You and I might go clothes shopping or update our status on our socials. If you’re Paul McCartney you book Abbey Road and write some proper songs.
Every Night is a proper song that had apparently been around for years. Interpreted by some as his state of mind at the time, getting out of his head for example, I’m sure there’s some truth in that. Despite that for me the key lines, again directed at Linda and his absolute contentment with her are
“But tonight I just wanna stay in and be with you”
Aaah, innit lovely. He’s had enough of the former, he wants more of the latter. He’s moved on. With the lovely Linda.
Hot As Sun / Glasses I recognised from radio DJ and Beatles expert Geoff Lloyd’s old Absolute Radio show where he used it as a bed for his introduction to his show. It annoyed me then. Nothing has changed. It ends with Paul dicking about with some wine glasses. I’m trying here Paul, I really am but you’re not helping.
I’m a huge fan of those first two Gilbert O’Sullivan albums so I really like Junk. It contains the little references and lyrical imagery that O’Sullivan did so well and I’m sure Junk must have influenced him. It feels like a sad, melancholic song that I doubt has any real meaning just a collection of stuff. It’s what I imagine a Paul McCartney song to be. It’s nice.
I really like Man We Was Lonely. Lyrically its another statement that things have been a bit shit but it’s OK now. it reminds me of a Mike Nesmith Monkees song. Papa Gene’s Blues or Nine Times Blue. It has that country pop feel that The Monkees did so well. A quick Google confirms that there were some close friendships between the bands as well as some mutual respect. Nesmith attended the Day In The Life sessions. Could McCartney have consciously or indeed subconsciously “borrowed”? It doesn’t really matter but it was an instant connection I made the first time I heard it. The circle closes as Davy Jones covered it on his 1999 album Just For The Record. A lovely thought and a decent song to close side one on.
Side two starts with Oo You
Look like a woman
Dress like a lady
Talk like a baby
Love like a woman
Walk like a woman
Sing like a blackbird
Eat like a hunger
Cook like a woman
Look like a woman
Dress like a lady
Talk like a baby
Love like a woman
That’s quite enough of that. It was 1970 I suppose.
Is the Momma in Momma Miss America the Momma in That Would Be Something? I’m struggling to care. It’s a fairly rudimentary instrumental featuring some interesting drumming, piano and guitar. Anyone expecting an album of Hey Jude’s or even Yesterday’s surely by now has given up. Any thoughts I had early on that this might be a collection of songs to set me on the road to Macca fandom are being buried under the sheer oddity of this listening experience.
Teddy Boy. Blimey. Remember if you will my post from 2008 that I mentioned in my introduction to this. Initially Teddy Boy was exactly the sort of song that I was referring to when asking what my problem is with Sir Paul McCartney. Interestingly the more I’ve listened to it to try and find out what my problem is with it, the more it’s grown on me. It’s actually quite sweet and I guess lots of McCartney’s generation grew up with dads lost in the war and mommys moving on. Perhaps even more interestingly for me is how perfectly Linda’s harmonies work. It’s a bit soppy and no Billy Don’t Be A Hero or Lonely Boy but it’s OK. The benefit of really listening I suppose.
Predating karaoke’s popularity in this country he kindly drops in an instrumental of Junk for us to singalong to. Not quite sure what else to say.
Now, while the album has taken some twists and turns along the way from my original thoughts on The Lovely Linda Maybe I’m Amazed is definitely a love song and a quite glorious one at that. It absolutely speaks of a man being rescued from something by someone. What strikes again me as an outsider looking in is that this is Paul McCartney. In 1970. The cute one in The Beatles. You don’t need me to quote the lyrics but if we assume he is singing about himself it’s a stark reminder of the brutality of fame. I’ve always said I’ll take the fortune if it ever came along but you can keep the fame. I hate the thought of it with every part of my being. This song proving that you can be Paul McCartney in 1970 and still need help to understand. I’ve always detected some negativity towards Linda. Listening to this album, this song and the podcast you do begin to wonder what might have happened to Paul McCartney without her. Either way, it’s a great, great song.
Kreen-Akrore is another oddity that is completely out of synch with anything on the album. Teddy Boy to this experimental mix of sounds and heavy breathing reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac’s big love (perhaps he had a running machine?) and what I imagine to be Pink Floyd style guitar is a hell of a journey. It leaves me wondering just what sort of journey our hero has been on.
Paul McCartney was clearly in a state of extreme flux in 1970. I suspect he absolutely knew The Beatles were done. I suspect he was also terrified if what happened next. John and Yoko loomed large. Fatherhood was upon him. Story, claim and counter claim were rife. But he did have Linda. As Jason and Steven allude to he probably never intended to make an album but his hand was forced in his fevered brain by John’s solo success. When it came he called it McCartney, he could have called it anything but it said clearly “no Lennon here”. I started this by stating that he’d moved on. By the end of it I’m left thinking he was still very much in the eye of a storm that Linda sailed him through.
I’ll finish on this thought. One of my heroes and self confessed McCartney fan Justin Currie released a break up / moving on album. 2007’s What Is Love For contains several of the greatest hurt / recovery songs you’ll ever hear. Imagine if McCartney had waited, collected his thoughts and released a whole album of Maybe I’m Amazed style storm survival songs? Maybe that comes next. If it does there’s enough in this strange, rushed, awkward, mish mash of an album to whet my appetite. I leave McCartney fascinated by the story, interested in what comes next but still not quite convinced.