Posts Tagged ‘Linda McCartney’

Tug of war. 40Th Anniversary.

Wednesday, April 27th, 2022

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Today marks the fortieth anniversary of the release of Paul McCartney’s Tug of war album.

The album is filled with nostalgia for me, I was seventeen, and on my first tropical holiday
when I purchased it at Tolmies record store in Burleigh Heads.

As with any music discussion, it’s enjoyment, understanding and appreciation is all subjective.

One mans ‘Hey Jude’ is another mans ‘Hey Hey’ (I’d actually like to see both those guys in the same
room, at the same time).

Paul hadn’t released a studio album in just under two years at that point, a timeframe mostly unheard of for
Paul and most artists of the time.

Like every Paul album I played it repeatedly. It was lush, it was beautifully produced, and it had a hit.

So, what are my thoughts now with forty years of hindsight?

It’s kind of of more Tug, than War, if you know what I mean.

The two albums previously, Back to the egg, and McCartney II delivered mixed, if not challenging
results and levels of success.

By the time Wings came to record Back to the egg, the constraints and novelty of being in a band
for Paul had set in, and definitely a sense of ‘Been there, done that’ must have been clouding him.

Tho a fan favorite, to these ears, a level of tiredness had set
in. Band members were wearing clogs on stage, some were almost vulnerable to a jacket with
elbow patches. This version of Wings (and there were many) appeared more roll than rock, granted, Back to the egg
had an edge missing from the folksy and overly long ‘London town’ album, but I’ve never bought into the adage that this
incarnation of Wings were the most rocking. Have a listen to Soily on Wings over America, then we can talk. Personally, I
had the feeling Pauls heart just wasn’t in it anymore, and that he was starting to feel a little lost.

The pre album single ‘Goodnight tonight’ was a reasonable success, but the singles that followed from the album
were moderate successes at best. A tour followed, again, a fan favorite due to the somewhat quirky set list,
to me, in hindsight, it kind of fell short compared to what was going on in concerts by other artists at the time.

Paul had set the standard with Rockshow in 1976, now in 1979 he was reduced to kicking a toy robot on stage for a laugh.
The setlist was was vastly shorter than the last time Paul had played British theatres, and nothing rocked and smoked
like the last tour, the closest they got was Spin it on, even that didn’t sound totally convincing in a live setting.

Paul wasn’t happy with the final show of the 1979 tour, or others during the run of shows, he knew they were under rehearsed
for the upcoming Japanese tour (which was going to add Another day, Live and let die and Let em in to the set list). We all know what happened in
Japan. It must have been a nightmare for Paul, but in hindsight, it was probably fortuitous. Try as I might I can’t really
imagine Wings limping along any further. A tour of Japan, then what, back to America? Nope, historically, I’m glad Paul got the
jolt. He needed to think about where he was going, what he was doing, and with whom. Wings continued on through 1980, but only on
minor projects, and overdubs on things like Kold Kuts. Tapes of rehearsals from late that year show they were a spent force.

Paul threw a curve ball in May 1980 when he released ‘McCartney II’, his second all solo album. This album featured the
monster hit ‘Coming up’, even earning a thumbs aloft from John Lennon. This single built up Paul’s stocks again, but, as the casual record
buying public found, after the first single, and then Waterfalls, the rest of the album proved to be a little quirky and challenging.
Tho a hit album on the back of Coming up and Paul’s loyal fan base, this album quickly became one of Paul less popular and
appreciated.

In time, this albums fortunes and standing would shift dramatically (Humble brag, I adored ‘Check my machine’ from the
first time I heard it).

1980 wasn’t finished with us yet. Nothing further needs to be written about the horror, emotional chaos and questioning
that enveloped not only the Beatle fan world, but suddenly, after December, the whole world was focusing on, and judging the former Beatles
(tho, were they ever, are they ever, really ‘former’?).

1981 was a pretty quiet year for Paul. News had filtered out that he was working with George Martin. Personally I was happy to hear this,
because even with a small period of time passing, I knew the reception that had greeted Paul’s two previous albums needed to change
for his next album, he was losing traction, and I knew it, and I’m betting Paul did as well. I sensed, and hoped, that George would get Paul into a studio that wasn’t a barn
or a castle, that the arrangements would be well thought out, and all those marvelous, what I call ‘little brush strokes’ would be back,
embellishing those always incredible melodies.

When Tug of war was released in April 1982, it was welcomed with open arms. Hit singles, beautifully recorded, lush, complex backing vocals that
wrapped their arms around the songs, and either comforted or exhilarated all who heard them. Paul has a habit of doing a One, Two, Three punch to open
many of his albums, Band on the run, Jet and Bluebird for example. Then you hold your breath to see if track four can continue the quality. In cases of
albums like Ram, Band on the run and Chaos and creation in the backyard, those punches continue to the very last note.

I need to switch tack now and look back with forty years of hindsight. In 1982 people were just SO happy to have ‘A’ Beatle release a solo album
that critical evaluation was difficult, especially from fans such as myself. I’d hazard a guess the high praise from the Rolling Stone reviewer may have
been tinged with relief and gratitude that we at least still had Paul here, and also, the fact that Tug of war really did shine sonically and arrangement wise
when compared to Pauls two previous album releases.

Side one.

The opening track ‘Tug of war’ is a masterpiece, played, sung and arranged beautifully. The sentiment and lyrics are pure McCartney, and the purest McCartney is
always perfection.

In years to come they may discover
What the air we breathe and the life we lead
Are all about
But it won’t be soon enough
Soon enough for me
No it won’t be soon enough
Soon enough for me.

Track two is ‘Take it away’. A slice of perfect Macca pop. Slathered with glorious 10cc-esque backing vocals with Eric Stewart stepping into the role
of backing vocalist after Denny Laines departure. Eric slotted in perfectly, and his vocal blend with Paul, and especially Linda, was a highlight and would
feature on all Pauls albums up to, and including, Press to play (that album won’t be afforded such a wordy review, in fact, I could get it down to
five succinct words).

Track three ‘Somebody who cares’. The punches keep coming. Top shelf Macca, this song highlights the fidelity of this album. The recording of Pauls
acoustic guitar solo brings out even more emotion on top of Pauls vocals.

Track four ‘What’s that you’re doing’. What indeed Paul. Just because you record a jam with Stevie Wonder, isn’t a guarantee that it’s a good idea
to release it. Strangely, the remix/mash of this song on Pauls side project ‘Twin freaks’ in 2005, is one of the highlights of that album, and deserves
to be sought out.

Track five ‘Here today’. No words.

Side two.

Track one ‘Ballroom dancing’. A fun look back to old times, all the essential elements are there, production, arrangement, vocal arrangement . . but.

Track two ‘The pound is sinking’. Paul doing his old trick of making a song by adding sections of different songs he’s written, and putting them together.
Works a treat, this song is SO Paul.

Track three ‘Wanderlust’. The most ‘Wings’ sounding song on the album for me. Only Paul could write a song about the threat of being busted for
drugs sound so lovely, so regal.

Track four ‘Get it’. It’s at this point what I call a ‘Macca malaise’ starts to creep in. It happens on many of his albums, on side two, he starts to run
out of steam. It happens on Pipes of peace, the album after this (which could have been repaired easily, with spectacular results, stay tuned), it happens on Flowers
in the dirt as well. Here we have a fun little song, a duet with the incredible Carl Perkins. Like I said, it’s fun. End of.

Track five ‘Be what you see (Link)’ A link track to the next. Basically vocals with a vocoder. I think any album with vocoder vocals on them should be crushed with
an industrial pulverizer, but hey, that’s just me. Did I mention I find this album runs out of steam on side two?

Track six ‘Dress me up as a robber’. Inoffensive yacht rock, but yacht rock none the less. Tho, it does have all the essential ingredients present that stops me from
ever being close to disliking a Macca song.

Track seven ‘Ebony and ivory’. I have never understood the dislike of this song. Perhaps overfamiliarity fatigue from hearing it endlessly on the radio, but
it’s a great song, wonderful, simplistic but perfect sentiment, well recorded, full of hooks. Like ‘Through our love’ on Pipes of peace, Ebony and Ivory
redeems the ending of this album (alas, the same can’t be said for ‘Motor of love’ on Flowers in the dirt).

Before Tug of war, Paul was fast running out of ‘Fab Free Pass Credits’ and laurels to rest on. Tug of war gave him a shot in the arm, his fan base now had hopes for good time coming (sorry, not sorry), the critics were brought to heel . .

. . and then, Paul decided to make a movie.

In a short period of time, Paul lost a lot of those gains and good will. He was absent from the concert stage (I don’t blame him) and the general public had moved on from vanity projects. In 1984-88 Paul would find out just how depleted those stocks of goodwill were. A whacky thumbs aloft just wasn’t going to cut it.

When Paul gets cornered, and suffers a critical, and especially commercial smack down, that’s when he comes out fighting, and that’s when he delivers some of his best work.

Happy birthday Tug of war, you’re fantastic, you’re still better than most anything ever written and recorded by anyone (as is most everything Paul has released), but, don’t get too big for your britches. You’re the first born of what I call the ‘Paul Era’, which is post Wings, but unbeknownst to us, better, much better was to come.

Whippy spinout.

Wednesday, April 27th, 2022

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Hey the camera loves you.

Wednesday, April 27th, 2022

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Linda McCartney, a remembrance on what would have been her eightieth birthday.

Friday, September 24th, 2021

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Today on what would have been Linda McCartneys 80th birthday.

They say beware meeting your heroes, lest they disappoint. I’m here to tell you, sometimes that concern is unwarranted.

I’m one of those strange breed, a Paul/Linda/Wings fan as much, maybe more, as I am a Beatle fan. From my first days of falling in love with The Beatles, I was always drawn to Linda. She was the unfashionable, the unliked, the picked on, the easy target, the marginalized. I felt a kinship I guess.

I’d be watching Countdown, and there would be Linda, a maternity frock, knee high rainbow striped toe socks, and open toe platform heels, and above that, her unshaved legs. My mum would walk through the lounge room with a smile and say, ‘Oh Linda, she loves being a plain Jane’.

From the get go I recognized Linda as a fashion terrorist, and I’m pretty sure I recognized her ‘So what’ attitude.
I’d happily make an argument that Linda was one of, if not the first female punk, or, ‘rock chick’ in a band.
People swoon over Courtney Love, Chrissy Hynde etc, they’re lauded, they’re respected (rightfully so), but, what about Linda?

Here she was, no musical experience.

In 1972, Paul said, ‘Do you fancy being in a band?’. She was shown the chord of C, and that was it, sink or swim. She was not a natural musician, she was not a natural singer, but, in an attitude that truly was punk, she just went for it and didn’t care, or didn’t seem to care.

Years later talking about the relentless bile, scorn and judgement that was constantly thrown her way, she commented, “Sticks and stones will break your bones, but words will break your heart”.

So there Linda was, on stage, only been learning the piano about four weeks. Bare feet, hairy legs, mix matched clothing, sometimes Paul’s (as he too would wear Linda’s clothes), and unflattering glam make up . . if she wore make up at all.

Touring the world, being, and learning onstage, and the not so small matter of raising three children at the same time, with no real nanny’s or help.

All the while being pilloried for doing nothing more than falling in love, marrying, having a laugh, and daring to have a go.

Imagine having pretty much the worlds press universally disliking and judging, and your husbands fan base, which again, numbered in the many millions, actively, physically and vocally disliking you. But Linda maintained a ‘Get on with it’ and ‘Who cares what other people think’ attitude.

What’s not to admire about a person like that.

By 1976 Linda was a member of what was arguably the biggest band in the world. She’d flipped a finger to her detractors, and she was holding her own in front of crowds and critics of up to seventy six thousand people a night.

On songs like Silly Love Songs she was carrying complex harmony vocal lines, and replicating difficult string section parts on her keyboards. On other songs like Maybe I’m Amazed and especially Medicine Jar, her playing of the Hammond B3 rocked.

The important thing however to remember is, Linda never sold herself as anything other than a punk. She never, ever sold herself as something she wasn’t.

When asked about her skills, Linda laughed and said, “Are you kidding! most kids in high school can play the tambourine better than me, but I’m there for support, I’m the rough edge”.

I think a lot of female musicians owe Linda a debt of gratitude.

Fast forward to 1993, Paul and Linda are back in Australia and touring. There is a whole book I could write about that month, but for now I’ll mention just a few observations.

As far as meeting your heroes and having concerns of feeling let down, that could not have been further from the truth with Paul, and especially Linda.

The Australian tour wasn’t like America or Europe, the security was ever present, but very relaxed.

Before the tour commenced I wrote a letter. I kept it on me at all times in case I ever had the opportunity to hand it to someone, anyone, who might be able to get it to Paul and Linda. In this letter I explained how much it meant for myself and other fans in Australia to finally see them. I explained how I had become vegetarian, and the story behind it.

The first night they played in Sydney I had a ticket that got me into the soundcheck, and access to dinner in the VIP area.

At the conclusion of the soundcheck Linda walked up towards us, to talk to a technician. I took the opportunity to ask Linda if she would autograph our albums. She explained that she had to race out to do an interview, but if we gave our items to her assistant, she would see if she could sign them later.

Before handing over my album, I slid my letter inside it.

Later that night at the concert I was front row centre (natch).

At the encore when Linda came down front to take a bow, she walked over to me, leant forward and said, ‘I read your letter’. I didn’t quite catch what she said, she repeated, ‘I read your letter’. She put her hand over her heart and pointed to me. For anyone that would be acknowledgment enough, more than anything I could ever have hoped to ask for.

After the show I walked back to the VIP area. Back at my table, there, before me at my place were all my albums and items, beautifully signed with the most lovely and personal inscriptions from both Linda, AND Paul.

Incredible.

But, my letter was missing.

The next day, waiting at the stage door for Paul and Linda to arrive, she drove up first. Linda walked over to me and again said, ‘We read your letter’. Amazingly, Linda stood there and quoted whole tracts of it back to me, discussing different points, how moved they were, and how much it meant to them. She then said if it was okay she and Paul were going to keep it, and they would love to publish some of it. I wasn’t about to say no to Paul and Linda.

I asked Linda if she would pose for a photograph for me. For the first time in our by now many interactions, I was actually nervous trying to focus my camera. Linda walked over and explained you rock your finger over the shutter, never push the camera down. The photo came out great, but if you want to see it, you’ll have to come to mine, as it’s too personal to share around. Free photography lessons from one of ‘thee’ greatest female photographers of all time?, yes please.

A few days later it was old friends week as Linda arrived at the stage door and came to say hello. Standing next to us with his mum and dad was this little boy Dylan, about ten.
Linda knelt down to say hello.

Dylan was chatting away and said he was vegetarian. His parents confirmed he was, it was all his idea. Linda stayed at his eye level speaking so lovingly, kindly, compassionately and enthusiastically to him.

Linda said her goodbyes.

About half an hour later a roadie came out with his arms piled high with t shirts, records, CDs, and beautiful photography books. He called out, ‘Is there a little boy here called Dylan?’, we pointed to the lad, and the roadie walked over and said, ‘This is all for you, it’s from Paul and Linda’.

Upon inspection, everything was inscribed by them both with messages of love and encouragement, ‘For Dylan’.

In Auckland I arrived at the airport just before Paul and Linda walked out. They were so excited to see me, thankfully a friend captured that moment on camera.

The last time I saw Linda was at the concert the next night. Again, I was front row.

As she was leaving the stage for the final time she walked over to me, pointed, put her hand over her heart and mouthed, ‘Thank you’, then bowed.

I’m ‘so’ glad I got to tell Linda I loved her and how much she meant to me, she deserved that love.

L.I.L.Y