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Macca’s gems: Dear Boy

One of the many highlights of the album RAM is Dear Boy. The Beach Boys-like song is especially notable for the amazing vocals by Paul and Linda. And it is also one of McCartney's more personal songs.

Initially Dear Boy led to a controversy with John Lennon who heard in RAM, not entirely unjustified, several unkind references to him and Yoko. Similarly in Dear Boy, Lennon heard the criticism that he had left the band. But in this particular case Lennon is wrong. The song is addressed to Linda’s ex-husband Joseph Melville See: Unbelievable that you have let go such an amazing woman.
The thought behind it was that Linda’s ex-husband hadn’t seen in her what I had seen in her, and so the song was really written to him. You know, ‘You’ll never know what you missed, dear boy’. It was my attempt at an autobiography about myself and how lucky I was to have Linda. I never realized how lucky I was to have her until I began writing the song.
But Dear Boy is more than just a tribute to Linda. It also describes how she has supported him through thick and thin in the difficult time after the breakup of The Beatles. The dissolution is still in progress and the troubles are also affecting the recording of the song. The lawsuit that Paul has filed against the other three is still ongoing and that distracts McCartney in such a way that he isn’t very productive as a result. Linda's brother John Eastman arranges producer Jim Guercio (at the time well-known as producer of Chicago) hoping to get his brother-in-law back to work. But it isn’t a successful attempt. For the recording of Dear Boy needs no less than five days, after which both also denounce the collaboration again. Joe Guercio can still be heard in the background vocals though.




These background vocals will also have contributed to the long time it took for the recording. It is quite complex, very layered. It is the most characteristic of the song. And in this case the harmonies arose organically, during the recording session:
Yeah, I do love harmonies, and always have. It’s a deeply satisfying thing. With Dear Boy, I had it obviously as an un-harmonied thing because I was just singing the main vocal line myself when I wrote it. Once we got the basic track down, it seemed like a good idea to work on harmonies.
What made the recording more difficult was that McCartney had to deal with a totally inexperienced partner. And that took a lot of time; Linda's contributions were recorded separately piece by piece:
Linda and I both knew that she was a novice, and I was the veteran, almost, the question was how to manage those two ends of the spectrum. What I liked about Linda’s singing was the tone of her voice – I’d never worked singing with a woman before, so I liked this idea of her range. Dear Boy is quite complex to do, but I could see she could do it. So we just took the time, I put my part on and then encouraged Linda to take it easy, relax, put a good performance in, which she did.”
And that's actually putting it too mildly. Given her very limited experience you can’t deny that Linda has put down a top performance. It will ultimately prove to be a first step towards the sound that would become so characteristic to Wings: The harmonies by Paul, Linda and Denny Laine.

Video: Dear Boy

André Homan

André Homan is a Dutch writer and journalist.

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