The Relevance Of “Silly Love Songs”

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OK, group, we’re done using “Silly Love Songs” as some sort of barometer to measure McCartney’s work. We’re done using it as a pivot point from which to compare his later work. we are done propping up our dismissal of McCartney’s solo career with it. We’re done not getting it, and we are especially done using it as a crutch–and all of this is aimed at critics, and to a lesser extent the Cult Of Lennon.

First off, let’s put “Silly Love Songs” in perspective. for one, that song was only a small part of who McCartney was and is as an artist–I mean a very very small part. Taking it out of context and grinning with glee as critics prop up their ignorant views of McCartney with it has been a pop press pastime for far too long. Let’s look at the song in context of the album from which it came, “Wings At the Speed Of Sound,” while not a major favorite, the album has grown on me greatly, and there are times where its vibe is the ONLY vibe that will do… so I play it and enjoy it… I am playing it now! Track by track, the album itself proves that so-called “Silly Love Songs” were far from the norm for McCartney, not only on Speed Of Sound, but before and after Speed Of Sound.

“Let ‘Em In,” is another song that is oft dismissed, though foolishly so, by, well… fools. The song is far from shallow, and is in fact a rather elegantly simple plea that we let the good people in, into our homes, our hearts, and our culture. Odd, that McCartney’s subtle use of metaphor was absolutely missed by the very people who think they are too smart for him… it is obvious upon reflection that he was too smart for them all along. Additionally, production-wise, the plodding rhythm of the song builds to an interesting intensity. “The Note You Never Wrote” is not so much a love song as a song of loss and loneliness… and those were the sorts of songs McCartney excelled at, songs about very specific loneliness. In tone the song has tremendous vibe, and is quite a trippy treat as it slowly draws us into its spartan solitude. “She’s My Baby,” is indeed a love song, but quite an adoring one, and quite personal, and let’s not dismiss the great jazzy melody of this one. “Beware My Love” is far from a poppy silly love song, and is instead a rather intense roller-coaster rocker. “Wino Junko,” which was written and performed by Jimmy McCulloch, is, and yet, another song about addiction. Now we come to “Silly Love Songs,” and will talk about that later. “Cook Of the House,” well… I really never liked that one much, but it’s quite an odd topic for a pop-rock song. “Time To Hide” is a Denny Laine tune, bluesy and potent. “Must Do Something About It” is a charming tune McCartney wrote, again about a very specific reaction to loneliness. “San Ferry Anne” is one of McCartney’s finest, a charming and eccentric little piece of wistful mysticism. We end with “Warm and Beautiful” which, while a love song, is anything but silly. So as you can see… his “Silly Love Songs” days were behind him even then, not merely behind him… they never happened. “Silly Love Songs” was always the exception with McCartney and NEVER the rule, all of his songs were far too imaginative for that.

So, how did this whole derision of “Silly Love Songs” start? John Lennon. He had said dismissively in interviews that all McCartney did was write silly love songs. I could go through McCartney’s entire catalog to disprove this, but won’t, as the charge is simply Lennon being an asshole. It is so utterly untrue that the fact that it stuck baffles me. Any tour through Band On the Run as an album reveals that the statement is pure nonsense. of course the critics (especially at Rolling Stone) were in bed with John and Yoko, and most of the criticism of McCartney strung from that incestuous place, and as the Cult Of Lennon grew, so did the mythology of that statement. Why did Lennon say that? Jealousy. Lennon could not handle that McCartney was more talented, famous, and successful than he was, so he ground his axe on McCartney’s skull endlessly, and loving an aggressive swaggering cynic, the pop press was more than ready to get in line and kiss Lennon’s ass. McCartney, fed up, eventually wrote a response to Lennon’s bullshit, and that response was “Silly Love Songs.” A direct passive-aggressive reply that quite hilariously blew up in Lennon’s face as the song became one of McCartney’s biggest hits. How’s that for Instant Karma?

The song and its lyrics are far from saccharine as the press and critics assert, it is in fact, quite acidic and far from silly, it is deeply personal and painful in inspiration. This is not a fluffy song, it is a plea to be understood, a profound statement in defense of McCartney’s point of view (world view)… nothing remotely silly about that at all. McCartney opens singing:

“You’d think that people would have had enough of silly love songs,
But 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?
Id like to know, cause here I go again.”

As you can see by the song’s opening, he is replying directly to Lennon, and essentially saying, “Sod off, buddy, ain’t nothin’ wrong with love songs.” Let’s add to this that a vast majority of Lennon’s songs were silly love songs, and in fact ones far less palatable than McCartney’s. I, for one, have NO desire to hear myopic songs about Yoko Ono.

The song itself is, as you can see, aggressive, and a very very direct response to Lennon. Why, some might ask, would McCartney take this aggressive and defensive stance, then sweeten the tune with pop sensibilities? Juxtaposition and irony, the great ones always are very aware of the power of juxtaposition, irony, and as we discussed with “Let ‘Em In,” metaphor. McCartney has used juxtaposition and irony since the Beatles, see “Helter Skelter” and “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.” Beyond merely being a response, “Silly Love Songs” is a taunt, a satire, a mockery of Lennon’s bullshit. So not only is McCartney using the juxtaposition of his poppy tune and pained and angry subject matter, he is being ironic by responding to the accusation that he writes silly poppy love songs by couching his response and defense within the confines of the very sort of song he was being accused of writing. Brilliant! McCartney goes on…

“I love you, I love you,
I love you, I love you,
I can’t explain the feelings plain to me, say can’t you see?
Ah, she gave me more, she gave it all to me,
Now can’t you see,
What’s wrong with that,
I need to know, cause here I go again,
I love you, I love you.”

Beautiful. McCartney is defending not only love songs, but Linda and his love for her. he continues his reply to Lennon by pointing out that there is nothing silly about love at all… which Lennon should have known considering the plethora of silly love songs he crapped out.

“Love doesn’t come in a minute,
Sometimes it doesn’t come at all,
I only know that when I’m in it,
It isn’t silly, no, it isn’t silly, love isn’t silly at all.”

And that’s just it, Lennon, critics, and hipsters… ain’t nothing silly about love or love songs at all. At its core, the contempt people feel for this song is rather a conflict of world views. McCartney is a romantic, Lennon, the critics, and most rock fans are cynics. of course cynics are suspicious of love and joy, and celebrations of love and joy, but here’s the rub, cynicism is not intelligence… it is the lazy man’s way of being intellectual. Cynicism (especially cynicism that dismisses the grandly romantic) is merely a crutch for people who want an instant gratification version of intellectualism.

Let’s add to this that “Silly Love Songs” is actually deceptively simple… in other words, there is nothing especially simple about it, the melody, though catchy, is really rather intricate compared to… say… Lennon’s songs. And of course there is the spectacular bass line! Even Lennon was willing to begrudgingly throw McCartney that bone. of course the song itself, when truly listened to, is anything but pedestrian disco, it is very McCartney, his fingerprints as a melodist are all over this tune. His sense of structure and drama alone raise this song above the other pop tunes of the time. Then of course there are the cascading vocal harmonies and dynamics. It is more a song to be listened to than dismissed.

But what bugs me most is that for nearly 40 years now people have been throwing this song in McCartney’s face. Nowadays it has become one of the great predictabilities of Rolling Stone and half-witted pop-pressdom to open any positive statement about a McCartney album or song by derisively announcing that “McCartney’s Silly Love Songs are behind him.” Well… fuck you, he never was living in his silly love songs, you were. Pay attention! There just aren’t that many silly love songs in McCartney’s catalog, and if there were, I have to ask…. “What’s wrong with that” anyhow?

Lastly I would like to add that I for one don’t find love songs all that silly, especially not McCartney’s. His are usually quite original and personal, far too much so to be silly. And as even the quick assessment of the album “Silly Love Songs” came from (see above), McCartney just didn’t write all that many fluffy or silly pop love songs. Since the beginning he has been out on the road kicking ass and rocking, creating experimental and trippy progressive rock, and expressing himself eloquently, so the problem is not his music, the problem is the assholes who refuse to take that wad of shit Lennon shoved in their ears out to listen to McCartney’s music on their own terms. The people who are still going on about “Silly Love Songs” are simply dimwitted followers looking for easy answers, people with too little imagination to go where McCartney wants to take them.

Besides all that, I for one would not want to live in a world with none of McCartney’s love songs, silly or not, many of those precious few songs are dear to me, and as his work and music outlives his critics, they will prove to be dear to the rest of the world as well.

So move on dinosaurs, let go, and get your heads out of your asses! It ain’t McCartney stuck in silly love songs, and never was… it’s you that is stuck there. I’ve thrown you a rope, you can use it to hang yourselves or pull yourself out of the muck you are stuck in… your choice.

5 responses »

  1. Just read your response to Silly Love Songs and loved it! You are bang on and although I love Lennon too he sure could be an asshole. That said, my favorite Beatles tune is I Dig a Pony (lol). What is yours? John P in Winnipegame, Canada

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