Rock ‘n’ Roll Springtime: McCartney’s solo debut loses some of it’s charm in this disappointing Deluxe Edition
First the history. 1969 was a strange year for McCartney. The Beatles were falling apart (witness the grim Let It Be film footage from Twickenham Film Studios in January of that year) and he was being ostracised, thanks to the business arrangements of the band (US hot-shot Allen Klein was looking after John, George and Ringo’s finances, while Paul’s advice was coming from Lee Eastman, Linda’s dad). Despite this gloomy atmosphere some light was cast over these dark shadows when Paul got married and The Beatles managed to put some effort into the excellent swan song that was Abbey Road (released before the Let It Be album, in 1969).
By the end of that year, the normally optimistic McCartney knew it was time to think about himself, rather expend any more emotional energy on Beatle-matters. In September, John had announced he wanted out of the band (“a divorce”) but there were pretences to be maintained. The Let It Be film and album still had to be released, and the general public were not aware that the band was all but over.
McCartney, the album, came about after some home recording in late 1969 and a few months of sporadic studio activity in early 1970, in Wilesden, North London. Everything was sequenced and mixed back at EMI Studios in Abbey Road, ready for release on 17 April 1970. Even getting the album out turned into a drama. Paul refused to push the release back to avoid a clash with the Let It Be album release. The other three Beatles overruled this and Ringo had the thankless task of hand delivering a letter written by George Harrison explaining their decision. Paul was furious and shouted him out of the house. The other Beatles ultimately relented and the original release date stood. The final Lennon-irking episode was a Q&A sheet included with press copies of the album. Rather than face press interviews, McCartney had provided them with both the questions and the answers. One question was “Do you foresee a time when Lennon/McCartney become an active songwriting partnership again?” Answer: “No”. Having received this, the Daily Mirror newspaper ran the front page headline ‘Paul Is Quitting The Beatles’. To McCartney’s credit he has not airbrushed the history and the press release features in the book which forms a major part of this deluxe edition.
Let’s talk about the music. His reissued debut solo album brings together many facets of the man, and in particular his enjoyment in refusing to do what is expected of him.
In McCartney we get the peerless composer and performer of standards (Maybe I’m Amazed), the romantic ‘softy’ (The Lovely Linda), the effortless melodicist (Man We Was Lonely), the ‘rocker’ (Oo You), the chirpy ‘ditty’ composer – what Lennon called ‘granny music’ – (Teddy Boy), the self-reflecting lyricist (Every Night), the bad editor (how many times have you listened to album-closer Kreen-Akrore?), the family man (photos and packaging) and finally the multi-instrumentalist (the whole album).
The problem is that people don’t necessarily want all of these ‘McCartneys’ on one album. They just want the ‘McCartney’ they like the best. For some that might be the man who writes Maybe I’m Amazed, but others might prefer the man responsible for Every Night or Junk. But you don’t get a choice. You purchase a McCartney album and you get the lot. Was anyone really expecting four instrumentals on his debut solo album and the sketchy half-finished feel of some of the tracks? Get in your Delorean and head back to spring of 1970 just before McCartney was originally released. The last four Beatles singles that Paul had written were (in reverse order) Let It Be, Get Back, Hey Jude and Lady Madonna. That might give you an idea of the level of expectation and explain some of the head scratching as people realised McCartney (the album) wasn’t full of these kinds of songs.
Paul’s songs are not often autobiographical, but given what was going on around him, it was almost inevitable that some of the tracks on McCartney would reflect his state of mind at the time. Man We Was Lonely is him and Linda stuck in the middle of the maelstrom of bad feeling directed towards them and Every Night can be read as McCartney expressing his desire to step out of the circus that was The Beatles, Apple Corps and the madness that went with being one of the most famous people on earth. Of course, some songs were just musical ideas and/or phrases thrown together for the author’s pleasure – That Would Be Something, Momma Miss America and Oo You.
Lest we forget, this was the first time Paul McCartney had shouldered the responsibility of filling an entire album with his pop songs. If you want to be brutally honest, only about half the album is any good, but is that so surprising when Paul had spent most of the previous six or seven years providing roughly half of the songs for each Beatle’s album?
This 2011 reissue of McCartney comes as a standard 1CD release, a 2CD Special Edition and a 2CD+DVD Deluxe Edition with a large 128 page linen-bound book. The deluxe edition is what we are focussing on here.
The main problem is that this is a deluxe edition desperately in search of some content. There isn’t really enough music or video to justify the ‘Deluxe’ tag or the price tag.
The original album is only 34 minutes long, the bonus tracks – on a separate CD – are 25 minutes long and the DVD content is only 33 minutes long. That totals not much more than 90 minutes of content for around £50-60. You do get the book and it is undoubtedly glorious. If you bought the Band on the Run deluxe edition you will know what to expect. Lots of Linda’s very evocative family photos of the period, including the original shot of the front (or is it back?) cover with the cherries sitting on the white wall, plus lyrics, track details and the ‘story’ behind the album.
The album itself is remastered very well. The best previous CD mastering was the DCC Gold 24k issue from the mid-’90s, but since not many people will own this relatively obscure audiophile issue, we can confidently say that for the majority, this new remaster will be the best you will have heard McCartney on CD.
The Bonus CD
The bonus CD is weak. There were no singles released from McCartney, so no b-sides to include (Maybe I’m Amazed hit the US top ten in 1976 as a live single). We are left with a few live tracks and some questionable outtakes.
Supposedly written for Frank Sinatra, this is an outtake that the fans have been clamouring for for decades. One wonders why on hearing it. An under developed song – effectively Paul messing with a genre piece on the piano. Inessential.
Maybe I’m Amazed
Live studio recording from the unreleased TV special from 1974 called One Hand Clapping. Much of the audio from this special was included on the Band on the Run special and deluxe editions but this performance was left off, presumably because they knew they were going to struggle to find content for this deluxe edition.
Every Night (Live from Glasgow)
Hot as Sun (Live from Glasgow)
Maybe I’m Amazed (Live from Glasgow)
From the Wings concerts in December 1979. All audio from these concerts was previously unreleased until last year when Band on the Run and No Words were issued as bonus MP3 downloads for those who pre-ordered the Band on the Run reissue from Paul’s website. Interestingly, they did not appear on the Band on the Run bonus CDs, so are effectively already out of print! These three ‘Glasgow’ tracks sound great and are the best thing on this bonus disc. Expect other tracks from these concerts to be sprinkled liberally across future reissues.
Don’t Cry Baby
An instrumental of Oo You. Paul can be heard at the beginning telling a baby (Mary, presumably) not to cry – hence the title. If you were being uncharitable you might suspect this track was so named to con the public into thinking they are getting a new composition.
Women Kind (Demo)
Can’t imagine why anyone thought that including this cringeworthy, low quality (in both senses), jokey demo would in any way enhance the overall package. Paul on piano singing. Sample lyric “Women Kind, they have a terrible time, from the age of ten they are chased by men, ooh what a crime…”.
Like the bonus CD the DVD is short on content and is a bit of a mixed bag. There are eight elements to it.
The Album Story
Paul talks us through the period in question but we do not see him. Instead, we get a very creative and enjoyable mixture of illustrations and animations directed by Ali Assaf and Rob Tovey and produced by show + tell. It’s obvious that much time and effort has gone into this and it works very well. Running time 9:15
Home movie footage filmed in Scotland 1970. Very evocative – Paul, Linda and family messing around. Running time 2:44
Maybe I’m Amazed Music Video
This video is lots of stills with rostrum camera work (ie where they ‘zoom’ in and out of photos). It was made available previously on The McCartney Years DVD set, where it was available in 5.1 Dolby Digital and 5.1 DTS. You could also listen to Paul give an audio commentary, pointing out interesting details like where the pictures were taken. However on this deluxe set which costs about three times as much as The McCartney Years DVD we don’t get any of that. Just a stereo version – no surround, no commentary. Sloppy. Running time: 3:46
Suicide (From the ‘One Hand Clapping’ documentary)
Most of the One Hand Clapping footage ended up on the Band on the Run DVD, but this has been saved for McCartney since the song dates from this period. This is different from the audio on the bonus CD. Still the same silly song though. Running time 1:33
Every Night (Live At Concert for the People of Kampuchea)
From the same Wings tour as the CD audio, although this was later in London on December 29th. Great footage of a young and fresh-faced Paul doing this favourite from the album. Interesting that he chose to play bass and let Denny Laine do the acoustic guitar duties. Running time 4:45
Hot as Sun (Live At Concert for the People of Kampuchea)
Paul does take lead guitar duties on this track, unfortunately the guitar is very low in the mix which somewhat spoils this track. Running time 2:42
Junk (MTV Unplugged) 2:51
That Would Be Something (MTV Unplugged) 3:17
This footage is from 1991. Pleasant enough, but whizzing forward 20 years does somewhat spoil the magic of this trip back in time. At least the Wings live concerts are still in the 1970s (just about) but it just doesn’t feel right seeing Off The Ground era McCartney on this DVD. Effectively filler.
Like Band on the Run, purchasers of this deluxe edition have a download code where all the audio content (bonus tracks included) can be downloaded as Hi-Res WAV files (24bit/96Khz). This is better-than-CD quality and is a great aspect of these reissues. Other artists’ releasing Super Deluxe Editions could learn from this (forthcoming sets from The Smiths and U2 ignore hi-res audio).
These deluxe editions from Paul McCartney (his 1980 McCartney II album has been released simultaneously) are almost brilliant. The books are truly superb and are unmatched at this price point when compared to other deluxe or super deluxe editions. The inclusion of hi-res audio is also to be applauded, although one wishes Paul would consider putting hi-res on a physical disc – BluRay being the most likely candidate at this stage. The lack of 5.1 surround mixes is the other irritant. A surround sound mix of the whole album was omitted from Band on the Run despite this having been commercially released on a DTS CD many years ago and the 5.1 of Maybe I’m Amazed was ignored for the DVD included in this deluxe edition, despite being previously released on Paul’s own DVD compilation.
The McCartney deluxe edition is let down badly by the bonus CD – it’s a very scrappy affair, as is the DVD. Given this lack of material, it might have been more sensible to not have bothered with a ‘deluxe’ edition of this release and simply issued a 2CD/DVD for around £15 – but of course if McCartney had chosen to do this we’d not have had the pleasure of the wonderful book.
The hi-res audio and the quality of the book probably still make this just about worth the purchase, but it could have been so much better.
‘McCartney’ from the Paul McCartney Archive Collection, is out now on Concord Muisc Group/Hear Music