When Sir Paul McCartney turned 64, it seemed remarkable that he actually reached that age he famously sang about in a Beatles song. Today, he reaches 70, which is even more remarkable for any rock icon. After the Beatles broke up, Paul went on to make solo albums almost every year since and he keeps on going, releasing Kisses On The Bottom this past February.
In honor of him reaching this milestone, here’s a top 10 list of his post-Beatles albums, both as a solo artist and with Wings.
10. Run Devil Run – 1999
After Paul’s first wife Linda, died of cancer in 1998, there was only one way that Paul knew how to cope musically: gather a bunch of outstanding musicians together and record new versions of classic Rock songs. McCartney covers everybody, including Gene Vincent (“Blue Jean Bop”), Elvis Presley (“All Shook Up”), Rick Nelson (“Lonesome Town”) Carl Perkins (“Movie Magg”) and Chuck Berry (“Brown Eyed Handsome Man”). McCartney also threw in plenty of obscure stuff (“No Other Baby” and “Coquette”), as well as three originals that fit perfectly in the mix.
9. Flowers in the Dirt – 1989
In the late ‘80s, Paul needed a comeback studio album to go with his first world tour since the mid-’70s. He teamed with Elvis Costello to write “My Brave Face” and a few other great tunes that act as centerpieces of Flowers in the Dirt. The songs Paul wrote himself are fantastic as well, including “Put it There” and “This One.”
8. McCartney – 1970
Paul’s first solo album is fantastic and has this home-grown sound as most of it was actually recorded at his home. Sure, there are some throwaway tunes here (some of the instrumentals, particularly), but the centerpieces are too strong. “Every Night,” “Junk” and, of course, the original studio version of “Maybe I’m Amazed” continue to be among the best work he ever produced.
7. Wings Over America – Wings – 1976
I’m usually a little adverse to including live albums on lists like this, but there is no denying the truth. Wings Over America, which documents the band’s ‘76 tour, is one of the best live albums ever made. From the “Venus & Mars/Rockshow/Jet” medley to the rocking “Soily” encore, this is one rockin’ record with more highlights than the live version of “Maybe I’m Amazed.” This was one was made to be played loud.
6. Tug of War – 1982
This album was kind of another comeback for Paul, coming after his infamous pot bust in Japan, the break-up of Wings and the lackluster McCartney II. Tug of War re-teamed Paul with Beatles producer George Martin and includes the fantastic title track, “Take It Away” and a few others. Yes, it also includes the silly Stevie Wonder duet “Ebony & Ivory.”
5. London Town – Wings – 1978
If Paul is a master at Pop, London Town is proof. Although lead by the hit single “With A Little Luck,” the album remains one of his lesser known. Still, it’s filled with neat little nuggets of pop, like the title track and “Girlfriend,” which Michael Jackson recorded for Off The Wall, and rock, like “Name and Address,” a tribute to Elvis. There’s also a personal favorite of mine on the album, “I’ve Had Enough.”
4. Chaos & Creation in the Backyard – 2005
For his 2005 album, Paul recruited Radiohead collaborator Nigel Godrich to produce, making it the first time since 1984’s Give My Regards To Broad Street that he didn’t produce or co-produce. The results could not have been better. If Paul tends to produce one great album per decade, this is his best for the 2000’s. Godrich knew how to push Paul in the right directions, keeping him away from overly fluffy stuff and the lyrics are far more introspective and personal than his other material. I’d love to hear what Paul could do if he works with Godrich again.
3. RAM – Paul & Linda McCartney – 1971
RAM, which is credited to Paul and Linda, was met with horrible reviews from critics and his fellow Beatles when it came out (including a famous Rolling Stone review that tore it to shreds). Today, the consensus is far different and it is widely regarded as one of his best and most ambitious albums, a label it deserves. From the opening “Too Many People” to “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” and to the closing “Back Seat of My Car” epic, this is one great album.
2. Band on the Run – Paul McCartney & Wings – 1973
Band on the Run is about as perfect as an album gets. It’s got nine (ten in the U.S.) stunning songs one right after the other. After “Band on the Run” and “Jet,” it just gets better with “Bluebird,” “Picasso’s Last Words” and “Nineteen-Hundred and Eighty-Five.” Considering that this was all written and created under tough circumstances in Lagos and you have an album that really speaks for itself.
1. Flaming Pie – 1997
After working with Jeff Lynne on the new Beatles tracks for The Beatles Anthology, Paul was inspired to work with him on his first album since 1993. While Lynne’s production can get a little overbearing, Paul brought songs that more than made up for it. “The Song We Were Singing,” “Calico Skies,” “Flaming Pie,” “Little Willow” and “The World Tonight” are all great examples of Paul at its best. Even the lesser tracks (“If You Wanna,” “Used to Be Bad” and “Really Love You”) are still fun to sing along to. Band on the Run might be great, but I find myself reaching for another slice of Flaming Pie more often.
Daniel S Levine is a longtime movie fan and a graduate of Hoftsra University.