It’s been a super-long time since Paul McCartney toured Australia. The last time he was here, Hypercolour, E Street, focaccia and Peter Andre were all things. Shane Warne was better known for his skills on the pitch than for his moves off it. Paul Keating was the Prime Minister. The internet wasn’t a thing! This outfit was somehow something people thought was acceptable to wear.
What was the deal with that baggy, earth colours, tribal patterns meets Northern Exposure look? If you were alive at the time, you were guilty of wearing it. We all were. It looks horrible now.
Now, the man behind some of the greatest songs of the twentieth century (and ‘Mull Of Kintyre’) is set to return to Australia and New Zealand in December for his first tour of the Antipodes since 1993. It’s a return many had given up thinking would ever happen. It’s as if we, as a nation, had done something to upset or offend the great man.
Since his last Australian tour, McCartney has released seven solo albums, four live albums, four classical albums, three albums with Youth as The Fireman and two albums of electronica. He’s also embarked on ten world tours. Ten! His current run, entitled One On One, is his eleventh concert tour since he last came to Australia and New Zealand.
He was meant to play at Melbourne’s Docklands Stadium in November 2002 but cancelled, citing the Bali bombings in October 2002 as the reason: “this is not the appropriate time for a rock show,” said Paul. This, despite the fact he organised and played at the Concert for New York City a month after 9/11.
Again, I digress.
With all of this in mind, what songs from McCartney’s incomparable catalogue will make up the set list when the man himself returns to our shores?
Below are ten Beatles, Wings and solo McCartney classics that hearing live would make his return to Oz that little bit sweeter.
The 80s were a strange and varied time for McCartney but his first single of the decade and the opening track from 1980’s eclectic, experimental solo album McCartney II kicked the period off in a fine fashion. Recorded completely solo aside from some backing vocals from wife Linda, ‘Coming Up’ is a slinky piece of funk rock that wouldn’t be out of place on a Talking Heads album. This track is responsible for making John Lennon want to get back to work after his five-year hiatus. It also has one of the greatest music videos ever made.
Following the New World Tour in 1993 (including his last shows to date in Australia), McCartney took a break from touring and releasing music. In 1995/96, the mammoth Beatles Anthology project was released across albums, a book and a TV series. It reignited Beatlemania amongst fans old and new. With his first release post-Anthology, 1997’s Flaming Pie, McCartney didn’t disappoint those wanting more Beatle fare. Not only did the album feature reunions with Ringo Starr, George Martin and Geoff Emerick, it also saw sessions produced by Jeff Lynne; the ELO/Traveling Wilburys man also having been the producer of Beatle comeback singles ‘Free As A Bird’ and ‘Real Love’. Flaming Pie found McCartney tapping back into his Fab Four mojo and nowhere was this more prevalent than on the title track. The rollicking piano stomper has strong shades of ‘Lady Madonna’ with a hint of ‘Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?’ A crowning moment on his best album of the 90s.
Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five
Really, you could pick most of the songs from Band On The Run for a list such as this. It’s the album that revitalised both the critical and commercial standing of post-Beatle Paul and for very good reason. It was his strongest and most Beatlesque set of solo tracks to date. The grandiose, climatic close of the album, ‘Nineteen Hundred And Eighty-Five’ includes another thumping McCartney piano line and groove. The increasing layers of orchestra and horns as the song moves to its finish feels the triumphant sounds of a man who knows he’s fought off the demons and won.
I’ve Just Seen A Face
At Abbey Road on 14 June 1965, The Beatles recorded ‘Yesterday’, ‘I’m Down’ and ‘I’ve Just Seen A Face’. Some bands would kill to record that much great material in their entire career, let alone in a single day. The latter track is one of the absolute standouts of the second side of the soundtrack to Help! It points the way to the folkier direction the band would take next on Rubber Soul and was played on all acoustic instruments. It clocks in at just over two minutes.
The Back Seat Of My Car
Panned at the time of its release, the reputation of 1971’s Ram has been rehabilitated in the last couple of decades and it is now regarded as one of Sir Paul’s very best solo albums. The record is full of tracks that portray the McCartney’s embrace of family life on their Scottish farm, away from the hassles of the ongoing legal war with the other Beatles. Another classic McCartney album closer, ‘The Back Seat Of My Car’ puts Paul’s love for The Beach Boys on full display. It also recalls his own ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’ from Abbey Road.
My Brave Face
After a decade of massive highs and deep lows, McCartney finished the 80s with a return to form on 1989’s Flowers In The Dirt. The album revealed the first fruits of the McCartney/MacManus song writing partnership, teaming Paul with another son of Merseyside, Elvis Costello. ‘My Brave Face’ taps back into the vibe of 1966 McCartney, with a bass line reminiscent of ‘Rain’ and ‘Paperback Writer’. It maybe suffers from some overwrought 80s production but the song is a cracker.
What You’re Doing
1964’s Beatles For Sale marked the point where the Fab Four brought folk rock to life, thanks in no small part to George Harrison’s increasing mastery of his twelve-string Rickenbacker. The chiming chords of ‘What You’re Doing’ give a strong sign of the oncoming wave of electric folk that would appear in 1965, being led by The Byrds. It’s also one of McCartney’s most impassioned, weary vocals of this era.
Released on 1982’s Tug Of War, McCartney’s first album following the assassination of John Lennon, ‘Here Today’ is the first of several tracks addressing his former collaborator’s passing that he’s released over the years (see also ‘Early Days’ from 2013’s New). It is by far, the most powerful and effecting tribute to his departed friend. Make sure you have some tissues handy.
Fixing A Hole
Being the fiftieth anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, it would be outrageous for McCartney and band not to play some tracks from the landmark album. ‘Fixing A Hole’ is maybe not the most obvious choice but its clever wordplay and crunchy guitar lines make it one of the albums quiet achievers.
For No One
In all honesty, if McCartney came out and did Revolver from start to finish and then walked off, your correspondent would be eternally happy. For all of the hyperbole over Sgt. Pepper, it’s really the album before it that is the best Beatles album. There are so many spectacular pieces of music in its 34 minutes, 43 seconds, if the band had broken up when it was released like they might have done, we’d still be holding them up as one of the all-time greats, if not the greatest. ‘For No One’ is one of McCartney’s five songs on the album, all of which are extraordinary. It makes the list because it’s a heartbreaker.