Sir Paul McCartney was born on June 18, 1942 and turns 72 today. Yes, it has been eight years since he turned 64. He is one of the richest musicians in the world, thanks to his years with The Beatles and his success as a solo artist and with his band Wings during the 1970s.
image courtesy of ACE/INFphoto.com
McCartney has written some of the most famous songs in the world, from “Yesterday,” “All My Loving” and “Hey Jude” with the Beatles to “Band on the Run,” “Silly Love Songs” and “With A Little Luck” with Wings. However, since Wings officially broke up in 1981, McCartney has continued to write hit after hit after hit.
So, if you think you know McCartney based on his greatest hits albums, you would be very, very wrong. That’s because no widely-released McCartney hits album has ever covered his post-1984 work. Even the 2001 release Wingspan stopped at “No More Lonely Nights.”
To mark McCartney’s birthday, I’m looking at some of the best McCartney songs (solo and with Wings) that you won’t find on a hits album. These are obscure cuts, but still fine examples of his genius. As a note, this only includes officially released album tracks, because if we get into unreleased material and B-sides, then we’re opening a whole other wormhole.
Also, here’s my Top 10 list of his best albums from 2012.
Without further ado, it’s time to start the “Rockshow.”
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10. “Some People Never Know” – Wings, Wild Life (1971)
Wild Life has to be one of the worst debut albums for a group and a real disappointment after Paul’s first two solo albums (McCartney and RAM), but it is often on bad albums that his real hidden gems reside. (We’ll encounter a few more bad albums on this list.)
The best track on Wild Life is, without a doubt, “Some People Never Know.” If the rest of the album wasn’t so bad, then this probably wouldn’t be an obscure track.
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9. “Beware My Love” – Wings, Wings at the Speed of Sound (1976)
You wouldn’t know it by the setlists, but the Wings Over America tour was supposed to promote Wings at the Speed of Sound. Wings only performed four songs from the album, though – the huge singles (“Let ‘Em In” and “Silly Love Songs”), Denny Laine’s “Time To Hide” and “Beware My Love.” That’s probably the best proof that the album as a whole is filled with weak content.
However, “Beware My Love” is a song to prove that Paul can rock with the best of them when he wants to. Just have a listen.
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8. “Run Devil Run” – Paul McCartney, Run Devil Run (1999)
I included Run Devil Run on my list of Paul’s 10 best albums because it definitely is, although most think of it as a covers album. He did write three originals on the album, but if you weren’t told that he wrote them, you won’t guess it. “Run Devil Run” is one of them and it sounds just like a long-lost Chuck Berry cut.
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7. “The Lovers That Never Were” – Paul McCartney, Off The Ground (1993)
Off The Ground could have been a fantastic album if some of the cuts he used as B-sides were included on the album proper (I’m looking at you “Keep Coming Back To Love”). There are plenty of weak tracks on the album, but “The Lovers That Never Were” certainly isn’t. This is one of the songs he wrote with Elvis Costello before Flowers in the Dirt (1989).
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6. “Only Love Remains” – Paul McCartney, Press to Play (1986)
“Only Love Remains” is in the same vein as “Let It Be,” “Maybe I’m Amazed” or “My Love.” While it doesn’t hold a candle to those songs, it is a hidden gem on one of Paul’s most maligned records, Press to Play, an album drowned in ‘80s production. It’s sad, because the writing on it is pretty strong.
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5. “Promise To You Girl” – Paul McCartney, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard (2005)
Paul meets Motown with “Promise To You Girl,” a great little rockin’ cut on his best album from the last decade.
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4. “Little Lamb Dragonfly” – Paul McCartney & Wings, Red Rose Speedway (1973)
Paul has a really bizarre relationship with animals. He’s warned us to not go chasing polar bears (“Waterfalls”) and once sang about a relationship with a salamander (“Getting Closer”). More recently, he had a pet “Alligator.” In 1973, he worried about his “Little Lamb Dragonfly,” whatever that’s supposed to be. Whatever, the song is one of the most beautiful he did during the Wings years.
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3. “Calico Skies” – Paul McCartney, Flaming Pie (1997)
“Calico Skies” got taken out for a dusting during the 2002 Back in the World tour, but wan’t performed in the U.S. for some reason. It’s one of Paul’s most tender and delicate tracks of his career, as well as one of the best songs on Flaming Pie.
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2. “Figure of Eight” – Paul McCartney, Flowers in the Dirt (1989)
“Figure of Eight” was actually one of the singles on Paul’s 1989 comeback record Flowers in the Dirt. While it was performed on his 1989-90 world tour and included on Tripping the Live Fantastic, the fantastic studio track hasn’t appeared anywhere outside the album. This is one of the better tracks on Flowers written without Elvis Costello.
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1. “One Of These Days” – Paul McCartney, McCartney II (1980)
After an album of songs filled with technical wizardry (at least by 1980 standards), Paul ended McCartney II with the ballad “One Of These Days.” It is sad that this song hasn’t been heard outside Paul buffs, because it is one of his best.