Paul McCartney’s Twelve Least Silly Love Songs

On the eve of the release of Paul McCartney’s new album, Kisses on the Bottom, CT’s own Mike Madden and Paul Gleason sat down together, discussed their idol’s twelve least silly love songs, and gave him their own kisses on the bottom.

12. “When I’m Sixty-Four” – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles – Parlophone (1967)

Mike Madden: This track serves as Paul’s dagger to his hairless contemporaries – Paul Simon and James Taylor – who’ve only been married three times. Paul, now sixty-nine, with his mangy shock of hair just married for a – wait for it – fourth time. I think the answer’s obvious, Paul: yes, we still need you!

Paul Gleason: I’m glad that you brought up this tune, Mike, because, as you very well know, I have special insight into the age of sixty-four. Both of my parents have reached the crucial age about which Paul sings, and I have closely observed their behavior. My observations have taught me that Paul is one of the greatest fantasy lyricists of all time – because being sixty-four is nothing like what he sings about. My parents, like Paul’s protagonists, do indeed spend time together. They squabble about politics – together. They play golf – sometimes together. They watch TV – together. They drink wine every night as they watch TV – together. They become drowsy while drinking wine and watching TV – together. And then they fall asleep in front of the TV – together.

11. “Silly Love Songs” – Wings At The Speed Of Sound by Wings – Capitol (1976)

Mike: I’m sorry, but labeling this song silly would be like calling Nic Cage’s performance in Ghost Rider (2007) unfounded. We must look past the flaming head for a deeper reading, just as we must look past the trite lyric, “I can’t explain the feeling’s plain to me, say can’t you see? / Ah, she gave me more, she gave it all to me /… / I need to know, cause here I go again / I love you, I love you.” Behind its surface lies the depth of a thousand seas.

Paul: Your lyrical analysis is so on point, Mike, that I can only add some historical context to make it even more compelling. When Lennon and McCartney were at the height of their post-Beatles feud in the mid-1970s, the former unfairly said that the latter’s love songs were “silly” (see “Silly Love Songs” – and our entire list, really – proves that Lennon was wrong. McCartney actually wrote the song as an ironic, punk rock protest to Lennon’s claim. He owns the fact that his love songs are silly. In your face, John! And remember that 1976 was a key year for the Sex Pistols, the Clash, and Ramones.

Mike: Great point! This is Paul’s most punk rock song. Paul’s having a laugh on John!

10. “Ebony and Ivory” (with Stevie Wonder) – Tug Of War by Paul McCartney – Parlophone/EMI/Columbia/CBS (1982)

Mike: The metaphor set forth here, “Ebony and Ivory live together in perfect harmony / Side by side on my piano keyboard, oh Lord, why don’t we?” is so understated, so subtle. When it finally jumps out at you, you realize it’s simply the most stirring and poignant message of the 20th century. Hands down.

Paul: I think that the subtlety that you so rightly indicate, Mike, most strongly comes out in the Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo Saturday Night Live cover from 1982. The SNL cover is so subtle that we’ll just have to watch the clip.

9. “The Girl Is Mine” (with Michael Jackson) – Thriller by Michael Jackson – Epic (1982)

Mike: The showdown between Michael and Paul at the end of this track always reminds me of the film Gladiator (2002). It’s the musical Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix, slinging words like daggers at one another. Who will win? Who will get the girl? It doesn’t matter. It’s the passion of the fight between Paul and Michael that we will never forget.

Paul: My favorite part of the showdown is when Paul wins the girl with his dagger-like line, “She told me that I’m her forever lover, you know, don’t you remember?” Paul’s line proves that “The Girl Is Mine” is just one in a series of showdowns over the same girl. Paul and Michael have been having this argument for such a long time that Paul has to remind Michael that the girl actually told him that he is her “forever lover.” And, Mike, doesn’t it strike you as strange that the singers of “The Girl Is Mine” share our names? Perhaps we’ve had similar showdowns over girls, and I just can’t remember them . . .

8. “Good Day Sunshine” – Revolver by the Beatles – Parlophone (1966)

Mike: In this entirely un-annoying sun-drenched tune Paul sings, “I love her and she’s loving me / She feels good, she knows she’s looking fine / I’m so proud to know that she is mine.” If only Paul would have written this song post-“The Girl is Mine” we’d have a clear-cut winner.

Paul: I always thought that “Good Day Sunshine” was the most important song on Revolver, which a lot of people say demonstrates the Beatles’ first experiments with LSD. Paul’s song proves that cocaine use is also a key inspiration for the album. I learned this little-known factoid from the McCartney-inspired Katrina and the Waves’ hit “Walking on Sunshine” (1985), in which sunshine – that is, cocaine – inspires the rather hyper performance in the song’s video.

7. “Michelle” – Rubber Soul by the Beatles – Parlophone (1965)

Mike:Not since Pepé Le Pew has the world experienced the mastery of the English-French language mash-up. McCartney builds upon Le Pew’s romantic sensibilities with a beautifully tame melody on this timeless track.

Paul: You’ve reminded me, Mike, that one of the greatest things about McCartney is that he’s bilingual. But no! I’m wrong! He’s actually trilingual. Do you remember the German versions of the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You” (1963)? “Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand” and “Sie Liebt Dich” are true classics.

Mike: Touché, Paul. German, McCartney knows, is the real language of love.

6. “Lovely Rita” Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles – Parlophone (1967)

Mike: McCartney’s song for the average person, Rita isn’t a fashionista or a film actress. No. She is a meter maid, made from the same fabric as the average listener, who works a forty-hour week, cooks, and cleans. McCartney lets us know that, at heart, he’s really just one of us.

Paul: This song, like “When I’m Sixty-Four,” stretches my imagination and proves, once and for all, that McCartney is a great fantasist. Only McCartney would dare dream up a meter maid as an object of his erotic fantasy! Lou Reed’s more traditional and realistic “Whiplash girlchild in the dark” – the heroine of “Venus in Furs” from the Velvet Underground’s album The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967) – is more my speed. Unlike McCartney, I always settle for some good old-fashioned and wholesome S&M at the and of the day and definitely not for a just-too-weird encounter with a deviant meter maid. And, really, who knows where her tickets have been?

5. “With a Little Luck” – London Town by Wings – Parlophone/Capitol (1978)

Mike: “With a little push, we could set it off / We can send it rocketing skywards / With a little love, we could shake it up / Don’t you feel the comet exploding?” This is McCartney’s jab at hip-hop lyricism. I say, pop the cork on the champagne bottle; I’m ready to make love!

Paul: What I love about this song is its poetic ambiguity. McCartney never tells us just what “it” is and, in so doing, let’s my imagination run wild. Songs such as “With a Little Luck” make Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” (1969) just too literal. When Robert Plant sings, “I’m gonna give you every inch of my love,” he just comes out and tells you what he’s singing about and what he’s going to do to you. McCartney’s “it” is much more refined in its metaphorical possibilities.

4. “Say Say Say” (with Michael Jackson) – Pipes Of Peace by Paul McCartney – Parlophone/EMI/Columbia/CBS (1983)

Mike: The music video for this one says it all: a cinematographic masterpiece.

Paul: You’ve nailed it, Mike. You won’t get an argument from this McCartney lover. The video says it all.

3. “Maybe I’m Amazed” – McCartney by Paul McCartney – Apple/EMI (1970)

Mike: Maybe I’m amazed that after listening to McCartney’s endless catalog of love songs I can still find a new and unique message in each of them. But I can!

Paul: Maybe I’m amazed that McCartney can pull off the same guttural vocal style that he does in “I’ve Got a Feeling” from the Beatles’ last album, Let It Be (1970), within the space of a single year. McCartney is the only man I know who can develop a singing style around a prolonged attempt to disgorge a lingering piece of rotting phlegm.

2. “Party All the Time” – How Could It Be by Eddie Murphy – Columbia (1985)

Mike: I think this track really gets to the essence of what McCartney’s about: partying, loving, making records, and getting married. It’s the reason I party all the time.

Paul: I party all the time, Mike, when I look at my framed album cover of How Could It Be, which is nailed to the ceiling above my bed. It’s not so much Murphy’s indescribably complex facial expression that gets me but the piano on which he leans. When I look at this piano and remember his SNL cover of the subtlety socially conscious “Ebony and Ivory,” I know that “Party All the Time” expresses the depth of McCartney’s and your reason for partying all the time.

Mike: Paul, you have outdone me here, sir. I will say this, though – I have been thinking about hanging that exact record above my bed for years. I may have even had the idea first!

1. “My Love” – Red Rose Speedway by Paul McCartney & Wings – Apple/EMI (1973)

Mike: “It’s in the hands of my love / And my love does it good.” Need I say more? I think not. My love does it good. It does it good.

Paul: Again, Mike, you’ve reminded me of McCartney’s poetic brilliance – and why he’s the best lyricist on the planet. After contemplating this song, isn’t AC/DC’s “Let Me Put My Love into You” (1980) rather obvious? How can the thought-provoking lyrics that you cite compete with such couplets as “Let me put my love into you, babe / Let me cut your cake with my knife”? McCartney, as you well know, definitely takes the cake.

Mike: Paul, AC/DC’s not even allowed to smell that cake. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that McCartney was the most filled out of the Fab Four. The man loves his cake!

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  1. Guys, I must object to your P-Mac analysis. I'm all for a little good-natured ribbing, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster knows that The Cute One painted a big satirical target on his back as he wrote most of the tunes discussed here. But hands off "Maybe I'm Amazed." That's a stone classic, and way above your satirical hatchets.

    Also, "Lovely Rita" has a killer bass line.

    I know you're just bewildered because it doesn't seem possible that P-Mac can simultaneously be the most talented Beatle *and* write something like "With a Little Luck." But that just shows his greatness, as he is able to embody the yin and yang, unity-in-opposites of pop music.

  2. How you managed to make a piece of satire so predictable and boring is beyond me.

  3. Ooo that's harsh!

  4. Beyond the land of satire sits the the wonderful world of absurdism.

  5. The 100 didn’t exactly have the same solo success as Lennon, Harrison, Martin, etc… Most of them pretty much needed MJ.

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