McCartney 80 Solo Playlist

Spotify playlist:


I was going to do this in order, but then I thought it best to start with the McCartney solo track I play most, “Letting Go.”

It was the summer of ’75, the summer of “Captain Fantastic” and “One of These Nights.” The year before had been all about “Band on the Run,” the song and the album. It was a huge, unexpected comeback, a return to form. But “Venus And Mars” was not as highly anticipated, not as fervently embraced, probably because of its initial single, “Listen to What the Man Said,” which was a ditty made for AM radio, too light for FM, where “Band on the Run” had triumphed. But I had to buy the album immediately, and it’s one of my favorites.

McCartney is thought to be lightweight, but he can be quite heavy, ergo the Little Richard workouts early in the Beatles’ career, but they were about exuberance as opposed to bottom, kicking the audience in the gut, like with “Letting Go.”

“Ah, she looks like snow

I want to put her in a Broadway show”


Up until this time the biggest tour, the most anticipated, the one with the most press, was the Stones’ trek in ’72. But McCartney in ’76, it seemed impossible to be able to get tickets to see what was then called “Wings,” and I didn’t. But I did purchase the triple album collection “Wings Over America” when it was released just before Christmas. It’s the only triple album live set I found playable, even though I owned “Leon Live” and “Yessongs.” By this date live albums were polished in the studio, they were not live, but not “Wings Over America,” the imperfections were left in, making the experience more immediate, more powerful.


I lied, this is the McCartney track I play most, “Letting Go” speaks to my head whereas “Big Barn Bed” speaks to my heart. I’d given up on Paul’s solo career, not being able to afford everything and not expecting much after the execrable, utterly disappointing “Wild Life,” the first post-Beatles LP billed as Wings. But “Big Barn Bed”…

Ahmet Ertegun said that a hit record was something that you heard lying in bed listening to late night radio that caused you to immediately jump up, get dressed and go to the all night record store to buy. If “Big Barn Bed” was ever a single, I didn’t know, but I’d long given up the 45 RPM 7″ disc, I was an albums-only guy, and you didn’t hear “Big Barn Bed” often on the radio, but when you did… I remember hearing it on the drive up to Watkins Glen.

I didn’t buy “Red Rose Speedway” until the eighties. I didn’t even know it had braille on the cover, like “Talking Book,” but even a vinyl record is difficult to play ad infinitum. But once we went to the digital world, once we went to streaming, I’m constantly calling out…”Alexa, play BIG BARN BED!”

Oh yeah, Linda’s harmonies add texture, help make the record even greater.


Backstage after Paul’s appearance at Musicares I told him his performance of a song that evening reminded me of the live version of “Junior’s Farm” that was a hit. He was walking past me with Nancy, he turned around and told me “No, that’s “Coming Up.” AND IT WAS! You’d be stunned how many legendary musicians are students of the game, know every detail of their careers.

There was a studio version of “Coming Up,” it opened “McCartney II,” and it’s good, but it was the live version, live in Glasgow in 1979, that was the hit. One of the very few songs where the live as opposed to the studio version was the hit. Can you imagine this today?


I was working at Star Sporting Goods on Highland in Hollywood, just south of the Boulevard. I’d graduated from college the spring before, I was planning to quit to go work my job at the Goldminer’s Daughter in Alta on November 15th, I ended up breaking my leg before that, but that’s another story. There was a radio that played throughout the store, and it was quite large with many rooms. And it was either KMET or KLOS, at the time KMET was hipper, but KLOS was more palatable to the customers so that’s what we listened to most. “Junior’s Farm” was a hit then, a splash of brilliance after “Band on the Run” that felt so good, when records could still have excitement without melisma, without hitting you in the face, that’s the power of rock and roll.


“McCartney,” Paul’s solo debut, does not get enough recognition, enough respect, it’s an understated masterpiece. The problem was “Let It Be” came out at the same time and Paul was perceived as having broken up the Beatles.

This is the song I liked most, first. I used to play it on the guitar.


A masterpiece, its own pocket symphony, could have fit on a Beatles’ album, undeniable. Period.


I was a huge Rod Stewart fan, which meant I bought the Faces albums too, and i had to go see him live at the Capitol Theatre in the fall of ’71. The band started playing and then Rod strutted out from the wings and I’ve never seen a better stage entrance. And instead of singing right into the mic, he came up to the stand, kicked out a leg, let the stand fall back and then he popped back up and started to sing. Rod was gonna get away with “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?,” but it’s the Clive classics albums that eviscerated his credibility, that ruined his career, but before that he sat atop the rock throne, and was one of the best performers extant.

They played “Maybe I’m Amazed” that night.


It’s the sound. And the vocal. Only Paul McCartney can do this, it’s unmistakably him, whew!


My favorite song on the album back in 1970. I played this one on the guitar too.




You don’t get it the first time through, you might not get it until ten times through, but when you do! It’s otherworldly and powerful.


The opening cut on “Ram.” A clear step away from the debut, with more production. You’ve got Paul’s growl and you’ve got to place yourself back in 1971 when we were still licking our wounds from the sixties, but still thought we could execute change, we were worried about the problems in society but we believed we could overcome them.


Jaunty, simple and countrified, it could exist on the White Album with no problem.


At first you might want to skip it, but the more you listen to it the more you like it, the key is when Paul sings “monkberry moon delight,” it’s more than a throwaway, even though it seems like one at first.


A hidden gem. There are so many changes, different movements, but being buried deep in the second side on an album that was viewed as an artistic disappointment, not being as good as a Beatles LP nor as intimate as the solo debut, most people were and still are unaware of it.


Just the other day a famous musician said this was one his favorite tracks. It’s the album closer, and it sounds like it. The twists and turns, everything thrown in, all the elements previously exhibited on the LP, and then it becomes so majestic. This was not a hit, you hear it and you can own it, personally.


A single, not on any album, but all over the radio. Was he really singing about getting high? That’s not how he spelled it, that was a debate back then. “Hi, Hi, Hi” is a tear, this is a rock band, firing on all cylinders.


The first Bond film starring Roger Moore, it was a must-see back in ’73. And it’s funny, the theme song has survived more than the flick. At first take it seemed like a sell-out, but the track was so infectious and such a smash it superseded any questioning of its motives. Now the flash pots are an almost tired staple of the live show, but back in the seventies they were quite a surprise.


Just a single, it was not supposed to be on “Band on the Run,” but it was so successful that they decided to strip it in. It’s a road song, starting in Glasgow and going down through Liverpool…it’s so fast you can’t think, you just go along for the ride.


The single was “Jet.” And that never made it to number one and took a long time to peak to boot. But when the end of the year polls came in “Band on the Run” was on all of ’em as one of the best albums of ’73. Huh? Hadn’t everybody written McCartney off as lightweight? So even though I’d sworn off his solo projects, I had to buy the LP and see for myself. I vividly remember standing in my dorm room at Middlebury after dropping the needle and hearing “Band on the Run” for the very first time, I’m actually tingling as I write this, holy crap, this is FANTASTIC! And nobody was talking about it, nobody seemed to know about it. It took months for the album to gain traction, and then you ended up hearing the title track on the radio all summer, suddenly everybody knew it, McCartney had reclaimed the throne as the biggest rock star in the world.


It’s funny, this is the second most streamed track from the album after the title number on Spotify, I never would have expected that. The song seems to stutter. To be holding back, delivering just a smidge too late, it’s like being sexually stimulated sans climax, which you’re waiting for, which never really comes, you’ve got to provide that yourself, you’re left hanging. “Let Me Roll It” is long and heavy, it makes your body move involuntarily, so simple, yet so right, and that jerky guitar part that wakes you up just as you’re drifting away.


“The next time you see L.A. rain clouds

Don’t complain it rains for you and me”

This is my go-to rain song, not the Doors’ “Riders on the Storm,” whenever it rains this song goes through my head. As for complaining, if only it would rain today!


That’s thirty seven years ago, but far off back in ’73, when this album was released. What would happen after 1984, would life go on? Turns out it did, as it also did after 2000, but we thought about this, it was in the back of our minds.

In truth “Band on the Run” was a dark album, “Helen Wheels” didn’t fit, but it didn’t ruin it. “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five” is not playing to the audience, it’s otherworldly, you feel like you’re on the outside looking in, far from home.


“My Love” made many not buy “Red Rose Speedway,” who wanted more of that? Certainly not me. Therefore they missed out on this analogue to the second side of “Abbey Road” at the end of the album, it delivers.


The music hall sound that McCartney exhibited with the Beatles, like on “When I’m Sixty-Four.” I think this sound is completely unknown to youngsters but boomers were exposed to it, before rock and roll eviscerated it. Takes you away without being sappy like “Winchester Cathedral,” then again that’s a great song too.


Completely left field, an entire sci-fi crime story. If you bought in it was so satisfying. McCartney may have been the biggest star in the world, but he was willing to experiment, do something outside, which resonated even more with the listener.


“Standing in the hall of the great cathedral”

It sounds like it’s emanating from a cathedral.


I prefer the reprise, but the opening instrumental version is worth listening to.


A Jimmy McCulloch song smack dab in the middle of the second side of “Venus and Mars.” McCulloch had crawled from the wreckage of Thunderclap Newman to Wings.

“There’s more to life than blues and reds

I said I know how you feel

Now your friends are dead”

And a couple of years later McCulloch was too, from morphine and alcohol, making listening to this song eerie.


A new “Let Me Roll It,” not a remake but the same feel, slow and bluesy, stuttery, but not as famous because “Venus and Mars” was not embraced like its predecessor.


“Speed of Sound” was written off because of “Silly Love Songs,” which was quite catchy but the lyrics doth protest too much, and Linda’s vocal on “Cook of the House,” but although the LP is light, there’s some notable stuff on it. Like this music hall number with a change in the middle that youngsters seem unable to replicate.


Play it a couple of times and you won’t be able to take it off. The chorus is so catchy, and then the song goes off on a long hejira, it becomes intense just when you were afraid it would be wimpy, it’s a great ride.


A Denny Laine song, probably his best work after “Go Now.” Catchy. Gets your head knockin’.


Like floating in a sensory deprivation tank. You feel embraced and safe. This closes “At the Speed of Sound” on a note that makes you feel so good.


“Silver rain was falling down

Upon the dirty ground of London town”

The magic of some songs is hard to articulate, you just feel it, and this is one of those numbers. It was 1978 but you were brought back to the mid-sixties when London was still swingin’, when it was all happening there and you wanted to go there. McCartney was plugged in there, he was our conduit to that feeling.


The hit original from the greatest hits package that was released as the soundtrack to the film “Give My Regards to Broad Street.” When the song goes to the pre-chorus it starts to get good, and the chorus is memorable, especially when Paul sings with more and more emotion.


Paul was launching his album “Memory Almost Full” with an appearance at Amoeba Records in Hollywood. These gigs never start on time and the band punches the clock. But in this case, Paul took the stage not long after the appointed time and immediately launched into this and heads were exploding all over the store, as if everybody had been gifted a Lamborghini. This was him, the Beatle, the man. And he hadn’t lost a step. He hit the ground running. He had the best band, he still has the best band, and he knows how great he is, the music will speak for itself if they just plug in and play, and that’s what they did and I was standing about twelve or fifteen feet away and had to pinch myself, was this real?

It was and Paul is. Some day he’s gonna be gone, but so far he still keeps on choogling. And the funny thing is he’s not jaded. Yet he doesn’t suffer fools, doesn’t have endless time for interrupting fans, he’s trying to just live the life of a person on the planet, even taking the bus in New York City, he’s living amongst us, most won’t know how privileged they are, they won’t until he’s gone. He seems forever young, and as long as he’s here and doing it we feel that way about ourselves too. It’s not that Paul McCartney is 80 and old, we were transfixed when he hit 64, this is really about an opportunity to acknowledge his greatness and cherish his presence. It’s just a day in the life.

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