On the 17th April 1970, Paul McCartney stepped out of the shadow of The Beatles with his first solo album McCartney. It was unlike anything he had done before and as a result received a lot of criticism across the board. At the time, of course, the breakup of The Beatles was still fresh in peoples minds and McCartney received (unfairly) a lot of the blame. But this album set him on a course away from The Beatles and their legacy and in my opinion it is one of the best solo albums to be released by any member of The Beatles.
McCartney recorded and produced the whole album by himself, playing every single instrument you hear on ever track. The only other person to supply any kind of help to the album was his wife Linda, who laid down occasional backing and harmony vocals. The album is all Paul and takes a huge step away from the production techniques The Beatles used right up until Abbey Road. The album is stripped back, bare, just like the original intention for Let It Be in 1969 when the album was being recorded during the Get Back sessions, an album and sessions that ultimately fell apart before completion.
The first track is 45 second gem in the form of The Lovely Linda which really is a beautiful track to open the album with. It was the first song to be record for the album when McCartney tested the recording equipment at his home in London. It’s a gorgeous track which is immediately followed by That Would Be Something which is personally one of my favourite songs on the whole album. George Harrison agreed at the time, saying:
“That Would Be Something and Maybe I’m Amazed I think are great.”
It’s a song that again and again hits the spot with McCartney delivering a fantastic performance, again playing every single instrument. Valentine Day follows which is in a different vein to the majority of the album with McCartney saying that this and Momma Miss America were songs he laid down to test the equipment. Beginning with the drums he would then go on to add more and more, eventually ending up with Valentine Day and Momma Miss America which comes later on the album. In many ways Valentine Day can be considered almost like an intermission between more structured and focused songs, like Every Night which comes next. Recorded on the 22nd February 1970, Every Night was debuted for the first time during the failed Get Back sessions a year earlier but failed to materialise on any official Beatles release. It’s a gorgeous track and one of the standouts from the whole album without a shadow of a doubt. Although sadly McCartney has only played it live a handful of times since 1970.
- The Lovely Linda
- That Would Be Something
- Valentine Day
- Every Night
- Hot As Sun / Glasses
- Man We Was Lonely
- Oo You
- Momma Miss America
- Teddy Boy
- Singalong Junk
- Maybe I’m Amazed
Hot As Sun / Glasses is the fifth track which is two separate songs joined together, with the addition of a demo right at the end called Suicide. This demo is my single favourite moment of the whole album and we only got to officially hear the full version when the album was remastered and released in 2010 with a number of outtakes from the sessions. Hot As Sun / Glasses, though, begins with a song McCartney originally wrote in 1958 or 1959 and played for The Beatles a year earlier in the Get Back sessions. It’s presence on the album is a nice addition and definitely goes with the overall stripped back nature that McCartney wanted to go for. The Glasses segment of the song is layers of wine glasses being played which then goes straight into Suicide. The sixth song is a song that McCartney wrote while in India with The Beatles in 1968. It’s a beautiful track which was considered for inclusion on both the White Album and Abbey Road but the other Beatles, like with Teddy Boy later on in the album, didn’t want it. I’m glad McCartney included it on this album though because it really fits well, especially alongside other acoustic masterpieces like That Would Be Something and Every Night.
Man We Was Lonely is the first track that was recorded that featured Paul and Linda singing together, and it’s beautiful. The song was written when McCartney was feeling down after the breakup of The Beatles and he delivers an absolutely gorgeous vocal performance. The song in many ways sets up perfectly for what he would do on his next album RAM, with the Paul and Linda joint vocals playing such a large role. Oo You comes next which was originally recorded as an instrumental but the vocals were added shortly before the song was completed. As mentioned earlier Momma Miss America was a song recorded to test the equipment in the studio and it follows Oo You as the ninth track on the album. The song has drums that play from start to finish but the song technically changes halfway through with McCartney moving away from the first test and onto the second. The drums are the same, but the music changes. It’s a classic example of his ability as a songwriter and being able to come with something on the spot that sounds like it took days to write.
Teddy Boy is the tenth song and another track that was originally written when The Beatles were in India in 1968. Just like Junk, it was dismissed by the other Beatles with Lennon in particular taking a dislike to it. In fact when McCartney wanted to include the song during the Get Back sessions you can hear Lennon deliberately mess around during each of the recordings, putting on funny voices and ruining the takes. Ultimately I don’t think the song would have fit well on what would turn out to be Let It Be but a more focused McCartney-esque Get Back album that the band originally planned to release could have been different. I’m glad the song was finally recorded properly and released on McCartney though. It fits perfectly. It’s followed immediately by Singalong Junk which was technically the first take of Junk to be recorded for this album. It’s a nice track which acts as a calming and mellow moment on the album.
What comes next is widely seen as McCartney’s stand out songwriting moment on McCartney in the form of the song Maybe I’m Amazed. After the breakup of The Beatles McCartney was seriously depressed but it was Linda who picked him up and got him back into writing. The result is this magnificent song which is arguably the finest song from his entire solo catalogue. Just like every other song on McCartney he recorded every instrument which really is mind-blowing when you listen to the final result. There are bands that can’t record a song with this much energy and passion and McCartney had to record every instrument, eliminating the regular way a band would record the song which focused on their energy as a unit. Absolutely incredible. The final song on the album is an interesting one in the form of Kreen-Akrore. Written after McCartney watched a documentary on a Brazilian tribe that kills any intruders they stumble upon, the song is unlike anything he had recorded before or in fact since. If anything the song can be seen as his total and utter separation from anything The Beatles did, once again signaling his stepping out from their shadow.
McCartney is one hell of an album. At the time of release it received a lot of criticism but that couldn’t have been down to the music, it was down to the general feeling at the time after the breakup of The Beatles. It’s a musical masterpiece and it’s disappointing that people couldn’t accept or even see that when it came out. And while people like to talk about other albums that Paul recorded in the years following McCartney like RAM and Band On The Run, and while they are indeed magnificent pieces of work, I feel like McCartney at least stands up alongside them. The album signaled his departure from The Beatles and began a solo career that would create a new hype in a way only McCartney could.