Honestly, it’s tough sometimes, being a hardcore Paul McCartney stan in 2020. Obviously we know Macca is the foremost artistic genius of his generation, but it’s not as if the great man makes it easy for us, out here in the trenches, defending his honour against those tiresome pub bores who reckon they’re sophisticated for pretending John or, heaven help us, fucking George was the best Beatle.
Fucking shut up about the Frog’s Chorus – it’s a children song, get over it.
Anyway, there we’ll be, arguing the toss about the relative merits of ‘Live And Let Die’ compared with, fucking, ‘You’re Sixteen You’re Beautiful And You’re Mine’, when bang, here he is again, cringeing up the place on telly, undermining all our good work, like a croaky old dear off an Age Concern fundraising ad.
So yeah, loving sir Paul McCartney is frustrating as hell, except when a tidy little archive gem resurfaces on the radar of public consciousness to remind everybody who the motherfucking king is.
Is 'Flaming Pie' (1997) Paul McCartney’s greatest masterpiece? No, of course it isn’t. His greatest masterpieces are towering cultural touchstones to rival the pyramids.
What you have here instead, in this handsome reissue, see, is a snapshot of 55-year-old Macca – the elder statesman, the wizened old artisan, humbly proffering a suite of songs that would easily sit at the apex of literally any other cunt’s career.
Opening number ’The Song We Were Singing’ says it all, really – a timeless fingerpicked McCartney waltz, all languid choppy rhythms and poetic imagery. It’s about John Lennon, I think, and weed – what’s not to like – over a bracingly unusual outing of what I will argue to my grave is a hip-hop-inspired flow.
Some context, for what it’s worth – in 1997 Sir Paul had just finished filming The Beatles Anthology, marinating in reminiscences of his Fab Four heyday. This set a lofty artistic bar, while in the background a dispiriting cancer diagnosis for his soon-to-be-deceased partner Linda lends an irresistible tragi-romantic poignancy to the slow numbers.
And the slow numbers are really where it’s at on this record – ‘Calico Skies’ and ‘Great Day’ especially wouldn’t sound at all out of place mid-White Album.
History’s foremost balladeer also smashes it out the park on light-touch lament 'Little Willow' – penned in tribute to Ringo’s ex-wife Maureen, who herself not long ago succumbed to leukaemia – and the achingly sad ‘Souvenir’.
“I go back so far / I’m in front of me” on 'The World Tonight' is probably the LP’s standout lyric. Here is a man bitterly conscious of his advancing years and declining relevance – two solid decades before James Corden took him for a spin and broke the internet. All the while, bashing out top-drawer melodies with a master-craftsman’s panache.
Sure, boomers are gonna boomer, and Paul boomers the fuck out the gaff here, especially on dumb cod-blues jam 'Used To Be Bad' and the execrable 'Really Love You', on which Ringo plays drums, apparently, woo.
But man alive, if you do nothing else today give the title track a spin and marvel at Sir Paul McCartney’s deftness of touch, his impish sense of glee, his preternatural knack for a toe-tapping pop hook.
Take heart, and hang in there, fellow McCartney truthers – soon enough he’ll kick the bucket and everyone will realise we’ve been right the whole time. Until then, enjoy this stellar mid-career effort; perfect for slipping on next time you're engaged in a vain struggle to convince some knobhead that Harrison actually sucked.
Words: Andy Hill
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