Smile Away

You can make fun of Paul McCartney all you want, but he’s just going to shrug and whistle all the way to the bank. If you had written a tune this catchy you would say “This is it, lads, this is our golden ticket out of obscurity!” And then you would spend the rest of your life trying to leverage your one moment on inspiration into a steady paycheck. But Paul McCartney can just take one of the catchiest tunes ever written by anyone ever and throw it away as a novelty song about stinky feet. Because he can. That is all.

Silly Love Songs

Paul McCartney made his reputation on songs like this, and he knew well enough what some people thought of him for it. There’s nothing like a born optimist’s good cheer to grate on the nerves of the cynical. I guess the same people who felt ready to drop-kick Tiny Tim also are also the ones who want to punch Paul McCartney. Who does he think he is, with his unshakable faith in goodness and love? Well, Paul McCartney wasn’t so out to the heart of the country that he didn’t hear his own best friends calling him mawkish and shallow. His response showed that kindness was the best clap-back. (And success.) In his usual mild-mannered tone, he asked, what’s wrong with silly love songs? Really, though, what is it about other people’s happiness that irritates you so much? Obviously, happiness without a heaping downside of misery – even the outward appearance of it – is irritating to us angry cynical people because it’s unattainable to us personally and we think that anyone who says they’ve attained it should get some kind of cosmic comeuppance for their hubris. Paul McCartney irritates the fuck out of cynics because he appears to genuinely be the kind of person who sees sunshine and rainbows wherever he goes. And he makes more money than God rubbing everyone’s noses in positivity. But, as he states, in the most tuneful way possible, there’s nothing wrong with that. Silly love songs make people happy. And even the most cynical bastards among us – the ones who gripe that the idea of romantic love is nothing more than a conspiracy designed to make people tolerate each other’s company just long enough to make a baby and keep it alive until it learns how to walk – sometimes find themselves right in it, and all of their intellectual posturing goes straight out the window, and suddenly it isn’t so silly after all. Paul McCartney is really on to something here, and we should all actually make an effort to follow his lead on it.

She’s My Baby

This is Paul McCartney at damn near his most McCartneyish. It’s everything that makes a McCartney a McCartney. It’s a love song that’s trite and daft and sugary and lyrically lazy – and inescapably whistleable. You can’t get this tune out of your head, and you just bob along to it whether you like it or not. Whether you find it heartwarming or nauseating really depends on how devout your faith in love is. Honestly it’s hard not to feel at least a little warm and fuzzy, or at the very least envious at how unabashedly happy one has to be to write a song comparing their loved one to delicious gravy. Paul McCartney, of course, happened to be extremely lucky in love, so he wasn’t dragging around the residual angst of repeated heartbreaks the way most of us do. He just loved being in love, with no trace of irony or self-consciousness. Since most of us see the experience of being in love as a mixed blessing at best, that kind of soppy-eyed optimism can be a little hard to relate to. We fall in love with a little wariness. This is why Paul McCartney’s brand of sentimentality grates on a lot of people. However, McCartney also happens to be the kind of musical wunderkind who snores out bank-breaking hits in his sleep, and even the harshest critics can’t argue about that. You will take your sugar and like it, because it’s such a flawless meringue.

San Ferry Anne

Ça fait rien. Wings are really criminally underrated. They’re not, like, The Beatles or anything but… But of course that’s woefully unfair to say. It’s Paul McCartney at or very near the top of his game, which is always a welcome thing to hear. McCartney’s lifelong problem, notoriously, is that he badly needs someone to bring some pith to his sweetness. None of the members of Wings were ever near John Lennon’s level of salty, but they provided just enough leavening. A good-natured attitude is an underrated quality in entertainment, and people with la-di-da attitudes were nearly their most unfashionable in 1976. But, come on, have some positivity.

Ram On

Paul McCartney’s two-minute toss-offs are better than your symphonies. That’s an exaggeration; symphonies are symphonies and Paul McCartney’s are not all that. But two-minute pop songs are a different story. How many hit songs come out that cost millions of dollars to produce and have a credit list to rival a Hollywood blockbuster? And how many of those songs suck so much it makes you wonder if any human beings were involved in their making at all? Then there’s what Paul McCartney comes up with just doodling around alone in his basement. McCartney puts most of the rest of the music industry to shame.

Not Such a Bad Boy

For the serious Paul McCartney fan. In fact, it’s one of the better songs McCartney recorded in the 80’s, but most people don’t know that because it’s buried on the b-side of the soundtrack of a movie that nobody saw. I myself have a deep love for McCartney’s vanity movie Give My Regards to Broad Street, but I don’t expect everyone to share my enthusiasm for what is essentially a two-hour medley of his greatest hits. Besides that, the movie also had a few previously unreleased songs, including this one, which was a nice touch to shake it out of the nostalgia rut (although, of course, it’s not exactly fair to place these songs beside material from Band on the Run or anything from his Beatle days.) I’ve always found it very charmingly entertaining, if not exactly in the top 700 things Paul McCartney will be eternally remembered for.

No Words

Short, simple and sweet. Paul McCartney, of course, has more words to say about love than anyone. He’s the guy to learn from, and should really be more people’s role model. I haven’t listened to this track in a long time. It’s not a hit that comes on the radio. But I enjoy rediscovering the slightly more obscure moments, and the second half of Band on the Run is especially satisfying in the way it descents into weirdness. It’s that undervalued McCartney eccentricity, the thing that tempers all the sweetness and makes it go down.