As half of one of the greatest songwriting duos in music history, Paul McCartney has seen his work become an integral part of popular culture. His songs have been covered by countless artists, soundtracked thousands of lives, and continue to be loved throughout generations. His catalogue extends from the iconic material produced with The Beatles through to his enormously successful time as the leading musician in Wings, and continues with an especially prolific solo career that sees no end in sight. Yet amidst ‘Hey Jude’, ‘Band on the Run’, ‘Coming Up’, and ‘All You Need Is Love’, other creative offerings from McCartney have inevitably been overlooked. In an effort to rectify this, we’ve put together a list of eight of the most underrated, overshadowed, and under appreciated Paul McCartney songs from the past 47 years of his post-Beatles career.
1. ‘Junior’s Farm’ - Wings, single release (1974)
McCartney produced some of his best work with Wings, using the creative freedom that followed his separation from The Beatles to his full advantage. ‘Junior’s Farm’ perhaps receives less attention as it was released the year after the phenomenal Band on the Run, but it remains an integral part of the band’s discography. It’s everything a rock song needs to be, with the bass a particular standout alongside the nonsensical lyrics reminiscent of The Beatles’ 1967 track ‘I Am The Walrus’.
2. ‘The Back Seat Of My Car’ - Paul and Linda McCartney, Ram (1971)
A gradual crescendo of sound and feeling captures the mindset of a generation in ‘The Back Seat Of My Car’. The instrumentation matches the youthful optimism of the narrative perfectly, building from dreamlike piano chords and vocals to the orchestra arrangement soundtracking McCartney’s impassioned declaration, “We believe that we can’t be wrong.”
3. ‘Call Me Back Again’ - Wings, Venus and Mars (1975)
For anyone looking for an example of the strength of McCartney’s voice, the soulful, bluesy rock and roll of ’Call Me Back Again’ is always a good choice. It’s testament to the musician’s tendency to push himself, with many critics likening the song to his vocal efforts on The Beatles’ ‘Oh Darling!’. A memorable highlight of the song is the last iteration of the verse, where McCartney stretches his voice until he becomes hoarse.
4. ‘Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five’ - Wings, Band on the Run (1973)
The bold conclusion to Band on the Run is worthy of a place on this list not for its lyrics or its relevancy in McCartney’s career, but for its instrumentation, structure, and placement on the album. While many listeners have praised McCartney’s bass playing on this track, the piano that is so essential to the song is particularly indicative of his broad musical talent. The outro is elaborately scored — and effectively so. Ending the song with a return to the title track’s repeated phrase shows the value of creating an album as a collective art form, as opposed to simply being a compilation of songs.
5. ‘Rockestra Theme’ - Wings, Back to the Egg (1979)
If you haven’t heard ‘Rockestra Theme’ before now, do yourself a favour and press play on the video above. Featuring a ‘rock orchestra’ with appearances from the likes of The Who’s Pete Townshend, Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham, and Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, the instrumental track is an all-star celebration of pure rock and roll. It remains an overlooked gem from Wings’ final album, despite winning the first Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.
6. ‘Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey’ - Paul and Linda McCartney, Ram (1971)
‘Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey’ is one of the best examples of how McCartney employs narrative techniques in his songwriting. We meet characters reminiscent of Rocky Racoon, Eleanor Rigby, and Polythene Pam as we follow a story consisting of disparate song fragments patched together to form an unexpectedly cohesive range of musical movements. Its multi-faceted nature extends to the inclusion of sound effects, too, with sounds such as rain and bird calls incorporated into the song.
7. ‘No Words’ - Wings, Band on the Run (1973)
On an album like Band on the Run, it’s to be expected that at least a few of the ten superb songs will be overlooked. ‘No Words’ is one that has been overshadowed by more well-known hits such as the title track, ’Jet’, and ‘Let Me Roll It’, but it deserves greater recognition. Here, McCartney uses evocative harmonies and clever orchestration to present a heartfelt sentiment in his signature style. The track also features co-writing credits for Denny Laine, his first on a Wings album.
8. ‘Calico Skies’ - Paul McCartney, Flaming Pie (1997)
In the liner notes for Flaming Pie, McCartney described this song as “a gentle love song that became a sixties protest song.” While his later compositions are often overlooked in favour of his creative output from the 1960s to the early 1980s, ‘Calico Skies’ exemplifies the undeniable fact that McCartney’s prolific songwriting abilities have never faded away.
Paul McCartney kicks off his Australian tour tonight in Perth. Find out when he'll visit your city here.
(Photo: Paul McCartney, Wings Over America)