Monday, October 02, 2006


I'm driving around the other day listening to the radio, and what unwanted memory should they play but Paul McCartney's extremely unwise 1979 capitulation to the disco craze, Goodnight Tonight.

Two things immediately struck me upon hearing this thing for the first time in years: 1) I hate it now as much as I did then, and 2) by far the worst thing in a song full of bad things is McCartney's bass work, which tries to sound funky but winds up resembling a bad reaction to Mexican food.

I could use this as a cheap excuse to start ripping McCartney's post-Beatles career, and he'd deserve it, but I should point out that, as a hard-core Beatles fan, I've got the utmost respect for the erstwhile Cute One. Sure, in the Beatle songwriting hierarchy, I'm a John Lennon guy all the way--I mean, check out the name of this site--but seriously, you've got to give it up for Paul.

I mean--I'm Looking Through You. If he'd only written that, his place in the pantheon would be secure. Toss in For No One, Drive My Car, Helter Skelter, Rocky Raccoon and way, way too many more to mention, and the case could be made that McCartney was every bit as stong a songwriter as Lennon. Okay, not that strong a case--if I listed only John's contribution to the White Album alone, I'd feel the need to wax rhapsodic over each and every one. (Particularly Julia, my favorite Lennon song and probably my favorite song of all time.) McCartney had the disadvantage of being a very good songwriter in a group blessed with a great songwriter.

Still, there's no shame in being very good, and post-Beatles, Paul should have thrived. Instead, he turned too often to the sappy ballads and novelty crap that made his contribution to Sgt Pepper so unlistenable. In a way, Goodnight Tonight was commendable on McCartney's part, an attempt to do something different instead of the same old thing. The problem is, it was a transparent attempt to sound current, and a half-hearted attempt at that. Even Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey was better than this crap.

These days, McCartney has no interest in trying to sound current. He releases a lazy album every couple of years and goes on tour, cranking out the old hits because who the hell wants to hear the new stuff, and he's okay with that. Maybe if he actually tried these days, the new stuff would be as worthwhile as the old, but he's a bazillionaire and doesn't need to try. Meanwhile, John Lennon has been dead for twenty-six years, and he's still cooler than Paul.