Forgive me if this seems out of the blue, but I'm starting to come around on Paul McCartney.
I've been a Beatles fan since my dad gave me the White Album for my 13th birthday. My love for the band has fluctuated in its intensity in the intervening years, but it peaked concurrent with the 2009 remastering and reissue of their discography and has remained at a healthy plateau since. Just the other night I listened to Revolver, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Abbey Road--their three best records in ascending order--in one sitting.
Where I haven't been so consistent is in my appreciation for the individual members of the group. If there is one constant, it's George Harrison, who has been my favourite Beatle since I first listened to "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," and Martin Scorsese's Living in the Material World documentary only augmented my professional and personal respect for the man. And I suppose I've always liked Ringo, because I like underdogs and "Octopus's Garden" is a genuinely great song that I want to play over the end credits of a Call of Cthulhu movie. But my admiration for John Lennon and Paul McCartney has been like a see-saw over the last decade.
Young me was drawn to songs sung and written by Paul because most of them were calm, pleasing ballads and I didn't really get into the heavy stuff until I picked up Nirvana's In Utero three years later (that being said, I did quite enjoy "Helter Skelter," though I suppose it was more fascination than pleasure at the time). This is not to say that John was some proto-thrasher or anything--the man wrote "Across the Universe," for God's sake--but it's reasonable to say his songs had more bite than Paul's.
As I got older, this soft stuff just seemed weak. While Paul was singing about holes and the process of fixing them and how Russian women are pretty awesome, John was writing darkly pleasing tunes and just ripping it. So half out of youthful indignance, half out of plain ignorance, I felt a fair bit of contempt toward McCartney for most of my Beatles fandom. Who was this old softie to get an ego and break up the Fab Four? Not to mention, his Christmas song was just awful.
But you know what? After going on my latest Beatles kick I've start to come around on old Macca.
I think Revolver was the catalyst. Apart from the seminal "Eleanor Rigby," there's a collection of great--heck, wonderful--Paul penned-and-sung tunes on the album, namely "Here, There and Everywhere," "Got to Get You into My Life" and especially "For No One." This isn't to diminish Lennon's contributions, of course--"I'm Only Sleeping" and "Tomorrow Never Knows" are great, with the latter containing Ringo's best drumming in the entirety of the Beatles' catalogue--but Paul's songs on this record have incomparable power.
Paul was also responsible for two of the best thematic hooks in the band's discography: the concept behind Sgt. Pepper's and Abbey Road's awesome side two medley ("Her Majesty," the album's final, hidden track, is one of the best practical jokes in the history of music). And then there's the bulk of Let It Be. Do try to ignore the album in its original form, as Phil Spector's orchestral overdubs wash out a lot of the record's minimalist beauty. While Let It Be... Naked, its stripped down reissue, hasn't made its way up to the top of my list, its still a much better album and showcases McCartney's skill as a songwriter better than any other Beatles album, in my opinion.
I'm not writing this in an attempt to diss Lennon (though a Playboy interview he did near the end of his life unfortunately paints him as quite bitter), but its clear to me now I severely underestimated Paul's contributions to the group and to some of my favourite music.
"Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime" is still awful, though.