Introducing… Paul McCartney: The Ultimate Music Guide
18th November 2014
On April 18, 1970, an unusual dispatch from Paul McCartney appeared in the NME. Instead of participating in a normal interview, McCartney had sent the UK media a printed statement, in which he (or, at least, a shadowy enabler at Apple) asked the questions as well as supplying the answers. A delicate situation, he believed, needed to be micromanaged with extreme care.
Nevertheless, McCartney did not spare himself the difficult subjects. There was a solo album to discuss, of course, one all about "Home. Family. Love." But also, there was the outstanding business of where the arrival of that album left The Beatles. "Are you planning a new album or single with The Beatles?" McCartney challenged himself. "No," he responded.
"Is your break up with The Beatles, temporary or permanent, due to personal differences or musical ones?" McCartney persisted.
"Personal differences," he came back. "Business differences. Musical differences, but most of all, because I have a better time with my family."
"What are your plans now? A holiday? A musical? A movie? Retirement?"
"My only plan is to grow up."
And there it was: the end of something that changed the world, and the start of the rest of Paul McCartney's life. It is those 44, frequently remarkable, years that we're focusing on in this latest edition of the Uncut Ultimate Music Guide, which you can order online right now (it arrives in UK shops on Friday, November 21). As is usual with our Ultimate Music Guides, we've located a bunch of key articles in the NME, Melody Maker and Uncut archives and, with extensive new reviews of every album, used them to trace the highs, lows and neglected margins of McCartney's post-Beatles career.
There are frank reflections on life past and present, bantering encounters with Wings, a constant and fascinating narrative about how McCartney tries to reconcile being "Mr Normal" with being, well, Sir Paul McCartney. There's also an epic interview from a 2004 issue of Uncut, in which McCartney, a shrewd media operator ever since the earliest days of The Beatles, talks with unprecedented candour about every phase of his career.
"I’ve put out an awful lot of records. Some of them I shouldn’t have put out, sure," he admits in the piece. "I’d gladly accept that. There’s many different reasons for putting a record out. Sometimes I might just put one out because I’m bored and I’ve got nothing better to do. That happens."
Few artists, in the post-war era, have had anything remotely close to the cultural impact of Paul McCartney. Nevertheless, his discography is surprisingly full of odd excursions and experiments, of great songs hidden away and half-forgotten. This Uncut Ultimate Guide is, we hope, a key to the treasures of Macca's long, engrossing second act - like "Secret Friend", for example, a "McCartney II"-era B-side which, as Jon Dale plausibly argues, is lost kin of Manuel Gottsching's "E2 - E4"…
Inspired, I ended up searching online, in vain, for an instrumental mix of "Wonderful Christmastime", to illustrate a point I was trying to make to everyone else at Uncut about the song being a neglected avant-garde masterpiece. Your similar theories about "We All Stand Together" would, of course, be appreciated…
Uncut is now available as a digital edition! Download here on your iPad/iPhone and here on your Kindle Fire or Nook.