Wednesday, September 28, 2022

You Think That People Would Have Had Enough


"It's all so good. I'm here for every mix and every outtake. He's so precise with his cheeriness and I'm in his marching band for life."

This was an Instagram post by someone who had been listening to the deluxe edition of "Wings At The Speed Of Sound."  I reread the phrase "precise with his cheeriness" over and over. I love it, though I'm not really sure I understand it exactly. Still, it managed to resonate.

I bought "Speed Of Sound" the week it came out at Crazy Eddie's on Coney Island Avenue. My cousin did, too. We both hated it. We mocked every track. I think many people did. But I love this record now. 

Most are satisfied with remembering the simple lyrics to "Let 'Em In" and not the brilliant, slow burn arrangement. The same goes for "Silly Love Songs" with its relentless chorus of "I love yous" while dismissing the beautifully layered production or killer horn arrangement. And no credit at all goes to the rest of the band members and their vocal contributions. Yes, Linda's "Cook Of The House" is cringemaking, and Jimmy McCulloch's "Wino Junko" isn't much better. But both Denny Laine vocals "The Note You Never Wrote" and "Time To Hide" are excellent, as is drummer Joe English's entry, "Must Do Something About It." As a matter of fact, those three songs sound less like McCartney solo tracks and more like a band influenced by McCartney, which was Sir Paul's goal for Wings in the first place.

I found the isolated bass track for "Silly Love Songs," You'll need a bit of patience, but you will be rewared if you stick with it. It's a song in itself, with Paul never just laying down bottom, but creating real music with one four-stringed guitar.


Shriner said...

As somebody that played bass for a while, I always thought that was an exceedingly complicated bass line to sing on top off. Up there with Mayor of Simpleton (though Andy sings lead on that) and trying to imagine Pete Thomas singing over "Accidents Will Happen".


From the school of "Great Minds ..." yesterday I listened to Band On The Run.

It took me a few Paul solo albums to get with the program!

Troy said...

That bass part, for me, really picked up around the 3:30 mark.

I like Speed of Sound. Any album with Beware My Love is ok in my book. That one just kills. I was thrilled to find an unusual (to me) copy of this CD earlier this year at my local second hand shop. It has a bonus DVD of the Wings Over America concert, which I had never seen. Definitely a product of its time (film quality) but cool to see nevertheless.

Peter Ames Carlin said...

Also, consider how well-produced the album is. Paul produced all of his own albums in the Wings days, and he really reached for new heights on 'Speed of Sound.' The instruments have sonic range and depth, and he layers in all sorts of weird effects, e.g., the rhythmic opening of 'Silly Love Songs,' which is, I think I remember reading at the time, a chainsaw, a steam whistle and gravel being shoveled? Something like that. Some of the songs on the album are a little, shall we say, lightly written, but it's worth a listen, and reconsideration. In fact, all of the Wings stuff is, i think, a lot better than it was originally given credit for being. "Back to the Egg" is about 2/3 of a great album (and 1/3 of a disappointment), and it was reviled upon release as intensely as "Ram" had been in '71.

A Walk In The Woods said...

That was a cool listen.

Also, "Let 'Em In" is one of my favorite songs ever. Partly because, like Proust's madeline, it takes me directly back to roller skating over and over to this song at age 9; but more than that, because of its disarming, modest genius.

Anonymous said...

Count me as a big "Let 'Em In" fan, too, as it was the most Beatle-y thing any of them had done once they were broken-up, to my ears. "Silly Love Songs" didn't register as a negative or positive for me, other than me loving the bassline.
C in California

Marc said...

@Peter Ames Carlin I'm about 3/4 of the way through Sonic Boom right now, and I'm enjoying it thoroughly. But I digress. "Lightly written" is precisely the problem I have with much of Paul's post-Beatles work. Sal is something of an evangelist for Wings and solo Paul, and because I respect his taste I'm always willing to give a listen to the songs he recommends. There's certainly some great stuff there. But there are just too many songs that make me think "C'mon man, we all know you can write better lyrics than this!"


hpunch said...

I canlisten to isolated bass tracks of Paul's all day.

Sal Nunziato said...

If you haven't already, check out Peter's book on McCartney.

This is something PAC wrote for Burning Wood back in 2011.

Part 1.

"If any of the great songwriters of the rock era is a genius, then Paul McCartney is one, too.

I know, I know.

So many half-baked albums. So many cutesy, bubble-headed exercises in What The Hell? Consider, for instance, “With a Little Luck.” Or, for the love of Jeebus, “Ebony and Ivory.”

But that’s part of what makes the man such a fascinating artist.

Because he also wrote “For No One.” And “Maybe I’m Amazed.” Because he really was the most sonically daring Beatle. Tape loops? That’s Paul. The orchestral orgasms in “Day in the Life”? Paul again. So you think he's a pop-happy goofball? Let’s talk about “Helter Skelter.” Or the searing guitar solos on “Taxman” and “Good Morning, Good Morning.” Or, c'mon, his blistering performance on "Long Tall Sally." That's a hurricane in a bottle, right there. 1:58 of complete fucking chaos.

I could (and often do) go on at length about the great paradox at the heart of Paul’s muse. The competing strands of old world showmanship he learned from his father (the leader of Jim Mac’s Band back in the ‘20s) and the world-ending grief he suffered when his mother died in 1956. That’s what did it. The terrible emptiness Mary McCartney left in her 14-year-old son. So he picked up his guitar and held on for dear life. Filling the emptiness with music. Turning his back on death to create the sound of life, light and, everywhere he went, a sizzling party. And guess what? That's John Lennon (and the Beatles too: : Grief refracted into the very essence of life and beauty.

Your mission -- now simplified by Sal’s labors in creating this 20-song playlist -- is to forget everything you think you know, and listen to Paul’s post-Beatle works with a truly independent ear. You’ll find plenty of bummers, for sure. I know them all, and cringe every time I hear them again. But if you don't press on you’re cheating yourself.

Download Sal’s list. Listen to it. No, really listen to it. I swear you’ll be surprised. Who knew that “Spin It On,” from the (supposedly) awful final Wings album “Back to the Egg” could rock as fast and hard as the Clash? And while the Elvis Costello collaborations (heard here in the spectacular “Back on my Feet,” a 1987 b-side to the only sort of listenable “Once Upon a Long Ago, and the duet "You Want Her Too") are truly wonderful, Paul didn’t need a Lennonesque chaperon to goad him to the far edges of his imagination.

Sal Nunziato said...

Part 2.

"Check out the later albums, and listen for the often-surreal character studies. Here you’ve got the sweetly satirical “English Tea” lampooning Paul’s own strawberries and cream persona. (“A little twee/a little me...”) Then it gets weirder. “She’s Given Up Talking,” describing the odd habits of a schoolyard outcast. And, one of my favorites, “Mr. Bellamy,” in which the secretly misanthropic Paul projects his bitterness into the titular Mr B, whose attempts at solitude are undermined by reassuring, yet soul-killing assistants.

More and more. The pitch-perfect Brian Wilson homage of 1971’s “Back Seat of My Car.” The bittersweet tribute to the fallen Lennon (“Here Today,” in which the very real tides of love, resentment, grief and outrage other words: welcome to Paul’s innermost consciousness). Also, the soaring loveliness of “On the Wings of a Nightingale” (composed for the reunited Everly Brothers in the mid-80s, and just as lovely here in Paul’s demo) and “Little Willow,” the clear-eyed portrait of maternal loss he wrote for Ringo’s kids when their mother was dying of cancer, and released in the midst of his beloved Linda McCartney’s struggle with breast cancer.

The disease that killed his mother. That, within a year, would also kill his wife. You can hear it in his voice. The shadow is everywhere.

So you see that, even despite Paul’s own wink-and-thumbs-up public face, he and his music are far more complicated than they might appear. Listen closely and you’ll be surprised. Charmed in places, disturbed in others and, just maybe, overjoyed to realize how wrong groupthink can be."

A Walk In The Woods said...

Love all of this, including the 2011 commentary ... we Paul fans all struggle just a mite bit with how we can listen to him more than John Lennon (who is also a genius!), but this covers a good bit of that.

However, I DO love With A Little Luck too, unapologetically.

Anonymous said...

So I thought that criticising Macca was the normal back in the 90’s not now. I like ‘we all stand together’ so I guess I am in a different level of appreciation.

dogbreath said...

Originally I pooh-poohed it (not literally, of course) but with the passage of time and maturing like a fine wine (me, not the album) I've come to recognise it's not such a bad piece of work after all (possible exceptions as annotated by you). May not go to the top of my playlist but.....

Marc said...

Thanks Sal, and thanks Peter. I'll add that book to my list!


Michael Giltz said...

I've always loved Silly Love Songs and Let 'em In. I'm not on board for Wings At The Speed of Sound as an album unfortunately but I have given it several listens over the years at your prompting. As with all solo Paul (I don't separate Wings from Paul solo) you'll always find some great stuff and of course the reappraisal of Ram for one is fully deserved. He has no better fan than you Sal!