Song Of The Day 1/9/2016: Paul McCartney & Wings – “Sally G”

B-Sides Week '16 – I'm just ageless enough to remember Paul McCartney, Nirvana's most recent lead singer, getting flak for his '70s and '80s output. It's hard to recall that denunciation now because all his work of the last twenty years (excepting the moderately-received standards album) has been rightly praised, and the Beatles' other two principal songwriters are not around to compete with him in the marketplace. But during those two first decades after that band's breakup Paul and his second unit Wings got it hard from the still burgeoning sub-media form of pop criticism.

I think it's undeserved. I have a few explanations why it was the case however.

(1) A couple of his albums really weren't that great. I'm thinking of Red Rose Speedway, which was more odd than bad, but did contain the focal point of anti-Paul rhetoric of the time: "My Love." I'm going to go ahead and give the haters that one. There were a couple of half-hearted ones in there too.

(2) Paul's solo albums had the wallets during the '70s, but John had the hearts and minds because of a few rousing populist numbers that some took for holy writ. Obviously I'm thinking of "Imagine" here, but you could also throw "Instant Karma!" and "Give Peace a Chance" in that category. In an era when even people outside of Marin County were looking for some kind of absolution they didn't have to work too hard to explain, John's simple bullet points were just the ticket. Even George had a world-unifying solo hit with "My Sweet Lord," which it turned out he borrowed from the Crystals.

(3) Nobody was willing to accept Wings as a legitimate group, or at least a democratic one except for the Wings at the Speed of Sound album (which still didn't quite do the trick). There was that old joke devised to describe '70s pop fans who were utterly ignorant of music history: "Hey, did you know Paul McCartney was in another band besides Wings?" This skepticism proliferated despite the group boasting the membership of Denny Laine, who wrote the best Moody Blues hit.

(4) "Let 'Em In." It's about a guy with a doorbell.

I'm sure there are other subsidiary factors we could talk about as well -- but as I said, I think they're bunk. The revisionism of distance certainly has something to do with it, but in the 15 or so years in which I finally decided Paul was truly my favorite Beatle (or, as a well-heeled friend of mine maintains, my favorite Beatle chose me) I've developed some counter-arguments to the above points:

(1) Sure, Paul made an iffy album or two. Nobody's pining for Wild Life either. But besides Plastic Ono Band, Imagine (not including the title track) and his half of Double Fantasy, did John make any albums on his own that were stupendously good? Sometime in New York City sacrificed songwriting for sloganeering, Walls and Bridges was his hangover from the Nilsson escapades, and Rock 'n' Roll was covers. I think Lennon knew he was on fumes too, because he took five years off to recharge himself. And then had it cut off by a stupid person with a stupid gun. Paul, though, rattled off a bunch of great records that some have struggled to remember: Ram, Band on the Run, Venus and Mars, Tug of War. And he got adventurous on Back to the Egg and McCartney II. He experimented with different styles, and while some people consider that dilettantish, I defend anybody with restless imaginations.

(2) I admittedly do not like the song "Imagine" at all. I get the sentiment but reject the simplification, and by now it's obvious it ain't gonna work. But Lennon was no dummy: I think he himself outgrew "Imagine" and realized it. I veer more towards the artistic ambition of Paul's "Band on the Run" and "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey," or just a song where everything's executed perfectly like "Listen to What the Man Said." Who knows what "Uncle Albert" is about? Who cares? I think people mostly admire John and George for the right reasons, but Paul's pretty untouched musicianship still doesn't seem to impress people who are used to fond daguerreotype memories of their pop messiahs.

(3) Hey, look, Wings were Wings. Nobody tried to elevate them to the pantheon of the Beatles, although Wings had one-quarter of that group's membership going for them. I encourage you to seek out other examples of Denny Laine's work, though. Good egg.

(4) Well, maybe it was a really good doorbell.

Yikes. I had no idea I'd get this wordy for today's song, which was the flip side of "Junior's Farm" and was a light chart entry on its own. It was made in Nashville and contains fiddles. 

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