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.

Must Do Something About It

Paul McCartney, the ever egalitarian, will sometimes allow other members of his band to sing lead vocals. It’s a very democratic and fair policy that stems all the way back to the days of letting Ringo do one. Shockingly, even when Paul McCartney steps back and lets someone else take the vocal reigns, it still sounds exactly like a Paul McCartney song. Does that defeat the purpose of letting other people take the spotlight, or does it do the opposite? I think it shows that there’s definitely a ‘Wings sound’ that doesn’t have to be all Paul all the time. As it happens Wings at the Speed of Sound is the most egalitarian Wings record, with songs allocated to each member of the group, then numbering five. Denny Laine and Jimmy McCulloch even got songwriting credit. It also happens to be one of the better wings albums. More contributions from more people help keep it from sinking into the love song after love song formula McCartney is prone to, but it still sounds cohesive. In this case, drummer Joe English takes on frontman duties, tackling a song written by Paul and Linda. It sounds like Paul wrote it for himself – it is very, very McCartney-esque, and English nails McCartney’s vocal cadences so well that if you didn’t know it, you’d think it was the Cute One himself.

Mrs. Vandebilt

In typical Paul McCartney fashion this song is both silly and profound. Silly with its ‘hop hey hop’ chorus (Russian audiences love that, as McCartney has noticed, and I can attest to.) And who is Mrs. Vandebilt? A reference to someone who is no longer a famous cultural figure, I presume. On the other hand, it’s a pretty important message; stop your hurrying and just chill out, man. Let go of things that are you of your control. Don’t run after the bus that’s already passed you by. That seems very basic, but it’s actually a hard thought to put into practice. For  many of us, the chillax and go easy philosophy is unattainable. But it’s a good thing to be reminded of.

Morse Moose and the Grey Goose

This is Paul McCartney at his most weird. For anyone who thinks he slipped quietly and entirely off into Silly Love Song Land after his best collaborators parted ways. In 1978 McCartney was still in full possession of his melodic superpowers, and ready to invest them on topics of complete randomness. Such as a song about a ghost ship. When you stop and consider it, though, you’ll be amazed how much of Paul McCartney’s output would be mere novelty songs in anyone else’s hands. A lesser musician couldn’t write a song about a ghost ship and not sound ready for an episode of Doctor Demento. But this is Paul McCartney, who has composed some of the catchiest tunes of all time and doesn’t mind if some of them are about puppies, or ghost ships, or stinky feet. Seriously, McCartney has composed so many classic, world dominating songs, that for him it’s no loss to throw away a potentially chart busting tune just as a joke.

Monkberry Moon Delight

In which Paul McCartney shows yet again his gift for spinning gold from the ridiculous. What’s it all about? Don’t know, but if I had to guess, I would say it’s a drinking song. But it doesn’t matter. Exuberant silliness and melodicism for its own sake were two of the defining charms Paul brought to the Beatles’ table, and those things remained in full flower for a long time afterwards. (And after all those highs, you really can’t blame him for eventually declining into dullness.) The criticisms lobbed Ram’s way in 1971 – too cutesy, too lightweight, too weird – have long been forgotten. That album deserves to be celebrated for what it is; the happy height of Paul McCartney just being the essence ofhimself. If you aren’t charmed by the McCartney-ness of Paul McCartney, then obviously this isn’t for you. If you adore everything Macca, then this is everything Macca that you adore; his famous sentimentality, his penchant for combining the most voluptuous melodies with the most goofball lyrics, his endless little personal jokes that are only between him and Linda, his kill-’em-with-kindness passive-aggressiveness towards h8ters (up to and including John Lennon,) and oh so many odes to the joys of pet ownership and animal husbandry. Many critics (up to and including John Lennon) were bitterly frustrated that post-Beatle Paul was content to write songs about drinking and farm life, instead of devoting his formidable talents to hefty great big serious deep important things. Well, John Lennon had plenty to say about the political situation, and spent plenty of time protesting against war in his underwear, and well-intentioned though it was, it was ineffective, grandiose and naive in hindsight, and his time would have been more productively spent making better music. He too, eventually, had to cede the high moral ground and not coincidentally, made some of his best music while extolling the joy of babies and homemade bread. So it was that McCartney had the right idea all along, which was to settle the hell down with a horse and some sheep and enjoy a really nice life in the heart of the country, nevermind if cooler people think those things are too trivial to sing about.

Martha My Dear

Some days you wake up feeling overwhelmed by the gross unfairness of the world and frustrated by the inadequacy of your fellow humans. And you wonder what’s to stop you from just staying under the covers for another eight to ten hours. Then you see your dog sitting there beside you, waiting patiently for food and walkies. So you get up. Then, there’s Paul McCartney singing about how much he loves his dog Martha, who looked like an animate dirty mop, and probably smelled terrible and tracked all sorts of muck into the house, but so what she did her dog job just being a dog. Martha earned her place being more that a celebrity pet but a pet celebrity. She lived a long life and I’m sure she was a wonderful dog. And Paul McCartney, as usual, had the right idea to pay tribute to something so important and so often overlooked. In fact, I think maybe it was McCartney and his outspoken love for living things, who really started paving the way towards a more animal-positive culture. Not just as an activist and a vegetarian-before-it-was-cool, but just in talking and singing about his dog he helped elevate pets from being viewed as disposable household things to being seen as valuable family members. Although today’s cultural fad for dog spas and dog birthday parties and dog weddings is stupid as fuck, and fueled more than anything by cold hard capitalism and its urge to ream every economic opening into absurdity, overall the change towards a more elevated animal status is a positive one. They deserve to be sung and praised, because they really do fill a need in our lives that, in my opinion, human beings just aren’t up to. Love with no psychological complexity.