If you judge the record by its track-listing, you’d find what looks to be a complete album. There are, based on the back cover of the album, thirteen songs. But of those thirteen, six are either purely instrumental or short little ditties that last only a minute or so (or less, in the case of the intro-track, Lovely Linda). What actual “songs” we get are mostly stellar.
That Would Be Something is a killer opening song, especially when you consider Paul plays guitar, bass, and drums. What follows is a “song” called Valentine’s Day, which is purely a track with no lyrics. It’s a half-finished song. Then comes Every Night, technically the fourth track, but only the second song. It’s even better than That Would Be Something, and if this was a real (completed) album, it would make—along with That Would Be Something—a great one-two punch to open the album. Hot As Sun-Glasses comes next and while it’s very good instrumentation, it has no lyrics to go with it, making for yet another half-finished song.
That makes three incomplete tracks to two really great songs: The good is getting outweighed by the bad.
Junk is next, a rejected holdover from the White Album days. If nothing else, it’s finished. It’s got a very haunting sound and is very hypnotic. It’s the weakest of the side-A “songs” but wouldn’t be worth complaining about if it was just one “okay” song on an album of good-to-great ones. The first side ends with Man We Was Lonely, a lovely little love song that features Linda singing backing tracks (okay, I lied before when I said it was “all” Paul; this song is the exception). Your mileage may vary on Linda’s singing ability but she’s good enough, which is more than can be said for Yoko.
Speaking of, I should interject and point out John’s criticism. He said something to the effect of “Paul complained about Yoko being in the studio but I didn’t put Yoko on my albums as he did with Linda!” And while that’s true and could be argued as hypocritical on Paul’s part, it wouldn’t be too many years later that John did put Yoko on an album and, unlike Paul, gave her half the album to sing lead vocals at that.
Side-Two opens with a really good riff; Oo You has a great, dirty blues sound and kicks off the second side right. If you’re keeping score that makes five complete songs. Momma Miss America follows and it is yet another instrument-only song, and while it has all the great playing you’d expect (again, it’s impressive that he’s doing it all here), it’s a half-baked offering.
Teddy Boy comes next and while it has lyrics, it’s one of those schmaltzy, sing-along songs that Paul tends to include at least once on every album of his. It’s akin to Martha My Dear or Maxwell’s Silver Hammer. But at least it’s finished; it’s on par with Junk. And speaking of, side-two features a (moody and relaxing and really great) remix of Junk—the song from one side ago—but only in instrumental form. THAT is what you call padding.
As the Junk remix draws to a close, the album-buyer is likely angry that he or she paid full price for half an album. After all, if you listen to it from the beginning, you’ve only heard six songs in a completed form. That’s literally less than half of one Beatles album. You might think “Paul broke up the Beatles for this?!” The Beatles might’ve thought “he held out and screwed up Let It Be for this?!” That’s a fair complaint.
But then the next track—“song” number seven—kicks in…
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…and it’s a masterpiece.
For years to come, no matter how many brilliant songs Paul would write, I don’t know if there’s another as perfect as Maybe I’m Amazed. It captures romance, piano ballading, gospel chorusing, rock music guitaring, and pitch-perfect singing in a stunning package. It single-handedly saves the album and was, in fact, so good, it wasn’t released as a single. Imagine that; ninety-nine times out of a hundred the best song on an album was released as a single, but in this case, they knew the album was so mediocre but for this one incredible song, if they released it as a single, no one would have reason to buy the album. The idea worked, too; the album was #1 for three weeks, falling out of the top spot only because Let It Be released in its fourth week.
So much for the idea that the solo album would overshadow the band’s finale.
Nevertheless, as 1970 drew to a close, Paul was the odd man out. Every other member of the band had released an album far better than his own. None released a single song as good as Maybe I’m Amazed, however. That should have been a hint at things to come.
Paul would go on to make better albums. In fact, while John’s music would rapidly decline in the early 70s (as he focused more on political messaging), and while George struggled to recapture the creativity (born out of late-60’s frustrations) on display in All Things Must Pass, and while Ringo struggled to get top songwriters to work on his albums, Paul only improved. His second album, Ram, is now considered one of the very best of any of the foursome’s post-Beatles catalog. Wings soon formed, released the seminal Band on the Run, and sold-out shows across the globe. Paul proved everyone wrong who had doubted him after his first “mediocre” album. Had they given McCartney a fair shake, though, they might’ve seen just how amazing his solo run was shaping up to be.