May 9 – One Person’s Trash Is Another Pair’s Treasure

You know you’re good when even your trash is red hot. The Beatles, and more specifically Paul McCartney, were hot in 1964. Case in point, the Peter and Gordon song “A World Without Love”, released (in North America) this day that year. It was not quite good enough for the Beatles…but it would soon go to #1 for the duo.

Peter and Gordon were Peter Asher and Gordon Waller, a couple of British lads who fancied themselves perhaps as the next Everly Brothers. Asher’s sister, Jane (an up and coming actress at the time who’d later star in Alfie and show up in TV shows like Brideshead Revisited) was McCartney’s girlfriend at the time, so McC ended up at the Asher’s house on Wimpole St. regularly. One time when he was there, Peter heard Paul playing the foundation to the song. He liked it right away, but Paul wasn’t sure…and later John Lennon thought it was not very good. So the Beatles passed on it. Around that time, Peter and Gordon got signed to EMI, who Asher says “saw us as an English version of the Kingston Trio or Peter, Paul and Mary). They went into the studio with maybe six or seven songs ready…a good start but not enough for a debut LP.

I asked Paul …if that orphaned song was still up for grabs,” Peter recalled. “We still needed three or four songs to record. Paul said we could have it. So I asked him to finish the bridge, and he did!” .

The vocals were stellar, Vic Flick played a brand new Vox 12-string guitar on it and it became their first single. It got to #1 in the U.S. in June, by which time the Beatles had scored four #1s that year! The Fab Four would go on to have a couple more in ’64, giving Paul a hand in writing seven #1 songs that year… a record it would take 14 years to tie (Barry Gibb doing so in 1978.) The song also topped charts at home in the UK, as well as Canada and New Zealand. It would be the only song written by McCartney & Lennon (how it was credited though it was really all Paul’s baby) that hit #1 that wasn’t recorded by the Beatles, though Paul came reasonably close in 1970 with “Come and Get It”, the Badfinger single he wrote.

Peter and Gordon kept at it for another four or five years, but would never match the success of “A World Without Love,” but were not one hit wonders. They’d end up scoring seven more top 20 hits in the States, the biggest of which was “Lady Godiva”, which got to #6 in ’66. After they broke up, Asher went on to success in other ways in music, most notably being the successful manager of James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt.

April 17 – ‘He Broke Up The Beatles For This?’

The Beatles were done by this day in 1970…but it was when it became pretty obvious to the public. That because Paul McCartney put out his first solo album, simply entitled McCartney.

Now, in reality, the Beatles had done their finale, on the Apple building roof and had already agreed to part ways. But it wasn’t yet known to the public, and there was still one more Beatles album to come out – Let It Be. And other Beatles had stepped out on their own already – Ringo Starr had released his debut three weeks earlier and John Lennon had done some experimental things with Yoko like The Wedding Album, and had formed the Plastic Ono Band which put out their Live Peace In Toronto about five months prior. But these were assumed to be mere side-projects by most. When Paul put one out with only a wee bit of help from wife Linda, people seemed to clue in to the fact that the greatest band of the ’60s were not going to be around in the ’70s.

Paul put out the album (the first of 26 he’s done since the Fab Four) on their Apple label, which made keeping it secret from the others all the more difficult. He began recording it in his home late in ’69, suspended the project for the “Get Back” sessions (documented in the recent hit documentary) then finished it off at Abbey Road right afterwards… at times working in one studio while Phil Spector finished up Let it Be in a neighboring room! When the other Beatles found out, it didn’t sit well with them. They went to Apple to try and get them to roll back Paul’s record release, so it wouldn’t conflict with Let it Be, which was due in only a couple of weeks, and the compilation album Hey Jude which had only just come out. Paul refused, even when Ringo went to his house in person to ask. He admits to throwing Ringo out. Starr said Paul “went crazy” and yelled “I’ll finish you now!” on his way out. He threw gas on the fire when he told interviewers he didn’t miss Ringo’s drumming at all and he didn’t “envisage a time” when he and John would ever write together again.

All of this didn’t sit very well with a number of people – others in the Beatles realm, critics and fans alike. The album itself didn’t help. The overall reaction tended towards “he broke up the Beatles for this?”. That because the record was distinctly low-fi, and had a rather unfinished demo quality to it. Paul played all the instruments on it, in general singing and playing acoustic guitar, recording it on a basic four-track recorder and then later played other instruments like his usual bass, plus drums, some piano and even “wine glasses” and dubbing them in, as well as a few backing vocals from Linda. Speaking of her, her photos on the album cover and inside liner notes (including a famous picture of Paul holding their newborn Mary on the back cover) were one of the few things widely lauded about it.

There were 13 songs, running about 34 minutes, including a few instrumentals, like “Kreene Akrore”, an interesting four minutes of building percussion inspired by a TV show he had seen about natives of the Amazonian rainforest. “Glasses”, as one might expect, featured him playing wine glasses. The album kicked off with “The Lovely Linda”, a ditty that ran under a minute and was designed just to be a sound check for him. The one standout and comparatively finished song on it was “Maybe I’m Amazed,” which kept a low-profile then but became a hit for him when he released a live version with Wings in 1976.

At the time it arrived, few cared much for it. As Beatles biographer Nicholas Schaffer said, “many…found the whole confused, tasteless.” The Guardian more clearly stated he sounded like “a man preoccupied with himself…he seems to believe that anything that comes into his head is worth having. And he’s wrong.” Rolling Stone found it “distinctly second-rate” although it did like “Maybe I’m Amazed.” Only the NME liked it, thinking it “sheer brilliance” which “exudes warmth and happiness.” Later reviews became a bit more fond of it. Rolling Stone would this century give it a middling 2.5-stars, allmusic, 4-stars. An undercurrent of feelings that it seemed “unfinished” – songs with potential but left half-baked – ran through most. Songs with titles like “Singalong Junk” didn’t help to change that idea.

Despite not having a hit single, the album did well. It actually spent three weeks at #1 in the U.S. (before being replaced by, what else, Let it Be) and also was a #1 in Canada, and reached #2 at home for him, as well as #3 in Australia and #13 as far away as Japan.

McCartney has reverted to the one-man band approach a couple more times, with McCartney II and just last year, McCartney III.

March 31 – Liverpool Lad’s Love Letter To London

As the 1970s marched onwards, it became increasingly clear that Paul McCartney was the public’s favorite ex-Beatle…but not necessarily the critics. That point was highlighted again on this day in 1978 when his band Wings put out their sixth studio album (and Paul’s eighth since the Fab Four broke up) London Town.

The previous year or two had been busy for them. They’d been hot, had a major world tour and had planned to tour again for much of 1977. But Linda McCartney got pregnant and they decided to stay closer to home and not tour. So they spent their time putting together a new album, starting as a quintet. They recorded several tracks on a yacht in the Caribbean early in the year, working at a leisurely pace. Along the way, drummer Joe English, who was despite his name American in fact, decided to quit to relocate back to the U.S., and guitarist Jimmy McCulloch quit to join the Small Faces, leaving Wings as a core trio of Paul, Linda and Denny Laine again. They finished up recording the 14 song album, plus a couple more, at his beloved Abbey Road studios and George Martin’s new AIR studio, although Paul handled the production.

To keep the fans satisfied, they put out a couple of those songs as a standalone single in ’77 – “Mull of Kintyre” with “Girls School”. As we know, “Mull of Kintyre”, bagpipes and all, was a remarkable smash in Britain, outselling every Beatles single and actually holding the record for the biggest-selling single ever there for over a decade. Hopes were therefore very high for the album. Paul and Linda were in a happy place, apparently and increasingly family-oriented; Rolling Stone compared them to James Taylor and Carly Simon as fast-maturing easy-listening songsters, with Laine along as “Uncle Denny”. They noted he co-wrote two of the “sweetest children’s songs here” – “Deliver Your Children” and “Morse Moose and the Grey Goose.” Much of the album seemed dedicated to kids and family life, rather a departure from much of what was going on in pop at the time (remember that at the time the biggest album around was Rumours, one of the testaments to dysfunctional relationships ever). Among the other songs of note were the title track, “Cufflink” and “Girlfriend”, a song Michael Jackson would cover a couple of years later, plus the first single directly from the album, the upbeat “With a Little Luck.”

Critics were mixed in their assessment but largely underwhelmed at the time. Q gave it just 2-stars. Rolling Stone seemed to appreciate it, but calls it “breezily whimsical” and complain that it sounded unfinished – “’Backwards Traveler’”, it points out starts out great then “ends a minute and seven seconds later, almost as if…nobody had the presence of mind to write or record the rest of it.” Years later, allmusic retroactively thought it reasonably good, giving it 4-stars, the best since Band on the Run. They noted it was “the most song-oriented” record since that one from almost five years prior, and termed it “slick soft rock…as he ratchets up the melodic content…laid back, professional pop” with a “European feel.”

Perhaps it was a little too continental, or a little too laid back. While it did reasonably well, its sales weren’t staggering. “With a Little Luck” didn’t need that much luck to be a hit; the great single got to #1 in the U.S. and Canada (giving Paul six #1s in the States since the end of the Beatles) and #2 in Australia, #4 in the title land. However, the next two singles, “I’ve Had Enough” and “London Town” barely scratched into the North American top 40 and flopped in the UK. Although it went platinum in the U.S. (as well as Australia), it only made gold level in Britain and McCartney was mad. Oddly, he mostly was disappointed at its American reception, and chose to leave Capitol Records in North America, blaming them for what he felt was a lack of success of the album and of “Mull of Kintyre” there. That single, and “Girls School” have been added in to most CD versions of the album, good news for fans looking for those.

A year later, Wings came back with the critically-panned Back to the Egg, and between declining sales and Paul’s Japanese arrest for drugs that scuttled a tour of Asia, the band flew in their own directions by 1980.

March 25 – Sound Of Wings Sped Up Charts

You can let critics get to you and try to adjust to their criticisms. Or you can just have a bit of fun with them and dig in. Paul McCartney decided to opt for the latter with his Wings release Wings At the Speed Of Sound, released this day in 1976.

For three or four years, many critics had complained that McCartney was only writing love songs which were light-weight and bits of fluff, and that his “band” Wings was really not a bad at all but just a vehicle for his own self-indulgent ideas. So for his sixth post-Beatles album (of which, it was the third labeled “Wings”, with two being “Paul McCartney And Wings” and one just being “Paul McCartney” ) he decided to make this an absolute band effort. And write the most lightweight love songs yet.

He and the band recorded it at Abbey Road Studios, like so many of his great recordings before. However, this time around there was no John, George or Ringo around him, nor a George Martin producing. Nevertheless, Wings were no slouches (particularly ex-Moody Blue Denny Laine) and by the Bicentennial year, Paul had learned a thing or two about working the soundboards and he produced the record by himself.

To make sure people got the message that Wings was a band, not just a fictitious entity in McC’s imagination, he let each of the other members sing at least one of the song and take part in writing some of the tunes. Laine wrote and did lead vocals on “Time to Hide” and sang “The Note You Never Wrote”. drummer Joe English took the mic for “Must Do Something About It”, Jimmy McCulloch added “Wino Junko” and Paul’s wife Linda wrote and sang the ode to the joys of domestic duties, “Cook of the House.”

Adding to the band effect was the fact that not only did Linda play keyboards, McCulloch and Laine both played bass and guitars on various tracks. Still, it was Paul who led the way, playing bass of course, but also guitars on some songs, piano on others and singing the majority of the songs on the 46-minute work. that included the two hit singles, “Let ‘Em In” and “Silly Love Songs”.

Of course critics loved to hate both. “Let ’em In” was probably the silliest, most meaningless song he’d done since “Uncle Albert”… I mean, the whole song revolves around someone knocking on the door and him asking you to let them in. Not exactly “Year of the Cat” or “Sunday Bloody Sunday”. But it was a fun little single and it rose to #2 in their homeland and #3 in North America and earned him yet another gold single from the States.

Silly Love Songs” took on the criticisms head-on. “People have been doing love songs forever…I like ’em, other people like ’em and there’s a lot of people I love. I’m lucky…’you’ may call them silly but what’s wrong with that?” Nothing apparently. The song was a smash, the #1 song of the year in the U.S. in fact, making Paul the first person to have a year-end best-seller with two different acts. (The Beatles had two such songs, “I Want To Hold Your Hand” in 1964 and “Hey Jude” in ’68.)

It all got the album to #1 in the U.S. for seven weeks, and also to #1 in Canada where it was the second-biggest album of the year behind Frampton Comes Alive.

Were the critics appeased? Hardly. In general they doubled-down on their criticisms. Rolling Stone panned it, and later on Q gave it a measly 1-star. Allmusic rated it lowly too, at 2-stars. They noted that it was a “full band effort (which) ironically winds up considerably less cohesive” than past works and suggesting Paul was “resting on his laurels”, although complimenting “Beware My Love” (the “best-written song”) and the “bit of charm” in Linda’s song.

Wings hot streak continued through the year, critics notwithstanding. They were touring North America to great success and later in the year put out the million-selling live album, Wings Over America.

January 20 – Stewart’s Groovy Kind Of Career

Happy birthday, Eric Stewart! The multi-talented Brit musician turns 76 today… let’s hope he remembers to tell his wife Gloria, that he loves her. We’ll get to that in a bit.

Stewart’s name is far from well-known, but a good deal of the music he’s worked on is – most notably the band 10CC.

Stewart was born in Lancashire, and few details of his upbringing are on record, but we do know he joined The Mindbenders by 1965. They were one of the rising tide of bands in the British invasion, and soon after he joined them they scored a #2 hit on both sides of the Atlantic with a song he sang for them: “A Groovy Kind Of Love” . Of course, Phil Collins had a major hit with it about twenty years later, introducing it to whole new generation of fans. Although he didn’t stick with them for too long, The Mindbenders did two important things for him. It made him money, and it introduced him to Graham Gouldman who was also in the band.

After leaving the band by 1969, Stewart said he was “infected with ideas of becoming a recording engineer and building a studio where I could develop my own ideas.” He and Graham bought into a studio near Manchester, which they renamed “Strawberry Studios” as an homage to The Beatles (and “Strawberry Fields Forever”.) They soon had Kevin Godley and Lol Creme joining them to work on recordings there. By the time they recorded and did much of the music for Neil Sedaka’s 1972’s Solitaire, they had the idea that they could make their own music. Shortly after, 10CC came about.

With that background, there’s little surprise 10CC were known for meticulously-produced records. While popular here in North America, they were more popular and sooner at home in the UK, where they trotted out five-straight top 10 albums in the ’70s and scored 11 top 10 singles, including a trio of #1s. For the first four or five years, there seemed to be two duos within the larger group- Godley and Creme ; Stewart and Gouldman. In 1976, the former left leaving the latter pair to steer the band through the late-’70s and ’80s. “I was sorry to see them go,” Stewart says “but it became clear things went much smoother” afterwards.

Of the two “duos” within 10CC, Stewart’s was the more commercially accepted. Stewart sang lead on most of their big singles including “Art for Art’s Sake” and “I’m Not In Love” and he co-wrote almost all of their hits, including “Things We Do For Love” and “I’m Not In Love” (both #1 hits in Canada).

The latter, their signature tune, was inspired by Eric’s wife. “My wife, Gloria and I were having breakfast at home…she said, ‘Why don’t you say you love me as much anymore?’ .We had been married nine years at the time. I said, ‘If I say that every day, the words will lose their meaning, won’t they?’ She said ‘No they won’t.’ … I went off to the living room where I had a grand piano and my acoustic guitar and began writing a song about saying ‘I love you’ without actually saying it.” As of last year at least, Eric and Gloria were still happily wed, 50-plus years in.

While 10CC slowed down in the ’80s (Eric eventually ran into issues with Graham and quit for good in 1995), he made friends with Paul McCartney. Apparently at the suggestion of super-producer George Martin (who felt Paul needed “new blood”), he joined the Beatle in 1982 to do guitar work and backing vocals on his Tug of War album and then collaborated on the next three albums of his. that culminated in 1986’s Press to Play. Stewart co-wrote six of the songs with Paul, did guitars and keyboards and helped out in the studio process. Unfortunately, the album was not one of the high points in Paul’s career, lacking a hit single and going gold only in the UK. the pair didn’t work together much after and since then, but for minor contributions on albums by Alan Parsons and Abba’s Agnetha, Stewart seems to have largely left the business.

December 25 – Jimmy’s Laid-back Christmas

Merry Christmas Everyone! I was taking it a bit easy today at A Sound Day but still, wanted to send out greetings to all you readers, whom I really appreciate – there’d be little point in this if no one was reading and hopefully enjoying – and note that there are a few notable birthdays on the day many figure is the Biggie Birthday of all-time. Happy 50th to Dido, 67th to Annie Lennox and 75th to the ever-youthful Jimmy Buffett. Here he does his trademark laid-back, tropical treatment on a modern classic by an even bigger name in music – “Wonderful Christmastime”, the 1979 holiday song from Paul McCartney. This take comes from his 2009 Christmas album, Tis the Season. It certainly seemed appropriate here today where we set a new record for hottest Christmas on record, with the temperature well into the 80s!

Here’s hoping your Christmastime has been wonderful this year! Be healthy and well and enjoy the day and those around you.

November 16 – Sir Paul Racked Up Another First

On this day in 2009, Paul McCartney found he was going to be playing a concert in a small venue soon. The star who’d helped the Beatles sell out Shea Stadium in the 1960s and had performed in football stadiums and cavernous arenas around the world since the band broke up had a date arranged for an intimate setting in Washington, DC. The White House. Because, 12 years ago, he was named as the third winner of the Library of Congress Gershwin Award.

The Gershwin Award is a national honor given to “a composer or performer for lifetime contributions to popular music.” Obviously, McC checked both those boxes well! The award was named after some would say The McCartney/Lennon of the ’20s, George and Ira Gershwin, creators of any number of old standards like “Someone To Watch Over Me.”

Although proposed in 2003 as a companion award to the Library’s Mark Twain Prize for Humor, it wasn’t given out until 2007, when Paul Simon was the first recipient. Stevie Wonder was awarded it in 2008, with McCartney next. Significantly, he was the first non-American to be awarded this prize by a branch of the U.S. Government; no other foreign-born artists would receive it until 2019 when Gloria and Emilio Estefan did. At the time, the Library’s James Billington noted it would be “hard to find a performer who has had more of an indelible and transformative effect on popular song.”

While the first award was given in a theatre in Washington, President Obama decided to host winners at the White House for the ceremony; in ’09 Wonder (for the 2008 award) and in summer of 2010, McCartney. At the ceremony and concert, Barack Obama praised McCartney and other winners for demonstrating “part of what gets us through tough times is music. The arts. That part of us that sings even when times are tough.” The ex-Beatle seemed pleased and added that not only was it great to be given the honor, “after the last eight years, it’s great to have a president who knows what a library is.” After the speeches, a full-blown concert kicked off, with a stand-up routine by Jerry Seinfeld (which Entertainment Weekly declared “fell flat”) and performances from other stars who were fans of Paul’s including Dave Grohl (who “wore the night’s biggest grin as he tore through ‘Band on the Run’, again according to EW) , Elvis Costello and even the Jonas Brothers for younger fans, one presumes. McCartney himself then did a seven-song set, starting with “Got To Get You Into My Life”, then “Ebony and Ivory”, with the previous Gershwin winner, Stevie Wonder, “Eleanor Rigby”, “Michelle” which he dedicated to Mrs. Obama, “Let it Be”, “Hey Jude”, with the others singing the “na na na” part and “Yesterday.” Much of it is now on Youtube and it was broadcast on PBS at the time.

Subsequent winners have included Billy Joel, Smokey Robinson and most recently, Garth Brooks.

November 11 – Brits Didn’t Need To Mull Over Wings Single

Paul McCartney learned some lessons well during his time in the Beatles…not only involving the creating great music, but in the marketing of it as well. Case in point, this day in 1977 when he and his band Wings took a page out of his old band’s book by putting out a standalone, two-sided single not tied to an album. The single was (to Europe and Australia) “Mull of Kintyre” or to North American audiences, “Girls School.”

They’d recorded them late in the summer, with Wings At The Speed of Sound beginning to drop from the charts and work on their next album, London Town, slowing down considerably because Linda McCartney was pregnant. So they decided to give the fans a single to tie them over until spring ’78, when London Town would be ready. And much like the Beatles had done a decade earlier with “Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane”, it was a massive success… especially the Euro A-side.

To the Scots, a “mull” is a bare hill or mountain. Kintyre is a peninsula where Paul had his beloved farm. So the traditional-sounding song was, according to him an ode to the place. “I certainly loved Scotland enough…it was really a love song about how I enjoyed being there.” And what’s a Scottish ditty without bagpipes? Wings brought in the Campbelltown Pipe Band to play them on the track, which was largely recorded outside. The pipes and Paul’s guitar and singing was all done in the elements on the windy moor, with only Linda’s percussion and Denny Laine’s guitars being recorded in a studio.

McC correctly assumed that Americans might not relate much to a song about the Scottish geography nor to a “rock” song with lots of bagpipes, so over here, the “b-side” was in fact the “a-side.” “Girls School” was much more of a typical Wings rock song with Paul playing bass, Jimmy McCulloch (guitars) and Joe English (drums) supplementing the McCartney’s and Laine. And the lyrics… well, Paul had some interesting ideas about all-girls’ schools, which Songfacts characterize as “semi-pornographic.” A nurse who gave all-body massages, a school mistress who ran movies that required the shades be drawn. If Paul didn’t get the idea from an X-rated movie, one can bet it probably inspired at least one or two!

However, despite the raciness and rocking sound, “Girls School” wasn’t a major hit. It got to #33 in the U.S. and #34 in Canada, their least successful single since the forgettable “Letting Go” in 1975. But his assumption was right also; “Mull of Kintyre” tended to baffle North Americans and was not embraced by radio. But overseas, it was a different story.

Mull of Kintyre” hit #1 in Australia, Germany and several other lands including of course Britain. There, it was a smash of the first order, booting none other than the Beatles out of the all-time best-selling single spot. Bye-bye “She Loves You,” hello, “Mull of Kintyre.” It was the first single to sell more than two million copies in the UK (which would have been equivalent to selling about seven million in the States at that time) and would remain the biggest-ever until Bob Geldof and his Band Aid came along with “Do They Know It’s Christmas” seven Christmases later.

Although initially only released as a 7″ single, both “Mull of Kintyre” and “Girls’ School” were added to the CD version of London Town later on.

September 13 – Yesterday, When The Fab Four Were Really The Fab One

A big day in pop music history about 20 450 “yesterdays” back. This day in 1965 the Beatles put out their very-different single “Yesterday” in North America. In retrospect it seems pretty strange that it was already out in the UK…but wasn’t a single. Of course, there’s a reason for that.

Yesterday” is generally listed in Beatles liner notes as written by “Lennon/McCartney” as was the pair’s habit even if one did most of the work. In this case that one was Paul. In fact, the song stands out for several reasons, not the least of which is that Paul McCartney is the only one of the Beatles on it! McC wrote the song and sang it, playing the acoustic guitar, an Epiphone Texan with steel strings and producer George Martin brought in a four-piece orchestral string section to complete it.

McCartney’s always said the melody came to him in a dream. He’s said at times that was in a Paris hotel, other times it was at his girlfriend Jane Asher’s house. The latter seems more likely since he also said he got right up and played it on a piano (and one might think recorded it too) so he wouldn’t forget it. Peter Asher seems to remember that, as well as Paul playing it for him and his mother (also a musician), asking them if they recognized it. It came to him in a dream, but the bassist worried it might have been someone else’s song that he knew sub-consciously. It seemed it wasn’t.

Lyrics were another matter. The idea for the sound of the lyrics was there, but the words took time. The band’s initial working title for it was “Scrambled Eggs” and it had the line “scrambled eggs, oh baby, I love your legs.” Probably wisely, Paul decided that might be improved upon. He came up with the basic idea and the line “all my troubles seemed so far away” which he thought was poignant, and easy to use. “It’s easy to rhyme those ‘A’s”. The result about a guy pining for the good old days and a love from the past was a little gloomier than many previous Beatles hits.

So that was that, and they all agreed they had a bonafide smash on their hands…right? Well, no. Paul didn’t like Martin’s idea of having an orchestra at first. “Oh no, George! We’re a rock and roll band and I don’t think that is a good idea,” the producer remembered him arguing. Then there were the other three, left twiddling their thumbs on the sidelines. None of them were happy – George Harrison seemed most outspoken in complaining about it – and they vetoed it being released as a single at first.

It was put on the British edition of the Help album, but not the North American one. That seems very weird, but wasn’t uncommon for them at the time, when they were working with different record labels in different countries. Americans would end up getting it on LP in ’66 as part of Yesterday & Today. They released it as a standalone single over here, and in a few other areas like Scandinavia, with a solid b-side as well, “I Should Have Known Better.

It was a big hit, as we know and would’ve expected. It hit #1 in the States (where it was their tenth chart-topper in their very young career ), as well as Australia and Sweden, and won them the Ivor Novello Award for Song of the Year. And it earned them more critical respect from older types who’d previously written them off as teeny-bopper noise-makers. As Peter Asher notes, it “became the exemplar of how to marry a pop song and a string quartet.” And that found fans far and wide.

BMI reported it was the third-most played song of the 20th Century, and fittingly the BBC, despite the band’s initial downplaying of it at home, voted it the “Best Pop Song of the 20th Century” in 1999. Apparently so, as Guinness and the book of records say it has been recorded by over 3000 (!) different artists, making it the most-covered song ever.

Fittingly, it was also picked as the title for a 2019 movie about the Beatles (and the fictitious idea of them not being remembered down the road.)

By the way, fans of McCartney might want to take a look at a new mini-series on Hulu currently, McCartney 321, with Paul sitting down in a studio with Rick Rubin to look back on the Beatles and his life since.

September 4 – Paul ‘Ram’med His Way To Top Of Charts

Leaving John, George and Ringo behind didn’t seem to be adversely effecting Paul McCartney‘s popularity fifty years ago. He had his first North American #1 hit outside the Beatles on this day in 1971, with the odd “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey”, the lead single from his Ram album. Or to be more precise, from the Paul & Linda McCartney album, Ram. Paul was happy to have his new wife along for the ride and to add some background voices… and through a complex legal matter with the other Beatles, to help him keep more of his own songwriting royalties!

It was his second hit after the Fab Four, following 1970’s “Another Day.” Linda accompanied him with backing vocals, and another future member of their soon-to-appear Wings, Danny Seiwell, was on drums. Add to that guitarist Hugh McCracken and various members of the New York Philharmonic on strings and jazz trumpeter Marvin Stamm, not to mention sound effects of birds, thunder, waves and his own distorted voice (recorded through an old answering machine) and he achieved a full sound for a song that fit a lot into its 4:49”.

Rather like the “Medley” on Abbey Road, “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” was more a montage of various short snippets of unfinished songs than one consistent entity. He says the first large part, “Uncle Albert” was inspired by a real man. “I had an uncle, Albert Kendall, who was a lot of fun.” He wrote it as a way of “addressing the older generation, half-thinking ‘what would they think?’” of his generation. Albert, it was said liked to drink then quote the Bible enthusiastically. The second major part, “Admiral Halsey” was inspired by someone real as well, American Naval Admiral “Bull” Halsey, a WWII figure McCartney says was “an authoritarian figure who ought to (have been) ignored.”

Fans were of divided opinions about Paul not singing “Hey Jude.” Rolling Stone , for instance, was dismissive, saying of it “a piece with so many changes it never seems to come down anywhere” and summed it up as “the worst piece of light music Paul has ever done.” Blender later had a dissenting opinion, calling it the best thing on Ram and “five minutes of whimsy and invention that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Abbey Road.” We on this side of the Atlantic tended to agree with them it seemed; it hit #1 in the U.S., Canada – where it was among the 20 top singles of the year – as well as New Zealand. Furthermore, it won the Grammy Award for Best Arrangement. While it was his first #1 without the Beatles, it wasn’t his last… he followed up with five more in the decade via Wings. Strangely, Apple Records didn’t bother issuing it as a single in Britain. Hands across the water perhaps, but not vinyl, it seemed.