Astonishingly, I avoided hearing anything – “Maybe I’m Amazed” included – from this album until this year. Considering I started getting into music around 1972 and rapidly accumulated all The Beatles albums as well as the contemporary solo records (“Imagine”, “Living In The Material World”, “Beaucoups Of Blues” and “Red Rose Speedway”) of all The Beatles at the time, it’s practically beyond belief. Neither did I get “All Things Must Pass”, but that was understandable as it was expensive. But it didn’t take me long to get “Plastic Ono Band” and “Live Peace In Toronto”.
So why did “McCartney” languish unheard for so long? As usual, the answer lies in the contemporary critics who did not like this record, and convinced me I would be better spending my money elsewhere. Having finally heard it, I can now understand why. It really is relatively slight, especially compared to the weight of many of McCartney’s contemporary compositions for The Beatles. Not irredeemably slight. It has a very attractive homemade lo-fi feel, and contains in “Maybe I’m Amazed” a stone classic song as fine as any McCartney composed for The Beatles. But nothing else measures up, although “Junk” has a very pretty melody and feel, “That Would Be Something” is catchy and “Teddy Boy” again has a gently warmhearted sentiment. And then there is the extraordinary “Momma Miss America”, an instrumental that virtually a dub reggae cut.
If anything, this album contains much of the low-key charm that makes The Beach Boys’ “Friends” such a delight, but on the whole “Friends” contains stronger songs.
No, more than anything else, “McCartney” is Paul McCartney’s retreat from the impossible expectations put upon The Beatles, and, more personally, from the bitterness and rivalry that was tearing that group apart at the time. In this way, it is very similar to “Eric Clapton” where Clapton went to some length to downplay the guitar hero tag pinned to him since the days of John Mayall and Cream. Consequently, “McCartney” actually seems to be a better record than it really is, and you can’t help but give the artist considerable leeway. This does not hold true for much of Paul McCartney’s later output which is simply uninteresting. “McCartney”, for all its flaws, is a worthwhile record.