Reading Paul McCartney

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British music critic Howard Sounes measures Sir Paul against his Beatles’ successes, taking him to task for his post-Beatles experiences with Wings, a band he dismisses as worse than banal. Sounes bases his assessment on the bottom-of-the barrel lyrics he believes Sir Paul churned out during the 1970s while perpetually stoned and overly dependent on Linda, his devoted yet glaringly untalented (in the music department)  wife. (As George Martin once said, Linda was no subsitute for John Lennon, just as Yoko was never a subsitute for Paul).

Sounes does one better than Peter Carlin, who also recently published a book on McCartney, in suggesting that Sir Paul may have a character flaw preventing him from scaling again the heights of greatness such as he knew when a member of the greatnest band on earth.

McCartney, people who know him say, can not brook criticism and rarely allows others to guide him, even when he’s so “Mary Had a Little Lamb” wrong.

He also has grown too fond of playing it safe. The section of the book in which Sounes quotes Sir David Putnam saying that Macca tends more to rest on his natural talents rather than pushing them forward into the rarefied realm of genius, is especially thought-provoking in this regard.

But is the criticism a fair one?

When I shared Sir David’s pointed jab at fellow knight Sir Paul with my cultural anthropologist husband, a popular music expert who did his dissertation on rock music, he deftly countered it, and he is not Beatles besotted as I am.

Professor Victor Barac said that rock and roll is a young man’s pursuit and it is unfair to hold an aging rocker to the standards of his own past.

McCartney, nearing 70, no longer is guided by the same impulses as he was in his youth. From the perspective of rock and roll, he is an entirely different man, a more mature artist who surely is entitled to call it “Another Day.”

Het, if you’ve seen McCartney in concert lately, it’s clear that he himself is measuring himself against his own legend. The Beatles are his standard of excellence.

Not that that’s entirely a bad thing: His Beatles set list is sublime and it’s heart racingly exciting to see him standing in front of projected images of himself with the other Beatles during their heyday.

He really was great, along with the other Fabs. Perhaps it is too much to ask for him to be even greater than he once was.

As the recent Heather Mills debacle shows, described by Sounes as the greatest mistake of McCartney’s life, the man is only human, after all.