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McCartney Story In Rolling Stone Less Annoying Than Usual!

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“Let’s face it: I’m cool. Everyone tells me that I am”

“People say, ‘Where are all your gold discs?’ I don’t do that. I just don’t wanna get smug–but of course, on the other hand, I want to think I’m great. Because when the hell am I going to bask in this? What am I going to do, wait till I die and go ‘Oh fuck, I should have taken a week.'”
Paul McCartney

Just finished reading the McCartney story in the November issue of Rolling Stone… a thing I have avoided with great stealth for the majority of my life, but this was like a fortune cookie. OK… yeah… I suppose that bears some explaining. I don’t care for fortune cookies, in fact I’m not fond of any dessert that doesn’t involve chocolate (dark) or caramel… and in a perfect world, both! The point is (actually, the point is that I wanted to write) that I only open fortune cookies when I feel compelled to. This happens rarely nowadays, but the last couple times I felt a fortune cookie might be hiding a relevant insight in the hollows of its flat flavorless self, the fortunes were very relevant–even though ordinarily they’re about as relevant as Bazooka Joe comics. This issue of Rolling Stone was like that… I just kinda felt it was gonna be worth cracking open, relevant… I heard the call just as I hear it from certain fortune cookies. As much as I should probably edit out that fortune cookie comparison, eh… it works.

Glory be! How attitudes about McCartney are changing. Oh, sure, there are still dinosaurs like Howard Sounes about, old farts who are still clinging to their faded hipness with all their might, clutching their fingers into McCartney as they slide further and deeper into irrelevance… but the rest of the world seems to be moving on and laughing off the silly affectation of disliking McCartney out of a sense of hipster duty. Yes, Rolling Stone not only treated McCartney with respect, the article actually shone at moments when words like “great,” “Badass” and “cool” were used to describe him; a refreshing collection of adjectives considering that for decades McCartney was erroneously considered anything but great, badass and cool.

Moreso, the article was NOT about the fucking Beatles. Oh, of course a couple of those old topics came up, but the article did not rely on that, nor on entirely propping itself up through discussing Lennon. No, this article stayed admirably focused on the beauty and brilliance of Paul McCartney now. Right NOW! Which is where the attention belongs and belonged all along. McCartney was a Beatle, and now he is a Master, to me, that is more interesting.

In fact, again, unbelievable for Rolling Stone, when the Lennon Myth comes up (that myth in which McCartney is Lennon’s “dimple-cheeked sidekick,” in the words of Rolling Stone), McCartney is not crushed by them in favor of Lennon, no, McCartney and his body of work is treated with more openness and recognition. Dare I say it, Rolling Stone treated McCartney with the generous amount of respect he is damn well due!

When discussing his nature they talk of how Paul is agitated by inertia… which is also good phrasing as it utterly describes his methods and output. Since the end of the Beatles, McCartney has never been inert, rather his approach, attitude, and end results always reveal a restless search for new horizons.

“I’ve always had this sense of wonder; still have.”
McCartney

The article is full of little gems like that, little insights, like his talking about singing the old songs, about his approach to them, to keeping them fresh. He talks about not doing them on auto-pilot, of examining the songs of this twentysomething person that was him so long ago. “I’m still trying to look at it–what the hell is this thing? Why did I do this?” The article revealed unexpected little stories and concepts, like this massive robot he plans on performing with on stage–trust me, you’ll have to read that part yourself. Ultimately, the symbolism of this giant robot bit is what fascinated me… again, you gotta read this bit yourself, I dare not summarize it.

The article actually went into some very surprising territory, regarding both the music and the his personal life. I am astounded to say that I learned things from the article, things that brought me a much deeper appreciation of a few of his songs. In fact, those moments in the article absolutely turned me around on a couple songs… not that they were at all bad… I had simply missed the grander point being made in the songs. The one thing I really was reminded of is just how deliberate he is, how he has vision, real vision, and how many layers there are to his songs. Nothing is a throwaway. Many many things are hidden in McCartney’s songs… which is why he so fascinates me, and so alienates critics like Mr. Sounes… critics don’t have the wisdom to search through to the hidden layers.

Two of the finest examples of songs that I gained insight to through this article would be “Save Us” from the new album, and “Nod Your Head” from Memory Almost Full. I had originally tossed the lyrics to “Nod Your Head” off as not having any meaning, but now that I realize that it was McCartney singing about his love of oral sex… well the song is suddenly not only positively filthy, but hot… but keep in mind… it always rocked. In fact that whole obsessively sexual aspect of McCartney somehow slid by me. We learn about how he thinks about sex through this article, and I can most definitely see it in the lyrics. This was traced back to the Beatles in the discussion, but they also discussed “Eat At Home” from Ram as having been about sex as well. I blush to realize that I really had no idea! Actually, I rather liked learning this.

Regarding “Save Us,” I learned that the song is about (in McCartney’s own words) “The savior aspect of having a good woman.” I love his phrasing of that, strong, religious, and not that of a kid writing love songs. This also reminded me of “Rough Ride” from Flowers In the Dirt, which I had figured was about the very same thing back in 1989… as well as about flat-out sex. Now I know my suspicions were confirmed, and it also confirms my suspicions of “I Owe It All To You” from Off the Ground being about the savior aspect of love. That has always been a favorite, and knowing I was right about it is lovely. “I Owe It All To You” most definitely sings of love as part of the spiritual and mystical life. Again, not kids’ stuff love song wise. As for “Save Us,” it was one of the few songs on the new album that didn’t knock me out… now it’s starting to knock at me a little more.

I learned many other things I suspected from McCartney, that his dancing around affable thumbs-up thing is not phoney… that’s who he is with his crew even when the cameras are off. Of course, every yin has it’s yang, and I also learned that he is a stern employer–wouldn’t he have to be, after all, he is (Rolling Stone’s words) “Paul Motherfucking McCartney.”

Well, while I’m pleased Rolling Stone has caught up… he was always, great, badass, cool, and Paul Motherfucking McCartney, even when they were too blind to see it and too deaf to hear it.

Just goes to show you, doesn’t it? Sometimes… they are ALL wrong, all of them! Sometimes, it’s not Paul, it’s not us, it’s them, and we just have to wait for them to catch up to us. I find this comforting, and am pleased to have learned it through Paul Motherfucking McCartney.

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.