A Living Legend. A National Treasure (who cares what Nation?). A Game Changer. There is nothing this humble blogger could write that hasn’t already been written, but that’s never stopped me before has it? I don’t know if the folks who asked me to help promote a contest they are running for graphic artists around the world are going to see these records the way I see them, but this isn’t pay for play as they say in the world of market research. As I understand it, designers are invited to submit graphic art that is supposed to have been inspired by the recently re-released 1970 McCartney I (Bowl of Cherries) and the McCartney II album released ten years later in 1980. I always figured I’d get around to doing a Paul McCartney post, but I didn’t think it would go down this way. For graphic artists this is a wonderful opportunity to get worldwide exposure. Apparently Sir Paul will sign a lithograph of the winning entry, selected by him personally, and post some of the winning artist’s work on his web site. More details below.
So, great for artist community, but I’m left to make comment on the music in question. Before I begin let me just say; I’ve stated in the past that if I had to choose the best band of all time with a gun pointed at my head I would say The Beatles. Honestly, probably without the gun, but many of our younger readers never really listened to every song on every album, nor did they care to. The Beatles are more than likely your parent’s music. The fact that they endured 40 plus years in the minds of the public is nothing short of astounding. They are taking on the status of Mozart and (Roll Over) Beethoven. As far as I’m concerned rightfully so, but there are many reasons for their fame that just won’t go away. I just bought a copy of their Ed Sullivan shows on DVD recently. Haven’t watched it yet, but I’ll get around to it. In fact, I’ve got an unopened DVD copy of Anthology too. I saw it on TV when it came out, but I bought it about three years ago at Christmas time when I was shopping for someone else and just put it on the shelf. I know a friend of mine who bought the recently re-mastered Beatles catalogue as an investment for his 8 year old son. Wouldn’t let the kid open the package! I guess what I’m driving at is every five years or so somebody comes along and re-packages the whole Beatles Experience. Been to Las Vegas lately? Huge billboards trumpeting the Love show. I drove into Boston for the about two years (it seemed) every day and looked up at a mammoth billboard of The Fab Four as Apple hawked their music coming to iTunes. I saw Beatlemania as a kid. I sold CDs in the mid 80′s when their music came to that format. I read The Love You Make. It just goes on and on.
When you break the kind of ground worldwide that The Beatles did and helped move Rock & Roll, played mostly at that time by African American artists like Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Little Richard (give or take an Elvis Aaron Presley or Buddy Holly) into the mainstream, you’re bound to be remembered. When you think of The British Invasion you think of The Animals, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Small Faces, Donovan, Manfred Mann, Hermit’s Hermits, The Who, The Zombies, The Yardbirds and scores of others, but you don’t always think Beatles do you? Guess who led the way? That is why it kind of pains me to say what I have to say here. Sponsors take cover; I’m happy to see that McCartney I is getting re-re-re-released, it was a fine record after all, but when I heard McCartney I & II I immediately thought Bowl of Cherries and 1971′s Ram. I hate to keep apologizing before I write my next sentence, but the truth is my hero Paul McCartney went a bit soft in the late 70′s. I followed Wings right up through 1978′s London Town, but as with the massively successful Wings at The Speed of Sound from 1976; the lead tracks were, well, “Silly Love Songs.” “With a Little Luck” might as well have been “Ebony & Ivory” to me. I had to move on. Nothing to hear here. Wings at The Speed of Sound still had the marvelous “Beware My Love” and “Time To Hide,” but by and large I didn’t feel those last three Wings records were must owns. I sincerely apologize to Paul and his legions of fans post 1979, but there just didn’t seem to be any more monster tracks like “Let Me Roll It” or “Letting Go” in his bag of tricks. Red Rose Speedway, Band On The Run and Venus & Mars were fantastic records all around. But after 1979 I wanted to shout his own lyrics back at him; “What’s wrong with you!, I wish I knew, You say time will tell, I hope that’s true.” Look, Paul always had a softer side to his compositions, but I felt he’d gone to far left of center. It’s just my opinion; it doesn’t make me right.
McCartney II? I didn’t even know it was called that honestly until today and I have what most would consider a massive collection. “Coming Up” was a nice pop song by most standards, but it wasn’t enough to bring me back to the fold. I had checked out. 1980 brought a slew of GREAT records and I only had so much money as a 20 year old kid. I NEEDED The Pretenders debut, Joy Division’s Closer, Talking Head’s Remain in Light, David Bowie’s Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), The Jam’s Sound Affects, Bruce Springsteen’s The River, Peter Gabriel III, Prince’s Dirty Mind, The Cure’s Boy’s Don’t Cry, U2′s Boy, AC/DC’s Back in Black, Squeeze’s Argy Bargy, The Police’s Zenyatta Mondatta, The B-52′s Wild Planet, Dire Strait’s Making Movies, Pete Townshend’s Empty Glass, The Psychedelic Furs debut record, Steely Dan’s Gaucho, Ozzy Osbourne’s Blizzard of Ozz, Genesis’ Duke, Billy Joel’s Glass Houses, X’s Los Angeles and Sousie & The Banshees Kaleidoscope. Not to mention, gulp, John & Yoko’s Double Fantasy. If I poke at my software, I guarantee I can produce another dozen must owns from 1980. See where I’m going with this? That doesn’t mean McCartney II can’t inspire great art. Sorry for being a bit of a downer, but good luck to all the artists who enter the contest!
Editor’s Note: Apparently the graphics for the McCartney contest were just a bit too wide for a direct post here. We’re going to have to make due with a link to the contest instead. The Giant Panther regrets any inconvenience. Now a few McCartney numbers…