A couple years ago at this blog’s old space, I did a week-long review of Paul McCartney’s Off the Ground album and the singles and B-sides that came out in its wake.
Nowadays, that album gets slated (along with many of his) as a lesser effort, another case of “pizza and fairy tales” — if you will — that may have produced a few nice tunes, but was ultimately unmemorable. That always irks me because I was just starting to appreciate music when that album came out, as well as submerging myself in absolute Beatledom, so anytime someone speaks ill of that album or era, I come out barking like a goddamn Doberman.
But watching Macca sing “Sing the Changes” a couple weeks ago on David Letterman, I couldn’t help but think, “What a fantastically pedestrian and unremarkable song.” It’s not bad — few McCartney songs truly are — but that doesn’t mean it’s particularly good.
Then it kind of hit me. I’m older now. I’m a bit more jaded. I’ve a bit sharper tooth when it comes to music these days. I wonder what I would’ve thought if I was 11 years old and first falling in love with the Beatles and heard that? I probably would’ve thought it was f*cking awesome. And there probably is some 11 year old out there who does.
And there was probably an 11 year old in 2005 that thought Chaos and Creation in the Backyard was the dog’s bollocks, and an 11 year old in 2001 that thought Driving Rain was pretty damn amazing. Meanwhile I’m sitting here spitting as much bile at those album as I hear people give Off the Ground.
But the thing about it all is that even though I don’t like Driving Rain on the whole, I love “Your Loving Flame.” Even though I don’t like Chaos and Creation on the whole (at ALL), I love “Jenny Wren.” Even though the Fireman album already isn’t aging too well, I’ll still have a good bounce around to “Light From Your Lighthouse.” Macca always gives you one or two all-time keepers.
But for anyone who still wants to argue that the “Off the Ground” period was generally fruitless, I once again point this song out. Arguably the most regal ballad Macca’s ever written — an obvious golden-era Brian Wilson pastiche to be sure — but in his own canon, right up there with “Maybe I’m Amazed” or “Mull of Kintyre” for my money. And what’s more, it’s a sad, pained song — something you don’t often get from Mr. Thumbs Aloft.
The real kicker, of course, is that barely anyone outside hardcore McCartney fans know it, because he buried it on the B-side of a single that only reached #18 in his native country. Seriously, do yourself a favor and check this out. Play it loudly and then think again about slating McCartney.