"Bluebird" / Paul McCartney
I'm tired of apologizing for loving Paul McCartney. After 40-odd years, you think I'm gonna give him up? He was the first musical love of my life, after all. But it hasn't been easy. Memo to Paul: Your perverse choice of songs to release as singles baffles me. "Hands Across the Water"? "Ebony and Ivory"? "SILLY LOVE SONGS"? How is a serious music lover supposed to defend being a Paul McCartney fan when most of the listening public only knows those songs?
Go only a little deeper into McCartney's solo work and you find a totally different picture. For example, there's the song on my mental mix-tape lately -- "Bluebird." No, not "Blackbird,' that folky acoustic track from the white album, though this one seems like its separated-at-birth twin. It's a relatively minor track from Band on the Run (possibly Paul's best post-Beatles album), a lilting samba with just guitar, a Latin percussion section, and back-up singers, plus a smoky sax solo in the bridge. I generally resented hearing Linda McCartney sing back-up on Wings records (hey, that was my job), but I love the way these breathy harmonies sigh in and out like gusts of breeeze, with the percussion rolling like surf underneath.
"Bluebird" has the same message about "flying away" and "being free" as the Beatle-era song, but it's this one that really soars like a bird. The way the chorus repeats "You're a bluebird," falling on different beats each time, is just magical. While "Blackbird" seemed metaphorical and political, this song is just unutterably sexy -- I mean, "Touch your lips with a magic kiss and you'll be a bluebird too..."). Please, yes, Sir Paul.
I was always a Paul girl. In the grip of early Beatlemania, nothing much mattered except Paul's cheeky choirboy good looks -- really folks, no other man on earth ever was or will be as cute as Paul McCartney was in 1964; I'm sure it's a scientifically proven fact.
But as time passed I also realized that all my favorite songs were Paul's -- I'd always pick "And I Love Her" over "If I Fell"; "Penny Lane" over "Strawberry Fields"; "Get Back" over "Come Together." While John favored chromatic melody lines, Paul's bounced and skipped all over the scale. John tended to use a draggy, insistent beat; Paul was drawn to syncopation and off-accent beats (only natural for a bassist, after all). Paul couldn't resist a pun or alliteration, while John went for imagery.
Both truly great songwriters -- but my ear and my heart always went for Paul's sheer musicality over John's haunting poetry. Lots of people -- Bob Dylan, for example -- write image-laden poetry. Nobody else I can think of quite has Paul McCartney's inexhaustible melodic gift. And in this miserable world of ours, that's no small thing.