There’s no maybe about it

1 09 2009

For the last 40 years, casual listeners and snobby music critics, including his famous songwriting partner, have pilloried Paul McCartney for being all form and flash, with no substance.  His detractors will admit to his exceptional abilities as a “tunesmith” and “entertainer,” but repeat (as if saying it ad nauseum makes it more true) that McCartney was never the “brilliant lyricist” that Lennon had once been.  Mega-hits like “Silly Love Songs” or “Hello Goodbye” are several examples to which his critics like to point.

Those that would compare (or contrast) Lennon’s and McCartney’s writing style might rightly point to songs like “Julia” or “Mother” as great examples of John’s ability to speak openly and honestly about himself, his life, even the depths of  his inner being.  Unfortunately, when examples like that of Lennon’s work are given, they’re usually contrasted with McCartney’s lighter work like “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” or, as indicated, “Silly Love Songs.”  It seems that even Beatles fans do not pause to consider that McCartney might possibly have ever written a song from the heart.

A song that really jumped at a me as particularly poignant and emotional is maybe McCartney’s biggest post-Beatles hit: “Maybe I’m Amazed.”  It’s a staple of “oldies” and “classic rock” radio.  At first blush it’s another one of Paul’s silly love songs.  But stop and really listen to it.  That song is Paul’s cry for help, his therapy.  It’s his “Julia.”

Some might not know this, but the Beatles effectively split up in September 1969.  By his own admission, McCartney spent the next several months drinking heavily, laying around his home depressed.  He described that period as a time during which he felt “redundant” and clueless about what to do with the rest of his life.  After allowing him a few months to wallow in self-pity, Linda McCartney give him a proverbial kick in the ass, encouraging him to lay off the booze, shave, clean himself up and get back in the studio to make some music.  Out of that resurrection of sorts came the McCartney album and “Maybe I’m Amazed.”

The lyrics really tell that whole story.  The unnamed “baby” “pulled me out of time” and “hung me on the line.”  These lines really get to the heart of it:

Baby I’m a man and maybe I’m a lonely man
Who’s in the middle of something
That he doesn’t really understand
Baby I’m a man and maybe you’re the only woman
Who could ever help me
Baby won’t you help to me understand?

How much more vulnerable can a man get than that?  Lennon crying out to his dead mother and absentee father certainly bore no more soul than this.

Besides the lyrics, the song has a grit not found in most love songs.  The guitar is brilliant as well.  It’s really a rock tune at its core.




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