December 3 – Mojo’s #1 All-time Not Quite Good Enough For A Single?

A lot of artists can put out albums that have two or three really good singles on them. Not so many can put out albums that have two or three really good singles and have the rest of the record filled with tracks equally as good. Such was the magic of the Beatles at their prime, as we found out this day in 1965, when they put out Rubber Soul. It’s worth mentioning that was only five months after their previous release, Help!

Rubber Soul boasted two classic singles – “Nowhere Man” and “Michelle”. But many debate over whether these were even the highlights of the record, which also boasted “Norwegian Wood”, “You Won’t See Me” and a song Mojo once picked as the greatest ever – “In My Life.”

In My Life” was a John Lennon tune (*) and one he considered his “first real major piece of work. Up until then it had all been glib and throwaway.” Some might disagree with that, but few would argue that it was a vast maturing of sound from say “I Want To Hold Your Hand” only a couple of years earlier. Take for instance that nice little bit of keyboard work, which was actually played by George Martin, inspired by a work of Bach. Martin played it on a piano, but at Lennon’s suggestion, they ran the tape slow while recording then sped it up, resulting in a unique sound many thought was a harpsichord. Even though he’d refer to it as “the pot album” because of their habits at the time, Lennon said compared to earlier works, “we were more precise about making the album.”

The lyrics too reflected a new direction and serious introspection. They came about when a journalist asked John why he didn’t write songs about himself or his own life. John rose to the challenge and created a poignant look back at his life in Liverpool with reflections about his friends and relatives like “some are dead and some are living, in my life I’ve loved them all.”

The song is considered a classic, and with good reason. Rolling Stone‘s consistently rated it among the top 100 greatest songs of all-time and pick it as the Beatles fifth best. Canada’s CBC list it among their 50 best. Yet for all that, it was never released as a single, even as a b-side. Such was the strength of their catalog back then. Curiously, it is certified gold in the UK, solely on the strength of digital sales.

And you might be wondering what that * was for earlier. Well, it was widely recognized as a Lennon song, but as was their agreement back then, it was credited to Lennon & McCartney. The pair shared credit no matter which of them did most of the creation. But which one did has been a bit of a controversy around “In My Life.” Lennon certainly did the lyrics, but who really wrote the tune is a mystery; both claim to. McCartney said of it “I liked ‘In My Life.’ Those were John’s words and I wrote the tune for it.” He said he wrote it as something of an homage to Smokey Robinson’s writing. Lennon however disagreed, saying he wrote it primarily although Paul helped finish the bridge off. So serious is that debate that Harvard University had a study to run computer analytics; they found it was over 80% likely John wrote the tune.

John or Paul or both, it’s a great tune. Another mark of that – artists ranging from Johnny Cash to Ozzy Osbourne to Bette Midler have covered it!


October 22 – When Paul Thought Writing Movies Was More Fun Than New Songs

Ambition is a necessary quality for an artist. Big ambitions often result in big, bold results…unless they are overshadowed by even bigger egos. This might well be the case in one of the ’80s oddest musical projects – Give My Regards To Broad Street. The album arrived this day in 1984.

Give My Regards To Broad Street was a huge multi-media vision of Paul McCartney. He wrote a screenplay, starred in it and made the soundtrack to boot. Which, one might think could’ve been great. Yet few would argue that it was anything but.

The film is a somewhat confusing to even read about thing with Paul, his wife Linda and even Ringo Starr all playing themselves. But he’s got to deliver some master tapes to the record company and they’re missing and we go through a “day” of Paul’s including various dreams. We won’t say what herbs might have inspired the dreams. As allmusic put it, it was a “disastrous 1984 film …a nearly impenetrable ‘farce’ involving stolen tapes, ghosts and funny moustaches.” The film flopped, losing money and scoring a rating of 21% at Rotten Tomatoes.

Still, there was the music…and it was Paul. It couldn’t be bad, right? Especially when he’s supplemented by a veritable All Star team of musicians including David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, Dave Edmunds, several members of Toto, Eric Stewart of 10CC and Anne Dudley of Art of Noise, among others. Not to mention Ringo Starr. Well, actually it wasn’t bad so much as pointless to the ears of most fans. It was a collection of songs leaning heavily on older, existing ones from his catalog including Beatles gems like “Good Day Sunshine” and “Eleanor Rigby” and ones from his past glories like “Silly Love Songs”. But rather than use the originals, he re-recorded them all, trying to sound very close to the originals. As allmusic noted about that, “if he reinterpreted them, this would at least be interesting.” Ultimate Classic Rock point out that the “affable Ringo…refused to drum on any of the reworked Beatles songs.” Paul did create a few new songs for it; “No Values”, “Not Such a Bad Boy” , the moderately well-received, retro-sounding  “Goodnight Princess” which only showed up on the CD (the LP contained shorter versions of several songs plus lacked this one due to time limitations of vinyl) and “No More Lonely Nights”, the album’s single and to many, one redeeming point.

Rolling Stone, allmusic and Q are in agreement with their ratings of 2-stars for it, a rather across-the-board bad score. Ultimate Classic Rock decided it stalled McC’s career and suggested “to say it didn’t work is an insult to anything that’s ever worked.” For all that, “No More Lonely Nights” with Herbie Flowers taking over the bass from Paul himself and David Gilmour on guitar, was a fine song and to allmusic a “lovely mid-tempo tune” that saved the record from being an “unmitigated disaster.”

And the public agreed, the single getting to #2 in Britain, #6 in the States, and #11 in Canada, making it one of his last notable real “hits”. The album did go to #1 at home but made lacklustre appearances on North American charts – #21 in the U.S., and #23 in Canada. The UK was the only market where it went platinum, and it hastened his departure from Columbia Records whom he’d been with for a few years on this side of the ocean. Perhaps not entirely coincidentally, George Martin never worked on a McCartney record again either.

August 10 – Paul Wasn’t Thriller-ed By Michael

August 10th was a big day on Michael Jackson‘s calendar. And on the flipside, a big but despised one on Paul McCartney’s.

For Jackson, the day had twofold stature. On the date in 1979, he instantly resurrected what was at that point a solo career that had been in freefall, with the release of his Off The Wall album. It would go on to sell over 20 million copies on the strength of singles like “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” and the title track. It quickly launched his adult career as “the King of Pop.” That made him not only a household name, but a lot of money as well. But on this day in 1985, he did what would end up making him a great deal more money – something Billboard called “the shrewdest move of his 40-plus year career.” A move that would make him hundreds of millions of dollars during his lifetime…but cost him one friend. Paul McCartney. Because on this day 37 years back, Jackson bought ATV Music Publishing…which the media basically paraphrased as “the Beatles songs.”

ATV stood for Associated Television, a company started in 1957 by British media mogul Lew Grade. It was primarily, despite the name, a music publishing company. In 1969, the Beatles entered the story, selling their Northern Songs publishing company (which held the rights to all the Lennon/McCartney songs) to ATV for tax reasons.

As it happened, McCartney and Jackson became friends and worked together on a couple of singles. During the time they were making “Say Say Say”, Paul talked of business to Michael…who paid too close attention. McCartney pointed out just how profitable publishing was in the music world, and how he’d bought the publishing rights to Buddy Holly’s catalog. This all apparently surprised Jackson, but was absolutely correct.

Music publishing is an industry as old as recorded music itself, if not older. Originally, it basically did what the name suggests – published music. Back in the pre-radio, pre-gramophone days, the only way to get ahold of popular music was to buy the sheet music and play it yourself, or have someone play it for you. Sheet music was a huge seller at the turn of the last century, and putting out those printed pages made money.

That’s still a part of the biz, but a much smaller one. But, music “publishing” is a huger industry. According to Robert Allen at Universal Music, the companies make their money four ways, one of which is the sheet music, or “print income.” Much more important are the “mechanical royalties,” “synchronization incomes” and “performance income.”

The mechanical royalties are monies paid every time a copy of the music is sold. A specific amount is given to the songwriter for every song on a CD, LP, DVD, sold or downloaded through something like I-tunes. It’s said that the typical rate is about 9 cents per song for a physical hard copy, although there is some variation. Sell a million copies of an album with ten songs you wrote on it, and that’s $900 000 just in writing money, for example.

Performance royalties are another huge source of income. Every time a song gets played on radio, TV as a video, or in nightclubs or other public gatherings, money gets paid to the songwriter. Organizations like BMI and ASCAP keep track of the number of plays, collect the money and distribute it back.

Synchronization royalties are the payments for songs used in movies or TV shows… for example, Stranger Things using Kate Bush’s “Running up that Hill.” These royalties can get into the hundreds of thousands of dollars when big movies or national commercials are involved.

Now, the odd thing is that even though the songwriter holds the copyright, they split the money (generally 50-50) with the publisher. Which seems a bit of a rip-off for the artist, but the publisher does do a fair bit of work for them. Especially when it comes to the synchronization; usually it’s the publisher who agrees to license out a song for movies or TV, sets the fees and does the paperwork. The savvier artists usually try to own their own publishing company though, so they can keep all the income, but few actually do so.

Which leads us back to ATV and Michael. In 1985, Jackson was on top of the world, Thriller was just starting to drop off charts over two years after it had come out, and it alone had made him $50 million or more by then, not counting all his tours and increased earnings from back catalog sales which had picked up. Around that time, ATV’s owners decided to sell. Paul McCartney by now regretted not having control over the Beatles catalog and tried to buy the company. Jackson got wind of it and swooped in at the last minute and outbid the ex-Beatle, buying it for approximately $47 million.

I think it’s dodgy to do something like that,” Paul said of it. “To be someone’s friend, then buy the rug they’re standing on.” When he tried to complain to Jackson about it, the latter reportedly said “oh Paul! That’s just business.” Business got more nasty due to the synchronization royalties. Up until then, Beatles songs hadn’t been leased out for commercials, but under Jackson’s guidance they were…which infuriated Paul. “It kind of spoils it. Just takes the edge off,” he complained, hearing his songs in ads hawking shoes, computers and more. The pair reportedly never spoke again.

But whether or not this bothered the Gloved One is unclear. As Billboard put it, he was “a profligate spender” so he really made use of the newfound income, which included some 4000 songs and had some of Bruce Springsteen’s, Pat Benatar’s, Bob Dylan’s and many more as well as the Fab Four output. In 1995, he sold half his holdings to Sony, who renamed it Sony ATV, for $100 million. Once in the hands of Sony, the publisher grew profligately, buying up other companies like Acuff-Rose, a major country music publisher, and eventually holding rights to over 60 000 songs (it’s since increased considerably from there.) Once again a bit strapped for money, he sold half his remaining share – or one quarter of the company – in 2006 for $250 million. In 2012, Jackson was no more…but that didn’t stop his estate from taking part in Sony ATV’s acquisition of EMI’s publishing division. In 2016, Sony ended their relationship with the deceased singer by buying out his remaining part of the business for another $750 million.

If there’s any message in the whole story, it might be that young musicians would do just as well getting a good manager with some legal knowledge to keep their own publishing rights as they would in bringing in, say a top-notch session guitarist for their records. And be careful what you “Say Say Say” to your friends.

August 9 – Pair Took Wings And Flew The Coop

On a day where we sadly mark yesterday’s passing away of one great ’70s musical icon – Olivia Newton John – we look at a rough patch for another great of the ’70s…and ’60s too! Well, the band was called Wings. And on this day in 1973, two of its members took wing and left. Guitarist Henry McCullough and drummer Denny Seiwell officially quit Paul McCartney’s band just before they were to depart for Nigeria where they were going to begin recording Band on the Run.

Although commercially Wings were doing quite well, albeit not rivalling the popularity of Paul’s previous band (but then how could they?) , things weren’t happy in the studio or at Paul’s farm. They’d just done the James Bond theme “Live and Let Die”, which had hit the U.S. charts a couple of weeks earlier and had some songs ready for the next album. Band on the Run would be the third one listed as “Wings” and Paul’s fifth since the Beatles broke up. After a relatively cool reception to ’71’s Wild Life, Red Rose Speedway, released early in ’73 had been a hit and gave McC a #1 hit in America with “My Love.”

Denny had been with Wings since its inception. An American, he’d worked with artists like a young Billy Joel back home and seemed to fit in well with the core trio of Wings, Paul and Linda McCartney and Denny Laine. Henry had been added in after Wild Life. He’d played in Spooky Tooth and Joe Cocker’s band as well as being the lead guitarist on the soundtrack to Jesus Christ, Superstar. Another little claim to fame of his is he’s the familiar voice saying “I don’t know – I was really drunk at the time” on Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.

While things initially were OK in ’73 for the band, cracks began to appear. Denny said in a later interview that Henry in particular was upset about a number of things. “Paul pushed (Henry) into a corner. Henry liked to play things differently every time. He had a little jazz in him.” But Paul wanted uniformity and non-variance. “The same way every time,” Seiwell said. “I think henry just had enough of it and left.”

Although Seiwell was in Paul’s better graces, he also resented how domineering the star was – even though they were called Wings, apparently the star saw them as just backing employees of his. there were arguments over the rate of pay (Denny and Henry were apparently getting essentially session pay while the other three were getting full member’s shares of the money) and the idea of going to Africa, and a land in the midst of a civil war, to record seemed the last straw for him. He quit too, something he now says “is one of the few regrets I have, that I didn’t sit Paul down and say ‘we gotta talk about this.’” He still considers Paul a friend and says “I never made music with anybody like him.”

Wings – now a trio – departed for Africa but quickly returned home (seemingly proving the other two’s point; the African studio was poor quality and Paul got robbed at knifepoint while there), getting the album done and soon after adding new guitarist Jimmy McCulloch (no relation to Henry.)

July 18 – Billy Passed Piano To Paul For Last Play At Shea

It was the end of an era in the Big Apple 14 years back. One which appropriately enough looked back at the start of the very same era. For this night in 2008 New York City hosted the “Last Play At Shea”. It was the final concert held at the city’s Shea Stadium, and who could be more appropriate to play a major show there than Billy Joel? Except, just possibly The Beatles. The night was a huge Billy Joel show, but Beatles fans weren’t to be disappointed either!

Shea Stadium was a sports venue in Queens. It dated back to the early-’60s, a time when giant, concrete multi-use stadiums were popping up in all kinds of North American cities. Shea came about out of the city’s embarrassment. New York had been home to three Major League Baseball teams about a decade earlier, but two – the Giants and Dodgers – left for California in the ’50s. This dented the local civic pride. Baseball agreed to give the city a new team…if a new stadium was built for them. The city agreed, and got the Mets, and Shea Stadium as a result.

Ground was broken on the site in early 1961, and the stadium was supposed to open in time for the ’63 Mets to play. The then mayor said a year before that “only a series of blizzards or some other unforeseen problems” could possibly derail the plans. The winter of ’62-63 saw a string of blizzards, and two major stadium contractors going broke. It opened in ’64 instead.

The stadium was big. It had a capacity of about 55 000 for baseball, and could be stretched to over 60 000 for football. While designed for the Mets baseball, designers were savvy enough to make it be able to accommodate football, and indeed the Jets NFL club did call it home for nearly 20 years. Although it had its fans, many considered it a little impersonal and cold, the outfield seats were too high and the few private boxes offered only so-so views.

Obviously, at some point entertainment promoters would come to realize that a 55 000 seat facility in the middle of a huge city could be of use for things besides baseball. Shea Stadium famously found that out in summer of 1965, when the Beatles played the first concert there in front of tens of thousands of screaming young fans. The sound was legendarily bad due to the stadium acoustics and sound system not designed for rock concerts, but it was still a landmark event, as was their return a year later on their final tour.

After that, the stadium saw a number of big concerts. In August 1970 it hosted the “Concert for Peace” with artists including Janis Joplin, CCR, hometown boy Paul Simon and Miles Davis. A year later Grand Funk, at the height of their drawing power set a remarkable record by selling out the stadium even faster than the Beatles had. The Police played in front of over 50 000 in ’83, with Sting comparing it to playing “on top of Everest” and quipping “we’d like to thank the Beatles for lending us their stadium!”. The Rolling Stones played an impressive six nights there on their ’89 Steel Wheels Tour, and Bruce Springsteen ended his lengthy 2003 tour there, bringing along Bob Dylan as a special guest. And in an entirely different type of “concert”, Pope John Paul II held a huge mass and service there in ’79.

But all good things are said to come to an end, and in the case of Shea, it was becoming increasingly unpopular in the 2000s. The Mets saw a number of other teams in cities like Baltimore and Cleveland building newer, slightly smaller but more comfortable stadiums with great facilities…and higher ticket prices. They wanted somewhere new, and the city was ready to see Shea go away. So plans were made for Citi Field, more or less right across the road from Shea, and a demolition firm was brokered.

But before the wrecking ball started swinging, it needed a big send off. Enter Billy Joel.

He booked July 16th and 18th for the last two concerts at Shea.

The 16th seemingly was a good concert, but as one might expect, the “fireworks” were kept for the final show. In front of a sell-out of 55 000, Billy played a great set which would have been well received just of the normal Joel fare…opening with “Angry Young Man” and rolling through 18 or 20 of his greats from the past three decades including “My Life”, “Everybody Loves You Now”, “Allentown,” “Keeping the Faith”, “We Didn’t Start the Fire” and “Only the Good Die Young.” But a landmark date needs some landmark special events, and many artists had fond memories of Shea. So Billy brought in friends. The great and seemingly timeless Tony Bennett joined him on stage to sing Joel’s “New York State of Mind”. Garth Brooks happened by and did “Shameless”. John Mayer picked up the guitar to accompany the “Piano Man” on “This is the Time.” Steven Tyler of Aerosmith came by to do “Walk this Way”, a song resurrected in the ’80s when redone with New Yorkers Run-DMC. Small town John Mellencamp visited the huge city to do “Pink Houses”, and Roger Daltrey of The Who did “My Generation.” Whew. That would have been quite a show. But that wasn’t all.

Pat Tyson is a writer who happened to see The Beatles play Shea when she was a youth in the ’60s. She was in the “nosebleeds” for the Last Play At Shea.

She wrote that Billy seemingly had finished and left the stage, but came back. Encore perhaps? “Billy walks back,” she told Daytripper, “and he says ‘Ladies and Gentlemen … Sir Paul McCartney!’ and everyone went wild! He and Billy played ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ and brought the house down. McCartney got a rousing ovation, then left the stage.” But that wasn’t all. He’d later return and Paul “spoke to the crowd and said Shea Stadium had special meaning to him and he was glad to be there.’ With that he launched into ‘Let It Be’ and of course the crowd sang along.” Probably as close as one could get to having the first act to rock the stadium also be the final one.

Much of the concert was released on CD and DVD, appropriately enough debuted at Citi Field in 2010.

As for who might have the best stories to tell of Shea Stadium’s musical past, one might think it could be Pete Flynn. Pete worked for decades for the stadium as a groundskeeper. In 1965 he drove The Beatles from the stage to an exit in the outfield wall. In 2008, he drove Paul from the outfield wall to the stage. Guess Paul told him he could “Drive My Car.”

June 23 – Brits Enjoy Show Three Years In The Making

It’s that time again! Lucky Brits with some time off and about 280pounds ($350) can enjoy one of the biggest showcases of live music, and other entertainment, in the world. After being canceled the past two years due to Covid, the Glastonbury Festival is taking place again in Somerset, England. It’s now the largest ongoing outdoor arts festival in the world, featuring comedy, cabaret, and of course lots of music!

It began rather humbly in 1970, when only 1500 or so showed up for the “Pilton Festival” and paid one pound (perhaps $6 in today’s funds) to see acts like T Rex and Al Stewart. The next year David Bowie headlined, it took the “Glastonbury Festival” name (actually that year it was “Glastonbury Free Festival”) and was in its second day on June 23. About 12 000 showed up, getting in free to see Traffic, Hawkwind, and others besides Bowie play the pyramid-shaped stage. Although there were also some poets and dancers performing, notably absent was Pink Floyd, who’d been scheduled but canceled.

Glastonbury grew in stature through the ’80s, and in 1990 it was this day 32 years ago, day two of three that a (then) record crowd of 70 000 had paid 38 pounds to see The Cure and Happy Mondays among others. Unfortunately that one was marred by looting and a small riot at the end, leading it to be canceled the next year and new policies put in place for security since then. Ten years later, in 2000, it was kicking off again. That year, the headliners for each of the three nights were David Bowie, Travis and the Chemical Brothers. For Bowie, it was a return 29 years in the making, while it was the first time for Travis. The Chemical Brothers, the premier EDM band at the time, had appeared twice before, but never as a headline act. Among the diverse range of acts on the lineup that year were the Pet Shop Boys, Ocean Colour Scene, Eagle Eye Cherry and even Burt Bachrach! It was the first for the new, famous 100′ high pyramid stage and it drew over 100 000 in paid attendance for the third year running. However, they had issues with gate-crashers coming on site, perhaps doubling the attendance, but also causing problems which led the regional council to refuse a permit for 2001 until the organizers got better perimeter security on board.

The event keeps growing though; attendance has hit as high as 175 000 in recent years. In 2017, Radiohead , the Foo Fighters and Ed Sheeran were among the highlights those who paid 238 pounds ($310) to enter and pitch their tents! This year’s opened yesterday but the real fun begins on Friday when live music – lots of it – begins. Among those of us in the typical A Sound Day reader generation, the big deal this year is going to be Paul McCartney, who’s headlining on Saturday night, with a two-hour plus set scheduled. It’ll be his first appearance at Glastonbury since 2004, although he had been slated to star in 2020’s lineup, it’s also the last appearance of his “Got Back” tour.  Younger fans perhaps will enjoy the other two nights, highlighted by Billie Eilish Friday and Kendrick Lamar on Sunday. Joining them at various times this weekend on the main, Pyramid Stage will be Crowded House, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Noel Gallagher and Diana Ross. If the main lineup isn’t your cup of tea, there are at least 14 other stages and venues to peruse, with performers including First Aid Kit, and blasts from the past like Billy Bragg, First Aid Kit, the Jesus and Mary Chain, Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze, Tom Robinson…and literally hundreds of new and upcoming acts. Or, if tired of music for a bit, campers can check out tents dedicated to charities including Oxfam and Greenpeace, or watch organized debates on topics like “defying the cost of living crisis” or “solidarity with Ukraine.” However, if you don’t have tickets, don’t bother booking a last minute flight to Jolly Ol’ England. The website advises the 142 000 tickets are sold out and it indicates they check carefully to make sure each one is used by the purchaser.

June 18 – 80? Maybe We’re Amazed

One of rock music’s true living legends turns 80 today. Happy birthday Sir Paul McCartney! Few rock stars are household names even in houses that never listen to pop or rock, but Paul is one of those few. Knighted by the queen, first non-American to be awarded the Gershwin Prize for Popular Music by the Library of Congress, 21 #1 songs with The Beatles in the U.S. plus 9 more since as a solo artist or with Wings… there’s so much to be said about Paul but so little to add to the well-known bio. So instead, we’ll look at Paul in words – words of his own and those of others.

Paul Reflects:

* “I don’t work at being ordinary.”

* “I can’t deal with the press…I hate all those Beatles questions.”

* “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.” (Paul is a well-known and outspoken vegetarian, as was his deceased wife Linda.)

* “We were pretty good mates, until the Beatles started to split up and Yoko came into it.” (Speaking about his relationship with John Lennon.)

I used to think anyone doing anything weird was weird. Now I know that it is the people that call others ‘weird’ that are weird.”

Others Talk Paul:*

* “Paul McCartney is a genius. Paul married rock and roll to beauty and forever raised the bar for composers, musicians and fans.” – actor Alec Baldwin

* “Within the confines of the studio, Paul was the one who sort of saved the situation always and the one who always went that little bit extra to perfect things.” – EMI Records’ engineer Geoff Emerick

* “I’d put Gershwin, Berlin and Hank Williams. I’d probably put Paul McCartney in there too.” Paul Simon answers who he thinks the greatest songwriters of all-time are.

* “Paul was the first love of my life. Yoko was the second.” – John Lennon

* “I’m in awe of McCartney. He’s about the only one that I am in awe of. He can do it all.” – folk singer & Nobel laureate Bob Dylan.

If you want to see the living legend, you’ll have your chance this summer… if you’re in Britain. He’s playing this year’s Glastonbury Festival next week. However, sadly us North Americans have missed out, it seems for this year as he just wrapped up a tour Thursday at Metlife Stadium outside of New York City. And he wrapped it up in style, doing a 40 song show (a bit longer than his usual , though the average for the tour which kicked off April 28 in Spokane was over 30 songs and two hours plus length), highlighted by Bruce Springsteen dropping by to wish him an early Happy Birthday and sing “Glory Days” with him, and Jon Bon Jovi also coming by to sing “Happy Birthday” to him. Among the songs he did were 16 Beatles songs in the main part of the concert including “Lady Madonna,” “Love Me Do” and “Hey Jude” , which ended the set. In addition he added in eight Wings songs including “Live and Let Die” and “Jet” plus some of his solo ones. Then he played an encore of “I’ve Got A Feeling,” “Birthday”, “Helter Skelter”, “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry that Weight” and “The End.” An Asbury Park news report said McCartney seemed to get more energetic as the night went by, despite it raining at times, and that “he kicked and skipped as he and his band were taking their bows with Springsteen.” Which gives one hope that maybe we will indeed do what he said before leaving the stage: “We’ll see you next time!”

June 1 – Sir Paul On Her Majesty’s Not So Secret Service

With a character who was a spy in a film called On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, who better to perform a James Bond theme than someone knighted by the queen…Sir Paul McCartney, perhaps? That’s exactly what happened this day in 1973 when Wings put out the single “Live and Let Die.”

It was the theme song of the James Bond movie of the same name, the first starring Roger Moore as “007.” The screenplay writer wanted McCartney to do the theme; producer Harry Saltzman was good with the ex-Beatle writing the song, but wanted a female voice like Thelma Houston or Shirley Bassey (who had a hit in the ’60s with the theme from Goldfinger) to perform it instead. He relented when McCartney refused to write it unless he, and his band, could perform it for the movie.

Not everything McC has written through the years is pure gold, but when he’s “on”, he’s really on…as so many great Beatles tracks highlight. He said he got a copy of the original novel the movie was based on and “I read it and thought it was pretty good (but) writing a song around a title like that’s not the easiest thing going!” Except, apparently it was for Paul. Drummer Denny Seiwell remembered “everybody thought it was cool that we were doing something for James Bond …(Paul) sat down at the piano and said ‘James Bond…James Bond…da da DUM!’ and he started screwing around at the piano. Within ten minutes he had the song written. It was pretty awesome, really.”

Indeed it was.

Wings were recording Red Rose Speedway at the time, and so he worked it into the sessions, with George Martin producing. Paul sang lead of course, and played piano (the bass being left to Denny Laine at the time), with wife Linda playing a keyboard known as an Electone; Henry McCullough was on guitar. Session player Ray Cooper added more percussion while Martin rounded up and directed an orchestra described (slightly derisively) by the NME as “a 3000 piece” one. They released it on Apple Records as a standalone single, just as “My Love” was beginning to drop down the charts.

Billboard loved it, calling it “the best 007 theme” and “one of McCartney’s most satisfying singles”, while over in the land of the Beatles, the NME found “it’s not intrinsically interesting, but the film will sell it and vice versa.”

The public found it interesting, and indeed the film’s success likely helped it (so too would be the fact that to get it on an LP, fans would have had to buy the largely instrumental soundtrack …or wait until 1978, when it put out on Wings Greatest) . It became McCartney’s third post-Beatles gold single in the States, where it peaked at #2, making it the best-performing 007 theme to that point. It also got to #2 in Canada, and was top 10 in the UK and Australia. It was nominated for an Academy Award, for Best Original Song, which it lost to Barbra Streisand’s “The Way We Were.” Saltzman got to be close to his original dream for it; instead of Wings, Connie Stevens sang it at the awards show.

Several artists have covered it since, most notably Guns’n’Roses who took it to #1 in New Zealand and #5 in the UK in 1991. Perhaps the most interesting “cover” version though is a parody by Weird Al Yankovic, called “Chicken Pot Pie.” He has frequently played it live, but out of respect for McCartney (whom as a vegetarian objected to the concept), never released it on a record.

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.