Wednesday, March 21, 2012

'FAB' Good Book/Lousy Opinions

Just finished the epic bio, 'Fab: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney' by Howard Sounes.

Overall, this is worth getting and also has a great cover by Astrid (if you get the hardcover version). There doesn't seem to be any glaring errors which is so common in Beatle books. Even bios by the ex-wives are littered with mistakes. Not so with 'Fab'.

HOWEVER, the writer's taste in McCartney music is way off. For starters, he admits that he didn't even really follow Paul until his 1990/Flowers in the Dirt tour. He is lukewarm to Flowers (probably Macca's last decent album of new material) and says the concert opener, 'Figure of Eight' is weak. I like 'Figure of Eight', and if there's one thing Paul knows, it's how to pace a concert. So slamming his choice of an opener is probably a mistake.

Coming late to the Paul party explains why he thinks shitty albums like Flaming Pie and Memory Almost Full are actually good. He even goes on about how wonderful the song 'The End of The End' is (from Memory).  I think it's one of the most self indulgent and unintentionally funny songs of Macca's career. And yeah, I know Flaming Pie was nominated for a Grammy for Album of the Year, but the Grammys are stupid and always have been.

He also says the Venus and Mars is lousy. C'MON! It's one of Paul's best! The Band on the Run/Venus and Mars double shot in '74/75 was his peak as a solo act. Mr. Sounes even takes a jab at the song 'Magneto and Titanium Man', daring the reader to 'try listening to it today'. It's one of my favorites. If I was putting together my personal 'Best of' playlist it would be on it.

Finally, he says that the cover of Paul's first album, McCartney, is a boring picture of cherries. It just happens to be my FAVORITE COVER OF ALL TIME. The straight lines, the round bowl, the minimal use of color and THOSE SHADOWS. It's wonderful. And one of the few albums I have framed and hanging on the wall.

It's actually kind of weird that Sounes includes his own unique slant on Paul's music. And I don't mean that he should have sought out the 'critics' opinions. But he should have taken the time to talk to some hardcore baby-boomer fans (like me) who have followed Macca's career album by album, single by single and tour by tour.

I thnk that most real fans would agree with me that you can break Macca's albums into two groups: Before and After Lennon's death.

Everything before Lennon died is pretty good (including the first post-Lennon death album Tug of War). Sure, some stuff is better than others but don't believe that crap about Wild Life being a piece of shit. Fans love that album.

His peak was 1974-1976: Band on the Run, Venus and Mars, Wings at the Speed of Sound and Wings Over America. Paul could do no wrong during those three years.

The best Wings line-up was 1975-1978, with Jimmy McColluch (lead guitar), Joe English (drums) and of course, Paul, Linda and Denny Laine.

Everything after Lennon's death, starting with Pipes of Peace, is pretty bad. Nobody really likes Press to Play, Off the Ground, Driving Rain, Memory Almost Full, Chaos and Creation...those albums are all terrible.

The one major exception is Flowers in the Dirt, which has some terriffic songs co-written by Elvis Costello. And even the non-Costello songs are nice. I also dig the non-original LPs like Unplugged, Run Devil Run and especially the 'Russian' album. Even his new so-so collection of standards, Kisses on the Bottom, is better than any of the original material he's put out this century.

It would've been better for Sounes to leave out his 'reviews'. Or else to simply love everything Paul does (or perhaps more interestingly to hate everything). Saying that Venus and Mars sucks and that Chaos and Creation in the Backyard doesn't suck is just plain nuts. He's obviously not a Beatles connoisseur.

That said, the book is full of new information about Paul's personal life, especially dirt on his kids and relatives like Mel See (Linda's first hubby) and their daughter Heather (I don't mean the second wife, Heather Mills. But we get a lot of goodies about her as well). Paul's marijuana issues are also well documented and not just the scandals and arrests, but how it affected his recording sessions.

We learn about the 'McCartney Pension', which is code for the loot his relatives have been getting from him over the years. And how some rellies are not very grateful or gracious about his handouts. Interesting stuff.

None of the Beatles' stories are new but a lot of the later period, especially the post-Wings era is. Eric Stewart, who worked on three Macca albums in the 80's gives extensive interview time.

A good read, if you can get past the writer's dumb opinions, with tasty gossip and new stories. Indeed it is as the title states, an 'Intimate' portrait of the guy.


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