1970 McCartney (Apple)
A very quick and very brief review of what led up to this: In the summer of 1967 the Beatles reached their creative peak as far as working together as a band. The making, releasing and success of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was their nadir, the top of the mountain. They helped each other and their teamwork and positive attitude gave them a work of art that many people still consider the greatest album of all-time. At the worst, it helped change the view of what an album should look like and say as a whole. It was not a collection of songs filled around a hit single or two. No singles were pulled from Pepper.
Later 1967, they travelled to India to meet and learn from the Maharishi. They each yearned to grow as individuals, now becoming young men, no longer boys.
While there the first time their manager, Brian Epstein, died of a drug overdose. Brian was highly depressed over his reduced role with the band. They no longer toured and were now a studio only band.
When Brian passed they became a ship without a proper rudder. Lennon stepped back emotionally, his marriage failing and his meeting of Yoko Ono. Paul, the most into keeping the band as usual, prompted them to make the off the cuff and rushed Magical Mystery Tour film. Shown on boxing day, it was their first major misstep. The music was still great, but the glitter was falling off.
They returned to India, and each wrote an incredible batch of new songs. The demos were made in loving fashion at George’s home Esher studio. John left his wife and moved in with Yoko, as they grew together as one, with avant garde art and projects far outside the band. She was even brought into their inner sanctum, the studio, and the tensions began.
Recording 1968’s The Beatles (White album) was a long laboring process, which saw Ringo quit the band for a bit, and now the four working as mostly individuals, and then helping out the others to finish tracks….not a single mind, but four.
In early 1969 they decided to “get back” to their roots and record the old way, by rehearsing and recording as a band with as few overdubs as possible. They decided to film it.
The coldness of this process brought the tension to a head. Paul and George argued on film, and George quit for a short while.
Meanwhile, to save all the money that was being taxed they formed Apple records, with goals that this was the way to get people to create and not have to beg “the man” to produce their art. Their ambition was genuine, but they filled the staff with friends and hangeroners and were quickly bleeding money. The Get back sessions were shelved, after a magnificent and final short rooftop concert on Apple’s office building.
They realized they were going broke and sought management to stop this and right the ship. Paul wanted in his lawyer brother in law, having just married Linda Eastman. The other three wanted Allen Klein, who had made The Stones a great record deal before they discarded him.
Paul was totally against Klein representing him and soon withdrew physically and mentally from Apple, seeking refuge in Scotland in his newly bought run down old farm house and lands. The band reunited for the last time to make a proper album. In their hearts they sensed it would be their last, but nothing was written in stone.
The album, Abbey Road, was magnificent, and all seemed right from the outside. Klein tore apart the Apple staff and working vibe, and mostly everyone working or signed acts were physically or creatively discarded. Paul knew that they still had five years left on a contract that Klein did sign for them (he signed) which did give them a great deal, but the distrust and hatred for him grew daily.
Klein gave Phil Spector the “Let It Be” tapes and Paul was furious how he had over-orchestrated his babies, his songs. Paul watched Lennon scream out at a highly contentious financial meeting “I want a divorce, I want out of the band.” He and Yoko were never apart, and after they married, the bed-in, the album cover with them fully nude, experimental films, music and art, etc…
Paul meanwhile embraced simple domestic bliss with Linda, her daughter Heather and pregnant with baby Mary. They worked on fixing the farm up and enjoy peace and quiet, away from all the tensions. Paul borrowed a 4 track Studer recorder, and set it up makeship in the living room. He claims he did this to flush ideas out and find some creative output to battle the depression and frustration. He simply plugged microphones into the inputs in the back and adjusted levels, and rearranged mic placement for sound. Some very lo-fi recording. Soon, Paul realized he had enough songs to maybe do something with it. He finished as much at home as he could, but did return to a proper studio to finish a few of the broader tracks (Maybe I’m Amazed, Every Night…)
He heard the tracks sent by Klein for “Let It Be” and was horrified and furious at the changes to his music and he decided enough was enough. He realized that he would have abandon recording with the band, at least temporarily, and chose to put together the music he had recorded as an album, his first solo album. He picked a date for release, and to his dismay, Ringo was sent to his house to ask him to delay this as they (Klein and Apple) wanted to release the Spector mixed Let It Be album roughly at the same time. He literally threw Ringo out of the home, and lost probably his closest Beatles ally. The other three relented and he was granted the 4/17/70 release day, with Let It Be album and film pushed back a month. Paul, still in recluse mode, chose to do no publicity for McCartney. He instead had written up a press release that was included only in the press promotional copies. In this press release, he vented all his frustrations, and basically said that writing with Lennon and recording with The Beatles were for the time finished and he was going to do his music alone. The icing on the cake was on the initial McCartney album jacket it said APPLE, an “ABKCO” (Allen and Betty Klein Company) managed company.
This was the last straw for Macca. Lennon, who had bit his tongue after his boardroom call for band divorce was furious. He wanted to be the one that walked out and announced it.
Paul eventually was forced to sue the other three and Klein to get out of the contract that stretched into 1976. He asked them to let him out of it, and split things four ways and move on…but with Klein’s advice they said no… Klein wanted to apply the screws to Paul.
When the album and press release came out….headlines screamed….”Paul quits The Beatles. ” Fans and the world alike were horrified and angry, basically blaming Paul for this outcome, unaware of the behind the scenes that led to this moment. The monies made and future income from all four went into a legal trust until the matter was resolved years later.
Funny, the most successful band members of all time had no day to day cash. So…. McCartney was released. It went and stayed at #1 until “Let It Be” replaced it. The reviews were not very good, as nearly all critics and many fans expected this to be a even better launching pad from the brilliance of Abbey Road.Next up…. reviewing, song by song, 50 years later. Thanks for reading…… I’ll try to do an album or two a month until every note of every song of his every release has been reviewed. These are just my opinions and I encourage debate and feedback.
My basic KEYS to reviewing albums and releases
————————————————- The best places to listen to it. The best time of day to listen to it.
10. The perfect song. Flawless from start to finish…. Great melody and lyrics. Perfect vocals and backing vocals. Perfect production and mixing. Can listen to over and over and never tire of. (10, a rating hard to achieve and not given lightly)
9. Nearly perfect. Some aspect of a 10 is missing but I still love it.
8. Excellent song. Still love it, but not everybody does… and here’s why.
7. Good song. It works in connection to its release. It fits into the album or as a stand alone single.
6. Not bad, but not great.
5. Fair, at best. Flawed in my ears for the following reasons.
4. Not good. I can listen to it, but likely will skip it if I have the chance.
3. Not a very BAD song, but has a few points of interest. Here’s why.
2. Bad…. I will skip or even delete it. Why was this even released?
1. Very bad. Is there anything redeemable about this recording?
0. Awful. The time I spent listening to this will never come back. (0 and 1, ratings that are also hard to achieve and not given lightly)
These are the basic parameters of every album (the sum total of the individual songs divided by the number of songs) or single release or bonus tracks on remastered or archive editions.
Up next….. reviewing 1970’s “McCartney” original album