The legendary track on “McCartney” is “Maybe I’m Amazed.”
I was immediately enraptured by “Every Night,” I came to love “Teddy Boy,” but now my favorite is “That Would Be Something.”
How could an album so slight seem like such a masterpiece today?
Starting with “The Lovely Linda” and ending with the almost bizarre instrumental “Kreen-Akrore,” “McCartney” sounds like what it was, an album cut alone, outside the spotlight. It’s like a vision into Paul’s soul.
That would be something
It really would be something
It most certainly would! But you’re hooked on this track long before Paul starts to sing. In an era of beats, of fake, the guitar sound penetrates, and with Paul’s dancing bassline you’re immediately infatuated.
And then there’s the humming. The “mms.” That’s what makes the song magical. It’s always the little things, thrown off, that penetrate us, that we can’t let go of, that we want to be closer to. Oh, to have Paul hum to us, it’s better than a wink, even though he’s one of the most famous winkers of all time.
And then comes the percussion, almost a shuffle, with a cymbal, he’s adding elements, drawing you ever closer, to the point where you can’t detach.
That would be something
To meet you in the falling rain, mama
Meet you in the falling rain
The weird thing is that’s exactly what you feel like. Like you’re strolling down a wet street after dark, head bowed, thinking of the milk you’ve got to buy, and coming in the other direction is none other than Paul McCartney, you lock eyes, he raises his eyebrows and smiles, and then you both move on.
And all that happens in two minutes and thirty nine seconds. There’s nothing superfluous, no more is needed, it’s such a contrast to a world where everybody believes an album should be seventy minutes and you’ve got to stretch out on a track to make your point, never mind add enough elements to demonstrate your prowess and impress your audience. But the truth is the mark of expertise is the ability to leave even the best stuff out. It’s always got to be in service to the ultimate production.
Paul seems to be having so much fun, not overthinking it, just getting down what he’s got in his head, further inspired by what he lays down.
And then there’s the coda, an unexpected ending winking at you, waking you up when it’s almost done, kind of like “Her Majesty” on “Abbey Road.”
And despite all the hogwash about compression, the loudness wars, the lame sound of files, even streamed “That Would Be Something” maintains its magic, the same way so much of the greatest music of our lives sounded spectacular emanating from the speaker in the dashboard.
“That Would Be Something” was never a hit.
Nothing on “McCartney” was ever a hit. Sure, “Maybe I’m Amazed” got some FM airplay, but really the album was a brief note from Paul to us, to the listener, to be played alone at home. Reviews were not spectacular, neither were sales. No, don’t get me wrong, it was far from a stiff, it just didn’t have the impact of a Beatles LP.
But all these years later, “McCartney” stands out. As uneven as it may be, as slight as it may be, it’s still better than any album released this year.
And if you get too deep into the details, you’re gonna miss the point. Because it’s truly all about the sound, the magic, the je ne sais quoi.
And nothing embodies this as much as “That Would Be Something.”
If only someone this talented, with this good a voice, could throw something off like this today.