Sunday, June 29, 2008

Paul's Got Soul

The other Beatles' didn't have it. Paul was the only one who could do the 'black thing'. Musically, vocally, writing...he had it down.

While it's hip to put him down as a square, he brought soul to the Beatles' sound and continued to do so on his solo works.

Just listen to 'Lady Madonna', 'Hey Jude', 'She's a Woman', 'I Got a Feeling', 'Oh Darlin', 'Let it Be'...the list could go on.

He also took the bass guitar role after Stu left, because no one else would. Bass is an instrument often associated with black players, and Paul himself looked to the Motown master, James Jamerson as the best. Paul's playing can be melodic and funky, just like Jamerson. Ironically, one of his greatest bass lines is on 'Silly Love Songs', a tune pretty much dismissed by critics and fan alike. But listen to the bass line. It's killer.

And if you need more proof, listen to his rap at the end of 'Rock Show' on Venus and Mars: 'Remember last week when i promised I'd buy a good seat at the rock show, well I BOUGHT IT. Now get your dress on! Place your wig on straight, don't be late, c'mon we got a date.'

Can you picture Lennon (let alone Ringo or George) trying a funky rap like that? No way.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Wings Wild Life

Wild Life gets a bad rap. Maligned as a shoddy quickie, with sappy bubblegum tunes and too much Linda. It was the first Wings album, and John Lennon politely commented on the 'Mike Douglas' show that Paul could 'do better'.

It was the least successful of his early solo stuff, only managing to hit #10 on Billboard (the only one of his first seven LPs to miss the a #1 spot in either the US or UK, or both).

I've always been fond of it. I remember going through a new acquaintance's record collection back in the 80's and noticed he had Wild Life. We both embarrassingly admitted that we thought it was a fine album and have been friends ever since.

Listening to it the other day, I enjoyed it all over again.

Paul has a nice variety of vocal styles. He hits some sweet high notes, especially on "Dear Friend". On "Tomorrow" he has a weird throaty sound, and "Bip-Bop" has him doing an interesting soul/bubblegum hybrid. Linda does a nice job, too, especially on "I Am Your Singer".

Yes, it was recorded quickly. And no, it didn't have a hit (although, at the time, his cover of the Bo Diddley penned "Love is Strange" did get a lot of radio play. The song was originally covered by Mickey and Sylvia and credited to Diddely's wife for legal reasons).

In my mind, McCartney's catalog is in two phases, which coincide with the death of John Lennon. That is, most everything before Lennon's death is pretty good, and everything after is not. There are exceptions. His first post-December 1980 album, Tug of War, is good. As is Flowers in the Dirt (1989). And on the flippidy flop, two pre-December 1980 albums London Town and McCartney II, are weak.

With Lennon gone, did Paul lose the one critic he still wanted to impress? Or was he simply 'written out'? I know that they both listened closely to each other's records, so I vote the former. John being gone, he started to slack off. I don't think it's just a coincidence.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Barack Obama and The Beatles

The Beatles didn't like to take credit (at least publicly) for all the cultural changes of the 60's. They claimed to be, by chance and circumstance, mearly at the masthead of a sociological movement.

But I think they had a lot to do with it. For one thing, they loved black culture and music. When asked to name their favorite artists, they always listed R&B musicians. And the only person that ever played a 'fifth Beatle' role in the making of an album was Billy Preston.

They also turned us all on to Indian music, and the culture of the country as well.

And without being obviously political or preachy, their songs often had a message of universal togetherness ('All You Need is Love', 'The Word', 'Getting Better', 'Come Together'). And Lennon went even further. Turning it into a cause with 'Power to the People', 'Imagine', 'Woman is the Nigger of the World', and many many more.

But the biggest influence of all, for me personally, was that they made being liberal cool. The Beatles were, and still are, my heroes. Smart, talented, attractive, and funny. In the 60's, they seemed light-years ahead of everybody else. So if they were liberal, how could I be anything else? To go for anything right of center would be to say that the Beatles were wrong.

On the day after Obama wrapped up the nomination, I went out in the world and could sense a difference. The world had indeed changed. And I think that the Beatles and their fans had something to do with it.