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Bill has worked at Left Bank Books in the CWE for years. We discovered long ago that we were both big Beatle fans, and whenever I’m in the store we trade the latest news and gossip.

Going back about a year, he’s been pushing me to listen to Paul McCartney’s latest FIREMAN album, one of a series of smaller, experimental albums Paul•s been doing. Bill described it as some of his best music in a long while.

I’d say “yeah” and forget about it. As much as I love and support any and all Beatle (or post-breakup solo) stuff, since their breakup I’ve always been a little cool to McCartney. He got some bad PR during and after the breakup (while he was also the only one actively trying to keep the band working and together.) Comparing his cute, smiley personality (reflected in the childrens– rhyme musical confection he sometimes turns out) with the ultimately cool Lennon, the global mysticism of Harrison, and the good old party boy Ringo, Paul always seemed like the least hip Beatle.

Not helping this impression was a self-promotion campaign he seemed to engineer concerning the Beatles hey-day in England. Competing with the revolutionary artiste label that fell upon Lennon, Paul pushed the notion that while John, pre-Yoko, was holed up with Cynthia in the English countryside, dropping acid and dreaming his life away, Paul was flitting around swinging London, frequenting avant-garde art exhibits, films and such, hobnobbing with the cultural elite, and actually producing his own experimental music which he inferred Lennon was desperately mimicking with“Revolution Number Nine” from the WHITE ALBUM.

But just a few days ago, I became aware that XM/Sirius Satellite radio was devoting a 24-hour channel to McCartney, in honor of the remastered anniversary release of his BAND ON THE RUN album. I’ve been listening to the channel for many hours every day.

And I’m somewhat staggered by the range and depth of McCartney’s work. All his Beatles classics are being played, along with his many hit singles as a solo artist or member of Wings.

But there are also many, many songs being played I’ve missed as I’ve neglected his more recent work, along with alternate and live versions of his more popular songs. Some of those songs I’ve missed sound a bit tossed off, but many are very interesting songs, characterized by Paul’s appealing melodies and impeccable singing. (One favorite oldie I’d loved, forgotten and was re-introduced to was “Tomorrow” from his Wings WILD LIFE album.)

And the bottom line realization (and re-assessment) that I’ve been hit with is this. For better or worse, and for years, McCartney has been working.

I•ve always admired Bob Dylan for his work ethic (a key part of my admiration for his artistry), playing live almost 200 times a year for decades (The Never-Ending Tour), consistently releasing new work and collections of classic remasters, demos and live performances, and breaking out with an autobiography, films, Christmas albums, exhibits and books of his painting, and his own XM/Sirius Theme Time Radio show. But Paul has been just as busy (creating new work on a very regular basis, experimenting with new musical styles, including symphonic work), continuing to tour, and monitoring the myriad of Beatles stuff that continues to come – from LOVE by Cirque De Soleil in Vegas to the“world-changing” Beatles on ITunes.

And regarding the “cool” factor of McCartney, one has to acknowledge, based on what one reads, that Paul has been doing all this while seriously stoned. The man likes his herbal supplements.

So as I re-asses Paul, his genius, his work ethic, his “cool,” I have to make plans to get by Left Bank and soon and apologize to Bill. I bet that recent FIREMAN album is great.


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Revised: October, 2007
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