Full disclosure: I believe that Paul McCartney is second to no one when it comes to the title of the greatest musician of all. Elvis Presley ain't the king, Paul McCartney is THE KING. Elvis burned out at age 42. McCartney keeps going and at age 66, is still touring and making music. Elvis may have been a great performer on stage and a terrific singer, but wasn't much of a musician or songwriter. Elvis mostly performed other people's songs often times to perfection (Elvis' last hit single, Burning Love from 1972, is one of the most underrated rock n roll songs/performances ever). Paul McCartney is blessed with one of the greatest voices in rock music, no one writes a better melody, and he can play bass, guitar, piano, keyboards, drums, etc.
Now, not all of Paul's music is good. He's written a lot of awful songs and sometimes his laziness when it comes to the lyrics is embarrassing. He also has had several dreadful albums - see McCartney II (1980), Off The Ground (1993), Wings Wild Life (1971), Press To Play (1986), and Red Rose Speedway (1973). If I had to pick the worst one, it would have to be Red Rose Speedway, an album full of lightweight, half baked (or in Paul's case at the time, very baked), ditties that go nowhere. Song titles such as "Single Pigeon", "Little Lamb Dragonfly", and "Loup (The First Indian On the Moon)", tell you all you need to know about the poor quality of the songs on Red Rose Speedway. But I digress...
Anyway, we're here to celebrate the great songs of Paul McCartney's post Beatles career, so without further ado, here's my list in reverse order:
15.) Figure Of Eight - this is from 1989's Flowers In The Dirt. For most of the 1980's, Paul's songs didn't go far enough. He'd have a good idea and foundation for a song, but it would seem unfinished. Figure of Eight went all the way. There are actually two versions of Figure of Eight (not counting the live version from Tripping The Line Fantastic). There's the original album version and also there's a version that was released as a single. I played this song so much when it came out, that my college roommate Jim still gets a little bitter thinking about it
14.) Beware My Love - from 1976's Wings At the Speed of Sound this song is a heavy and hard rocker featuring nasty lead guitar by Wings' guitarist Jimmy McCulloch and a tremendous vocal from McCartney. It is a shame that Beware My Love is never played on the radio.
13,) Jenny Wren - from 2005's Chaos and Creation in the Backyard (dumb album name), Jenny Wren is a gorgeous and moody acoustic song similar to Blackbird, and it features a duduk solo (Armenian woodwind instrument) in the middle of the song. This song marks a departure from the normal upbeat McCartney fare, as does the entire CACITB album, due to the presence of producer Nigel Godrich. Godrich allegedly wasn't afraid to give his famous client the boot in the ass that he badly needed, telling him that many of his songs that were originally ticketed for the album were crap and to go back and write more. Because of this, the album has several strong songs and is very good, in no small part to Godrich's presence.
12.) Let Em In - another one from Wings At The Speed of Sound, the piano driven Let Em In comes across as breezy and effortless. I find the song to be almost hypnotic. Paul will still occasionally include it in a live set list. I still remember the big cheer that came from the 60,000 strong at the old Foxboro Stadium when the doorbell intro to this song played, when I thought I was the one of the only ones there that would appreciate it being played!
11.) Arrow Through Me - from 1979's Back to the Egg, this is a shameless pop/disco song featuring nothing but synthesizers which also serve as fake horns and drums. Despite its comical outdatedness, I still really like the song, because it is quite different than most of his songs. It was released as a single and peaked at #29 on the charts.
10.) Every Night - this was one of the few songs that sounded "finished" from Paul's first solo album McCartney. Every Night is an acoustic guitar song about chilling out and staying home with a lady, presumably Linda.
9.) My Love - one of the few good songs from 1973's Red Rose Speedway, the smoochy My Love is Paul's tribute to Linda's, er, um, skills in bed. My Love features what is easily the best guiltar solo to ever appear on a McCartney record by Wings guitarist Henry McCullough. The solo is very powerful and tastefully done. Unfortunately, McCullough left the group not long after.
8.) Live and Let Die – 1973 –this is the song that got Paul out of his post-Beatle doldrums. Live and Let Die was released between Red Rose Speedway and Band On the Run as the title track for the James Bond movie of the same name. Live and Let Die was the first Wings song released that was able to stand up to any of the Beatles work. In concert, this song is always a crowd pleaser with the explosions and lasers during the performance of it.
7.) Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five - piano driven rocker from 1973's Band On the Run, Ninteen Hundred and Eighty Five is the final song on the album. The song leads into an orchestra, where at the climax of the song, a reprise of Band on the Run is played. A very underrated song in the McCartney catalog.
6.) Coming Up - Coming Up was released in 1980 as part of the foul McCartney II album. There are two versions of this song – the original album version in which the vocals sound distant, as if they were 3 continents away and the rollicking live version. Both versions are good, I prefer the live version because as with just about every McCartney song, the “concert” versions of his songs are always better than the studio versions. They’re livelier and they rock harder. Beatle lore has it that Coming Up was supposedly one of the main reasons that John Lennon decided to make an album after a 5 year hiatus in which he devoted his time to being a father. Lennon was said to really like Coming Up and felt inspired by it.
5.) Listen To What The Man Said - from the 1975 Wings Venus and Mars album, Listen To What The Man Said was a monster hit and besides a terrific melody, it features a rare ona McCartney record saxophone solo. This is another one of those McCartney songs that sticks in your head for days when you hear it.
4.) Maybe I'm Amazed (Live) - two versions of this song - the 1970 original and the far better live version from 1976 from the Wings Over America live album. The performance of the live version is spectacular. Maybe I'm Amazed is a very powerful song that builds up and has Paul reaching the limits of his vocals along with great instrumental work and harmonies from Wings. Because of the strain on his vocals, Paul doesn't play this one in concert much anymore.
3.) Band On The Run - "Well the rain exploded with a mighty crash, as we fell into the sun. And the first one said to the second one there, I hope you're having fun." This title track leads off the Band On The Run album, considered by everyone to be Paul's best post Beatles work. Band On The Run has 3 parts to it, and is about prison escape and freedom. The song starts mellow, builds into a rocker, then into an acoustic strumming song featuring slide guitar and the usually strong McCartney vocals. Plain and simple, this is one of the best rock songs of the 1970s.
2.) Silly Love Songs - dismissed by critics as lightweight pop, lacking substance, and shamelessly commercial, Silly Love Songs was released on Wings At the Speed of Sound. I couldn't disagree more with the critics. The song is simplistic brilliance! Start with the bassline, which is anything but simple and lacking substance. It's awesome. Yes, I know the song is can be classified as "disco", but I love it. The song was his response to critics who would hammer him for writing love songs. The lyrics have a story to them and the song has a combination of strings, the Wings horn section, and a 3 part harmony with Paul, Linda, and Wings bandmate Denny Laine towards the end. Silly Love Songs is extremely catchy and is a great song.
1.) Jet - You can throw out Yesterday, Hey Jude, Let It Be, and all the rest, I believe Jet is the best song Paul McCartney has ever written. Jet is the second song from Band On The Run (how about that 1-2 punch to open an album - Band On the Run and Jet?), and has a tremendous intro to the song. Jet is a hard driving rocker and I believe it's also Paul's best vocal performance. Jet is still a concert staple and often times serves as a set opener. The lyrics are nonsensical and the song is supposedly about the McCartney dog. I have yet to figure out what they lyrics mean, but nonetheless, I love the song. Plain and simple, the Jet is a tour de force.