The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

In Defence Of...

Paul McCartney And Wings
Taylor Parkes , June 22nd, 2009 08:57

So you think the 1970s were a fallow period for Paul McCartney? 'Apply the breaks', says Taylor Parkes with his appreciation of the mainly unheralded genius of Thumbs Aloft Macca...

Add your comment »

Of course, at their simpering, ingratiating worst, Paul McCartney and Wings were dreadful. Only those who don't really care that much would ever try to deny it. Drooping ballads, cellophaned rockers; overdressed wedding cakes, with empty space underneath the icing. And of course, none of it — not one note — stands comparison with . . . yeah, yeah, yeah. There's a sense in which these records really are what the boys will tell you, the jangling small change of a bankrupt talent. “You're my baby and I love you / You can take a pound of love and cook it in the stew.” Christ al-fucking-mighty.

And yet — you'd be surprised. All but the sourest acknowledge those moments when everything falls into place: 'Maybe I'm Amazed', 'Jet', 'Live And Let Die', 'Coming Up'. Received wisdom tells us that these are anomalies, McCartney hitting targets purely by chance, correct like a broken clock. Well, not quite. The patient (and the slightly perverse) can find much to enjoy, if not always to admire, in these insignificant million-selling albums. The really good songs are really good. The others are . . . something else. McCartney's Seventies output is, if nothing else, unpredictable — rare enough in mainstream rock at that time — and in its way, it's very strange indeed. Listening to this music, one finds oneself asking time and time again: what the hell is this? What did he think he was doing? This need not be a negative response.

Though they feature a great many pale burlesques of funk or blues or disco or doo-wop, these records occupy a unique space within pop — in some ways, they're barely recognisable as pop music at all. Except in the most superficial sense, they bear no relation to the work of McCartney's contemporaries, nor to anything that came before (or has come since). Not because they're personal — McCartney let little of himself into his work — nor because they push back boundaries, or break new ground (they do neither). They just seem to ignore most of pop's basic obligations. Few of these songs mean anything at all; they're rarely exciting in a purely visceral sense; they never tell a story, or attempt to blow your mind; they're seldom uplifting, or plaintive, or gross. They are utterly useless objects, which seem content simply to exist. This is their (very) peculiar charm.

They're inconceivably odd, too, with their preposterous lack of purpose and unusual concerns. McCartney makes unfathomable choices, seems totally disconnected, takes countless baffling left-hand turns. While often pedestrian, or even downright bland, the music feels strangely haphazard. The lyrics are so stupid, so entirely without meaning, they induce a kind of disorientation that's practically Dadaesque (“I was talking to an eskimo / Said he was hoping for a fall of snow / When up popped a sealion, ready to go . . .”). This stuff is staggering. How could an artist who was never that eccentric, at least by rock & roll standards — hardly the Everyman he'd have us believe, but certainly no loon — drift so far out, and not even know it?

The answer is clear, if you look closely. A natural homebody, famously protective of his sanity, Macca had never strayed too close to the edge — yet his isolation from everyday life was by now pretty much complete. Unwilling to embrace this, as many (now-dead) rock stars did, but too egocentric to step out of the spotlight, he seemed to go into denial. His early solo songs are defiantly down-to-earth, or else playfully poetic in a pseudo-Dylanish manner. But if McCartney was both down-home and out-there, he lacked The Band's authentic grit, or the adroit freakiness of a Bowie or Bolan. Those forced, often foolish lyrics expose the depth of his alienation — they make him sound something of an oddball. Half the time he was singing the first thing that came into his head, and his head was by this point a very strange place. Musically he'd reached an impasse: nowhere to go, nothing to prove, unable (and unwilling) to stop. To his credit, he chose not to run on the spot, like many Sixties stars at the same dead end. Instead, he ran in twenty directions at once, which still takes you nowhere but looks rather strange. When the results are even vaguely coherent, we hear something that might be mistaken for The Beatles' bright eclecticism — more often, songs emerge deformed and barely functioning. And in their way, those songs are fascinating; now and then, they're truly fantastic.

The records Paul McCartney made in the first ten years after leaving The Beatles are eight parts ego-tripping superstar schlock to two parts outsider art. They have all the slickness of Seventies AOR, but at second glance they're as disassociated as Wesley Willis. No other major rock star would make an album quite like Ram, so cosy and so conflicted. No other major rock star would think to write a song about his Land Rover, or Fungus The Bogeyman. While his peers were mining Robert Johnson's 'Crossroads', McCartney was covering the theme from Crossroads. The man was in a world of his own.

His infamous lack of self-awareness also played its part. For one who seems so self-conscious on camera, and goes to such great lengths to control his public image, Paul McCartney has never had much idea of how he comes across — whether lecturing a recalcitrant Harrison in Let It Be, claiming in Anthology (with practised faux-modesty) that Spielberg learnt a lot from Magical Mystery Tour, or peppering these Wings tracks with strange vocal tics and bursts of ad-libbed bollocks, which induce only cringing embarrassment ('C Moon'; 'Famous Groupies'; 'Uncle Albert / Admiral Halsey'). In the blithely boogieing 'Rock Show', he imagines himself in his own audience, at one of Wings' enormous stadium shows. When Pete Townshend did the same, we got the self-immolation of 'The Punk And The Godfather' — the rocker as parasite, stardom as betrayal. Paul's idea of life as a rock & roll consumer is somewhat more benign: “The tension mounts / You score an ounce.”

Dope was another major factor in Wings' genial weirdness. McCartney's gluttonous cannabis consumption has always been a bit of a joke, as tired as cracks about Elvis' weight or Elton John's toupee. It's essential, though, to any understanding of his work — those first ten solo albums contain the most unmistakably pot-inspired music ever committed to posterity. Not because they're spaced-out, or laid-back. They reflect the reality of the everyday toker: lazy, whimsical, totally unfocussed, brimming with bright ideas, which buzz around for a moment or two before vanishing like burning paper. Macca in the Seventies — as settled domestically as any rock star could be, suspended securely in the amniotic fluid of his ego — abandoned himself to grass not to ease the pain of alienation (as with those contemporaries who hit the booze and smack), nor to plump up the thrill of being so special (like the LA cocaine crowd), but just because he liked it, and had nothing better to do. McCartney's relationship with pot was long and faithful, and by the 1970s he was deep inside himself — padding around in a grandad shirt, those famous brown eyes drooping at the sides, infantile and open to anything. That bonged-out lack of discipline encouraged the opaque solipsism of his worst post-Beatles music. It also helped enable those rather strange decisions which led to the very best of it.

In the 1980s, though, the pickings grew slim. McCartney remained quietly outlandish — no one else could (or would) have written 'Spies Like Us', an oddly-tasty kedgeree of Jan Hammer, The Art Of Noise, Julian Cope's 'Sunspots' and the theme from some duff Dan Ackroyd movie (which is what it was). No one else could (or would) have released a single whose chorus went “Tell me where to press / Right there, that's it, yes”. But after the freakish McCartney II, his Eighties albums, strange as they are, congeal into an adult-contemporary mush; only Tug Of War is really worth a listen, and (apart from the song about the international currency market) this is down to its warm, melodic charm, not its power to startle or disorientate. In the last fifteen years his music has grown quieter and more obviously introspective, “better” in every respect but one: it's a bit boring. You know what it is, you can see what he's doing. McCartney in the Seventies was never like that.

So Paul McCartney and Wings remain a joke, in some ways rightly so. At their simpering, ingratiating worst . . . yeah, yeah, yeah. No one would argue that the decade saw the best of him. But properly sieved, these records supply much that is rich and bewildering — and here and there, the kind of thing that only Paul McCartney could do. No one else carved out a career that was quite this strange and singular, because no one else had such colossal, mismatched strengths and weaknesses. Those of us who value Paul McCartney, in all his flawed, fucked-up, batshit glory, wouldn't have him any other way.

There'll never be another, you know.

10 Slightly Lesser Known Classics

The Back Seat Of My Car (1971)

An obvious throwback to the pocket symphonies of Abbey Road (and McCartney's mid-Sixties Beach Boys obsession), 'Back Seat Of My Car' is showy, rambling and ludicrously overblown. And it's absolutely glorious. Placed at the end of the aimless-but-amiable Ram, it rises like a beast from the level sea, a roaring reminder of what Paul McCartney could always do when he tried.

Temporary Secretary (1980)

1980's McCartney II is a very odd record indeed, not always pleasantly so (I am indeed thinking of that song about Fungus The Bogeyman), but at its best it's amazingly adventurous, by far the most challenging music Paul McCartney made between leaving The Beatles and his much-later work as The Fireman. This babbling startler — panned incredulously on its release, recently discovered by slowcoach hipsters — is a three-way split between some strange idea of the music of the future, a corny faux-showtune and some random wank fantasy about a girl in black-rimmed specs and a pencil skirt. Spoilt only by the cod-Yankee accent McCartney adopted around this time to mask the ebbing of his vocal range, it is, in its own way, and in its proper context, as extreme a record as 'Strawberry Fields Forever'.

Give Ireland Back To The Irish (1972)

Shortly after Bloody Sunday, Wings rush-released what could be the chirpiest song ever inspired by mass death (which was quite predictably banned by every media outlet in the UK). “Great Britain — you are tremendous!” begins Macca, before wagging an admonishing finger: “But REALLY, what ARE you doing . . .” It's totally out of character (and therefore fascinating), and unintentionally hilarious (though the brother of Wings guitarist Henry McCullough, then living in Belfast, wasn't laughing so hard — he paid for Paul's newly-found convictions with a sectarian back-alley kicking). John Lennon, still taken seriously as an artist and radical, also responded to Bloody Sunday, by slipping wads of cash to the IRA from his cosy New York eyrie and writing his own would-be rebel song: the jaw-dropping 'Luck Of The Irish', on which Yoko Ono sings “Let's walk over rainbows like leprechauns”, and “the world could be one big Blarney Stone”, as though wearing a plastic hat in the shape of a pint of Guinness. 'Give Ireland Back To The Irish' is Yeats by comparison, and what it lacks in gravitas it makes up for with sheer, breathtaking chutzpah. And it worked: just 27 years later, the Good Friday agreement was signed. Thumbs aloft!

Secret Friend (1980)

From the B-side of 'Temporary Secretary', prefiguring electronica, post-rock and ambient, like it ain't no thang. 'Secret Friend' is weightless and gorgeous, perhaps the furthest out McCartney ever got; a blueprint for another Eighties, one he chose to disregard. It's Macca deep in his analogue bubblebath, puffing on a fat one and contemplating the music of the spheres, before hauling himself up to make the kids some lunch.

Old Siam, Sir (1979)

The final Wings LP, Back To The Egg, is as weak as its stupid title, full of charmless musical gibberish. Even by his own standards McCartney is winging it, typified by two tracks featuring The Rockestra, a gruesome assembly of r&r lags hired as hod-carriers for Paul's Wall Of Sound. This galaxy of aging talent rumbles through a single lumbering riff, occasionally breaking off to shout — and this is true — “Why haven't I had any dinner?” In many ways, 'Old Siam, Sir' (thankfully minus the Rockestra) is just another throwaway, the clenched power-pop of Cheap Trick or The Knack submerged beneath lazy old solos from (what was fast becoming) another age. What makes it so much better is the detail: the peculiarly restless drumbeat, the indulgent richness of the instrumental breaks, the nonsensical energy of that throaty late-30s vocal. It has to be said that the video does them very few favours — staged bonhomie, Macca in a tight white T-shirt to denote rugged authenticity — but 'Old Siam, Sir' is the last worthwhile Wings track, inutile but strangely addictive.

Dear Friend (1971)

Wings' debut Wild Life is generally considered the low point of Paul McCartney's career, and not entirely without reason. Recorded in a week (though it could have been quicker), it sounds like what it is: a band who barely know each other, kicking round some half-written songs on a few stoned afternoons. Still, there are one or two moments, if you manage to swim through oceans of ordure like 'Bip Bop'. 'Dear Friend' is marvellous, a rare glimpse of McCartney with his guard down, saddened and sore from the falling-out with Lennon, toying with his pain like a self-centred man trying to come to terms with loss (and the fact that his ex-best mate now thinks he's a tosser). As olive branches go it's somewhat barbed, but despite the carefully-phrased ambivalence it's clear that Paul was reaching out. A few months later he got a response, in the unwelcome shape of 'How Do You Sleep?'

Girls' School (1977)

Bored on a plane during Wings' American tour of 1976, Paul was flicking through a dirty magazine, chuckling over ads for super-8 prints of low-end Seventies grot movies. Inspiration can come from anywhere: within minutes (probably), he'd written 'Girls' School', a rocking synopsis of a jailbait porn film which only existed in his head. A beautiful, fleeting detail: when the schoolmarms show their stag films in the classroom, “they put the paper on the windows.” 'Girls' School', with its bawdy slyness, would be enjoyable enough if recorded by The Faces or Slade, but the fact that this is a Wings track amplifies the effect (and the song is all about effect). Pleasingly, it came out as the B-side of 'Mull Of Kintyre', assuring a place in a million grannies' record collections for a lyric which begins “Sleepyhead kid sister / Lying on the floor / 18 years and younger, boy / Well she knows what she's waiting for.”

Let 'Em In (1976)

There's a party at Paul McCartney's house. Who's invited? His family, Martin Luther and the Everly Brothers. And they'd better get a shift on — the lulled, loping feel of 'Let 'Em In' suggests that Paul started without them, at lunchtime. One of the vaguest hits of the decade, not so much a song as a faint after-image, 'Let 'Em In' is tenebrous despite itself. An extraordinarily eerie record.

Hi, Hi, Hi (1972)

When he wasn't singing total gibberish, McCartney's themes were fairly constant: sex, drugs, rock & roll and marriage. 'Hi, Hi, Hi' covers (at least) three of these. This saucy, bumptious thing was banned by the BBC, though partly because someone misheard the words as “I want you to lie on the bed, get you ready for my body gun.” The actual lyric is even funnier, if faintly disturbing: “I want you to lie on the bed, get you ready for my polygon”. One suspects that there were only two people in the world who found that line arousing, both of whom appear in this video. Unconventional eroticism aside, 'Hi, Hi, Hi' is a fine example of early 70s bubblegum raunch, Suzi Quatro after the watershed.

Check My Machine (original mix) (1980)

Just an extended fiddle with some new recording gear in McCartney's home studio, 'Check My Machine' is ambient Japanese funk, or dubbed-out Bee Gees hip-hop, entirely by accident — magic spilling from his pockets. There's a sense in which the best tracks from McCartney II are deeply frustrating. Had he been this loose and open for the whole of the previous decade — rather than riding the last rays of his youth, with an increasingly dysfunctional ersatz Beatles — Paul McCartney could have made more music like this, not just diverting but truly astonishing, not just weird but wired to the trembling stars. But then there were others to carry that particular load, none of them longing, under it all, to make Give My Regards To Broad Street, or write kids' songs about Rupert The Bear. There was, however, only one Paul McCartney.

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.

David Harrison
Aug 20, 2009 5:52pm

Bought Girlschool on 7inch today for 20p in oxfam.
100% FACT

Reply to this Admin

andrew wilson
Sep 4, 2009 4:51pm

Taylor Parkes if you're reading this, I love your writing, remember tour work fondly and wish you well. ACF

Reply to this Admin

andrew wilson
Sep 4, 2009 4:53pm

In reply to andrew wilson:

sorfry that should read "your" work instead of tour! internet novice!

Reply to this Admin

The King of America
Apr 22, 2010 10:56pm

Fantastic article.
There is indeed something curious and beguiling about Macca at his most tangential.
Can I make a special mention - the track "You Want Her Too " from the Flowers in the Dirt LP. A duet with Elvis Costello where the two vocalists are either arguing over the same girl or -somewhat more metaphysical - playing the good and bad conscience of the same man. McCartney as the part of him that wants too gallantly woo the woman in question and Costello as the carnal side that just wants to get into her knickers.
It's very catchy and it introduced me to Costello. I heard it and thought " this guy has such a cool voice ".

Reply to this Admin

mike lane
Jul 15, 2010 11:50pm

Spot on.
Paul exists in his own little/huge world of music, and his output contains many fascinating and incomprehensible nuggets.
I love it all, and at the same time am sometimes embarrased by it (as I think he might well be,too). Oh well.
As you say, it's music that only he could (or would bother to) create.

Reply to this Admin

Danielle Mikos
Dec 1, 2010 4:35pm

This is totally great.

Reply to this Admin

Terrell Monroe
Jan 31, 2011 8:10am

Great article! 'Dear Friend' is a great track especially the demo version and you're right about 'Tug of War' - it does have some good stuff on it. -thank you

Reply to this Admin

Feb 13, 2011 4:48pm

I don't see Ram as "aimless but amiable." It's a beautiful record, start to finish. Completely under-rated, and a better listen than any of Lennon's solo work. And yes, I'm being absolutely, unironically serious about that. With Lennon, all you need is a greatest-hits collection because none of his solo albums are an essential listen start to finish. I know I'm supposed to think highly of Plastic Ono Band but who wants to listen to that moaning and self-pity over and over again? With McCartney, the last thing you need is a greatest-hits collection (we've all heard them too often). But Ram is a treat. It's still sounds fresh today and it holds up under repeat listens. It's funny, weird, lovely, angry, and musically more inventive than anything Lennon or Harrison produced.

Reply to this Admin

Feb 23, 2011 4:29am

Actually, Paul Wrote "Too Many People" As A Message To John, Then John Wrote The Song "How Do You Sleep" Thats When Paul Wrote "Dear Friend"

Reply to this Admin

Jun 14, 2011 3:59pm

Jesus. This is steaming hot shit, Taylor. It's as if you grabbed McCartney at a signing session and immediately affixed him to the floor with a bucket of none-inch nails. Never before have I seen journalistic stylee in full swing be matched, consonant for simile by an actual exogesis of the subject at hand. This is not only Paul McCartney you are writing about but it's the actual Paul McCartney he and the rest of the music media have been looking for and never finding for forty years.
I'm not at all surprised he gave an interview to The Quietus on his latest reissues. I can imagine that he felt when reading this that he'd finally been pictured naked on his own album covers.


Reply to this Admin

Jun 21, 2011 10:55pm

OK, I don't know what that last guy is even trying to say. In his effort to be clever (something he accuses Parkes of trying to hard to do), Mr. Anonymous succeeded in not really saying anything.

Personally I thought Parkes was too hard on McCartney -- as most music critics are. They think in writing about him they have to spend half the piece explaining that they understand he wrote some (shudder) commercially popular songs.

But Parkes does point out some of McCartney's great solo tracks. And it's long overdue.

Reply to this Admin

Jul 9, 2011 5:47pm

In reply to Dee:

Trouble is the critics think they really understand an artist's work, and try to convince us that they do. Fifty years from now people will still be talking about Paul MacCartney (as they still do about The Beatles). As for the critics...and that really hurts!

Reply to this Admin

Aug 13, 2011 2:43am

In reply to Helano:

"The lyrics are so stupid, so entirely without meaning, they induce a kind of disorientation that's practically Dadaesque (“I was talking to an eskimo / Said he was hoping for a fall of snow / When up popped a sealion, ready to go . . .”"

Oh please! Like "Yellow matter custard, dripping from a dead dog's eye" or "goo-goo-ga-joob" are any less stupid? I guess when Lennon writes nonsense lyrics, we're supposed to genuflect, but when McCartney does, bad Paul.

Reply to this Admin

Dec 21, 2011 12:50am

In reply to SJR:

Oh, please...there's a big difference there -- HUGE -- between the flowing, poetic, and, yes, nonsensical lyrics of "I am the walrus" and the mundane words of "Junior's Farm." I'm not even going to go into it.

Reply to this Admin

Young Siam Sir
Dec 23, 2011 7:24pm

I'm a huge McCartney fan but, I have to admit it, I agree with this article- he's dead-on. He points out things here that, all these years of listening, I could never put my finger on. I'm a big PM fan but I am also honest. Yes, his lyrics are - most of the time - silly, stupid, sophomoric, banal and insipid. BUT... I just love listening to his records - they make me feel good. What's so wrong with that?

Reply to this Admin

Jan 2, 2012 12:46am

In reply to Young Siam Sir:

Brilliant article. It is the sheer whimsy of McCartney in the '70s, that image of him and Linda doped up in some bucolic setting, that makes some of their albums so beguiling.

Reply to this Admin

Feb 10, 2012 12:10am

I love this, dead on, and so must pick at one of your assessments: was Back to the Egg really so bad? What about "Arrow Through Me," his Steely Dan impression? How about "Getting Closer," which would be perfectly credibly conventional power pop if he didn't keep addressing the woman he wants to have sex with as "my salamander"? The part where he warns cattle to beware of snipers is also puzzling.

London Town, now that's a waste of time of a record.

Reply to this Admin

Mar 20, 2012 2:33am

This is the funniest, best-written article I've read in a long time! Brilliant! Secret Friend; "It's Macca deep in his analogue bubblebath, puffing on a fat one and contemplating the music of the spheres, before hauling himself up to make the kids some lunch."

HAH ha ha...Beautiful!

Reply to this Admin

Jun 16, 2012 6:43pm

Well, what's left to be said of wings that hasn't already been said by the author here? One thing -- Paul proved beyond any doubt he and Linda can out produce and perform John & Yoko anytime, and did so for the decade, post-Beatles, until John's death. And Paul had the good sense to keep Linda in the background and thankfully -- we didn't have to listen to her screeming!

Reply to this Admin

Aug 16, 2012 8:37pm

What nonsense! You can dissect anything based on a set of assumptions and call it gibberish. To call Let'em In listless, etc doesn't make it so.
Mccartney's lyrics aren't any more cryptic that Dylan's. Just listen to Visions of Johanna. I mean, come on, what the hell 80% of that long winding song mean,
looping and formless, going from one blues lick to another? Or Don't follow leaders, read the parking meter from Subteranean Homesick Blues.
Read the parking meter? Why a parking meter? As to content of his 70's output being about the usual things, well you can say that about just about anyone. Sex,
drugs, friends and lovers. What else was going on in the 70's? In other word you don't like what Mccartney has to say in his music. Well, fine, go listen
to someone else. Was Lennon's narcisstic music any more universal that Mccartney's? "In the middle of a dream, I call your name/ Oh Yoko...' Who gives a shit?
"Mother, you had me but I never had you...' Whatever. I'm not interested in listening to Lennon's therapy session in a song. Small pleasures in big melodies, is
how someone described Ram, a great album, and it's exactly that. Great melodies, beatifully structured, highly inventive. The form matters too in art, and if anything it is
often the truth of the art. What can anyone tell me in a simple pop song that is a revelation? Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Smokey Robinson, Paul Mccartney, John
Lennon, Bowie, Pink Floyd or Springsteen for that matter. Baby, we were born to run. Is that original? Maybe once in a while you get a great line, say
like "Take these borken wings and learn to fly...Take these sunken eyes and learn to see" As good a poetry as any in English language. Ok, maybe Macca seldom
hit as a high a note as Blackbird but who can? After Imagine, Lennon's best songs were always the personal confessional ones. So it remains again a matter of
taste what you like. Btw, I find Let'em In very poignant.

Reply to this Admin

Aug 20, 2012 5:39am

If Wings were around today they would be "indie pop" darlings, scoring 4 1/2 stars with every record.

Reply to this Admin

Paul Caporino
Dec 31, 2012 8:32pm

"Getting Closer" from Back To The Egg. This is a really good one!

Reply to this Admin

Feb 24, 2013 3:17am

Hmmm. Reminds me of something I heard Paul say during and interview when he was wondering (in retrospect) about whether a double album would work (the White Album).. his conclusion, "who cares! We're the Beatles." This article only seems to say one thing (cause I know where and what I was when Ram came out) it sounds like the critic here just didn't like Ram. That's all. Genius? Good music? Without direction? Hmmm. That's Paul Mccartney. The standard by which everything else has been measured since. BTW. I loved the album, and the first one he did before that too. What was that called again?

Reply to this Admin

Peter hiltz
Mar 22, 2013 5:23pm

I think Paul mccartney is the most talented song weighted ever . Period. And who ever wrote this about Paul is an idiot.

Reply to this Admin

Jun 4, 2013 2:47am

....somebody's blocking!..........

Reply to this Admin

Jun 18, 2013 3:17pm

A very decent read but surely Let Me Roll It deserves a mention? Huge riff, a great hook - I saw Drive By Truckers do it live and it killed.
Stanley Clark played on Tug of War...that surprises revisionists.
Oh and his most batshit song is probably Ode to a Koala Bear no? It's not even a bear Paul...

Reply to this Admin

Kev Moore
Jun 18, 2013 8:36pm

I was a little dismayed by the photo you chose to head up this piece. Mccartney's solo 'Tug of War' album (one of his best) - but not Wings...If I'm not mistaken, Maybe I'm Amazed is a solo work too, as is 'Coming Up', 'Temporary Secretary'....Wings recording career (live albums notwithstanding ran from Wild life in '71 to 'Back to the Egg' in '79, and as you say, ran the whole gamut from simpering to sensational, but lets not muddy the waters with his solo work.

Reply to this Admin

Kev Moore
Jun 18, 2013 8:39pm

In reply to Kev Moore:

...mmm...its late, perhaps I confused the title..on the Twitter link it's 'in defence of Wings' here it admittedly goes by the name of 'Paul McCartney and Wings' I may have to let you off... ;-)

Reply to this Admin

Jun 18, 2013 9:02pm

As a lover of the Paul solo/Wings catalogue, you've hit the nail on the head. He was in a unique situation in the 70s: he didn't hang out with other people of his calibre in a creative capacity, he wasn't part of a scene. In that situation, the best he could do was be a huge commercial success, and he was.

I guess you can either swallow the Famous Groupies/Getting Closer/London Town tweeness/cheesiness or you can't. I find it charming enough to grin through and I love it because it's him. No-one else could get away with 'There was a lead guitarist/who lived in Epping Forest" for me.

PS: descriptions of Hi Hi Hi and Secret Friend made me spit my drink out!

Reply to this Admin

tony mccabe
Jun 18, 2013 9:31pm

Yes the lyrics to Junior's Farm don't make a whole heap of sense but it's a proto-powerpop classic. McCartney's problem was no-one would tell him he was making a bad record, and that's why his 70's stuff is so variable. The price of being an ex-Beatle...

Reply to this Admin

Jul 8, 2013 9:35am

In reply to Louise:

Totally agree! Beautifully expressed :)

Reply to this Admin

Aug 17, 2013 5:45pm

In reply to Young Siam Sir:

Yep. I was a huge adolescent fan in the 1970s but have not listened to Mccartney,except for the occasional thing that comes on the radio, in years. Recently began listening to Ram, Red Rose Speedway and such for the first time in nearly 40 years. And despite the annoying non-lyrics, which make me want to hit my head rather too hard against the wall, there is something about Paul McCartney's music that just makes me feel so damn happy. It's not nostalgia 'cause my teenage years were not that great; it's something in the music itself.

Reply to this Admin

Aug 17, 2013 6:11pm

In reply to Anna:

Listening to "Temporary Secretary" for the first time. Hunh. Surely he intended this to resemble "Paperback Writer" so closely? Right? Right? Like, it's totally what happened to the PW dude after he wrote that bestseller.

Reply to this Admin

Dale H
Nov 17, 2013 4:23am

I don't believe Paul and/or Wings need defending, but - that said - I really find this critique on the spot. What I have felt the loss of of recent is precisely that off-kilter looney quality you identify, the sensation of the song as "mere" song, as opposed to statement or biography. I've always enjoyed his avoidance of content, and I miss his nonsense. "Monkberry Moon Delight" still delights me (as does his earlier (and much vilified) "Hello Goodbye" and such. At his best, the song not only speaks of joy, it IS joy. Sure, there is a lot of floss, and gloss, and dross, but the highs are so extravagantly high, I find it easy - almost obligatory - to overlook it. I don't want the "new" Paul as much, as he moves into personal statement. But I do agree with another commenter that "Ram" is no lightweight concoction: to me it still represents his most satisfying combination of his Beatlesque stylings and the emerging style seen in - for instance - "Band On The Run"...I listen to it a lot.

Reply to this Admin

R & B
Jul 11, 2014 4:46pm

In reply to Dale H:

Paul McCartney has never been worth rating outside the Beatles.
You can't defend Wings as it stands alone as the self indulgent waste of time that it is. Even as a teen I cringed at the pathetic attempt of music that spewed from Wings.

As a separate issue, if you view Pauls reactions and comments caught on film at the news of John Lennon's death this shows what a shallow, self absorbed person he really is.

Reply to this Admin

omaraven hurst
Jul 23, 2014 7:17pm

Great 'essay' with lots of fun appreciation and criticism but 'rockist' in a retro style nevertheless and failing to appreciate, as almost every music journo has historically, that Macca made simplicity out of fame and legend by never actually leaving Liverpool behind. Of the fans, he's the only one who has strengthened his ties and not just lately and it's this connection that has made staying down to earth both imperative and easy. I've been there when he comes sauntering down the street to get chips from a shop he's preferred since teenage days and the woman there will tell you there's not been more than a few months between visits (since the 50's!). If he had a minder handy when I witnessed him, he must have been invisible and Macca even took on a wag saying he's 'shite' in the same way anybody in the neighbourhood would, bytaking the piss out of him amicably but forcefully. It's the Liddypool iirreverence that keeps him in check and his attitude to songwriting in perspective as just another job. Macca long ago established total freedom for himself and others in that department and his eccentric catalogue HSS made the most of it but what he hasn't done is given into his own myth or that of the rockist journalists. Thumbs aloft!

Reply to this Admin

omaraven hurst
Jul 23, 2014 7:44pm

In reply to R & B:

On the contrary. Although being doorstepped by the ever-sensitive UK media was a mess, a shallow type would have had his 'tribute to Lennon all written out. As it is, he's clearly gutted and his contempt is for the question rather than his dead mate. You have to be pretty shallow to miss that but if you are, you haven't been alone these past 34 years. It's a drag.

Reply to this Admin

omaraven hurst
Jul 23, 2014 7:49pm

In reply to Anna:


Reply to this Admin

omaraven hurst
Jul 23, 2014 7:54pm

In reply to David Harrison:

Bargain. Since it's a double a-side, 'girls school' must be the most obscure number 1 that ever sold over 2 million copies! Another eccentric macca stat.

Reply to this Admin

Toby Rigby
Aug 2, 2014 4:30pm

I think the key issue to consider, is that the majority of the finest songs recorded by each of the Beatles, post-'Beatles', were in fact conceived of/written/rehersed and on occasions recorded, during the time the group still operated as a group.
'Imagine', 'Maybe I'm Amazed', 'Jealous Guy', 'All Things Must Pass', 'Back Seat Of My Car', 'Run Of The Mill', 'Every Night',
'It Don't Come Easy','What Is Life', 'Junk','Oh My Love' and 'Teddy Boy', all early solo album tracks, can rightly be considered, 'Beatle songs'. The old adage about 'the whole (even a disaffected, whole!) being greater than the sum of its parts' was never truer. It's not to say that each of the group didn't still produce well crafted efforts - they did - 'Number 9 Dream', 'Jet', 'Give Me Love', 'Photograph', to name but a few. The invention, the beauty, the quality of their solo efforts though, rarely matches up to 'Beatle' material.
Regarding McCartney's songs, it's interesting to note that on his, 'Wingspan' Best of...', no fewer than five tracks from, 'McCartney' album appear, six, if one counts 'Another Day'-
more songs than from any other of his albums.

Reply to this Admin

Oct 10, 2014 9:09pm

You are exactly right. This writer complaining about pretentiousness is absolutely laughable, because this article is an apt example of that word. The wordplay he calls "nonsensical" in many of Paul's lyrics can be found in many Beatles songs this guy probably gushed over. Is "She came in through the bathroom window / protected by a silver spoon / But now she sucks her thumb and wanders / by the banks of her own lagoon" throw-away garbage? No, in fact most songwriters (and fans) call it wonderful. Paul's records are deceptively simple, and this article is blatantly ignorant of them. "Ram" is a brilliant and very unusual record, and anybody who missed it or dismissed it should absolutely go back for a fresh listen.

Reply to this Admin

Oct 10, 2014 9:15pm

In reply to Stormfinger:

The "You are exactly right" was a reply to Louise, not Mr. Parkes.

Reply to this Admin

Jan 12, 2015 8:37pm

As each new McCartney album came out I thought,"this has to be the one that is worthy of Paul McCartney of Lennon and McCartney."
And without fail, each was a huge disappointment.
I'm starting to think he was replaced.....

Reply to this Admin

Jun 6, 2015 12:05am

Only just read this piece. Just wanted to say - this is what the internet is for.
Excellent. Insightful. A ring of truth all around it.
Well done.

Reply to this Admin

Mick Gossling
Jun 23, 2015 11:02am

At the top of his Profession for more than 50 years and you decide to try and pick holes in it? one of the best songwriters the World has ever seen, great with a ballad or rock song and anything in between, still gigging at 73 and pulling in the crowds like no one else can, nothing comes close to Macca in any shape or form and you reckon you know more than the millions of his fans around the world? it is only YOUR opinion, and by the way, how many albums have you made or sold? when you can do the same you can then judge, other than that be honest and admit, there is, as never been and never will be any other like Paul McCartney!

Reply to this Admin

Jun 26, 2015 3:16am

From Little Lamb Dragonfly:
Dragonfly Don't Keep Me Waiting
I'm Waiting Can't You See Me I'm Waiting
When We Try We'll Have A Way To Go
Dragonfly You've Been Away Too Long
How Did Two Rights Make A Wrong
Since You've Gone I Never Know I Go On
But I Miss You So In My Heart
I Feel The Pain
Keeps Coming Back Again

When you realize that John Lennon is "dragonfly" the lyrics start to make sense.
Paul, as John said, hides his meanings but they are there if you try and they are often brilliant.
And the melodies are some of the best ever composed. Listen again.
As Bob Dylan said, McCartney " is the only one I'm in awe of". And as the classical composer Howard Goodall puts it: Only Mozart wrote more great melodies.

Reply to this Admin

Sep 17, 2015 10:35pm

In reply to :

You missed the best: Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five

You're welcome :)

Reply to this Admin

Toker Joker
Mar 5, 2016 10:55am

"Those first ten solo albums contain the most unmistakably pot-inspired music ever committed to posterity. Not because they're spaced-out, or laid-back. They reflect the reality of the everyday toker: lazy, whimsical, totally unfocussed, brimming with bright ideas, which buzz around for a moment or two before vanishing like burning paper."

Yes, yes, yes. Ain't that the truth.

Reply to this Admin

Apr 26, 2016 11:58pm

I agree with some some of your points regarding some of the songs lyrics, but I think overall it's being a bit nit-picky.
Remember, Wings started as a small project touring universities and the odd venue. I think Paul said himself he never expected anything to come out of it.
I find coming back to McCartney's music again and again, maybe because it is very different and just a bit odd, and that's why I love it.
There are a lot of golden nuggets to be found throughout Paul's solo stuff and Wings stuff; see 'RAM' 'Band On the Run' 'Venus and Mars' 'Chaos and Creation in the Backyard.'
There's the odd gems to be singled out too, such as 'Hope of Deliverance', Another Day, Mrs Vanderbilt etc.

Reply to this Admin

May 26, 2016 4:22am

Critics have been getting Paul McCartney wrong from the very beginning, so it's no surprise that this guy does as well!

I think it's one of the absolute biggest disgraces that McCartney's Wings/solo material doesn't get the credit it more than deserves!

It's been going on ever since the Beatles broke up, and it's a downright sin and a shame!

McCartney's post Beatles material is filled and I do mean filled with absolutely fantastic songs!

I've never ever fallen for the kind of absolute nonsense critics have written about McCartney.

Reply to this Admin

Rich 'The Wizard' Higginson
Jun 22, 2016 8:03pm

Thanks! Please excuse me, but it's been said before: John (not Vladimir, but maybe!) Lennon's 'harder edged' musical approach, balanced Mccartney's more 'cutesy' proclivities. As their individual outputs. post-Beatles, reinforces. I can't think, however, of a more beautiful recording than "Imagine" and Paul could rock out pretty well ("Smile Away' and "Band On The Run") when he wanted to, in perhaps a "hard rocking bubble gum vein" (if there is such a thing). "Ram" is a good, if not great, album; I purchased a British pressing in order to try & get the best sound. When "Band On The Run" came out, music lovers were hoping that this signaled a future, harder rocking path for Paul. Alas, it was (largely) not to be. I found this site, and I'm glad that i did, because I wanted to see if I could find "Girls School" (which I did) and the single version of "Coming Up" which I didn't, which I feel is superior to the LP version. I have to see if a C D reissue includes the single version. I didn't buy "Coming Up" when it was released, & probably would have lost it, by now, if I had! And yes, that really does sound just like an Elmore James slide at the beginning of "Girls School."

Reply to this Admin

Oct 3, 2016 2:02am

As a pub rock covers band player scuffling around at the plankton end of the music industry food chain, I find it difficult to criticise someone who has managed to maintain a career at the absolute highest level, while doing whatever he bloody well wants. McCartney is a musician first and foremost. He has given millions throughout the world joy and comfort and he has been on this path since 1957.

I love The Beatles unapologetically and subscribe to the trippier sentiments about them - that they functioned as more than just a rock band. You can't keep a legend going just on hype and marketing. People respond to their music on a deep level, beyond intellect and critical analysis. The world is a better place for having had them live amongst us. I don't think there is much to the constant miserable, carping nitpicking at them beyond envy and bile.

No one forces us to listen to McCartney's music, buy his records, read the articles about him, go see him live...there are so many choices in this world at the tap of a touch screen, so you need never ever hear another note by him ever again, if that makes you happy. Me, I went and saw the new Ron Howard movie and walked out feeling that old joyous light step once again.

I enjoyed the article very much, while disagreeing with quite a lot of it. Very perceptive, and I don't think it was too harsh on him. In fact I think it was an affectionate piece of writing. I'm obviously more tolerant of hippie whimsy than the author.

Reply to this Admin

curt bourque
Mar 4, 2017 10:31am

"Of course, at their simpering, ingratiating worst, Paul McCartney and Wings were dreadful. Only those who don't really care that much would ever try to deny it."

Great way to be positive about Wings, guy. Deny this and you dont care, is what you are telling us.

Well I DO deny this. Sure he has some mediocre songs. Every one does. But Paul and Wings had many hit songs, one of the best live albums ever with wings over america, and the 1975 Grammy award winning Album of the Year with Band on the Run (which was not mentioned as either an album or song here) BOTR was a fantastic album with every song, not just Jet, being worthy of the acclaim from winning the Grammy award. Mull of Kintyre out sold EVERY beatles single ever in Britain and there are so many more you did not mention. What about Silly Love songs? Witty, satirical, one of the best bass lines ever, and a fine statement on both himself and his music.

What about Wing's harmonies? Linda was quite good and Denny was a great counterpoint for Paul. Denny laine was not even mentioned as a contributor to Wings.

pauls voice only faltered in the 2000's and he can still hit most notes on a good day in his mid 70's!

Read modern reviews of Wild Life. it is proving to be well ahead of it's time and an influence on song writers for the past 2 decades.

Ram is the same. Pauls reviews were terrible for the first few years due to reviewers unable to put blame for the Beatles breakup aside and give an honest appraisal of the albums. BOTRun finally convinced them otherwise.

There is so much more than the few songs you like. Wings was high atop the list of best 70's groups in sales, tours, and hit singles.

Paul might have been better with John as an editor and occasional co-writer (and vice versa)but to use simpering etc. as a comment is lazy imitative writing. You did better in parts but your whole was lacking.

Reply to this Admin

Mar 21, 2017 2:34am

In reply to curt bourque:


Reply to this Admin

Oct 26, 2017 12:23am

Nice article. It finally puts into words the way I have always felt about McCartney's songs (and I have always liked him, even after The Beatles. He slingshots between pairs of opposite poles all the time: between vapid and introspective, between comical and juvenile, between brilliant composer and stoner on a lark. Picture a box with a bunch of rubber bands stretched out, and his writing is simultaneously slinging back and forth in ALL of them. And every once in a while, the best parts of all intersect and we get comical, introspective, brilliant composer and out pops something like Live and Let Die. Other times, all the fluff congeals into an album with no meat and we get "London Town".

This article also reminded me of Back Seat of me Car, a great track that I had long forgotten about.

Reply to this Admin