Masterpiece: McCartney

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[Today: The one-man band…]

There are at least three reasons you might dislike Paul McCartney’s solo debut – it expedited the break-up of The Beatles, it feels tossed off and has an air of ‘I can roll out of bed and knock out this stuff’, and its gatefold contains enough smug, preening photos of Paul to last a lifetime. But two of those reasons have nothing to do with the music, and the third – its sparse, disheveled sound – is the reason this album has had such staying power. It wasn’t until the ascendance of punk rock that imperfection really became a virtue in music, but McCartney wears its flubs and flaws proudly. It was put together on a four-track home recording system that was primitive in the extreme, and features Paul on every instrument (including “bass, drums, acoustic guitar, lead guitar, piano, Mellotron, organ, toy xylophone, and bow and arrow”), with only the occasional back-up vocal help from wife Linda.

Album opener ‘The Lovely Linda’ is representative of what’s here. It starts with a gently strummed guitar, before McCartney comes in with “La-la-la-la-la-la-lovely Linda, with the lovely flowers in her hair.” That’s it for the lyrics, and the whole thing lasts less than a minute, concluding with a giggle from Linda herself. If the Beatles’ ‘Long and Winding Road’ was an overwrought, big-budget production about love, then songs like ‘The Lovely Linda’ and the rest of McCartney are more like hand-written love notes. On its surface, the big budget production might seem more impressive, but the handwritten note will always provide a more honest, revealing glimpse into a relationship.

“That was when Linda and I first got together,” McCartney explained in 2001. “The record is me playing around the house. You hear her walking through the living room doorway out to the garden and the door squeaks at the end of the tape. That’s one of the songs from my personal experience, with ‘the flowers in her hair.’ She often used to wear flowers in her hair, so it’s a direct diary. I was always going to finish it and I had another bit that went into a Spanish song, almost mariachi but it just appeared as a fragment and was quite nice for that reason.” The rest of McCartney works for the same reasons – this is a relaxed, quiet pause between the noisy, discordant final days of The Beatles, and the pop bombast of Wings.

Listen: Valentine Day

Listen: Every Night

Listen: Hot as Sun/Glasses

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