We’ve been listening to Paul McCartney’s latest album New around Music Unlimited for the past couple weeks now since it was released mid-October.
Macca, as he’s affectionately called in the UK, continues the creative resurgence he’s been riding since at least 1997’s Flaming Pie. Working with a raft of young producers, including Amy Winehouse impresario Mark Ronson, McCartney sounds more like a hungry indie pop wunderkind than a fabulously wealthy cultural icon. It’s hard to believe it’s the work of a granddad in his seventies.
The album got us to revisit Paul McCartney’s first decade as a solo artist, which you can take a listen to in our Paul McCartney (1970 -1980) Playlist on the Music Unlimited web player.
It was a wild time of highs and lows which resulted in some of the best rock and balladry of the 1970s. John Lennon was usually considered the introspective, soul-bearing solo Beatle while the upbeat Macca kept experimenting with different sounds and styles (and he was often a one-man band, self-recording guitars, drums and kazoos). That said, initial solo tracks such as “Maybe I’m Amazed” and “Every Night” illustrate the confusion and barely submerged psychic fallout from The Beatles breakup. Macca seemed to get his frustrations with John & Yoko out of his system with the blistering rocker “Too Many People,” though he ditched the original set of lyrics, keeping only “too many people preaching practices” as a snide slap-down of the newly converted revolutionaries. The cinematic ballad “Dear Friend” showed how he eventually felt about being separated from his old creative partner.
Basically (as he admits today) teetering on the edge of a breakdown, McCartney decided the only way he could get past The Beatles legacy was to adopt an “anything goes” attitude which could lead to brilliantly creative audio marvels like “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” and “Live And Let Die” (the best James Bond theme ever) or to casually tossed off material.
The first two Wings albums (Wild Life and Red Rose Speedway) were reputation-killers and they led to the band secretly breaking up. McCartney once again had something to prove. Recorded in a Nigerian shed, with just Paul and Denny Laine playing pretty much everything (with assists from Linda), Band On The Run was a recording nightmare that turned into a triumph and reestablished McCartney as a musical force in the rock world. The triptych title track shows how Paul still pined for his departed mother during times of trouble, the unstoppably propulsive “Jet” is the greatest Paul song named after one of his dogs since “Martha My Dear” and the epically funky “1985” illustrates how well the multi-instrumentalist matches virtuosity and go-for-broke strangeness.
After Band On The Run, Paul went back to releasing near-perfect singles (“Let ‘Em In,” “Listen To What The Man Says” and the synth pop beauty “With A Little Luck”) on lackluster albums. Then, at the end of the 1970s, Macca sacked Wings and went back to self-recording in his house, using his toilet (you read that correctly!) as an impromptu studio. The playfully experimental, synth-heavy, McCartney II got the thumbs-up from John Lennon and is today viewed as a sampling and club touchstone.
Listen to this playlist and more here.