RECONSIDERING PAUL'S PLACE IN THE PANTHEON
Of the Post-Dispatch
October 6, 2002
He's cute. Sorry, make that Sir Cute.
For Paul McCartney, the cute Beatle, those famous looks have probably contributed to the perception that he's been a lightweight, especially since the Beatles broke up.
It's a perception that is really quite amazing, considering that it's applied to a man who is:
Even when the Beatles were an active outfit, songwriting partner John Lennon had the serious reputation; he gave McCartney's melodies weight. George Harrison was the quiet one, the mystic, the explorer. Ringo Starr was... well, Ringo Starr. Paul was cute.
And cute can be a good thing.
"Back in the U.S.S.R.," for example, is good cute. It's a rocker with a killer groove, Paul's in full vocal roar, and the lyrics take unique turns -- balalaikas ringing out, for example, not guitars. Plus, it has the Beach Boys-inspired "Ukraine girls really knock me out" section. (OK, so Mike Love suggested it to McCartney over breakfast one day in India, but give Paul credit for being open-minded).
His best post-Beatles rockers -- "Band on the Run" and "Live and Let Die" -- have a musical depth that can be breathtaking. The songs are cinematic in scope; they change tempos; they have dynamic range.
When Paul McCartney married Linda Eastman, he showed one of his most endearing and annoying qualities - wearing his heart on his sleeve.
Then there's "My Love" and "Silly Love Songs." Bad cute. Sure, the sentiment is fine:
"You'd think that people
Would have had enough
Of silly love songs
I look around me and I see it isn't so
Some people wanna fill the world
With silly love songs
And what's wrong with that?"
Well, nothing is wrong with that, really. And it's got a great bass line. But people with low sugar tolerance really should avoid it.
Occasionally, McCartney has welded his romantic lyrics to muscular music. "Maybe I'm Amazed" sounds as fresh and exhilarating today as it did 32 years ago.
But his walk on the trite side continues. In 1999's "Driving Rain," he sings: "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, let's go for a drive; 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, let's go there and back again." Chuck Berry could pull these lyrics off. Paul just sounds silly.
And let's not go into "Ebony and Ivory." Or "Pipes of Peace." Wonderful sentiments - trapped in goo.
So, the guy is still a legend, but he's not perfect. Like your little brother, he can be really annoying. And, to paraphrase what Boston Celtics great Kevin McHale said about his "little brother," teammate Danny Ainge: Sometimes you want to beat the stuffing out of him, but you sure as heck won't let anybody else do it.
It's McCartney's tendency to wear his heart on his sleeve that is at once his most endearing and most annoying quality. He married Linda Eastman in 1969 and, by all accounts, they had a special relationship, one that lasted till the day she died in 1998, in a business not noted for stable marriages. That's great. But then he insisted on bringing her into Wings and - gasp - letting her sing and play.
Hmm. Maybe that's why their union lasted.
Well, you've heard all about it in his silly love songs.
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