Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Mac Attack or All Paul

I mentioned I was reading Peter Ames Carlin's bio of Paul McCartney, and now I've finished it.  Of course, after reading an intense history of the Beatles' early years, followed by a look at McCartney in the 70s, a lot of the material was familiar.  Still, the guy has had an amazing career, and is the most successful songwriter of the rock era, maybe of popular music in the past century.

A majority of the book deals with his early years up till the end of the Beatles in 1970.  Though this represents less than 40% of his life, it's his most important work.  As good as much of his music has been since, nothing can compare.  And too often, especially since John Lennon's death, McCartney has been considered the number two man in the Beatles.  Really it's an even split with him and John (followed by George and Ringo).

It was John's band to begin with, and he's the guy who decided to let Paul--and later George--in, but Paul's undeniable talent and drive was essential in them making it.  After all, one of the first things he did was teach John proper guitar chords.  John was brilliant at what he did, but Paul is the only one I think would have made it on his own, no matter what else happened.

And though I tend to prefer John's songs, Paul's tend to be more popular. If you think of their most covered songs, most are Paul's. In fact, "Yesterday," which may be the most performed song of the twentieth century, was entirely Paul's.  He came up with it, according to Carlin, in 1963, and sat on it for a year and a half, afraid it was too different.  The recording was just Paul with a string quartet--not really a Beatles' song at all (John even made fun of him for it).  Yet, look at the credits, and it's "Lennon-McCartney." (Originally they planned to put the main writer first, but manager Brian Epstein convinced them to keep it consistent, and when John died Yoko wasn't going to give in.)

He was always the Beatle-iest member of the band, wanting to perform, wanting to please.  So when they broke up, he took it the hardest.  In fact, his first four solo albums, McCartney, Ram, Wild Life and Red Rose Speedway, are hit and miss affairs. It wasn't until Band On The Run that he found his footing, and, in the mid-70s, had a streak of solid releases, getting back some of the critical respect he'd been missing.

He also formed Wings, but, as democratic as he wanted it to be, he was first among equals.  Only his beloved wife Linda could really speak out, but what was she doing there in the first place?  He thought she could be another partner, but she was no John Lennon.

In the late 70s he went solo again, and his work started to lose focus, but John's death drove him to put out one of his best albums--helped by Beatles' producer George Martin--Tug Of War. From that point on, however, most of his albums couldn't compare with the best of Wings, even though he wrote some interesting songs with Elvis Costello and, even in his weakest albums, had a few songs worth listening to.

Paul had lost his mother when he was a teen, and later, of course, lost John Lennon. But perhaps the worst loss of all was Linda, who died of cancer in 1998, only 56. More than ever, now, Paul felt adrift.  The first thing Paul did was release an album of rock and roll standards--the music that kept him going when he was a kid did the same thing for him as an adult.

Paul still releases new music, but in concert he's an oldies act. That's what the people want to hear, and Paul is enough of an entertainer to give them what they want.  But if he's not "relevant" any more, his music more than lives on.  The Beatles may have started out figuring they'd been over soon, but even though they called it quits 45 years ago, their music shows no signs of disappearing.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Denver Guy said...

I('m almost finished McCartney in the 70s (Man on the Run). I really like reading about Paul. Besides the characteristics you mentioned, I find he is also the most idealistic, and probably the most naive Beatle. He ended up the richest, but how much of that is thanks to the guidance of his father-in-law, who knew the music buisiness and invested well for his daughter and son-in-law.

McCartney's recent appearance on SNL's 40th special was sad for me. Up to even his appearance in the Superbowl half-time show I thought Paul's voice still sounded nice. But his performance on SNL was tough to listen to. It's a shame - but maybe he should concentrate on writing songs for others to sing.

Do you know if any of his kids have accomplished anything? Both of Lennon's kids have had a smattering of a music career.

8:52 AM, May 27, 2015  
Blogger LAGuy said...

I'm surprised you ask about his kids, since one is quite famous. Mary is a photographer and James is a musician, but the one who's truly distinguished herself is Stella, the fashion designer.

9:50 AM, May 27, 2015  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Say Say Say
The Pipes of Peace
Temporary Secretary.

The rumors were true. A zombie replicant took his place some time in the late 70s

11:09 AM, May 27, 2015  
Blogger ColumbusGuy said...

ColumbusGal is dragging me to see the Stones Saturday. Would that I could find a replicant to go in my place.

11:28 AM, May 27, 2015  
Anonymous Denver Guy said...

Oops - I don't follow fashion or photography. What and with whom does James play?

9:05 AM, May 28, 2015  
Blogger LAGuy said...

James is a rock musician who, like his father, sings and plays various instruments. He's put out a few releases that didn't exactly make waves. Not unlike Paul's brother Mike McGear.

10:14 AM, May 28, 2015  

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