Look, the early solo years of the four Beatles didn’t have to be a competition. In the free-thinking, flower power spirit of that time the formerly fabz could have collaborated on and complimented one another on their early forays into marquee billings. There could have been a rich cross-pollination between the solo LPs that would have made them more expansive and flowing than the claustrophobic vibes present on Let It Be (happy 50, by the way). In theory, these four solo paths didn’t have to be lonely and flailing. They didn’t have to leave behind such a bitter aftertaste. They didn’t have to contain enough subliminal (and direct) shots at former bandmates to qualify for their own Hip Hop Beef episode.
Yea, and I can totally play the Gently Weeps solo with my teeth.
As we already documented in great detail on George Harrison’s solo run, each Beatle had the songs to really pull off a victory on the solo tip, but each fucked it up in their own unique ways. In the case of George, it was blowing his entire load of great stored tracks on an unwieldy triple album. If homey had just put out three banger records spaced over 1970-1974 he would have easily taken the top solo Beatle crown. Johnny and Mr. Ringo we will get to later. For now is the time to focus on Sir Paul. Mr. Macca. Mr. Paul Is Dead. The Shoeless One.
We’ll make one thing clear from the start: Paul McCartney hasn’t penned a decent melody since 1979. So if you’re looking for deep cuts from the past three decades then go read the latest MOJO issue. We’re doing the post-Beatles prime era here, the prime post-prime, where all four (yes, even Ringo) still had enough verve and vinegar to push boundaries. When they were relevant. When the race was on.
We already know that George had the most banger tracks stacked up due to his being stifled on the last few Beatles records, which should have left The Mac Man an easy path to victory since Sir George threw them all out there in one go which significantly diluted their impact. This was 1970, after all, a time when Paul could still toss off timeless melodies like seeds from the latest spliff. So how did the newly-bearded but still moon-eyed master manage to snatch a big L from the jaws of a big W? Well, he first put out two completely excellent but way lowkey lo-fi solo records. Both records, McCartney (known to boomers as Bowl Of Cherries due to the bowl of, um, cherries on its cover) and Ram are excellent and brave records, personal favorites for sure, but we’re talking the Beatles War here, people, and these are like bringing knives to a gun fight that included multiple-disc epics and John Lennon full-on dis tracks. Rustic, rural, and strange, the first two Macca solo discs may have been artistic victories but they came off as twin pacifists in the battle that really counted. And after those? Well, it was off into Wings territory. It was Band On The Run time. It was feathered hair and platform shoes and the stadium blues. It was cocaine and Linda songs, taking up what was left of The P Man’s dwindling prime.
It may not have been a victory, but this is Paul Fucking McCartney we’re talking about here. My fave Beatle. And all it takes is a little strategic re-imagining to see that our boy Paul could have easily housed George and John, lapped them by miles, the runaway winner of a crown nobody ever claimed: Greatest Beatles Solo Star.
And he could have done it with just 15 tracks.
See, with Paul it should have been a waiting game. Homey could have just kicked back on his sheep farm with his adorable hippie fam and his impressive new beard (Paul McCartney had the 2nd best rock facial hair of the ’70s don’t @ me). Let Sir George blow his entire back catalog on the triple album. Let his nemesis Johnny call all his fans “fucking peasants” on one record (wtf) then turn around and plead Imagine on the next. Let Ringo flash his peace signs and do his T. Rex stanning. Writing songs the entire time. From the charming minimalist doodlings of the early solo efforts to the fleshier Paul & Linda Wings stuff. Not releasing a thing. Let the mystery build. Let the legend grow. Give the occasional on-farm interview to show how he lives off the land, man, how domesticated bliss has chapped his rosy cheeks, his love for Linda and nature and children and animals bleeding through on every surface to eradicate that bitter Beatles breakup aftertaste. Already Paul would have been the winner, free from the flailing attempts at staying relevant the other three would have been suffering at the time. Sidestepping the drama and the lawsuits and the sniping. The Benevolent Beatle. Not quite a recluse or a dropout hermit, mind you, but instead a wholesome still-star making the conscious choice not to toil in the music industry mire.
But it would all be a ruse. Part of a strategy. For what Paul was really doing all that time was crafting the perfect debut solo joint. The one that would knock out nearly everything his former fellow Abbey Road crossers had released into the slipstream left behind by their behemoth former selves. For in 1979, with little warning but to fanfare fit for a king in prosperous times, Paul McCartney would have lowered THE BOOM. 15 tracks. Culled from nine years of secret recording sessions. Spanning the eras that covered those solo records and the Wings stuff. (Yes, Linda would have still played a vital role). It would have simply been called Paul McCartney. The cover would have featured a disheveled and wild-eyed Paul in tribal makeup; the back cover a wholesome Macca rocking a cozy sweater, holding a camera, sipping a cuppa. And it would have been the best late-’70s record released by a fading star from the misty ’60s, not to mention the best Beatles solo record by a hop and a skip and many, many miles. Even John, holed up on the Upper West Side with Yoko, would have tipped his newsboy cap to this one. George would have vanished into a far-East meditation retreat that lasted years. Ringo would have cracked another Chivas bottle. The still-relevant rock press, reeling from the fading punk/disco uprisings, would have flipped their wig entirely. The record would currently be on its tenth re-issue featuring never-before-heard scraps of studio banter. Tens of millions of copies sold.
And in its wake there would have been crowned a Beatles Solo King.
Here it is. Paul McCartney. 1979
- That Would Be Something
- Maybe I’m Amazed
- Too Many
- Dear Boy
- Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey
- the Back Seat Of My Car
- Live And Let Die
- Band On The Run
- Let Me Roll It
- Coming Up
- Temporary Secretary
- Let ‘Em In
- Check My Machine
Give it a spin:
Over and out