Wednesday, September 21, 2005

When I'm Sixty-Three

Like millions of others, I sat glued to the TV set on that Sunday night in February of 1964 and was forever changed by The Beatles. What would have that 6 year-old boy thought if he was told that some 41 years later he would still love their music, and would attend a concert featuring one of them?

There I was last night. My kids got together earlier this year and secretly bought us the tickets to see Paul McCartney as a Father’s Day / My Birthday / Viscountess Birthday present. We were impressed. I’d seen him twice before, but The Viscountess had never had the pleasure.

It is very hard being a McCartney fan. You never forget the great songs that poured out of him during his tenure with The Beatles. Let me just rattle off 5 Paul songs.

“All My Loving”
“Can’t Buy Me Love”
“Paperback Writer”
“Lady Madonna”
“Hey Jude”

That’s only 5. Famous recording artists have made an entire career out of 3 songs. How many more great songs did this man write that I didn’t mention? 10? 15? 20?

After the break-up of the Beatles, the McCartney songs came fast and furious. As the 70’s continued, his music became increasingly insipid. Sometimes you’d have to think, "is that Paul McCartney or Barry Manilow?" Still, I’d buy each new album, play it a few times, tell myself, “This isn’t THAT bad,” and then have to admit, “yeah, it is THAT BAD!” How many times was there a buzz about the new McCartney? “
Tug of War.” “Flowers in the Dirt.” “Flaming Pie” All were bought with the anticipation that "yes, this was going to be a GREAT album." Each of them featured some fine songs, especially “Flaming Pie,” but all of them still had filler and their share of schmaltz and happy-dippy-crappy (these are words with the double “P” this time!) poppy-or-peppy little ditties that were annoying at best. Plus, half of “Flaming Pie” was produced by Jeff Lynne and sounded like an ELO record. ELO records have the potential of putting me into anaphylactic shock, so that made listening to it a real challenge.

Last week I picked up “
Chaos and Creation in the Backyard.” This record had a serious buzz. A producer (Nigel Godrich) who told him that he thought a lot of his post-Beatle work was crap, and he would have to be able to take brutal honesty if they were to work together. Paul agreed. Two years to make. Serious introspective songs.

I had tickets to the show, so I plunked down my 13 bucks, hoping against hope that it would at least not suck.

Finally. A Paul McCartney album that was devoid of lameness and cloying sentimentality. No silly dopey tongue-in-cheek lyrics.

What the album has is a collection of great songs. Some are immediately accessible, others grow on you. Now, don’t get me wrong here; it is still McCartney, but the songs are like “Blackbird” and “For No One” and “Penny Lane” (although not quite as good, but in the realm) and there is nothing at all like “Listen to What The Man Said” or “Let ‘em In.”

Now on to the show.

He rocked. I mean, really really rocked. It was a 5-piece band. Abe Laboriel Jr. on drums, “Wix” Wickens on keys, Rusty Anderson on lead guitar, Brian Ray on Rhythm and Bass guitar, and Paul on Bass, Guitar and Piano. This was a serious rock band. They banged out “Drive My Car,” “Let Me Roll It,” “Live and Let Die,” “Too Many People,” and “Magical Mystery Tour,” etc. with conviction, and confidence, and had a damn good time doing it. With the exception of a little straining here and there, that 63-year-old man sang like a canary for 2+ hours. He sang ballads such as “’Til There Was You” and “Yesterday” effortlessly. He belted out “Back In The USSR” and “Good Day Sunshine” like a rock singer of 35, with power and seasoned experience. The band handled the sometimes complex harmonies with ease, and they were solid and faithful to the original records. Paul was personable in a natural and unrehearsed way. He seemed genuine, and the audience loved him.

This was the Paul McCartney that we’ve been missing. It took him some 35 years to get over his divorce from The Beatles, but he’s finally done it. It was an amazing show, and it made restitution for a multitude of sins.


Blogger Neil Shakespeare said...

Good to hear! I've never been a McCartney fan, but I did buy one of his solo albums. I was leafing through a cassette rack in late 80's and saw what I thought was "Flowers In Lust" by McCartney and bought it. Only to have someone point out later that it was "Flowers in the Dirt". And it was, too.

4:48 PM  
Blogger Nobody said...

As a kid, and having little time for caring what was 'cool', I've got to admit I actually *liked* a lot of Wings stuff. Even the dodgy songs like "Let 'Em In" - the simplicity of the song is one of its appeals to me, and the fact that McCartney didn't care if people thought the songs were cool or not. Maybe I approached the material differently not having grown up through the Beatles.

Oooh Tug Of War.... love "Take It Away" and "Wanderlust".

7:07 PM  
Blogger Nobody said...

Oops, forgot to mention how cool 'Coming Up' is, dodgy synths and all.

7:08 PM  
Blogger The Viscount LaCarte said...

>As a kid, and having little time for caring what was 'cool', I've got to admit I actually *liked* a lot of Wings stuff.<

And even less now. Music should be judged on its own merit based on your own personal criteria.

>...and the fact that McCartney didn't care if people thought the songs were cool or not.<

There was no shortage of people who loved his music. He was surrounded by them, in stadiums even.

>Tug Of War<

Good record. "Ebony and Ivory" could have been left off of it.

8:17 PM  
Blogger Kevin Wolf said...

I'm going to make a point of seeking out the new record.

If I have a problem with your post, Al, it's that I'd have liked some comparison to the earlier McC concerts you'd seen. (I've never seen any Beatle, not even Pete.)

I grew up with the Beatles and with Wings and I wasn't bothered by the lameness of much of the latter stuff - until I heard it again in later years. But I could pick and choose a rock solid 60-70 minutes of McCartney, no problem.

I like the McCartney-McManus tunes overall - Flowers In the Dirt has some good stuff like "That Day Is Done."

9:14 AM  
Blogger The Viscount LaCarte said...

>If I have a problem with your post, Al, it's that I'd have liked some comparison to the earlier McC concerts you'd seen.<

He rocked harder this time. The harmonies were closer to the Beatles. Song choice was really top-notch. The mellow songs were not lame. The songs he chose from his Wings period would no doubt be from the "rock solid 60-70 minutes" you mentioned.

Also, he was very rehearesed and wooden in his banter with the audience in the previous shows. This time he seemed relaxed and genuine.

There is a "B" side from the collaboration with Elvis called "Back On My Feet" that is so good, it makes me wonder who's decision was it to leave of off "Flowers in the Dirt."

9:34 AM  
Blogger XTCfan said...

Dare I point out that one of the reasons he might have been better was that Linda was not in the band this time? Or is that too mean...?

9:40 AM  

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