Kieran’s Korner: Let’s Get Real About Paul McCartney

It’s been five days and yet we still have a bad taste in our mouth after last week’s ‘SNL’ hosted by Paul McCartney with a special appearance by Paul Rudd.  We understand that Paul McCartney is special, even the British monarchy has acknowledged that.  There are stars, and there are mega-stars, and then there are supernovas.  McCartney is the latter.  However, we still believe that ‘SNL’ shouldn’t have been so much about him, and his presence struck us a somewhat selfish booking, designed to provide more pleasure for the cast and crew than the audience at home.  This sentiment was only driven home when Paul Rudd remarked on ‘Live! With Regis and Kelly’ that (no surprise) after the show McCartney stuck around to play an impromptu private concert.  Rudd was obviously still in awe of the moment, noting that he’s “a massive Beatles fan, like everyone.”  But we’re not massive Beatles fans, and even if we were, we wonder if we’d be interested in McCartney’s other works, like the songs he played for his first two ‘SNL’ sets.  So that got us thinking, do people really care about hearing Paul McCartney play anything but Beatles songs?  Do they just tolerate McCartney in hopes that he’ll break out the Beatles catalog?  Or do they genuinely enjoy the cuts from Wings and his solo stuff?  So to get more clarity on this question, we turned to our guest blogger-in-residence and Beatles aficionado Kieran Walsh, in our latest Kieran’s Korner:

Wow.  Lead me into a minefield, why don’t you?

It’s not an easy question.  It’s not an easy answer.  Gosh…  Well, let’s do this.

I consider myself a tough but fair-minded critic.  As you know, I’m willing to defend music and musicians that a lot of people deride as cheesy and uncool (we’ve discussed Billy Joel’s work, for instance.  Likewise, I’d agree with Adam Sandler – or, at least, his character in Big Daddy – that Styx deserves a reappraisal.  And don’t get me started on Wham.)  And I’m also comfortable with tearing down a piss-poor effort even if it’s by a hero (Tin Machine, anyone?  Oy…)

With that out-of-the-way, I can honestly say that I really do appreciate and enjoy a good, um… let’s say 65-75% of Paul McCartney’s solo material – whether it be under the Wings umbrella or otherwise.  And, yeah, when I say enjoy, I think it does stand comparison with much of his Beatles work.  Everybody talks about Band on the Run, but my favorite McCartney solo album would be Ram.  It’s loaded with classics, including the astonishing “Too Many People” – possibly the angriest song he’s ever recorded.  I’d also say that his 1989 disc Flowers in the Dirt is pretty amazing, and his collaborations with Elvis Costello (“My Brave Face”) were incredibly rewarding.  Would I rather hear him play “Good Day Sunshine” than “C Moon?”  Sure.  But I’d also rather hear “Jet” than, say, “I’ll Follow the Sun.”  It’s all perspective.

Having said that, Sir Paul is definitely capable of sheer awfulness.  Witness “Biker Like an Icon” or “Temporary Secretary” or the truly risible “Bip Bop.”  Yeah, he’s had some stinkers.

Such is life, though.  And, given the sheer breadth of McCartney’s career, I don’t know how you can possibly avoid that.  The thing about Lennon is, he was murdered while still relatively young.  I mean, really, 40 is nothing.  Heck, I’ll be 40 in 2012.  When a person’s career is cut short like that, it tends to become idealized.  James Dean, Kurt Cobain, John Belushi.  People like to think that, if they’d been able to continue, artists like these would’ve been churning out one work of genius after another.  In point of fact, though, they would’ve produced…  some good stuff, some more classics, and, inevitably, some garbage.  That’s just how it is.

There’s a running joke in Steve Coogan’s brilliant series “I’m Alan Partridge,” about the titular character’s love for McCartney and Wings – “Wings are the band the Beatles could’ve been!!!”  I don’t think anyone feels precisely like that.  Well, anything is possible, but I highly doubt it.  I suspect most people, like myself, have the Beatles at the top of the pyramid, and that serves as kind of a bridgehead into the fab four’s solo material, whether it be good, bad or indifferent.  Paul has been treated the worst of the lot just because he’s been so immensely successful and what he does seems so effortless (again, Billy Joel seems an apt parallel.)  But trust me, a great deal of his solo stuff has more merit than people realize.  And, yeah, it’s a fucking thrill to hear the opening piano chords of “Live and Let Die” in the context of a live show.  Sorry, but I can’t let this go by without sending a shout out to my brother, Shane, for taking me to see Paul in concert four times.  Thanks, man!

At any rate, Paul is still capable of producing a great single (“Ever Present Past.”)  And I’m grateful to the likes of the uber-hip Ian Svenonius for launching the much-need RPM (Reconsider Paul McCartney) movement.  Wisdom, indeed.

We did press Kieran a bit further, asking him to consider the question again from the perspective a fair weather fan, not a complete Beatles/McCartney novice, but not quite the expert that Kieran is.  We also understand that we were perhaps formulating a question based on the desired results, so this might be a flawed argument.  But, nonetheless, Kieran was kind enough to indulge us once again:

Oh, yeah.  I get you.  I mean, I’m old enough to remember stuff like “Listen To What the Man Said” being a massive hit on the radio, so I’ve got more… direct contact with Wings, so to speak.  I think for a younger guy like yourself, though, the Beatles would be paramount and Wings would just be a curiosity and possibly even an annoyance.  Them’s the breaks!

So, there you have it, folks, the definitive discussion of Paul McCartney’s career.  In the words of Paul Rudd as he closed out last week’s ‘SNL,’ this won’t be topped.

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7 Comments

Filed under Analysis, Kieran's Korner, Saturday Night Live, Tyranasaurus Sex

7 responses to “Kieran’s Korner: Let’s Get Real About Paul McCartney

  1. Linda

    Oh I’ve been looking for a spot just as this to vent about “Sir” Paul. As a major Beatle fan like most I favored McCartney/Laine Wings collaboration more but note I need to express this to any that will listen. I never gave Linda Eastman McCartney the due respect coming to her in regards to keeping Paul and family in check. It was HER class that kept Sir Paul and family low key and classy. And when I mention family I do mean Stella. What a boar (and bore) she turned out to be.
    I’m not one for the grammys or r&r hall of fame inductions but happened to catch a special on PBS with regards to McCartney’s induction in 1999. Now Linda just past but a year before and McCartney dedicated the award to her as should be but he didn’t leave it at that. Nooooooo, not Sir Dolt. No he proceeds to ask Stella (his date) to the stage to join him as she donned the pre-scripted, tactless wife beater Tee with the inscription “About Effing Time”. This is just one of many post Linda Eastman gaffes McCartney has graced himself with and we won’t even go to the Heather Mills debacle. Not to mention the man can’t even put two words together without making an ass out of himself everytime he opens his mouth now a days. Everytime you turn around its Paul McCartney this, Paul McCartney that. What’s he trying to do make up for selling the Beatle’s catalog to Michael Jackson. ANOTHER assine move.
    It’s been said before and I’ll say it again. Paul McCartney is an ASSHOLE to the nth degree. I could go on and on ’bout the man but I think ya got the message. PS…George was always my Beatle.

  2. Lou

    Linda: You sound like a complete judgmental fool. Anyone with an ounce of cool knows that Stella’s T-shirt (About F—ing Time) was about as classic a rock and roll moment as has EVER happened at one of those boring hall of fame ceremonies. Linda McCartney would have LOVED it.

    And, really, what kind of a shallow person must you be to make the kind of snippy, gossipy comments you’ve made. What do any of them have to do with Paul’s MUSIC? You know, the point of this post. You sound like someone I’m glad not to know.

  3. Lou

    Oh, and this guy is totally right. Ram is an amazing piece of work. More interesting, musically, than anything George or John ever produced.

  4. Lou

    One other thing I can’t let slide. McCartney DID NOT SELL the Beatles songs to Michael Jackson. Lennon and McCartney NEVER owned the rights to their own songs. Check your facts before you spout nonsense. It’s not that hard in a Google age.

  5. I actually contemplate the reason you named this specific blog post, “Kierans Korner: Lets Get Real About
    Paul McCartney | Jumped The Snark”. In any event I enjoyed the article!
    Thank you-Gay

  6. The Walrus

    Paul McCartney is a great artist, no doubt about that and without him The Beatles wouldn’t have been as referred to as they are now but if I hear an album full of McCartney songs like “maxwell silver hammer” or “we all stand together (the fucking frog song)” the granny songs as lennon once referred to. I would rather shoot my brains out, and we all know that macca is an asshole anyway, anyone who has once supported a mullet is

  7. Lex Lewis

    John and Paul tempered each other and, though both supremely talented, neither was as special as a soloist. What always put me off about Paul is that he crafts his remarks about their relationship to depict John’s excellence but always showing him (Paul) as the reasonable one. “John was stymied so I said ‘relax we’ll have a cup of tea, I’ll have a go at it’.”

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