Been a good while since these parts have seen a Friday Five, so why not one now, eh?
I’m pleased to report that on the evening of July 31, I will be seeing my favorite Beatle at my favorite ballpark. Paul McCartney at Wrigley Field. How excited am I? Being that this is my fourth time instead of my first, the excitement is somewhat tempered. I saw Macca at the United Center in 2005 and although I was thrilled with the set list (“Too Many People,” “I’ll Get You,” acoustic versions of “I Will” and “In Spite of All the Danger” as well as a solo piano turn for “For No One,”), McCartney’s ticket prices do tend to attract a corporate crowd that might not appreciate the show as much as fans who might only have the means to shill $20 or $30 for a ticket. Far be it from me to tell one of the richest men in the world about anything having to do with finances, but when I’m tapped on the shoulder and told to sit down during “Jet,” well … I get a little sour.
Nevertheless, it’s a Beatle. And he usually plays two to three hours. And thanks to these reissues of late, he’s focusing a bit more on Wings material, which I’m all for. So if you’re at Wrigley on July 31, look for me in the 200s section down the first base line in seats for which I might have paid a little too much.
How can Paul make it up to me? Well he did “Junior’s Farm” in Las Vegas. I’d love to hear that. I’d be thrilled with a few “Venus and Mars” tracks. But if he really wanted to make me happy, he’d go delving into the least covered material of his career – the B-sides. McCartney’s B-sides throughout the years have ranged from “dismal” to “questionable” to “Good Christ, man, why don’t you release this as a single right now?!” material, but for whatever reason, there has never been an appropriate B-sides compilation. I suppose if you’re wealthy enough to shell out for the deluxe editions of all these solo catalogue remasters, there’s a good chance you’ll get them all, but for those of you that can’t or haven’t checked into it, this month’s Friday Five looks at Macca’s 5 best post-Beatles B-sides.
The Friday Five
Paul McCartney’s Other Side(s)
Paul McCartney – Broomstick
I’ve heard (but never verified) that this song dates back to about 1986 in terms of writing and early recording. The early-to-mid 1980s were a bit of a fallow period for McCartney that generated a lot more filler and half-cooked material than true classics. It really wasn’t until Macca revisted his solo glories with the All the Best! collection that he started to find his sea-legs again (duff lyrics aside, “Once Upon a Long Ago” is a pretty great track, and “Back on My Feet” served as a more-than-worthy B-side). If the 1986 inception is true, then there’s a good chance that Macca could have been wary of this song’s power, but thankfully he got his buddy Steve Miller (yes, the Joker) to lend a hand during a 1995 session (the same collaboration also yielded “Used to Be Bad” and “Young Boy” for the 1997 Flaming Pie LP). The result here isn’t necessarily mind-blowing, but for a hard-to-find B-side placed on disc 2 of the “Young Boy” single, it proved a worthy reward for the fans willing to hunt down the disc (probably at a little too high of a cost on eBay … as I discovered and paid in 1999). Really relaxed, enjoyable groove.
Paul McCartney & Wings – Daytime Nightime Suffering
Both Paul and Linda cited this song as personal favorites when asked about their favorite post-Beatle Paul material, so the fact that it was a little harder to find than other Wings’ tracks (released only as a B-side to the “Goodnight Tonight” single in 1979 and then as a bonus track on the 1993 reissue of the critically-reviled Back to the Egg album) seemed a tad odd until Macca included it on the Wingspan collection in 2001. Since then it’s enjoyed a bit more widespread recognition, but for long-time McCartney fans this one’s always been counted among his best. Thematically, it’s a bit scattershot, lamenting the fact that a woman is only left with the bones after putting the hard work into a relationship, before shooting off on a wild tangent about a mighty river (is that supposed to be sexual?). The clumsy lyrical links make it seem like an early sketch for a song instead of a concentrated effort to sit down and write a unified tune. But aside from that, the groove is generally undeniable and it’s more than understandable that Paul would be proud of this one.
Paul McCartney – Kicked Around No More
According to my logs, this is the third time this track has appeared on my blog since its inception way back in 2006, but as this is my all-time favorite Macca B-side, and quite possibly my all time favorite solo Macca song, I shall not apologize for the multiple reposts. Tacked on the “Hope of Deliverance” single that was first issued in 1992, this song never got quite as much exposure as “Big Boys Bickering,” because this song doesn’t drop an F-bomb. But trading on his love for Brian Wilson-esque harmonies and the rare theme of disappointment and heartbreak (it’s still somewhat of an untapped well in McCartney’s solo oeuvre, but was in particularly short supply during Linda’s time on Earth), this brooding song carries a dark majesty that you rarely (if ever) find on a McCartney album, let alone a single. For years I’ve lamented its lack of exposure, but here’s hoping that when Off the Ground gets the Paul McCartney Archive Collection treatment and rerelease, it gets the attention it’s more than deserved since first bubbling up to no notice 19 years ago.
Paul McCartney – Mama’s Little Girl
Although credited to McCartney alone, “Mama’s Little Girl” dates back to the Wings days and was first cut in 1972 during the Red Rose Speedway sessions. Why this stayed buried for so long vexes me—McCartney got around to mixing it and finishing it in 1987, but wouldn’t release it finally until 1990 as a B-side to the “Put it There” single. Another three years later it got added as a bonus track to the CD release of Wings’ Wild Life (which actually did serve to enhance a pretty mundane otherwise album). The track could’ve brought plenty more charm to either Wild Life or Red Rose Speedway, but as a B-side to another finger-picky McCartney gem, it also complements its A-side perfectly. This is the kind of song you figure Macca can essentially make up as he goes, and when the result is something this simply disarming, it just makes you wonder: Why the hell sit on it for 18 years?
Paul McCartney & Wings – Sally G
The B-side to Wings’ standalone single, “Junior’s Farm,” this 1974 cut is one of the few to feature Geoff Britton on drums. He would be replaced in the Venus and Mars through London Town era by Joe English. Like it’s A-side it was recorded in Nashville, Tennessee (Wings had a history of doing ‘location’ recording that also included Lagos, New Orleans and the Virgin Islands). Unlike its A-side, “Sally G” actually takes to the flavor of Nashville, as McCartney sings over a country-steeped backing track, helped by Nashville session vets Vassar Clements, Lloyd Green and Johnny Gimble about a girl who performs in Printers’ Alley and takes up with the narrator before ultimately the relationship ends in shambles … as is the progression a Nashville tune would take. The song’s chock full of charm and actually charted at #17 in the United States, and for all of the derision Macca gets for lyrics, I have to doff my cap for “I never thought to ask her what the letter ‘G’ stood for, but I know for sure it wasn’t ‘Good.'”
Enjoy the weekend, all.