I’ve always been a Paul guy.
From the moment I heard him sing, my allegiance to McCartney was established. The song was “Let It Be,” the year was 1970, I was 3, and my parents bought the then just-released album of the same name and played it often.
I love John Lennon and his music nearly as much. But McCartney seemed to be able to do it all. He could write a heartrending ballad. He could sing a show tune and make it sound earnest and emotional, not merely camp. He could scream like Little Richard, play blazing guitar solos, a la “Taxman,” lay down the fattest and grooviest and most melodic bass lines in the world, and do it all with what sure seemed like effortless cool. Jazz has Miles Davis, R&B has Stevie Wonder and rock has McCartney. He is quite simply a member of the elite musical class.
On Thursday, McCartney will grace a Buffalo stage for the first time in his 50-plus year career, when he converts the First Niagara Center into a Beatles convention and fulfills the dreams of thousands of area fans. The road that led McCartney here has indeed been long, winding, fraught with pain and suffering, and touched by immaculate grace. Like so many others for whom this man and his music mean so much, I can’t imagine a world without McCartney in it, nor do I want to.
His career is easily delineated into three eras: Beatles, Wings and solo. And like any fan, I have my favorite songs from each era.
Choosing 10 favorites from the Beatles era is an exercise in futility: How can we possibly narrow down McCartney’s Beatle years to 10 songs? That said, I simply can’t resist. Here are just a few of his marvelous Beatle moments.
“Things We Said Today”
I recall hearing this as a kid, and being swept away by the yearning in McCartney’s voice during the chorus. Pure magic.
“And I Love Her”
What a melody. And here again is McCartney’s ability to infuse a conventional love lyric with something more, something deeper, a sense of loss and a sadness.
Yeah, I think I’ll go on ahead and invent heavy metal now, this being an off day, and me having nothing better to do. This is just blistering stuff, still.
McCartney just crushes this vocal, one of his very finest.
“The Abbey Road Medley”
It’s all here on side two of “Abbey Road” – McCartney displays some of his finest songwriting and singing, all the while laying down the template for melodic bass playing in rock for everyone who came after him.
“Here There & Everywhere”
This vocal – so warm and intimate and breathy, as it follows the line of yet another killer McCartney melody, backed by those lovely vocal harmonies from Lennon and George Harrison.
McCartney is rarely discussed as the “deep Beatle” – that would be Lennon or Harrison. But his best work has a subtext of sadness, and his lyrics capture the essence of a situation with economy and under-statement. This is a perfect example.
For the guitar figure alone – played by McCartney – “Blackbird” belongs in any list of McCartney’s finest. Add yet another ridiculously memorable melody, and bam, there it is.
“The Fool on the Hill”
McCartney always has empathized with outsiders, and this song makes being a freak sound like an honorable thing.
“Your Mother Should Know”
This is an oft-overlooked gem, but here is McCartney approaching Tin Pan Alley song-craft with a psychedelic mindset, and once again, coming up with an incredible hook.
What about his Wings years and his solo catalog? Miers weighs in on those eras later this week on buffalo.com.