by Adam Gold
(You might also be interested in Bill Demain's Scene feature on McCartney and Wings' 1974 working vacation in Nashville.)
In previewing Sir Paul's Nashville debut tonight at Bridgestone Arena in this week's dead-tree edition of the Scene, I speculate on why so many people hate on Macca, despite his overwhelmingly positive contribution to modern music and incomprehensible influence on melodic construction. Obviously I get the whole hating sacred cows thing, but I still don't know what the convincing argument is that justifies people hating on Paul McCartney the same way they hate on Sting. Take a look the piece after the jump, and if you feel like you have that convincing argument I'm looking for, post it in the comments. I'm really curious to know. Otherwise, if you're going to tonight's show, I'll see you there. I'll be the guy playing left-handed air-Hofner.
Money may still not be able to buy Paul McCartney love, but it's plain to see he's found something to do with it. Ticket: $72-$276. Seven beers: $63. Parking: $10. Is seeing Paul McCartney really priceless? Nashville has answered with a resounding "yes." Even with face-value prices as high as $410 per ticket (for the "Silver Hot Seat Package") to attend Macca's show at Bridgestone Arena this week — his first ever in Nashville — it still sold out quicker than you can say "Helter Skelter." But for many music fans, the thought of shelling out the Benjamins for a three-hour concert is simply unfathomable. If anything, paying the equivalent of a cable bill to watch a show from the far-flung, nacho-stained enclaves high atop Bridgestone's bleachers is laughably unfeasible. Even for die-hard fans, if you aren't in America's top tax bracket, you're priced out, plain and simple.
But for artists of Macca's magnitude, such astronomical asking prices are the norm, and with his voice sounding rich as ever, and a back-catalog that taught the world to sing, whatever he's asking is probably worth it: He's Paul Fucking McCartney.
No single sonic craftsman has enjoyed a more distinctive influence on pop melody composition. Yet despite his status as rock's biggest living star — or perhaps because of it — the mere mention of his name often induces sighs, scoffs or an afflicted roll of the eyes, even among hardcore Beatles fans. Why? Is it out of a knee-jerk hatred for bourgeois rock royalty? Is it because he had the audacity to include the frog chorus on "We All Stand Together"? Is it because he let Linda sing? Is it because "Ebony and Ivory" is really that terrible? Or is it out of a weird cosmic loyalty to the memory — or the idea — of John Lennon? Despite a career littered with bad haircuts and cringe-worthy stumbles — Give My Regards to Broad Street comes to mind — just having written "Eleanor Rigby" should alone be enough to canonize McCartney as one of mankind's musical saviors. And yet many an overbearing rock fan takes The Beatles and all their related faculties as seriously as Paul Revere took horseback riding, so to this day, they still feel the weight of Lennon and McCartney's acrimonious split like children acting out in response to the divorce of their own parents.
Likewise, woebegone Beatle-maniacs often feel compelled to choose sides. Together, Lennon and McCartney birthed a sound and vision that was earth-shattering. Apart, they were simply self-proclaimed rock gods. The jury came in early on, deeming John the relatable shamanic poet — the "cool" parent — and Paul the pop hedonist, the distant star on a pedestal, the cheeseball dad who embarrasses you in front of your friends with his dancing. While "Imagine" seemed to anoint John as the true voice of love and possibilities in the ears of many, Wings' cheerful, breezy shimmer anoints Paul as the FM lightweight. But could a lightweight really have written "Let It Be"?
Following the dissolution of The Beatles, the four mop-tops were reduced to the sum of their parts, but it was McCartney who aimed for the top of the pops. (He was always the band's strongest pop melodicist to begin with.) If half the songs on Band on the Run had been cut at Abbey Road Studios in 1968, the cynics would be singing a very different tune. In the age of ELO, Wings were pretty fuckin' good. Ram rivals any post-Beatles album of its time. (And Double Fantasy probably could've only benefited had Linda taken a few cuts off Yoko's hands.) A song like "Two of Us" might not have the lyrical weight of "Across the Universe," but have you ever heard someone say it sucks? Lennon might have "Instant Karma!" but hell, McCartney had "Temporary Secretary."
The dated production and fashion trends of the '80s shunted him and his ilk of living legends off into the creative wilderness to deal with their myriad musical midlife crises, but McCartney even managed to close out that decade with pretty good record, Flowers in the Dirt. And even if he didn't, the guy wrote "Yesterday." So what if he made America's post-9/11 nightmare all the worse with his painful pandering on the gag-inducing anthem "Freedom"? The man's earned the right to his ego. Nashville has ponied up the dough with a smile to see that proven in the flesh. So baby, when Macca comes to town don't hate him for being the rich asshole who tried to invert the Lennon/McCartney credits to McCartney/Lennon on his Beatles compositions, love him for being the rich man who penned the ones like "Blackbird." Live and let live.