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Not Much Blues For McCartney

Of all the music styles that McCartney has played over the years, the blues is a genre that you hardly find in his repertoire. Sir Paul, with his optimistic disposition, is not really the type to sing about the suffering of life, even though he also had his share of misfortune. For a McCartney blues, you really have to dig.

The sound of Wings’ first line-up had quite some blues influences, thanks to lead guitarist Henry McCullough, who originally comes from the blues scene. The band plays his song Henry's Blues during the 1972 Wings-over-Europe Tour, for example. On Wings' first album, before McCullough joined the band, a first blues by McCartney can be found. From a musical point of view, title track Wild Life meets the conditions of a typical blues, the theme a bit less.

Video: Wild Life



Wings may have started 'bluesy', it won’t get followed up. In the seventies, no real blues tracks by McCartney are known to me. The only ones that come a bit close to a blues are Letting Go and Call Me Back Again, both from the Venus and Mars 
album (1975). 
The first real blues from McCartney to be released, On The Way, appears on the album you would least expect it: the heavily synthesizer influenced album McCartney II (1980). The song was covered in 2014 by BB King, for the Art Of McCartney album.

On The Way

In the eighties and nineties, McCartney records several albums with covers, and there are a number of blues songs on them. On Choba B CCCP (1987), McCartney performs a compelling blues version of Gershwin's Summertime, although in the end it is not real blues.
On Unplugged (The Official Bootleg) there are several songs with 'blues' in the title, Singing The Blues and San Francisco Bay Blues. The only real blues from these sessions, never officially released but recorded during the MTV special, is Mean Woman Blues; a 12-bar blues from the fifties, known by Elvis Presley’s 1957 version.

Video: Mean Woman Blues, Unplugged



On the album Run Devil Run the track Lonesome Town can be found. Originally it's more of a ballad, but McCartney has made it to a bluesy version, including a great guitar solo by Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour.

Video: Lonesome Town, live

Something completely different is Get Yourself Another Fool, from McCartney's American standards album Kisses On The Bottom (2012). It’s jazz, but it is also one of the few true blues tracks that he recorded eventually. On the live version,  as with Lonesome Town, McCartney has a first-rate guitarist for the guitar solo, Joe Walsh this time.

Video: Get Yourself Another Fool, live
 

Another blues written by McCartney himself appears in the late 1990s. Used To Be Bad, (Flaming Pie, 1997), is a duet with Steve Miller and was born, how could it be otherwise with a blues, out of a jam session.

Video: Used to be Bad



In 2002, the moving Back In The Sunshine Again (Driving Rain) is released. Paul and his son James, together handling the death of wife and mother Linda McCartney. You could characterize the song as the ultimate McCartney blues: The suffering is there, but the focus is on the future, with that characteristic Macca optimism.

Video:Back In The Sunshine Again

All in all, McCartney has only recorded a handful of blues songs. The blues does not seem to fit the optimistic McCartney as a composer, but as a performer it seems you could get him in an unadulterated, spontaneous blues jam anytime a day. Just for the joy of playing. During the recording of the video clip for the song Early Days (2013) it came to such a jam session, with Johnny Depp among others. The cameras that were already there, filmed it for half an hour. 

Video: Blues jam


André Homan

André Homan is a Dutch writer and journalist.

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