Nick Morfitt, from all the way just over my fence, makes his own music & has plenty to say about that made other people. Loosehandlebars invited Nick to put his keyboard where his mouth is & contribute to whatever this thing is. So, another new voice around here, there’s always room for anyone with a passion for our music though it is getting noisier.
By our Beatles correspondent Nick Morfitt.
What was the projection for Paul McCartney as a solo performer circa 1970 ? For John, it was Janov, a conscious attempt to kill the dreamweaver in the name of artistic truth. George was finally getting a chance to air his own embarrassment of songwriting riches, half Krishna folk song cycle/half slightly put out Beatle digs, with an illustrious cast of Clapton ,Keltner, Gordon, Delaney & Bonnie etc etc. Both were working with Phil Spector at the controls- airless,stark minimalism for J, the patented Kitchen Sink soundorama for G. Ringo was about to take his own Sentimental Journey of trad ballads and music hall songs,while holding the pocket tight with Klaus Voorman on John and Yoko’s Plastic Ono debuts. So what the heck was Paul doing ?
Hiding. Newly located to the middle of no-wheres in Scotland with Linda and Heather in tow, Paul must have been feeling like the black sheep of the (ex) Beatles. Chided for his “Granny music”, berated for his attempts to lead the Fabs through the dying embers of the 60’s and the only Beatle not to have been charmed by Spector’s methods, resulting in legal action and complication. Speaking of legal action and complication…APPLE RECORDS ! To Paul it must have seemed like an Allen Klein assisted nightmare, a case of too many people. Britain’s very own Brian Wilson, the songwriter’s songwriter) had no gameplan, merely to head off into the heart of the country and take stock. Musically at this stage there was no sure-fire bet as to how the first solo McCartney material would develop. For all the seemingly in-offensive doodles like “Ob la di…”, “Maxwell’s”, “Honey Pie”, a rather mixed blessing of a stock in trade, Paul blasted out raw soul nuggets like “Oh Darling”, demented “Helter Skelter”, quietly un-nerving “Blackbird”…an eclecticism of variable quality could be expected at the very least then.
Paul took with him an acoustic guitar and a Studer four track recorder (not the portastudio or laptop, more an analogue megolith). As the break-up of the Beatles slowly became moot fact to all but the public at large, home movies show Paul sketching a brand of pastoral, half-baked(with the emphasis on baked I think) folk pop that owes a lot to the fingerpicked stylings and general ambience of his acoustic “White Album” material. It’s obvious this was music for it’s own sake ,nothing more than Macca doing what he does best, in this context as the soundtrack to a new found family idyll(with danger just skulking out of sight) .It’s interesting that two songs he would promptly revisit,”Junk” and “Teddy Boy” originated from the Rishikesh days…perhaps Scotland was a similar restorative. “Junk” appears in two incarnations on the Cherries album, the winner being a haunting instrumental version that suits it’s whimsical hymn to impermanence vibe and “Teddy Boy”…Well, you can see why Lennon sabotaged his previous attempts to record this story of a boy named Ted. It’s good natured, light, tasteful fluff that is charming to the point of inanity. Lennon’s ad hoc “take your partner’s dosey doe” hectoring highlights that it’s one step away from a barn dance (You can hear this demo & “Junk” on Anthology 3 for comparison)
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Or home-recording late night with a nice supply of grass, doodling and rocking out your own one man band masterworks. It was the latter that formed the basis for Macca’s debut, finished off in more professional studios when Paul had decided that he rather liked these little bits and pieces. I’d argue that while McCartney is NOT an epic statement of artistic intent, it is more honest in intention than John or George’s debuts. Now I’m not saying “Plastic Ono Band” isn’t honest, it is,brutally so..but there is a slight pretence to proceedings. John’s primal scream concept suffers only because the writing is so superlative for a confessional, the music so perfectly crafted be it the “I Found Out” side or the “God” side. POB is a knowing masterpiece of self-confession couched in sensitive production ( a Spector surprise here), a definite statement. Yoko’s recorded in one day debut actually nails the Janov wail-like-the-cosmic-baby & be re-born idea more faithfully.
These exploratory recordings were made after a year of soul searching and beard growing showing Paul with his guard down and having fun. The perceived McCartney indulgence is tempered by a definite sense of the bittersweet, the tweeness is always slightly stalked by shadow and that holds true for the willowy nature of the first three Paul/Wings LPs. Less of an album,more of a scrap book and it’s home recorded fidelity renders it akin to the soundworld of the Escher demos or the barest of “Let it Be”‘s endless rolling tape. For all his blockbuster songwriting qualities there’s only one perfect for mass stadium consumption & even then “Maybe I’m Amazed” appears as version that feels just short of a full song and is more affecting & effective for that. Opener “Lovely Linda” is pretty self-explanatory , typical of the offhand homely ditties that permeate the early Macca oeuvre and features a charming chair-squeak. For those who may want to ship out already..just listen to his acoustic guitar work. Then via a stoned giggle we jumpcut to the rustic and rootsy “That Would Be Something”, the song that was George’s fave moment.
There are detours through vintage Beatledom (“Hot as Sun”), bluesy instrumentals, slightly uneasy ballads, field recordings(“Glasses”) & odd fragments of sound (the unfinished song “Suicide). After the rousing “Maybe…” the oddest moment on the album & perhaps its most mysterious, compelling moment “Kreen Akrore” is a surreal one man revisit of “The End” sonically inspired by a contemporary documentary about the tribe that everyone forgot. Linda’s worn angel vocals hang at the album’s fringes (& feel more integral to the music than Yoko’s yelps through “Live Peace In Toronto) they would become more defined later.
“McCartney” is a definite new beginning, albeit one that defied expectations for all the “wrong” reasons.-It’s far from the slick mullet haired rockshow, the Macca tour machine evolved into ( those drums are distorted and what’s with Macca’s “Beatboxing” to accommodate this?). It’s only controversial element is the accompanying press release. Here in a faux interview, included to avoid inevitable press hoohah,Paul took ownership for the break up of the Beatles and by default announced to the world at large that the Fabs were no more. John was shocked at this uncharacteristic bold move and in the legendary Jan Wenner Rolling Stone interview made his distaste known. Hey, Paul had grown up too, his defiance was REAL (& real was key to John at that time)..as REAL sounding as the album was. One could be pretentious & say the album predates the lo-fi one man band overdubbed efforts that would become fashionable later (Beck’s “Mellow Gold”, that’s one), oh wait I did ! Macca’s debut album served to illustrate that his life wasn’t a bowl of cherries while offering him a suitable platform to spread his Wings and ram on into the 1970’s. Man, they were lonely but they weren’t hard pressed to find a smile. Over and out.