Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Quote of the Day (Andy Richter, on Paul McCartney Lyrics)

“When I want to alert my children to the dangers of marijuana abuse, I just print out the lyrics to some Wings' songs.”—Comedian/second banana Andy Richter, April 26, 2013 tweet

According to Skylark, Philip Furia’s biography of Johnny Mercer, the singer Margaret Whiting was used as an intermediary to sound out the Oscar-winning lyricist of “Moon River” and “Days of Wine and Roses” about the possibility of collaborating with Paul McCartney. Mercer turned down the invitation, using as an excuse his wife’s fragile health, though more likely it was his own (he died shortly afterward). There are conflicting reports about the Georgia-born writer’s feelings about the Beatles, but he is unlikely to have been impressed with most of McCartney’s lyrics in the Seventies.

Andy Richter’s comment brings to mind the usual complaints about the “cute Beatle” after his breakup from longtime songwriting partner John Lennon. Case in point of what Richter and the other (less snarky) critics have in mind: the album Red Rose Speedway, released in the United States on this date 40 years ago, recorded with the backup band Wings. It was a success, of course, hitting #1 in the U.S., including the singer's tribute to wife Linda, "My Love." But...

Here, for instance, are some sample lyrics of “Big Barn Bed,” the LP’s first song:
“Who you gonna weep on?
Who you gonna sleep on?
Who you gonna creep on next?”

Amazingly, McCartney thought seriously about releasing this as a double album. (Other songs, released in other formats later, were “Live and Let Die,” admittedly one of the better James Bond songs, and “Hi Hi Hi,” which—well, talking about “who you gonna creep on next”!)

Of course, Richter’s jibe could apply just about across the whole spectrum of rock ‘n’ roll. I mean, can anyone really explain America’s “Horse With No Name”? And let’s not get anywhere near their “Muskrat Love”!

1 comment:

Ken Houghton said...

"Better James Bond songs"--praising with loud damns, eh? Then again, what can you say about a series where the highlight came from Duran Duran?

Also, I don't know of anyone who points to Dewey Bunnell of America as an exemplar of songwriting, even if he did name Prince's first movie.

When you look at McCartney's best Beatles lyrics--which means taking Lennon's Playboy interview with a 5# bag of salt, but conceding his general point--you end up with two sets.

First is a lot of pedestrian lyrics that fit well with the music. The standards--Michelle, Yesterday--sound better than they scan, to be gracious about it.

Second are the interesting texts, such as Paperback Writer or the Middle Eight for A Day in the Life [which I would give my eye teeth to have written]. They get jaunty tunes that belie the text; "it's a dirty story of a dirty man/and his clinging wife who doesn't understand" is on a par with the Kinks "A Well-Respected Man" ("And he plays at stocks and shares/And he goes to the regatta/He adores the girl next door/Cause he's dying to get at her") for creepy.

Aside: "Born in the USA" had the same problem; it took Ron Carter contemporaneously--and later REM-- to teach Springsteen how the song should be performed.

Is it any wonder you end up with "Silly Love Songs"?

McCartney in his sobriety at least figured out where the gems were: see his performance of the underappreciated "1985" in January. And his skipping of most of the songs that make Father Guido Sarducci's interview with McCartney all those years ago seem generous.