Best Things Paul McCartney Has Done Since Splitting With The Beatles
Paul McCartney’s post-Beatles career may have always been regarded as second-best to John Lennon’s. But having recently closed both the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Concert and the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, he’s entered his 70s still very much the national treasure of British pop. Here’s a look at ten of his best moments since the Fab Four’s split.
Maybe I’m Amazed
A dedication to his wife Linda following her support through The Beatles’ break-up, McCartney kick-started his solo career with perhaps the finest love song he’s ever recorded, “Maybe I’m Amazed.” Pinpointed as the track he ‘would most like to be remembered for,’ its pounding piano chords, soaring guitar solo and soul-rock melodies was by far and away the standout of his eponymous 1970 debut and has since been covered by everyone from The Faces to Dave Grohl & Norah Jones.
Live & Let Die
Virtually a self-contained mini rock-opera, “Live & Let Die” is McCartney at his most brilliantly bombastic. Recorded during the sessions for Wings’ second album, Red Rose Speedway, the title track for the 1973 Roger Moore classic was the first James Bond theme ever to be nominated for an Academy Award and despite the best efforts of Duran Duran, Tina Turner and Madonna, hasn’t been bettered since.
Band On The Run
Wings’ 1973 third studio album, Band On The Run, didn’t exactly have the most inauspicious of starts. Guitarist Henry McCullough and drummer Denny Seiwell quit just before the group flew out to Nigeria to record the LP, the McCartneys were robbed at knifepoint during a night out in Lagos, while Paul was confronted by Afrobeat star Fela Kuti at their ramshackle studio who accused the band of stealing African music. However, all the hardship didn’t happen in vain. Considered as one of the best post-Beatles albums of all time, it spent four weeks at the top of the Billboard charts, produced a number one single (the title track) and went onto win a Grammy Award.
Say Say Say
The schmaltzy R&B balladry of “The Girl Is Mine,” the lead single from Michael Jackson’s seminal Thriller, didn’t exactly bode well for McCartney’s next musical collaboration with The King of Pop. However, “Say Say Say,” the first track to be taken from 1983 release Pipes of Peace, encouraged critics to write them off at their peril. Its George Martin-produced funk-pop creates arguably one of the most immediate and infectious singles of McCartney’s solo career.
MTV Unplugged (The Official Bootleg)
One of the first artists to embrace the concept of MTV’s Unplugged series, McCartney appeared to relish the opportunity to perform a stripped-back set following his mammoth world tour the year previous. The 1991 release, which features cover versions of Gene Vincent’s “Be-Bop-A-Lula,” Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” and Guy Mitchell’s “Singing The Blues” alongside acoustic versions of several Beatles classics, featured McCartney at his most playful and carefree.
Buoyed by their work together on The Beatles’ anthology, McCartney yet again teamed up with ELO’s Jeff Lynne for 1997’s Flaming Pie, a back-to-basics affair which became his highest-charting US album in 14 years. From the gorgeous string-soaked “Beautiful Night” to the 60s country-rock of “Young Boy” to the waltzing “The Song We Were Singing,” it’s arguably one of McCartney’s most consistent and cohesive, if also criminally ignored, bodies of work.
McCartney Goes Classical
McCartney’s first venture into the world of classical music, 1991’s operatic Liverpool Oratorio was viewed as a disaster by most snooty music critics. But McCartney came back fighting and in 1997, he scored a No.1 album in both the UK and US classical charts with Standing Stone, an impressive 75-minute instrumental poem recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra which diffused the self-indulgent vanity project accusations of its predecessor.
The Driving World Tour
McCartney had always been a tour-de-force when it came to performing, but many were skeptical over whether he could still cut it as a live act following almost a removed from the road. Coinciding with the promotion of 2001’s Driving Rain, he soon proved his doubters wrong as he triumphantly returned to the stage to rattle through an extensive Greatest Hits set plucked from the back catalog of Wings, The Beatles and his own solo career over 55 dates across the USA, Mexico and Japan.
He may have still been racking up Top 10 albums but “Dance Tonight” was perhaps the first time in the 21st Century that McCartney appeared relevant. The simple mandolin-led ditty was enchanting enough on its own, but it was the equally charming Michel Gondry-inspired video featuring future Oscar winner Natalie Portman, and its subsequent appearance in an iTunes ad campaign, that potentially opened up his solo music to an entirely new generation.
McCartney’s partnership with Killing Joke co-founder Youth under the guise of The Firemen has always been one of his most intriguing side-projects, but their ambient brand of electro-rock only really began to sound fully-formed with their 2008 belated third effort, Electric Arguments. Fusing blues, jazz, psychedelia and even trance into their experimental sound, the record confirmed that McCartney still had the ability to surprise well into his sixties.