Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 15, 2007)
A few years ago, music DVDs boasted a real explosion. We got some excellent concert presentations along with terrific compilations of music videos and other archival elements. In particular, I really liked the Smashing Pumpkins and U2 sets that came out back in 2001 and 2002, respectively.
Unfortunately, we’ve not gotten a lot more packages of this sort over the last few years. The DVD format seems like a great way to collect videos and live clips but not many artists take advantage of it. Perhaps that's going to change, as we’ve seen some fine new releases. I really like the recent Ramones set, and now Paul McCartney weighs in with a three-DVD set called The McCartney Years.
The main thrust of this package is to cover most of Paul’s music videos from 1970 to 2005. The release also includes a lot of live footage on DVD Three, but for my purposes, I’m going to view the 42 videos as the “main program”; I’ll look at the rest in the extras area of this review.
To make my life a little easier, I’ll discuss each video in chronological order. I’ll offer a few notes about each video and also assign my subjective little rating on a scale of 1 to 10. So let’s get started!
Maybe I’m Amazed (McCartney, 1970): Arguably Paul’s greatest moment as a solo artist, I prefer the 1976 live version of “Amazed”, but that doesn’t diminish the high quality of the studio original. It’s a classic song that deserves all the praise it’s received.
On the other hand, the video stinks. It simply provides a montage of photos circa 1970. We see Paul, Linda and the family in various spots. And that’s it. Some nice shots appear, but it’s a dull “video”. 1/10.
Heart of the Country (Ram, 1971): Arguably Paul’s greatest moment as an album artist, Ram took a lot of negativity for many years but now often is regarded as a classic. I’d certainly endorse that opinion, as I think it’s Paul’s best album. Unfortunately, “Heart” isn’t one of its better songs. It’s a decent little folksy tune but not anything that stands out as stellar.
The video improves on “Amazed” but not by a lot. It shows film footage of Paul and Linda with their sheepdog as they frolic in the country and on the beach. It’s vaguely interesting in a slice of life archival way but it fails to deliver much quality. 3/10.
Hi Hi Hi (single, 1972): As with “Amazed”, I prefer the 1976 live take of “Hi”, but the studio version remains a solid little rocker. I’ve always thought this was one of Macca’s neglected songs, as it seems forgotten by a lot of people. The lyrics won’t make anyone forget Dylan, but hey, they got the song banned by the BBC – that counts for something, doesn’t it? Goofy lyrics aside – “body gun”, indeed! – “Hi” rocks and is a favorite.
And we get our first real video, too! It’s a decidedly simple affair, as Paul and an early version of Wings – though not the very first – lip-synch. The camera choices seem perplexing, as I get the feeling a semi-inebriated chimp directed this thing, but for sheer coolness, it’s a lot of fun to see Paul and Wings pretend to play. Is it hypocrisy that I’d roundly criticize a modern video made like this but I dig “Hi”? Could be, but I think it’s a fun clip nonetheless. 5/10.
C Moon (single, 1972): The reggae lite of “Moon” never did a whole lot for me. It’s funny, because I knew of the songs for many years before I actually heard it. I expected something a lot more interesting than this light little number. Oh, it’s not a bad tune, but it’s never been – and never will be – one that does much for me.
The video looks like a companion to “Hi”, probably because they were paired on the same single, so I expect these videos were shot in succession. That said, “C Moon” works much better. It doesn’t have as many weird camera choices and it flows better. It actually feels like a fairly professional affair unlike the choppy “Hi”. We even get some tricky overhead angles of Paul on the piano – wow! Snazzy stuff! 6/10.
My Love (Red Rose Speedway, 1973): Many view “My Love” as an example of Macca’s gloppier tendencies, and I can’t disagree with those. However, it redeems itself for three reasons: 1) Henry McCullough’s tasty guitar solo; 2) its personal significance for Paul, as it remains one of the tunes he closely associates with Linda, and 3) it’s just darned catchy. Love him or hate him, Paul writes some “get stuck in your head whether you like it or not” tunes, and “My Love” exemplifies that.
Unsurprisingly, the video offers another simple lip-synch affair, and we’re subjected to Paul’s horrifying 1973 mullet. Actually, the video broadens its scope beyond basic band shots, as we see a little of Paul and Linda dancing as well as a weird little solo tango from Linda. It ain’t much, but it’s enjoyable. 5/10.
Helen Wheels (single subsequently added to Band on the Run, 1973): A chugging ode to Paul’s ATV, “Helen” rocks. Damn, why doesn’t Paul write more tunes like this? No, it’s not exactly a deep or complicated song, and that’s fine with me. It delivers the goods.
The video proves a little more ambitious than its predecessors. The song comes from a transition period for Wings; McCullough and Denny Seiwell split, so “Helen” – and the rest of Band - were done by Paul, Linda and Denny Laine. The video reflects this, as it mixes lip-synch shots with the trio in the ATV and some other goofiness. It’s borderline idiotic at times but overcomes its flaws with a sheet attitude of fun – and Laine’s bizarre nothing-in-the-middle moustache. I shouldn’t, but I love this one. 8/10.
Mamunia (Band on the Run, 1973): I’d argue that Run is Paul’s second best album, but “Mamunia” isn’t one of its more interesting tunes. Oh, it’s a good one, but it pales in comparison to the album’s best tracks. Still, a lesser song on Band is better than the top tunes on other records, so I can’t knock it too much. And I’ve always love the “lay down your umbrellas/strip off your plastic macs” line.
The video’s an odd little sort of animated affair. It uses much of its time to simply show the words to the chorus, and the rest depicts some crude drawings to vaguely illustrate the lyrics. This is the opposite of the “Helen” video. I shouldn’t have liked it but I did, whereas I feel I should dig this one, but I don’t. I give it extra points for ambition but just don’t enjoy it much. 5/10.
Band on the Run (Band on the Run, 1973): Sometimes I forget what a great song “Band” is just because of its overplay. I can get a little sick of it, but that doesn’t diminish what a great tune it really is. Complex and catchy, it opens Run well and remains one of Paul’s top numbers.
The video follows in the footsteps of “Mamunia” with a partially animated affair. It’s a weird one that mixes art, old Beatle photos, and live shots of folks walking on the street. What’s the point? I’m not really sure, and I don’t think it’s very interesting. 3/10.
Silly Love Songs (Wings at the Speed of Sound, 1976): While I understand the criticisms aimed at “My Love”, I’ve never quite comprehended all the negativity generated by “Silly”. Some of that comes from the fact that Paul – gasp! – used the song to embrace the dance rhythms of the day, but since when was keeping up with the times a crime? And he doesn’t do this in a pandering way; he makes the track still feel like McCartney, and that killer bass line would make any excesses worthwhile.
The lyrics receive a lot of negativity as well, but I don’t think they deserve such criticism. In fact, I’d chalk up “Silly” as one of Paul’s more clever lyrical efforts. He manages to sneer at critics of tracks like “My Love” while he also embraces the form. It’s a very “have your cake and eat it too” track.
Don’t expect a lot from the video, though. It’s a tour diary meant to publicize the song, the album and the American trek all at once. We see some shots of “Silly” on stage as well as images of Wings on the road. I can't cal it anything special, but it serves as a nice time capsule moment. 5/10.
Mull of Kintyre (single, 1977): Up until “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” in 1984, “Mull” was the biggest selling single in UK history. For us Yanks, it doesn’t translate particularly well. Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s a good tune. I just have never mustered a lot of fondness for the moderately dirge-like track, and I wasn’t alone; in the US, the tune’s rocking flipside “Girls School” got a lot more play.
By 1977, videos were being used more often as a promotional tool, and “Mull” reflects this. Oh, it’s not a complicated mini-film of the sort that you’ll find circa 1983, but it shows more thought than its predecessors. Paul, Linda and Denny lip-synch along the Scottish shore along with a bagpipe brigade and a mess of Scots. It remains a simple piece but it fits the song well and seems like an effective video. 7/10.
With a Little Luck (London Town, 1978): “Luck” shocked my 11-year-old years because – gasp! – McCartney cursed in it. (Hey, I was an innocent kid!) I used to really love this tune, and I still enjoy it, but I can’t say it’s a classic. London Town came from another truncated version of Wings; Jimmy McCulloch and Joe English split before this album’s release, so they were back to Paul, Linda and Denny again. (McCulloch and English played on parts of the album, though.)
Whereas the three-member Wings rose to the challenge to produce a killer effort in 1973, history didn’t repeat itself in 1978. Like much of the album, “Luck” is a pleasant little track but not anything that deserves mention among Macca’s best work.
Though it boasts a more professional sheen than its predecessors, the “Luck” video offers nothing too innovative. It’s another simple lip-synch affair, albeit one with better production values. Wings play as a mix of folks dance. Well, at least it looks good. By the way, though he didn’t play on the album, future Wings drummer Steve Holly appears in the video.) 6/10.
I’ve Had Enough (London Town, 1978): Man, I sure do love rocking McCartney! Some slam “Enough” as trying too hard to be a rocker, but I disagree. I think it’s a simple but effective piece of retro rock that stands as one of Town’s better tracks.
The video continues to trend found with “Luck”, as it generates stylish lip-synch material. It’s really quite good in that regard. It boasts crisp editing, and the moody lighting fits the lyrics. Again, nothing exceptional happens here, but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and this is a cool video. (Wings footnote: new guitarist Laurence Juber shows up in the video, though – ala Holly – he did no work on London Town.) 7/10.
Goodnight Tonight (single, 1979): As with “Silly Love Songs”, McCartney absorbed a lot of criticism for bandwagon jumping when he released “Goodnight”. Many viewed it as an attempt to score some of those big disco bucks, but I think that view simplifies matters too much. “Goodnight” is more of a danceable rocker than a disco tune, and – ala “Silly” – it’s just darned catchy as well. We don’t know Paul’s motivations, but we can say that he made a memorable song here.
For the most part, the video succeeds as well. Much of the clip shows Wings done up like a 1930s band at a radio broadcast. I like this conceit and wish the video stayed with it the whole time. Unfortunately, some shots of a 1970s Wings also appear, and those take away from the fantasy premise. I still like the video, but it loses a couple points for the non-retro bits. 8/10.
Baby’s Request (Back to the Egg, 1979): A lot of people slam Egg, but I think it’s one of Paul’s better albums. It flaunts his rock side more than most and delivers the requisite number of catchy tunes. Too bad “Request” is one of its lesser tracks. A nostalgic throwback to 1940s style crooning, it’s a little self-conscious and simply not a very memorable tune.
While not as cool as the “Goodnight” video, the clip for “Request” has some fun moments. Paul and Wins dress up like period military folks and perform at a seaside bunker. Nothing here proves scintillating, but it’s an interesting concept. 7/10.
Wonderful Christmastime (single, 1979): Paul’s first attempt at a Christmas tune, this one proves divisive among fans. Some like I just fine, while many loathe it. I admit it’s a pretty silly number, but I think it’s reasonably enjoyable. It looks like crap compared to Lennon’s “Happy Xmas(War Is Over)”, of course, and won’t help those of us who try to argue that McCartney is just as “substantial” as Lennon.
A lightweight song gets a lightweight video. It mainly shows lip-synching accompanied by various “magical” holiday effects. I guess it fits the tune, but not in a positive way. 3/10.
Coming Up (McCartney II, 1980): As with “Maybe I’m Amazed” and “Hi Hi Hi”, “Coming Up” is a song that worked better live. In fact, US fans may know the live at Glasgow 1979 rendition better than this studio take, and I prefer it. Nonetheless, I dig this quirky electronic rocker, one of the better tracks off the underrated McCartney II.
Whether or not you dig the song, you must acknowledge the sheer coolness of the video. Decades before Outkast stole the idea for the “Hey Ya!” video, this one had Paul sing in front of a big band of Maccas. Video trickery allows for multiple Pauls – and a couple Lindas, too – to play the tune. It was awesome in 1980 and it’s still a wonderful video. If anyone dislikes a video in which Paul gleefully spoofs himself as a Beatle circa 1963, that person has no soul! 10/10.
Waterfalls (McCartney II, 1980): Another good number from McCartney II, “Waterfalls” offers one of Macca’s most understated songs ever. So gentle that it almost blows away, “Waterfalls” provides a wistful and endearing track.
After “Coming Up”, it was inevitable that the next video would be a letdown, and that’s the case with “Waterfalls”. It’s an odd piece as it works in the opposite direction of the song at times. Parts of it embrace the tune’s quiet nature, but then we get big blasts of water fountains that seem like a better fit for something explosive and dramatic. Maybe the director thought the song needed more action and wanted to spice it up a bit. It ends up as a decent video but an odd one. 5/10.
Ebony and Ivory (Tug of War, 1982): Over the past few paragraphs, I’ve defended much-maligned tunes such as “My Love”, “Silly Love Songs” and “Goodnight Tonight”. Will I do the same for the often hated “Ivory”? No. Hell no, as a matter of fact. This is Macca at his treacly worst. Yeah, it’s catchy, but when it gets stuck in your head, you’ll do anything to blast it out.
The video follows a predictable path. It takes the white and black theme to an extreme, as Stevie and Paul wear various two-tone outfits and exist in similarly contrasting settings. We do get a short throwback to the “Coming Up” video via a band of Paul and Stevies, though, and that’s kind of cool. Most of the video is pretty lame, unfortunately, such as when Stevie and Paul cavort on a massive keyboard. I like the video more than the song, but it still doesn’t soar. 5/10.
Take It Away (Tug of War, 1982): Call me a contratrian, but while I’ll stick up for often disliked albums such as Egg, I’ll argue that better regarded efforts like Tug of War just ain’t that hot. I think War plays it too safe, so while the results often prove enjoyably, they lack a certain spark.
“Take It Away” illustrates that tendency. While decidedly catchy and likable, there’s something sort of milquetoast about the whole thing. It just comes across as a little too generic and pre-fab for my liking, though I do enjoy the tune to a reasonable degree.
At least the video provides something fun, and not just because Ringo shows up for the shoot. This one actually tells the story of a band as they rise from nowhere to become a hit. We get a cool cameo by John Hurt in the Brian Epstein mode, and in addition to Ringo, George Martin shows up on piano. Sure, no one will call this a complex narrative, but it was ambitious for the time, and it remains quite enjoyable. 8/10.
Tug of War (Tug of War, 1982): I won’t bore you with my thoughts about War the album again, but “War” the song does nothing to alter my opinion. It has the makings of something very good, but it falters along the way. I think the production is an issue here, as the whole 1980s sheen brings down the track. Paul and George Martin just went a little too lush and overdone, and the tunes sometimes suffer.
Don’t expect anything particularly creative from the video. It shows lip-synch images of Paul on acoustic guitar intercut with some recording studio shots and archival bits of people playing tug of war. I’m not wild about videos that follow such an obvious path, so nothing here impresses me. 3/10.
Say Say Say (Pipes of Peace, 1983): Today fans tend to grimace at the Macca/Jacko pairing, but in 1983, this was hot, hot, hot stuff. Michael Jackson was at his absolute peak of popularity, and that sheen helped McCartney score his last really big hit. Say say say what you want about it, but this is actually a catchy little tune. It’s certainly a big improvement on Macca’s last collaboration with a Motown icon.
The video also proves quite enjoyable. It comes from the golden age of “big production” videos with elaborate stories – for the genre, at least – and it remains a lot of fun. Obviously the sheer thrill of Macca and Jackson together no longer packs as much of a punch, but I continue to think this is a fairly inventive and exciting video. 8/10.
Pipes of Peace (Pipes of Peace, 1983): After the “comeback” success of Tug of War, Pipes felt like an attempt to score more of the same. I’m not that wild about War, but it looks like Abbey Road compared to the decidedly lackluster Pipes. This album’s title tune stands as one of its more memorable tracks, at least. Sure, it’s essentially a remake of the prior record’s title track, but I think it works a little better. It’s no classic, but it’s pretty good.
The video stands out as fairly memorable. It recreates a famous Christmas 1914 cease-fire on the front of WWI. Paul plays multiple characters again, and the video provides a clever way to accompany the song. 9/10.
No More Lonely Nights (Give My Regards to Broad Street, 1984): While the Broad Street movie was a misbegotten disaster, the album managed to redeem itself via its three new songs. (Most of the music presented re-recordings of Beatles and Wings tunes.) I prefer “No Values” and “Not Such a Bad Boy” to “Nights”, but the latter does develop into a decent Macca ballad.
Like many videos for songs from movies, this one often degenerates into a collection of film clips. Oh, we do find some unique footage of Macca as he lip-synchs on a London rooftop, but most of the video comes from Broad Street. That makes it ordinary and not particularly memorable. 3/10.
Spies Like Us (single, 1985): The title track for a not very good Chevy Chase/Dan Aykroyd flick, “Spies” comes across like Macca’s desperate attempt to generate a hit. It’s a reasonably peppy number, but it never quite turns into the zinger it wants to be. Macca has done much worse, but “Spies” remains fairly forgettable.
While the song isn’t special, the video proves entertaining. It boasts new footage of Chase and Aykroyd as well as much goofiness from Macca. Granted, much of it just shows studio lip-synch and film clips, but it has some fun bits. I admit it’s a little odd – though refreshing – to see a graying McCartney since he’s been dyeing his hair for years. (Macca makes a little fun of this in one of his commentaries, by the way.) 6/10.
Press (Press to Play, 1986): Press is another much-derided Macca album that I defend. It showed a more daring, unconventional side of McCartney, and that was very welcome after the safeness of the albums since McCartney II. I also simply like a lot of the songs, though “Press” isn’t one of my faves. It suffers from goofier than normal lyrics - “Oklahoma was never like this”? Huh? – but still has enough pep to make it enjoyable.
The video provides a less intriguing affair. It features a fun premise, as it shows Macca in various tube stations and on trains. It gets a minor jolt of coolness just from the idea that he’s out there wandering among the littles; seriously, how fun would it be to have Paul pop in during your morning commute? But that’s about all it has to offer, so it’s a fairly banal clip overall. 5/10.
Pretty Little Head (Press to Play, 1986): One of Paul’s quirkier numbers, this is one of those songs fans either really embrace or they loathe. I think more folks fall in the latter category, though I’m closer to the former. “Head” shows an experimental, almost Talking Heads-style side of Macca that rarely emerges. I like it.
With a quick intro of the Beatles’ “She’s Leaving Home”, we get a sense of what to expect from this dramatic video. Kind of an early edition of Aerosmith’s “Janie’s Got a Gun”, this one shows a teen girl as she flees from an abusive household. Paul shows up as a background observational figure. The clip gets surreal at times; for instance, when the hungry girl approaches a leftover sandwich on the street, she finds it crawling with maggot-like men in suits. I’m sure there’s some social point being made here, but I’m not sure what it is. I’m not sure the video’s creators know either, so this one scores a few points for creativity but loses them for pretensions. 6/10.
Once Upon a Long Ago (single, 1987): After the experimentalism of Press, Paul goes safe again with the warm ‘n’ fuzzy “Ago”. As with something such as “No More Lonely Nights”, it’s a well-crafted tune, but it’s not a terribly creative or memorable number. I can’t find much here to stir any emotion.
In the video, we alternate between striking black and white lip-synch visuals and some animation of a family at Christmas. The former fare the best, as the cliffside setting proves dramatic and engaging. The animation seems more ordinary, though, and doesn’t blend that well with the live footage. 5/10.
My Brave Face (Flowers in the Dirt, 1989): Ala Tug of War, Dirt was another album often called a “return to form” that felt the opposite to me. As I mentioned, I’m one of the five people who’ll defend Press, so an album that retrenched with a less ambitious Macca wasn’t all that welcome to me.
But I will admit Dirt packs a few very good songs, and “Face” is one of its best. Co-written with Elvis Costello, it’s really top-notch Macca pop. Bright and lively, the song reminds us of Macca’s melodic gifts, and Elvis throws in some lyrics with more bite than the average McCartney tune.
While a lot of the video shows Paul and the band as they lip-synch the tune, it does attempt a broader story. We see a Japanese businessman/obsessive fan who tries to collect every piece of Beatle/Macca memorabilia. The plot doesn’t really go much of anywhere, but I give it some points for effort. 7/10.
This One (Flowers in the Dirt, 1989): The intro hearkens back to the Eastern-influenced days of the late Sixties, but the tune usually stays in more ordinary territory. It provides a melodic but not particularly scintillating pop tune. I like it, but I don’t love it.
This video may be the freakiest in the Macca catalog. It demonstrates an Eastern influence and gives us the creepy site of McCartney with eyes painted on his eyelids. It feels more like something Peter Gabriel would’ve done, but it’s not as good as his creative works. 6/10.
Figure of Eight (Flowers in the Dirt, 1989): Macca chose “Eight” as the tune to open his 1989/1990 concerts, and that probably wasn’t the greatest decision. Oh, it’s a peppy enough little tune, but it lacks the oomph to launch a live show. Is it a coincidence that this was the last time McCartney started a show with a new song? Nope. Anyway, I enjoy the tune, but it’s just not a really strong track.
Nothing much of interest comes from the video. Ala “Silly Love Songs”, this one acts as a tour document. We see lots of quick-cutting and wild camera moves to tout Paul’s live show of the era. It’s too busy but watchable. 4/10.
Put It There (Flowers in the Dirt, 1989): A simple piece that almost falls into the folk tune category, “There” has some charms. It’s a warm little lyric sure to resonate with fathers and sons. The melody doesn’t really engage, but it works well enough.
As one might expect, the video follows the song’s father and son theme. Lip-synch shots of McCartney are intercut with various dads and their boys. It wants to be heartwarming but instead seems cloying and obvious. 3/10.
Birthday (Tripping the Live Fantastic, 1990): The only Lennon-McCartney tune in the set, this version comes from the 1989-90 tour. Macca wasn’t in the best voice over that long trek, and his vocal weaknesses show in his raspy shouting here. His band provides a decent recreation of the Beatles original but don’t bring anything great to it.
And now for some true live footage – sort of. The video alternates between concert shots and a series of birthday parties meant to illustrate the aging of one guy. It’s a clever conceit, and the video melds the two sides in a surprisingly seamless manner. 7/10.
All My Trials (single, 1990): This is probably the most obscure song in the set. While some of its predecessors originated as singles, they managed to pop up in subsequent compilations. “Once Upon A Long Ago” isn’t exactly well-known, but at least its exposure on 1987’s All the Best allowed it to get greater airing.
To date, “Trials” remains an obscure single-only release – and not a single available in the US or many other parts of the world. It’s McCartney’s arrangement of an old traditional tune, and it works in a decent manner. I believe it was recorded at a soundcheck during the 1989-90 tour. It sure sounds like it comes from that setting; though the audio adds some crowd noise, I don’t think Paul actually played it live. It’s a little overdone but not bad.
The video tries to make a social point, though it’s not clear what point that is. We see lots of street scenes without much coherence other than “life sure sucks sometimes”, I guess. The visuals provide decent accompaniment for the songs but not much more. 4/10.
Hope of Deliverance (Off the Ground, 1993): McCartney only put out two original albums in the 1990s, Ground and Flaming Pie; 1999’s Run Devil Run included a few McCartney compositions but mostly features covers. Fans almost always prefer Pie to Ground. For the longest time, I thought they had it backwards, but I must admit my opinion has changed. I now like Pie quite a lot and see Ground as a more mediocre album.
But one that has its moments. “Deliverance” was an odd choice for the lead-off single, since it didn’t seem to boast much hit potential. It’s a pleasant enough little tune, though. I can’t say I cared for it a lot back in 1993, but it’s grown on me.
The vast majority of the video shows Macca and band as they perform around a campfire while a disparate crew of folks dance. One quick interlude shows how some Asian holymen prevent nuns from being hit by a train. A plea for the various religions to get along? Yeah, I guess. It seems like an odd tangent in an otherwise straightforward video. 6/10.
Off the Ground (Off the Ground, 1993): If you thought we left big, glossy production behind in the 1980s, this track will convince you otherwise. There’s a decent little tune buried in there somewhere, but it can’t quite escape the overwhelming nature of the recording techniques. This leaves “Ground” as a hummable but inconsequential tune. Granted, that’s what it would’ve been even with better production, but the recording doesn’t help.
With a title like “Off the Ground”, one might expect a video that involves people/things that are… off the ground. And that’s what we get. Paul suddenly develops the ability to fly and he zooms around the world while Linda and his bandmates wait and wonder. The video follows a very predictable path and musters only moderate pleasure. 5/10.
C’mon People (Off the Ground, 1993): Back in 1993, I thought “People” was a self-conscious attempt by Macca to write a “Hey Jude” style anthem. In 2007, I still think that. That doesn’t make it a bad song, of course, though the dopiness of the title robs it of some consequence. Granted, one could argue that “Hey Jude” isn’t exactly a terrific name for a tune, and they’re probably right. Something about using the term “c’mon” in a song that’s not “C’mon Everybody” just doesn’t seem right to me, though. It’s an okay tune despite its pretensions.
An unusual form of lip-synch clip, most of this one shows Paul at a piano as it’s being worked on by crew. The rest of the band plays behind him, and we also find some weird clips of sand turning into Paul and mates or violins. There’s also the expected big “the world’s a grand parade!” ending to match the tune’s scope. The video seems just strange enough to intrigue, at least until the conclusion. 6/10.
Biker Like an Icon (Off the Ground, 1993): When folks examine the annals of Bad McCartney lyrics, “Biker” receives special attention right up there with “if this ever-changing world in which we live in” from “Live and Let Die”. “Biker” lacks that one’s grammatical awkwardness but just seems… silly. I actually like the tune itself, though, as it’s a moderately chugging little rocker.
In an unusual move, we see no signs of Paul in this otherwise predictable video. It reminds me of a less surreal “Pretty Little Head” as it essentially just acts out the lyrics with a chick who follows the man of her dreams. It could be more boring, but not by a lot. 2/10.
Little Willow (Flaming Pie, 1997): As I alluded earlier, it took me years to warm up to Pie. I knew fans really liked it, but I just couldn’t get into it. Finally, about six months ago, something clicked and I managed to find real enjoyment in this album.
It seems like whenever I discuss my favorite McCartney albums here, I rarely find tunes that I truly dig. There’s always that “it’s a great record but this song isn’t a fave”. That holds true for “Willow”, a gentle and enjoyable song, but not one that really impresses me. It’s the kind of acoustic ballad that Macca could write in his sleep – and probably does.
An unusual piece, this one shows a mother who gets sick and dies. Geez -–there's something you don’t see in your average music video, and it packs a particular emotional punch for a number of reasons, not the least of which comes from our knowledge that Linda would pass from cancer only a year after the album's release. Very few videos choke me up, but this one does. 10/10.
Beautiful Night (Flaming Pie, 1997): Another tune from the previously maligned – by me, at least - Pie and another good track. This one takes the grand orchestral ambition of “C’mon People” and does something with its aims. The tune provides a good ballad but throws in some surprises as well.
A variety of home situations pop up throughout the video, as Paul peeps in on a mix of folks. Is he supposed to be an omniscient figure who uses his powers to bring people together, or is he just a freak who likes to spy on strangers? We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, and at least the video attempts a message: turn off the TV and interact with your loved ones. Given Paul’s success as a musician, though, it seems weird he cuts the power on the rehearsing rock band, though.
Anyway, while the clip doesn’t make a ton of sense, it has enough ambition and stylistic visuals to become interesting. Add to that a cameo from Ringo and some implied nudity and I like it! 7/10.
Brown Eyed Handsome Man (Run Devil Run, 1999): Since Pie disappointed me at the time, I didn’t have high hopes for Run. Paul recorded it as something of an homage to Linda – who’d wanted him to do another roots record – and an attempt to work out of his grief. The result was surprisingly spirited, a distinct improvement over the lackluster Choba CCCP, his prior covers collection from 1987.
So here’s where I’m supposed to praise “Man”, but as is the pattern for this set, it’s another mediocre song from a terrific album. It was never one of Chuck Berry’s best, in my opinion, and the zydeco take on it Macca provides doesn’t make it any better. I don’t dislike it, but I don’t warm up to it much either.
The video’s a queer little thing. It shows all sorts of races and cultures as they do country line dancing. Huh? It’s weird enough to be interesting, but not much more than that. 6/10.
No Other Baby (Run Devil Run, 1999): Here Macca takes on an obscure Vipers tune with pretty good results. As with “Little Willow”, I think the song takes on an extra dimension given its subtext. In the aftermath of Linda’s death, what should be a joyful expression of love becomes rather mournful. There’s no glee in what Paul sings, only sadness. It’s a touching rendition.
The video is more thoughtful affair than usual. Macca lip-synchs the tune as he floats across the sea, apparently stuck in the middle of nowhere. As with the tune, the video makes sense in Macca’s post-Linda state of mind. Am I reading too much into things with this interpretation of song and video? Could be, but I doubt it, as the loneliness of both really seems logical. 8/10.
Fine Line (Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, 2005): When an artist reaches a certain age, every album they produce is called a “comeback”. It’s the “Exile Effect”: every Stones album is hailed as “their best since Exile”. Chaos got that notation – as the best since Band on the Run, not Exile! – and didn’t deserve it. Chaos is a good album, but definitely not a great one. Heck, it wasn’t even his best since 1993!
Though it sounds a lot like the title tune to Flaming Pie, “Line” remains probably my favority Chaos track. It has a bounciness that also reminds us of “Lady Madonna”, but there’s a certain darkness to it we don’t usually hear from Macca. I really dig this one.
The video collection finishes with an unusual presentation. Since the song is “Fine Line”, the video shows Macca playing as rendered by… fine lines. That may not sound clever, but as executed, it creates an interesting artistic presentation. 8/10.