Each week, we take a look at some obscure or overlooked entries in the catalogs of music’s big names. MAGNET’s Bryan Bierman focuses on an album that, for whatever reason, slipped through the cracks in favor of its more popular siblings. Whether it’s new to you or just needs a revisit, we’ll highlight the Hidden Gems that reveal the bigger picture of our favorite artists.
Part one in our two-part look at Paul McCartney’s 1980 solo album, McCartney II. Come back next Thursday for part two.
The old stereotype of the Beatles goes something like this: John was the “smart one,” Paul was the “cute one,” George was the “quiet one,” and Ringo was the “funny one.” Though all of these are true, you could easily swap the adjectives around, pin them on any of the four and they would still make as much sense. The Beatles were the Beatles; they were too amazing to tie down that easily. Many view John Lennon as the most experimental of the four, bringing the pathos and avant-garde tendencies that helped pen “Tomorrow Never Knows” and “Revolution 9,” but all four were pretty out there. George Harrison broke new ground by adding Indian instruments and structures to the group, as well as fiddling with new technologies on his 1969 solo album, Electronic Sound. Ringo Starr added his permanent love of country ‘n’ western music, reflected on “Don’t Pass Me By,” their cover of “Act Naturally” and exclusively on his 1970 solo album, Beaucoups Of Blues.
Over the years, Paul McCartney has been seen as the sensitive balladeer and the most light-hearted of the bunch. (This was hilariously parodied in Jack Black’s over-the-top portrayal in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, where he complains to Lennon, “I’m sick of you being so dark, when I’m so impish and whimsical!”) And while this Paul appears on “I’ll Follow The Sun” and “Honey Pie,” this is the same man who also wrote the unhinged, proto-metal “Helter Skelter,” and the game changing concept behind Sgt. Pepper. (He was also behind musique concrète freak-out “Carnival Of Light,” a legendary, still-unreleased Beatles tune from ’67.) Even now, as a grandpa with a new album of jazz standards, he still occasionally shows off his experimental side, like the crazed Oobu Joobu radio shows or his electronic work as the Firemen.