1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die
In late 1969, the biggest news in entertainment, nay, biggest news in any subject was the breakup of The Beatles, the biggest band in history. Bassist Paul McCartney’s solo album was one of the key pieces in the band’s eventual demise.
It’s important to note that the album isn’t noteworthy for it’s artistic contributions to the world of music. Even writer Daryl Easlea struggles to justify its creative merits in his entry on the album, referring to tracks like “Teddy Boy” as “painfully silly.”
No, this album is worth most in a historical context. It was no secret that much of the tension within The Beatles was McCartney vs. John Lennon. McCartney was the most pop-centric of the members, and Lennon was his aesthetic opposite. Guitarist George Harrison leaned towards Lennon, and in 1969 they requested McCartney push back the release of his solo album so that it wouldn’t conflict with the band’s own release, “Let It Be.” McCartney refused, and his refusal was probably the straw that broke The Beatles’ back. The album launched in April 1970, and “Let It Be” came out in May, both post-breakup.
The album essentially exists only so that McCartney could thumb his nose at his band mates, both by releasing it to conflict with “Let It Be” and to show that he didn’t need their help. He performed all instruments on the album, only getting some help with background vocals from his then wife Linda.
His solo approach to recording made for some second-rate tracks. The album includes several instrumental tracks that McCartney seems to be attempting to “jam” on, such as “Kreen-Akrone.” The jamming would’ve sounded more genuine, and more exciting, had McCartney been playing with a live band, not previous recordings of himself. Add his awkward key transitions in tracks like “Momma Miss America,” and this album has a lot of painfully imperfect tracks.
McCartney’s writing is way off his Beatles’ best as well. As Easlea mentioned, “Teddy Boy” is badly undercooked prose (Bruce Springsteen would make a masterpiece of the storyline if he had the chance) and even poppy numbers like “Man We Was Lonely” seem to emulate early Beatles’ material, but can’t live up. Lennon sneered at the album's imperfections, citing McCartney's perfectionist attitude when recording with The Beatles.
Granted, if there’s one track to remember “McCartney” for, it’s “Maybe I’m Amazed,” which is probably McCartney’s best post-Beatles track. Unlike nearly every other track on the album, this classic sounds inspired by something more than the need to show up his compatriots.
One last thing worth commenting on, as I didn’t have much positive to say: the album art is great. I love it. Good job Linda.
INTERESTING FACT: Many a story exist about artists who write a hundred songs and whittle it down to 12 for the final product. McCartney, not so much. He recorded opening track "The Lovely Linda" ad-lib while testing his instruments. It made the album. No, it isn't good.