PAUL MCCARTNEY

PAUL MCCARTNEY AT GLASTONBURY - MIND BLOWING

Macca Glasto

Paul McCartney at Glastonbury was mind blowing at a variety of levels. 

The most obvious is that McCartney is 80. I was more than worried. I almost just recorded it to watch on my own so I wouldn’t have to watch the sad demise of my hero live.

And yes, the voice is huskier, far from its glorious breadth but it was the only hint that this man was older than much of the crowd’s grandparents. He didn’t shy away either. The Wings screamer Junior’s Farm is second up and Helter Skelter was his 33rd song of the night. 

There is no doubt McCartney’s band have his back. For over twenty years Rusty Anderson on guitar, Brian Ray on bass, Abe Laboriel Jr on drums with Wix Wickens acting as musical director as well as playing keyboard have allowed McCartney concerts to soar. They have beautifully arranged the vocals in order to cover any of the boss’s frailties. They were all rocking Glastonbury for the second time.

Perhaps most amazing to me was the set list. I mean when you have the biggest bestest recorded catalogue in rock history where does Paul begin. Yet, usually it is hit hit hit in machine gun fire. Of course most Macca songs are hits in some sense but tonight’s set list dug deep cuts. Junior’s Farm? Letting Go? For The Benefit of Mr Kite? I think there might have only been about 5 number 1s!

Then there are the new songs. Paul even highlights before he sings New calling them black holes when no one cheers. We don’t care he adds and tonight he genuinely doesn’t seem to. We get songs from four of McCartney’s last 5 records but interestingly nothing from McCartney III. We even have a post song crowd singalong on Fuh You.

Overall we get a personal and rock n roll history. Love Me Do to I’ve Got A Feeling and McCartney is very respectful and inclusive of his mates Ringo, George and John commentating as he goes. Lennon even sings along through the wonder of technology on I’ve Got A Feeling which must have been moving for McCartney and also his band who have now played with Lennon too. 

All of that and other film footage on the screen does suggest that the product McCartney’s gig is aiming to sell is Let It Be and the Get Back film. 

From Paul’s story we move to rock’s story and the special guests Dave Grohl and Bruce Springsteen. Nice surprises indeed! Two powerful voices to give Paul’s a break. Grohl’s howl through I Saw Her Standing There was sensational. Bruce’s Glory Days sent Paul into glory days mode and we got a Beatles fest plus the very very underrated but great Live and Let Die.

Even in this concluding climax the set list surprised. Yes, there was Let It Be and obviously a long sing-a-long Hey Jude but I Wanna Be Your Man and Golden Slumbers before ending the gig as the chronological Beatles albums ended with The End. Fascinating. 

So almost two and a half hours later and we are in awe of an 80 year old still holding the attention of the current coolest music audience on the planet. He and his mates conquering the planet 60 years ago is one one thing but still reigning at 80 mind blowing! Into a Covid-still-with-us and war torn world he pours out hope and joy and positive vibes. To think I doubted!


I SURMISE PAUL MCCARTNEY's GENIUS (ON HIS 80th BIRTHDAY)

Paul Get Back

Paul McCartney is 80 today. I started listening to his first band The Beatles in the early 70s and by the middle of the decade I was besotted. There was Wings too and the solo stuff.

Over the 50 years that I have followed him and the 60 of his recording career he has not always been appreciated. He seems to have been the Beatle that people love taking a pop at. McCartney’s soft, they say. 

Now, he has given the naysayers plenty of fuel for their Molotov cocktails. Bringing out Mary Had A Little Lamb just two years after The Beatles wasn’t smart. The Frog Chorus didn’t sit easily alongside his mate Lennon’s imagine or Harrison’s My Sweet Lord. Then there was the Crossroads theme tune revisited… and Mull of Kintyre!

BUT… I want to argue for McCartney’s greatness. It would be far too tricky to draw in all of the 60 years so I want to concentrate on just one month in 1969. Watching The Beatles film Get Back recently I was utterly blown away by the prolific genius of Paul McCartney. 

If you haven’t watched this astonishing 8 hours of music making then go and see it. If you have watched it and missed the McCartney dominance in that room and roof then watch it again.

The Beatles get together after The White Album on which they were rarely in the recording studio together. McCartney had an idea that the band that plays together might stay together. He wanted to rehearse new songs and indeed old ones for a live concert somewhere. Let’s film it all too.

So January 1969 is spent in studios writing what might be an album recorded at a live event. In between playing old rock n roll favourites and very early Beatles’ songs we watch as the biggest band on the planet sit around jamming and writing news songs before our very eyes.

At this stage, two years after Brian Epstein’s death, and a decade after John Lennon was the gang leader it is obvious that Paul McCartney has become the main man of the band. George doesn’t like it and leaves for a few days. John seems to have abdicated to him. Ringo is ever a loyal subject.

It’s not this dominance that stands out though. In these first few days McCartney brings little bits of songs - First of all there’s Get Back, I’ve Got a Feeling and Two Of Us. Then we have a piano tinkling as Let It Be and The Long and Winding Road are literally being birthed in front of us.

As if that is not enough we get Oh Darling, She Came In the Bathroom Window and Maxwell’s Silver Hammer that would make the follow up album Abbey Road and if that wasn’t enough we get hints of the first solo years - Another Day, Back Seat Of My Car and Teddy Boy.

All in a month. The depth. The breadth. So many great songs, some of them all time Beatle classics. 

As I watched, I marvelled. All The Beatles were important to the making of the music of their legend. Yet, this one month in January 1969 tells the truth about Paul McCartney's vital place.

It would be easy to pick 25 Paul McCartney howlers and accuse of him of being twee. I suggest you do the opposite. Choose his best 100 songs and ask if there is any other songwriter who can write like that. 

I remember seeing him Dublin about 20 years ago and for close to three hours he just kept sending out classic song after classic song. It was a joyous never ending bombardment of familiar melodies, riffs and choruses. I have put together a 25 song Playlist for his birthday and didn’t even include Yesterday, Hey Jude or Another Day. Come on!

So Happy 80th Birthday Sir Paul and thank you for the 50 years of amazing music that you have given me. 


PAUL McCARTNEY - THE LYRICS; 1956 To The Present

The Lyrics

By the sounds of it, we are not getting a Paul McCartney memoir. The Lyrics is as close as we’ll get and in many ways this does give us a good deal of autobiography along with McCartney’s habits and secrets of songwriting.

To draw out our bass playing Beatle we have to give thanks to Paul Muldoon, the revered Irish poet, who has written songs himself with The Handsome Family and Warren Zevon. Over 5 years he met with McCartney and eked out all kinds of insights about a wide range of songs… and the songwriter’s life.

On the songwriting front I learned a lot. Loved that for him songs are little journeys where he wonders where it will go. They are almost like little puzzles and he found the re-visiting them equally exploratory. I had a new appreciation for his word play and the deeper thinking below a seemingly surface meaninglessness.

I came to give more weight to And I Love Her and the Lennon ridiculed Maxwell’s Silver Hammer. I listened to so many songs that I had not considered for many years including Arrow Through Me and Too Much Rain and heard Warm and Beautiful more poignantly when I was reminded that he re-arranged it for Linda’s memorial service.

I love how the return to the times of these songs draws McCartney out on his family, how he talks so personally about his wives Linda and Nancy. A highlight is to hear him speak so fondly about his 60’s girlfriend Jane Asher and her family. It seems he might have missed Mrs Asher more than her daughter!

Being me, I was intrigued by his utterances on the spiritual. McCartney’s thumbs up positiveness and general goodness comes from his family more than his Catholic upbringing. To be ordinary working class but the very best kind of that seems the Sermon on the McCartney house. That he succeeds is a good deal of the key to why as a very very rich superstar he is still loved by all apart from snobby music critics. 

As a Beatle fan who has read everything ever written about the band, together or apart, then the revelations are fewer and further between but hearing McCartney tell the familiar in his own words refreshes it all and adds little pieces.

This is all put in the most beautiful of books with photos pertaining to the very moment that every song was cast and photos of the song lyrics too. All in all when I am listening to Paul McCartney whose music I go back to so very often this will be my new resource for what so many of his great songs are about. I feel there are hours of fun and insights on reading The Lyrics over and over. 


PAUL MCCARTNEY - A STOCKI PLAYLIST, OF HIS EXTRA TRACKS

Paul-mccartney-announces-new-childrens-book-hey-grandude

I love those extra tracks that my favourite artist releases and spent my youth making cassette tapes of these extra tracks. In the past few weeks I started collecting Paul McCartney's extra tracks. I finally put them together in this playlist that fits a CDR. I love it, the songs and the flow of them. If you fancy it...

1. It’s So Easy - from Rave On Buddy Holly

2. I Want To Walk You Home (featuring Allen Toussaint) - from Goin’ Home: A Tribute To Fats Domino

3. A Love For You - from Ram (Disc 2)

4. Vanilla Sky - from Vanilla Sky Soundtrack

5. In The Blink Of An Eye - from Ethel and Ernest Soundtrack 

6. Lady Madonna -  from BBC Radio 2: Piano Room

7. That’s All Right - from Good Rockin’ Tonight: The Legacy of Sun records

8. Cut Me Some Slack (featuring David Grohl, Krist Novoselic & Pat Smear - from Sound City: Real To Reel

9. Strawberry Fields Forever/Help/Give Peace A Chance - from All My Trials CD single

10. All Things Must Pass - from Concert For George

11. All My Trials - from Tripping The Live Fantastic: Highlights

12. Hope For The Future - Hope For The Future EP

13. Maybe Baby - Maybe Baby Soundtrack

14. I’m Partial To Your Abracababra - Brand New Boots and Panties: A Tribute To Ian Dury

15. A  Room With A View - Twentieth Century Blues: The Songs Of Noel Coward

16. Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying - Inspired By Genius: Music Of Ray Charles

17. It’s Now Or Never - The Last Temptation of Elvis: An All Star Tribute

18. My Soul (with Nitin Sawhney) - single

19. Heal The Pain (with George Michael) - Twenty Five

20. I’m In Love Again (with Klaus Voorman) - A Sideman’s Journey

21. The Very Thought Of You (with Tony Bennett) - Duets: An American Classic

22. Love Song On The Earth - single


THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO... PAUL MCCARTNEY

Macca 75

If you haven't seen James Corden's Carpool Karaoke with Paul McCartney on his Late Late Show, you need to. You say that you are not a McCartney fan. I still hold that you need to see this. It is precious television. A brilliant spectacle and full of personal emotion for both McCartney and Corden.

The concept is fabulous. McCartney back in his old home in Liverpool, at the barbers in Penny Lane and pulling off a surprise pub gig too. The car karaoke scenes are hilarious, though they get emotional when they talk about Let It Be, McCartney remembering his mum and Corden his dad.

Corden makes a point about McCartney's music that is obvious and yet often overlooked. He describes the joy that McCartney eeks out of songs. Indeed, in todays times that sense of joy might be as important as the clever lyric that expresses our social critique and angst.

Corden reminded me of a blog I did on the, now 76 year old, ex Beatle for his birthday last year. Corden sees the sound of joy, I hear the words of hope! We all need a blend of those!

Paul McCartney is never seen as the most political or spiritual of The Beatles. He has certainly never written anything lyrical to challenge the political subversiveness of Imagine by Beatle John or the spiritual enthusiasm of My Sweet Lord by Beatle George.

However, a couple of years ago, as I lay on my early morning holiday bed listening to him on my iPod shuffle, I became aware of a theme that I had never recognised before in McCartney’s work; hope!

Now some might immediately jump to his song Hope Of Deliverance and say that it states the patently obvious. Maybe! However my songs that appeared spookily close together on that shuffle were Tug Of War from album of same title, Summer’s Day from McCartney II and Golden Earth Girl from Off the Ground.

All three songs speak of a deep hopefulness of what will happen beyond the difficult moments the singer is in; the entire culture in Tug Of War; the very personal in Summer’s Day; and the eco world in Golden Earth Girl.

Before this holiday eureka moment I had previously blogged about another McCartney song with an eschatological theme, The End Of The End from Memory Almost Full:

 
"On the day that I die I'd like bells to be rung
And songs that were sung to be hung out like blankets
That lovers have played on
And laid on while listening to songs that were sung
 
At the end of the end
It's the start of a journey
To a much better place
And a much better place
Would have to be special
No reason to cry
No need to be sad
At the end of the end"

 

Some of Macca’s most poetic lyrics indeed. McCartney does know about death losing parents, wife and two Beatles. What faith he is believing here is hard to understand though he does touch on Christian and eastern faith In his most spiritual work, the more classical, Ecce Cor Meum for which he mentions being shaped by a philosophy “the faith in a benevolent spirit.”

Finally, and most recently McCartney has added to his canon of hope 2014’s single Hope For The Future:

 

“Hope for the future

It's coming soon enough

How much can we achieve?

Hope for the future

It will belong to us

If we believe

If we believe”

 

Yet again, we might question what Macca is believing or putting his hope in. It would seem to me that McCartney confirmed in Hope For The Future my hunch that he is expressing a secular wishfulness of something better.

All of these songs might be McCartney-esque in their ambiguity of belief but I as a Christian can shake hands with the sentiments and actually, whether Macca knows it or not, the theology of them, vague and all as it might be!


THE ART OF McCARTNEY

Art of McCartney

The Art Of McCartney gives Paul McCartney the kind of big name tribute album that John Lennon got with Instant Karma and Bob Dylan got with Chimes Of Freedom. It is a hug step up in big names than the the tributes released together in 2001; one by “popular artists” and the other by “independent artists”. This one is the big deal. Bob Dylan, for goodness sake, along with Billy Joel, BB King, Roger Daltrey, The Cure, Heart, Brian Wilson, Chrissie Hynde as well as the more current Owl City and Perry Farrell. 

On initial listens there might be a legitimate disappointment that the whole thing is a little bit too reverential. What producer and director of the project, Ralph Sall, has done is to use McCartney’s fantastic band, of the last thirteen years, to lay down the tracks and then bring in the stars to do the vocals. This in some ways gave less freedom and imagination to the arrangements as Anderson, Ray, Wickens and Laboriel Jr are in Macca blueprint default. The danger was a superstar exercise in karaoke.

Without doubt for me the more interesting tracks are the ones that McCartney’s band are not on. The reggae groove of Toots Hibbert’s version of Come and Get It with Sly and Robbie, Peter Bjorn and John’s Put It There on the Amazon exclusive track, Booker T Jones’ instrumental Cant Buy Me Love and BB King’s extraordinary guitar blues version On The Way are the intrigue. Of course the female vocal of Corrine Bailey Rae on Bluebird, that rock chick drawl of Chrissie Hynde on Let It Be, and Dr John’s deep throated voice  Let ‘Em In give a different take.

In the end though, when you sit with the record long enough and overcome the fact that on occasions it is difficult to distinguish some of the voices from McCartney’s himself, there is something profound being communicated on this project. Paul McCartney has been disparaged by many as the soft pop Beatle. It beggars belief how a man who gave us so many iconic songs should have taken such grief. Perhaps it is a fair enough comment to say that McCartney has the ability to conjure regular songwriting genius but also fill albums with very weak songs too. Lennon was not missed when McCartney hit the spot but he was missed to add a wee quirk of genius to those songs that were a tad average. Post Beatles the average perhaps got too much room to breathe!

What The Art Of McCartney declares though is not only the depth of quality in Paul McCartney’s art but also its staggering breadth. Here we get the pop of different eras, Brian Wilson, Billy Joel and today’s Perry Farrell. We have country with Willie Nelson, soul with Smokey Robinson, the light jazz of Harry Connick Jr and Jamie Cullum, the blues of BB King, the rock of Cheap Trick and Heart and then the heavy rock of Kiss, Def Leppard and Joe Elliott. it is exactly because we don’t get their versions but McCartney’s versions that his versatility is given the spot light.

It is also just a great machine gun fire of great songs. Not karaoke!


PAUL MCCARTNEY - NEW

NEW

Paul McCartney is 71. He should have his feet up in the Hamptons, or the south coast of England, enjoying his retirement. Instead he keeps on going. NEW is some title for a man who has been recording album after album for fifty years. Yet, working with four hot younger producers (Mark Ronson, Glyn Johns, Giles Martin and Paul Epworth)  and a band that has energised him on and off stage for 12 years (Rusty Anderson, Brian Ray and Abe Laboriel Jr) the title is making a statement as this is fresh, contemporary, relevant... NEW! NEW is inventive, intriguing and when it does nod its hat at The Beatles it is 67 era Beatles which still sounds more contemporary today than today’s contemporary. The record rocks out, pops it up and changes gears more seamlessly than four different producers might suggest. It is dirtier, tougher and moodier than Sir Paul has been in many a long year.   

The album title might also be a hint at the fact that this is McCartney’s most spiritual album ever! On the opening track (Save Us) he is seeking out salvation and another songs has him singing Hosanna (Hosanna). The Road has him on a journey through storms and darkness toward the light. Most preachy of all is Everybody Out There: -

“There, but for the Grace of God go you and I
We're the brightest objects in the sky
There, but for the Grace of God go you and I
Do some good before you say goodbye”

This is a remarkable lyric in a song that is obviously written with a stadium full of tens of thousands of fans to sing it to. Christianity’s brightest precious stone Grace is right there in the heart of it, the Biblical idea that humans are the pinnacle of creation is declared and then the altar call of doing something with your life!

Of course McCartney is the most passively spiritual of The Beatles. Lennon went through confirmation and though he got in trouble for saying The Beatles were popular than Jesus and declared he didn’t believe in God in the song God off Plastic Ono Band, he saw himself as a bit of a Christ figure in his revolutionary ideals and the way the public treated him – “Christ you know it aint easy/They’re gonna crucify me” (Ballad Of John and Yoko). Ringo Starr recently spoke of Christianity and had a song Oh My Lord was clearly directed to God. Macca on the other hand has always been a little vacuous in his God belief. Let It Be that might have been seen as a Gospel song was directed towards his own mother Mary, not the mother of Jesus. In more recent years he has nodded at the Divine on the classical work Ecce Cor Meum, particularly the song Sanctus and the reflection on eternity on The End Of The End from Memory Almost Full but though NEW is about a rebirth of sorts that impinges on all of McCartney’s current demeanour it is not a religious conversion so much as a new wife to reinvigorate and heal an unhappy phase in his life.

These songs brim over in thankfulness to McCartney’s third wife Nancy Shevell. The salvation, cause for praise and his partner to see him up the road towards the light on the journey are all about finding love. It makes for a his best record in a long time and his deepest work in even longer. As a Beatles’ fan I will always be interested in the music McCartney releases but I have rarely been as fascinated or satisfied with his lyrical content. If McCartney should still be gigging at 90 we will see which of these songs can sit alongside Get Back, Hey Jude and Yesterday from the 60s or Live and Let Die, Band On The Run and My Love from the 70s. There might be few BUT then those songs are top company. NEW is a treat. Well worth hanging in with a  Beatle for!


PAUL MCCARTNEY - Live On Later... With Jools 29.10.10

Macca on Later 

Paul McCartney’s performance on BBC television’s Later... With Jools was quite astonishing. It was quite a show. Neil Diamond and Elvis Costello also guested but it was the mark of the man that McCartney blew them all away and had the other major hitters basking in awe. It wasn’t Neil and Elvis though that you sense old Macca was competing with. In the month when his old writing pal John had major media coverage to commemorate what would have been his 70th birthday Macca has decided to distract the spotlight and release another remastered version of his best post Beatles album Band On the Run. These performances were to compete with John and only John.

Two songs on Tuesday’s live show and then two more on Friday’s full blown programme was more than a treat for McCartney fans. I have said somewhere else recently that this is McCartney’s best band since Wings Over America in the mid seventies and it might actually be better. Rusty Anderson, Brian Ray, Abe Laboriel Jr., and Paul ‘Wix’ Wickens, have been a solid unit for nearly a decade now and Wickens for well over two, and they are well match fit. The intensity of their performance makes this no old man milking the old times. Jet is a rocker and Band On the Run rocks and rolls. Where I got most excited was a rare performance of 1985 with McCartney banging the keys like Leon Russell whose own legacy is being revisited with his new album with Elton John. It was mesmerising stuff, full on rock out in a TV studio. Let Me Roll It was sweet too with that delicious guitar motif shaper than a two edged sword. These guys rock and McCartney has to keep up.

He keeps up very well for a 68 year old. Yes there are a few moments when his voice maybe shows signs of aging. But McCartney’s voice had as much ability to rock as Lennon’s – think Birthday or Helter Skelter – and it still can fly. You can ask Robbie or Brandon or Bono and I’ll bet that they would dream to be this crucial as they near their three score years and ten. I have no idea whether I or anyone else needs another Remaster of Band On the Run but these performances remind us just how brilliant an album that was and makes you just a little bit more tempted. Paul McCartney generally gets a poor press for the softness of his later output but on these performances live on Britain’s flagship television rock show he needs our deepest respect.