I have usually considered myself to be more of a Lennon fellow than a McCartney Chap, but I’ve softened on that over the years and I think I can say that I am somewhere in the middle nowadays, although I do sometimes find McCartney to be a bit of a dick sometimes (and that’s not to say that Lennon wasn’t, he just isn’t around to continue to be so). With the re-release of ‘Pipes of Peace’ just passed on October 2nd I thought I’d buy a copy, a used one, for £3.00, just because.
I do have some pre-conceived prejudices about this record, namely the opening two tracks, these being ‘Pipes of Peace’ and Say, Say, Say’ with Michael Jackson. I’ve never really liked either of them, which I appreciate to some will be heresy, but I just don’t, so my hopes rested on the rest of the album, which I’ve never heard and comes to me as fresh material, admittedly 32 year old fresh material though.
I do well remember the video for ‘Pipes of Peace’, which at the time was considered to be pretty good, with McCartney appearing as both German and British soldier, with the whole Christmas day ceasefire theme of 1914. I had thought this was a Christmas number one, but apparently it wasn’t, that was The Flying Pickets with a cover of ‘Only You’ by Yazoo. ‘Pipes of Peace’ hit number one in January and stayed there for 2 weeks, which I’m guessing was not the intention as it seemed to be geared for the Christmas Number 1 spot.
So, the rest of the album. It’s not bad, it’s not particularly great either. The second collaboration with Michael Jackson, ‘The Man’ is better than ‘Say, Say’ Say’ I think but it sounds like a Michael Jackson track rather than a McCartney track. I quite liked ‘The Other Me’, which sounds as though it was from an earlier period, ‘Hey Hey’ is almost instrumental and could be anybody, ‘Tug of Peace’ seems entirely pointless but ‘Through Our Love’ is OK.
Oh dear, I was trying to find something super positive to wind up on, but I really can’t. The album as a whole seems somewhat half-arsed, a mish mash of ideas and styles and far from McCartney’s best song writing.
Speaking of half-arsed, you just have to look at the cover, and particularly be back of it where it just looks like McCartney has wandered in for 60 seconds and then buggered off having posed 3 or four times and they’ve used the one that’s most interesting, which isn’t at all.
I hate the above video so very much.
I Actually bought a job lot of McCartney/Wings albums, and because I feel the need to always try and be at least a little bit positive I shall talk about another one now, and that’s ‘London Town’, which is a decent album, not without its problems but this 1978 release had a consistency of writing and production even if, during the recording, Wings were reduced to a three piece with the return of drummer Joe English to America as he had become homesick and, and lead guitarist Jimmy McCulloch leaving to join the Small Faces.
Wings and McCartney were, at this point, about as big as they had ever been, with the commercially huge ‘Wings at the Speed of Sound’ and the unexpected success of ‘Mull of Kintyre’ in the UK much was expected of them with this next, their sixth, studio album. I’d say it was largely a success, though the public were probably expecting another ‘Mull of Kintyre’ and perhaps for the track itself to be on the album, instead they were presented with a set of well-crafted songs, with a reasonably coherent theme and just one hit single. This being ‘With a little luck’, number 1 in the U.S and 5 in the U.K. There were two other singles from the album, ‘I’ve Had Enough’ and the title track, neither of which fared very well. The track, Girlfriend’ was covered on ‘Off The Wall’ by Michael Jackson, and it’s probably a better version.
It was at this point in the career of McCartney and Wings that they’re flame really began to wane, though it would continue to flicker back to life occasionally. Punk was happening and did change many people’s opinions and what they were prepared to spend their money on. McCartney was very much part of the old guard, who would, of course, continue to receive plenty of support, but fewer and fewer new, younger, fans.
I was caught in-between, being 11 years old in 1977 I wasn’t really sure what I liked, I had all sorts around this time. Black Sabbath, Ted Nugent, Genesis, David Bowie, Beatles, ELO and Wings albums, 7” singles by Sad Café and the Clash, The Tubes and Sparks. I remember wanting a copy of ‘London Town’ but in ’77 I didn’t really have any money for that sort of thing and it was usually my Dad or Brother who bought records, I would occasionally get some of my own as gifts, but rarely. I think that had I bought it, I probably would have been quite happy with it at the time.
And then there’s the next release, right after ‘London Town’, ‘Back To The Egg’. The measure of success in the seventies was still singles based, with the majority of albums selling off the back of the success of the 7”. “Old Siam, Sir”, “Getting Closer” and “Arrow Through Me” were the singles and only ‘Getting Closer’ touched the top twenty in both the U.S and UK.
Rolling Stone magazine described the album as “the sorriest grab bag of dreck in recent memory”. Which I think a bit harsh. There are some decent enough tracks on there and I would probably give it more turntable time than ‘Pipes of Peace’, though in fairness that didn’t’ get a good Rolling Stone review either, 2 stars I think, out of 5.
There are very few musicians who can consistently put out really high quality material on every album. They may well realise this of course, but music is a business and sometimes there are contractual obligations that require a release, even if everybody knows it isn’t going to be up to scratch. I don’t think ‘Back to the Egg’ is one of these as there appears to be an attempt at concept and the songs are not all as terrible as Rolling Stone might have you think. If you give them a chance then they are quite listenable.
And the McCartney vinyl lot continues, this time with the aforementioned, ‘Wings at the speed of sound’. I do recollect having this, not me, but an album that was in the house at some point, and I do remember rather liking it. Sometimes having a memory of something, a familiarity, can cloud ones judgement and there’s every possibility that this isn’t as good an album as I think it is. Does that matter? It probably doesn’t and it’s all subjective.
There were two hit singles taken from the album, ‘Silly Love songs’, a number 2 in the UK and 1 in the U.S, and ‘Let ‘em in’ a number 2 in the U.K and 3 in the U.S. It was the tour after this album that resulted in the triple live album, ‘Wings Over America’, which I’ll get to another time.
For me, this album has a consistency that some of the other albums lack, even ‘Cook of the House’ is OK, within the context of the rest of the album, which some have suggested is a day in the life of the McCartney’s, which it may well be, resulting in something both comfortable and familiar. It does remind me, in feel, of Gerry Rafferty, City to City, though this could be time frame related and there isn’t a track that reaches the heights of ‘Baker Street’ here. There also isn’t anything as bad as ‘The Frog Chorus’ either, so that’s a blessing.
I have several more that I’ll get to at some point, but for the time being I have McCartney fatigue and need to listen to something else!I probably should have done these in the correct order as well.