Monday, 14 March 2016
Paul McCartney and Bands: Live/Solo/Compilation/Classical Albums Part One: 1967-1987
"The Famly Way (Original Soundtrack)"
(Decca/London, January 6th 1967)
The Family Way I (aka 'Love In The Open Air')//The Family II
"When I find myself in times of trouble Mother Mary comes to me..."
Paul's first solo work always gets forgotten, even though it was the only extra-curricular music he ever made as a Beatle. The story goes that The Boutling Brothers heard 'Yesterday' and 'Eleanor Rigby' with their classical-style scores and though that the Lennon/McCartney partnership would be perfect for their new film. Though the production company were keen to make the film in the grand tradition of cinema, with a sweeping classical score, it was also a very modern film for its time dealing with the social issues of the day (teenage marriage and the couple's gradual drift apart) and starring an actress in Hayley Mills who was actually younger than The Beatles. While the film is ambiguous where its set (though it was filmed in Rochdale, Manchester) it's very much a 'Northern' film - another reason why The Beatles, sudden amabssadors for the North of England, got the chance. The brothers contacted George Martin first, who was already keen to take the Beatles sound in a classical direction and readily agreed if The Beatles did too. However Lennon hated the idea of prancing about with a lot of movie stars making a 'straight' film (he'd just signed up to do Dick Lester's subversive comedy 'How I Won The War', much closer to his own style of work). You can make an interesting case, in fact, that it was after the end of the touring years - when John and Paul didn't see as much of each other - that their partnership/rivalry began to slide and that these two very different and yet very John and Paul like projects are the start of their respective different journies. Paul was more enthusiastic, but only slightly - he delayed writing as long as he could, enjoying The Beatles' rare holiday after their last tour in mid-1966, and it wasn't until George Martin - tired of being badgered on the pjone - actually came to his house and forced him to write something that the muse struck him.
Funnily enough, though the first piece ever to be credited to either Lennon or McCartney alone, it was a collaboration of sorts with Paul la-laing into a tape reel the first thing that came into his head while John - a guest for the day - offered suggestions. In truth most of the donkeywork was done by george Martin who arranged his colleague's two haunting themes into twelve variations - enough for a film score and a full album (well, a short 'full' album - at only twenty-four minutes its the shortest Beatles-related release after 'A Hard Day's Night'). Though a more timid production than the classical works to come, it's interesting how 'right' Paul's melodies already sound with the style and despite Martin's heavy input how much this score still sounds like 'him'. 'Love In The Open Air' is the prettier of the two pieces, with a typicaly aching and yearning McCartney melody that's at one with his expressive pieces of longing of the period like 'Eleanor Rigby' and 'For No One' (though melody-wise its more like 'Here There and Everywhere') with the 'flute' version especially powerful. The piece that actually became known as 'The Family Way' is slightly less essential, although it works well when arranged for the sort of coliery brass band that Paul will fall in love with when working for Apple (when the Black Dyke Mills Band use a McCartney arrangement of 'Yellow Submarine' and an old teenage leftover 'Thingumybob'). George Martin's ever curious ears then re-arrange these two themes in all sorts of styles, from spoof baroque to full on orchestra, although not for the first or last time in McCartney's work the pieces sound better the smaller and humbler and more 'real' they are. The score works well with the film, which is what it was intended for, pointing at the bleakness of a life of 'shame' as Hayley becomes an unqwed single mother but with that typical McCartney sense that things might yet change just around the corner. It works less well as a record, especially given the pieces' brevity - however it's still a worthy purchase for Beatlemaniacs and though released on CD briefly in the 1990s is one of the rarer Beatle-related CDs around nowadays.
"Rupert The Bear (Soundtrack)"
1972 Version: Little Lamb-Dragonfly/The Great Cock and Seagull Race/Sunshine Sometime
1979 Version: Rupert The Bear (Theme)/Tippi Tippi Toes/Flying Horses/The Wind Is Blowing/The Castle Of The King Of The Birds/Sunshine Sometime/Sea-Storm-Cornish Wafer/Nutwood Scene/Walking In The Meadow/Sea Melody/Rupert The Bear (Closing Theme)
"You say it's too late for love to let the world go round - but it can be done!"
Paul had always been a bit of a Rupert The Bear fan - a rather battered copy of a Rupert book with his ten-year-old self's scrawly writing can be seen at the start of the 'final' third go at making a Rupert The Bear cartoon in 1985. However Macca only really 'got' the full impact of the Nutwood native when reading the stories out to his children, buying up the rights as one of his first 'acquisitions' with his Beatles severence pay. As ever with Paul's loves, he wanted to spread the word to his fans and tried to make a ful-length animated feature about the bear twice across the 1970s, before reducing it to a more manageable eight minute short in the 1980s. When Paul announced he was working on a first draft soon after releasing 'Mary Had A Little Lamb' as a single in 1972 and announced the project as Wings' next big release after 'Wildlife' some fans began to wonder seriously if he'd lost the plot. However the 'fit' was actually a better one than most McCartney projects: Rupert shares the same Beatle hallmarks of curiosity and tolerance and facing up to evil dangers with a similar mix of politeness and slight naughtiness and some of his adventures are very, erm, psychedelic and outrageous enough to make you wonder whether some of the illustrators had followed The Beatles on their path to drugs.
However like many of McCartney's good ideas, turning it into an actual product was a struggle. The first bash at writing it in 1972 with the 'Red Rose Speedway' line-up was intended as a feature-length animation with a storyline written by McCartney that seems to have involved a summer expedition to a new land inhabited by birds. Three songs at least were written for the project, two of which found their way onto the 'Ram' deluxe edition and one of which was re-recorded as 'Little Lamb-Dragonfly' for the 'Red Rose Speedway' album in 1973. Though that song is an out and out classic, it seems to have been greatly re-written to exclude the plot - sadly the other two songs aren't in quite the same league and are both 'instrumental' (whether they were always intended as instrumentals or are simply unfinished backing tracks is up for debate). 'The Great Cock and Seagull Race' is a curious instrumental jam that's based around a jam riff and is most noticeable for what is thought to be Henry McCullough's first contributions as a member of Wings - some howling bluesy guitar fills (goodness knows what he, a hardened rock and roll veteran, made of being hired to play children's songs). 'Sunshine Sometime' is more interesting though, a lovely mellow folk-rock song that would have made for particularly lovely background music. You can just about hear Paul singing...something in the background around the 2:30 minute mark suggesting words were written for this piece (it's not a million miles away from what will become the 'Rupert The Bear' theme song), although it's so faint he could be going 'la la la' for all we know. Sadly the needs of establishing Wings came first, the project was put on the back burner and Paul took far longer than he ever expected to return to the album.
By early 1979, in between the sessions for 'London Town' and 'Back To The Egg', he tried again - with the third and final Wings line-up playing on a series of songs that are short but otherwise sound almost ready for release. Paul revived 'Sunshine Sometime' - again as an instrumental - and wrote a further eight new pieces split roughly half and half between 'instrumentals' and 'songs' along with a couple of 'reprises'. As far as Paul was concerned this was once again the soundtrack to a full-length animated film he was busy writing and although we don't know for certain the plot it seems likely from the tracks that it was once again about a journey to see 'The King Of The Birds'. The songs have a much fuller and noticably more Wings-ier feel, with their trademark shaky mellotron and blissed out harmonies with Denny Laine spending one of his last few days as a member of Wings singing the name 'Rupert' over and over. This second version of the project came much closer to fruition though, dropped only after the animated film proved more time-consuming and costly than Paul ever expected - and abandoned fully after Wings' official split was announced in 1982.
To take them in the (probable) intended order 'Rupert The Bear' (not the horrendous 1990s version theme tune, made as a series after Paul finally cut his losses and sold the rights) is a pretty laidback back song with hints of 'Sunshine Sometime' as Paul explains the plot: the Earth has stopped turning and Rupert wants to put it right. When told that 'love' makes the world go round he sets out to find out where he can find 'love' - though we don't hear the twist I'd imagine its one of those 'love was at home all the time' moral stories. The tune is interestingly very close to the one for 'Thomas The Tank Engine' in the 1980s, the one which used the voice of Ringo Starr! Wings announce they're 'singing a song of love' and the music sounds like it too, with a much 'warmer' sound than anything on 'Back To The Egg'. 'Tippi Toes' is a short instrumental that sounds very much like background music, though its charming enough with a 'Lunchbox/Odd Sox' style piano riff answered by Laurence Juber's guitar. Reading out the plot Macca announces in a very Liverpoudlian accent that Paul is exploring in the woods when he see a stallion with a herd of flying horses who are on a mission for the king of the horses 'and orf they gallop'. 'Flying Horses' is a slightly more dangerous instrumental overlaid with the sound of marching, whinnying horses as an insistent riff is played first on the guitars and then on a 'Band On The Run' style mellotron. It's a rather good set of chord changes that would have made a fine song in different circumstances.
After leaping off a cliff and climbing there's a gentle breeze, as summed up by another pretty near-instrumental 'The Wind Is Blowing'. Paul sings in the back distance over a very beautiful chord structure that sounds like a happier version of 'Don't Let It bring You own' crossed with 'Love In Song'. The harmonics are more ethereal and other-wordly than normal and are really lovely in places. Next Paul informs us that Rupert has now seen 'The Castle Of The King Of The Birds', announced via a rather grand and stately piano instrumental that sounds like a more sombre version of the last track, with a trumpeted burst of wordless Wings harmonies at key moments in the song. The King says that the north wind is out of control and is about to freeze the whole world. Rupert sets off for help with he help of a bird but the winds grow colder and they have to fly down to a desert island for safety. The revived version of 'Sunshine Sometime' then plays, with a brief vocal burst added (literally the word 'sunshyine sometime'). Paul is reunited with his old friend Sailor Sam - a regular character in the books and a rare human character who was clearly a McCartney favourite, referenced in the lyrics to both 'Helen Wheels' and 'Band On The Run' - and set out to sea.
Next comes perhaps the most lasting of all the 'Rupert' songs, a medley containing a moody bluesy piece titled 'Sea' ('Fly on the ocean and land with a slap on the shore'), an interjection from a helpful local pixie 'Cornish Wafer' ('I am the Cornish pastie, I have a cornish say, I eat the cornish wafer and I'm coming home to stay!') and a quite scary instrumental version of 'Sea' titled 'Storm', which is like the madder bits of 'Morse Moose and the Grey Goose' with an added sea shanty roll and some great feedback-drenched guitar. The piece leaps about between the three sections for some five minutes, leaving you quite seasick by the end, but the medley makes far more sense than the one that ended 'Red Rose Speedway' and sports a great and epic, typically McCartney melody. The crew wash up on the shore,. which just happens to be in Nutwood. Cue a happy instrumental 'Nutwood Scene' which is mere filler, with an oom-pah-pah backing I can just see Bill Badger and Algy Pug dancing to. Next up, Dr Lion helps Rupert recover and eventually he begins to feel more like himself, going out for an enjoyable walk in the 'meadow'. Hence 'Walking In The Meadow', a slow and solemn piano-and-guitar ballad that's pretty but also pretty forgettanble, even when Paul starts la-laing along. Paul decides to go back on his adventure, getting the help of a local professor who also appears in many books and a wise old hermit goat, who doesn't. Jack Frost is out to stop Rupert and his friends and force their boat to freeze in the ice - cue a song often listed as 'Storm Reprise', but which sounds more like the old war song 'Smile thpough your heart is breaking' in instrumental form. Somehow - Paul never quite explains how - 'the balance of the winds is restored' and all the charaters are invited homne for tea, I hope somebody has informed Mrs Bear first or there'll be trouble! So ends a charming album that sadly has never been re-released in any form but is surely a shoe-in for the 'Back To The Egg' deluce re-issue if Paul ever gets that far. We'll return to the stpory of Rupert with a shorter story that did get made in the mid-1980s section of this book!
Denny Laine "Aah...Laine!"
(Wizard, November 16th 1973)
Big Ben/Destiny Unknown/Baby Caroline/Don't Try, You'll Be Refused/Talk To The Head/Sons Of Elton Haven Brown/Find A Way Somewhere/Havin' Heaven/On That Morn/The Blues/Everybody/Move Me To Another Place
"You're just a child from way before your time"
Though not released until shortly before 'Band On The Run' and with a cover featuring a period Denny sporting a 'Wings' T-shirt, Denny's first solo album actually has no link to the band at all. The album was recorded in 1971, to fill the hole where Denny's all-star band 'Balls' should have been, a Birmingham band also featuring various members of The Move and - briefly - Noel Redding from The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Intended as a Midlands version of supergroup 'Traffic', geography is not always the best reason to create a band and the musicians quickly bickered, with little in common other than their accents. As the band's de facto leader, it fell to Denny to fill the hole when record label Wizard asked for a record. An unenthsuiastic Denny acquiesced, but without the band neither singer nor record company took much interest in the record, which was dulty shelved. In truth it's pretty awful, a series of over-simple performances of over-simple songs with only a handful of tracks like highlight 'Baby Caroline' shining through. Denny is clearly a better talent than this, but then he is keeping all his best songs for whast he hopes will be his 'proper' debut album soon after - a record interrupted when he got the call to join 'Wings'. Though sharing a similar acousticness and folk to Denny's later songs fro the band (particularly the folkier songs on 'London Town') there isn't really much here Wings fans will recognise and its an album that sounds curiously mid-60s considering the era it was first recorded. Though the title reads 'Aah' - which is how many fans feel when they think of Denny's contributions - in this case the response is more like 'aaagh'. Denny was reportedly less than happy when the label finally released this album on the back of Wings in Europe - and shocked when Wizard leased the album out to no less a label than Warner Brothers in the U.S. This is, sadly, all good practice for the yet-more messing around by record companies that will go on in the CD era, though oddly the re-issue of this album backed with 'Holly Days' from 1977 is one of the better Laine products, well packaged and nicely handled. Thankfully better is to come.
Henry McCullough "Mind Your Own Business"
(Dark Horse Records, '1975')
You'd Better Run/Sing Me A Song/I Can Drive A Car/Baby What You Do To Me/Country Irish Rose//Lord Knows/Down The Mine/Oil In My Lamp/Mind Your Own Business/I'm In Heaven
"If you mind your own business then you won#' be minding mine!"
Henry had already made quite a name for himself before joining Wings after years with Joe Cocker's Grease Band and found no trouble finding new work at first, signing up to The Frankie Miller Band. However Henry was getting tired of being told what to do with his guitar solos and longed to make his own musical statement and do things his way. The only problem was finding a record label that would be interested in such an untested guitarist who, with all the love in the world, didn't have the voice of some of the singers he'd been working with. An unlikely saviour was George Harrison, another Beatle who loosely knew Henry and liked his style and sympathised with the problems of working with McCartneys for a living! Interested in new artists for the 'Dark Horse' label George was in the middle of setting up with Warner Brothers, record company politics meant that this record actually came out on the label before any of George's own (after Splinter, Henry was only the second label artist). The surly album title rather gives away what mood this record was made in! The resulting album is sweet and weird in equal measure. It goes without saying that the guitar playing is first class, although it's close to the moodier bluesier style Henry was playing with Joe Cocker than with Wings. Compositionally it's a mixed bag, with some lovely melodies in there somewhere but lost under a heap of one-too-many generic blues songs (those of you who read our AAA book on Jefferson Airplane and dared to try one of Papa John Creach's albums will know what to expect as this album is just like one of those!) and some ugly stabs at white reggae. The best of the songs though - such as a the pretty nifty pop song 'I Can Drive A Car' (which sounds not unlike a Denny Laine composition) and a fun and funky run through traditional gospel song 'Oil In My Lamp' - are well worth hearing, played with a sort of slapdash intensity that's really appealing. It's Henry's voice that's hardest to take, though if you view this album in the long line of AAA singers trying to recreate the blues 'feel' (where what you sound like matters less than how you say it) thene even this has it's moments.