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Like many others, I've had a long relationship with Sir Paul McCartney; not personally, of course, but with the man's incredible musical output. Growing up with parents who were Beatles fans, the ballads of John, Paul, George and Ringo filled our house on many occasions, and our car as well on the many family road trips we took. More a child of the '80s than the '70s, my relationship with Macca took an icy turn after his 1983 collaboration with Michael Jackson, "Say, Say, Say." It wasn't the song's fault; the project was a great blending of talents, but it wasn't enough to keep my attention from wandering down a path that led more in the direction of The Smiths, The Cure, and Joy Division. I forsook Paul's post-Beatles work and didn't truly know or understand the hokey pleasures of Wings and his solo albums until just a few years ago. Fortunately, I can now catch up on old favorites and everything I missed in between with a new three-disc DVD set, appropriately titled The McCartney Years.
The first two discs in the collection compile pretty much every music video McCartney has ever made. You can choose to watch them in chronological order or in a special playlist arranged by McCartney himself. There is also a terrific commentary track you can choose to listen to, which I highly recommend, especially since these songs are all likely far less familiar to the average music fan than his work in the Beatles. Unlike the director's commentaries included with most movies, McCartney's commentary is spare and concise and actually offers pretty interesting information.
Some of the interesting tidbits contained on disc one: how McCartney spreading shaving cream on the King of Pop's face in the video for "Say, Say, Say" was an ad lib, how Bruce Springsteen told McCartney that he didn't understand "Silly Love Songs" until he had a family of his own, and that "C-Moon" was Johnny Marr's favorite McCartney song. Many of the videos are incredibly cheesy, especially in the more modern selection that comprises disc two, but then, so is McCartney. Wonderfully, ecstatically, jubilantly cheesy, no doubt, but cheesy all the same. In today's musical climate, it's sort of hard to understand how a song like "Hope of Deliverance," from disc two, could be a monster hit, but according to McCartney's commentary, it sold four million copies in Germany alone. Then again, David Hasselhof was also a huge star there… It's the first disc, though, that has the gems, including "Band on the Run," "Helen Wheels," "Mamunia," and the amazing "Coming Up." The latter clip, by the way, seems to have directly influenced Andre 3000's video for "Hey Ya," as in the original McCartney plays every member of the band, in different costumes and disguises (with the exception of two characters played by Linda).
Disc three is chock-full of live performances, the best of which is undoubtedly the 1976 concert film Rockshow. In the introductory commentary for this 25-minute performance film, McCartney talks about how it was one of the first projects to be distributed by future indie film magnates Harvey and Bob Weinstein. The brothers wisely decided to screen it on American college campuses, exposing masses of young adults of the late '70s to amazing performances of "Jet," "Maybe I'm Amazed," and "Bluebird." As an added flashback bonus, McCartney's mullet during this era of his life is simply astounding. The whole band seems to be having a great deal of fun onstage, without sacrificing an ounce of tightness in their arrangements. The other performances on this disc are McCartney's Unplugged set and his Glastonbury appearance. All the discs feature some good bonus material, including alternate version videos, McCartney's Superbowl XXXIX performance, and a 30-minute documentary called Chaos at Abbey Road.
This career retrospective is especially revealing when compared to John Lennon's post-Beatles output, and to think about what kind of music he might be making today had he not been senselessly murdered. Clearly, their partnership in the Beatles of sometimes opposing sensibilities was one of genius, but McCartney's spirit was much more one of the people. He was and is a rock-pop musician intent on making accessible, melodic, and sometimes saccharine music that is undeniably pleasing to almost everyone's ears. But don't get me wrong, I'm not calling this music a guilty pleasure - when it comes to enjoying the songwriting, musical talent, and ear for a perfect chord progression that McCartney possesses, there is no guilt about it. SEE ALSO: www.paulmccartney.com
Jonah Flicker writes, lives, drinks, eats, and consumes music in New York, via Los Angeles. He once received a fortune in a fortune cookie that stated the following: "Soon, a visitor shall delight you." He's still waiting.
See other articles by Jonah Flicker.
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