By Mike Jurkovic
Author’s Note: I’m hoping that many in the HudsonValley & NY region will recall my maligned musical musings as the Rock n Roll Curmudgeon, a monthly column of cultural insight and rock n roll ridiculousness that ran in Rhythm and News Magazine from 1996-2003.
Paul McCartney at 76
With the recent release of one of his strongest solo collections, Egypt Station, and this year’s 50th anniversary of “Hey Jude” and The WhiteAlbum, imagine Paul McCartney bounding across the global stage and not playing any Beatles songs. He's done it before on the Reeperbaum and at the Cavern.The Jacaranda in Liverpool. St. John's Hall in Lancashire.The Star Club.The StanleyAbattoir Social Club Dance.The Casbah Coffee Club.TheTower Ballroom in Brighton.
I've been obsessing over the following hypothesis forever, but most stridently since Friday, July 17, 2009. It was opening night at Citi Field - a for-the-ages show Emily and I were truly fortunate to attend with our two great friends Jodie and Jeff. Even with a dicey mix along the first base line, there was a surging spirit from the stage that rainy, celebratory night. It was the gut level feeling of man looking to bask in his achievements, yet, at the same time, cast aside all stringent fan expectation.The roiling evidence were the twists and turns of a lacerating and scorching “Helter Skelter.”The shredding fierceness of “PaperbackWriter.”The relentless “Let Me Roll It” and the exultant, childlike wonder of “SingThe Changes.”
For over fifty years, McCartney - great humanitarian that he is - has always held his adventurous, creative fluency in check, held his deeper musicality at bay in favor of the people's hits. Sullivan, Madison Square, The Concertgebow. Shea, Wembley, the Vatica. Always the hits. Always the charming grin and chatter to make the girls swoon. Who in their right mind, you might ask at this late juncture, would want to screw with that?
Associates still alive ‘n kicking might recall how I came home from that firstWings rock show, his first NY appearance since the big Beatle bye-bye. Scalping my way into the nose bleed seats, Madison Square Garden, 5/24/76 and buzzing about the music and a girl named Maria, decked head to toe in Beatle memorabilia whom I sang with all night. (For the record, they performed five Beatles song that night and for most of the tour, unlike the twenty-three out of thirty-six he performs regularly now.)
It’s nagged me through shows in '89, '90, & '93. It hit me again at Carnegie Hall for “Standing Stone” in '97.This idea of a no Beatles show came at me again at shows in '02, 04, ’09, ’10. Yankee Stadium 2011 seat 5, row 5, section 211, and at subsequent shows since.
When last I saw him (9/11/17) McCartney performed a nearly 3 hour, 36 song set (including encores.) Sooo, with the new release featuring such strong, satisfying songs as “I Don’t Know,” “Happy With You,” “Confidante,” “Dominoes,” the none-too-thinly-disguised anti-Trumpian, suite “Despite Repeated Warnings,” and “Who Cares,” I’ve taken the nervy and painstaking freedom to arrange a set-list sans Beatles. I’ve also attempted to lay out the tunes as Macca might perform them, full band, solo piano, solo acoustic, full band. I’ve also included the highest Billboard chart position, original album, and other ephemera I thought necessary to win you over to my righteous side of the argument.
Now imagine, not one Beatles song:
1. My Brave Face (full band) (#25, Flowers in the Dirt, 1989)
2. Helen Wheels (#10, Band On The Run, 1973)
3. Jet (#7, Band On The Run)
4. Let Me Roll It (concert staple, Band On The Run)
5. Ever Present Past (sharp, concise rocker, Memory Almost Full, 2007)
6. Drink To Me (Picasso's Last Words) (Band On The Run)
7. Sing The Changes (anthemic tune, Electric Arguments, 2008)
8. Call Me Back Again (solo piano) (New Orleans sway, Venus and Mars, 1975)
9. Ballroom Dancing " (Tug of War, 1982, Grammy Album of the Year)
10. Wanderlust " (Tug of War)
11. We All Stand Together " (Rupert & the Frog Song, 1983 UK #3)
12. My Love " (#1, Red Rose Speedway, 1973)
13. Maybe I'm Amazed " (#10, McCartney, 1970)
14. Queenie Eye " (#27, New, 2013)
15. The World Tonight (full band) (#23, Flaming Pie, 1997)
16. Nothing Too Much Just Out Of Sight (blistering distorted blues, Electric Arguments)
17. New (New, 2013)
19. Here Today " (Lennon tribute, #46, Tug of War)
20. Early Days " (New)
21. Calico Skies " (Flaming Pie, 1997)
22. Jenny Wren “ (Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, 2005)
23. Ram On/Junk “ (Ram, 1971)
24. That Would Be Something " (McCartney)
25. The Songs We Were Singing (Flaming Pie)
26. Every Night (full band) (McCartney)
27. Too Many People (Ram)
28. Tug Of War (Tug of War)
29. I Can See The World Tonight (#64, Flaming Pie)
30. Band On The Run (#1, Band On The Run)
31. Wine Dark Open Sea (Off The Ground, 1993)
32. No More Lonely Nights (#6, Give My Regards to Broad Street, 1984)
33. Live And Let Die (#2, 1973 Wingspan, 2001)
34. Mull Of Kintyre (Britian’s biggest single, Wingspan)
35. Fine Line (#31, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard)
36. Hope of Deliverance (#9, Off The Ground)
This first set-list envisions music from seventeen albums, spanning 1970 - 2013. Even the most casual Macca-head knows at least two-thirds of these songs. And the bonus is that artist, band, and audience break out of their comfort zones to new faves and revelations, just like we did years ago with “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Yesterday,” “Here, There, And Everywhere,” “Hey Jude,” and “Let It Be.”
And this band - Rusty Anderson - guitars, bass, vocals, Paul Wickens - keyboards, percussion, vocals, Brian Ray - guitars, bass, vocals, and Art Laboriel, Jr. - drums and the sweetest falsetto to cover Mac’s slowly fading high end - can pull it off with riffs to spare. By allowing McCartney the freedom to create again, and not recreate our collective, ever present past, we as an audience would finally pay Paul McCartney back for all the hope and resourcefulness he has given us - releasing him to reach his full manifestation - while we discover our own vivid humanity as ever evolving beings, released from the rock n roll museum we too often lock ourselves numbingly into.
Want another set-list? With the possible exceptions of “Live and Let Die” and “Band On The Run” which he has performed to the point of ad nauseam over the years, I’m going to try and not repeat a single tune from set-list #1 and, I’ll double down on my bet from before, even the most casual fan will recognize two thirds of these songs.
1. Venus and Mars/Rock Show
2. Dance Til We're High
3. Hi Hi Hi
4. Magneto and Titanium Man
5. I've Had Enough
7. Letting Go
8. Riding To Vanity Fair
9. C Moon (solo piano)
10. Once Upon A Long Ago "
11. My Valentine "
12. (I Want to) Come Home "
13. Your Loving Flame "
14. 1985 "
15. Junior's Farm
17. FortyFive Seconds
19. Big Boys Bickering
20. That Day Is Done
21. We Got Married (solo acoustic)
22. On My Way to Work "
23. Bluebird "
24. Heart Of The Country "
25. On the Wings of a Nightingale
26. Little Willow "
27. Flaming Pie (full band)
28. This One
29. Smile Away
30. O Woman O Why
31. Ebony And Ivory
33. Figure of Eight
34. Listen To What The Man Said
35. Sun Is Shining
36. Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey (#1, Ram)
(#12, Venus and Mars, 1975)
(Electric Arguments, 2008)
(B-side,Venus and Mars)
(#25, London Town, 1978)
(#39, Venus and Mars)
(Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, 2005)(B-side, 1973)
(All The Best!, 1987)
(#20, Kisses On the Bottom, 2012)
(Golden Globe Best Song, 2009)
(Driving Rain, 2001)
(Band On The Run, 1973)
(#4, w/Beyonce & Kayne, 2015)
(post-punk/pre-grunge, Press To Play, 1986)
(#21, Flowers in the Dirt)
(Flowers in the Dirt)
(Band On The Run, 1973)
(Flaming Pie, 1997)
(Flowers in the Dirt)
(#1, Tug of War, 1982)
(Flowers in the Dirt)
(#1, Venus and Mars)
Spanning his entire solo career from 1970-2015, this second set-list encompasses music from fourteen different albums, b-sides, a Golden Globe winner, three #1’s, one once banned tune, and five more songs that sat in the US Top Twenty when things like that actually meant something.
Has McCartney written and released his share of clunkers? You bet, and I'm willing to wager he'd be the first to admit it. But you won't find any clunkers here, no matter how badly you want to hear “I’ve Just See A Face.” You won't find some of his biggest hits either, ie: “Comin' Up,” “Another Day,” “Let 'Em In,” “Silly Love Songs,” “With A Little Luck,” “Goodnight Tonight,” “Freedom.” And you can make an argument for many fan faves like “Back Seat of My Car,” “Dance Tonight,” “Same Time Next Year,” “Old Siam Sir,” “Girls School,” “Mrs. Vanderbilt,” “Single Pigeon,” or “Monkberry Moon Delight.”
Paul McCartney has given and continues to give us everything he has. The time has come for us to return even the slightest fraction of what he's given us. We can give him freedom from “Back In The USSR” and “Eleanor Rigby,” and with that freedom he can set the pace as he did so long ago.