Sunday, April 05, 2009

"Got To Get You Into My Life" / Paul McCartney

Technically it's a Beatles song, of course, but I'm grooving on this song today because last night I finally got to see Paul McCartney perform live, this fulfilling a lifelong dream. Despite my longstanding McCartney infatuation, somehow I've never been able to catch him in concert before (believe me, I'm still harboring grudges against everyone who's frustrated that ambition over the years).

Did he live up to 45 years of high expectations? You'd better believe he did.

Just to be in the same room with Paul was all I asked. (Okay, Radio City Music Hall is a very big room, but I'm sure I breathed in at least some of the air he'd exhaled.) I didn't even bother to wonder ahead of time which songs he'd sing; I'd have been happy with "Silly Love Songs" and "Uncle Albert," I swear. It didn't matter; as he began each song in his set, I'd scream, "I love this song!!" What a pushover fangirl I am.

Of course I've heard all these songs hundreds and thousands of times. But that's the thing about a live performance; it intensifies everything, it makes you hear new dimensions in even the most familiar song. It's not just because Paul is such a great live performer -- though he is; I couldn't believe how strong his voice still is -- it's just the phenomenon of live performance, something flesh and blood happening right in front of you in real, unfiltered time.

It's so easy to pick apart the Beatles catalog and label some songs as "commercial" and others "artistic," or to parse which ones Paul wrote and which ones John wrote. In the long run, though, with songs this wonderful, it's all irrelevant. True, I've always thought of this song as a Paul song, not just because he sang it on Revolver but also because its breezy syncopation, internal rhymes, and all-over-the-scale melody are McCartney hallmarks. It's infectiously joyful, and not just because of those perky horn flourishes we know so well. (There wasn't a horn player on stage last night -- it was all handled with synthesizers -- and yet the flourishes are an indelible part of the song.)

Listen to how Paul tapdances through the verse: "I was alone / I took a ride / I didn't know what I would find there / Another road / Where maybe I / Could see another kind of mind there." I love that feeling of a new world opening up. If this had been a George song, it might have been about expanding consciousness and finding God, but no, this is Paul -- it's about romantic love, the thing his universe is built around. "You didn't run / You didn't lie / You knew I wanted just to hold you / And had you gone / You knew in time / We'd meet again for I had told you." Paul's irrepressible faith in love-ever-after is so touching.

That's the secret of sincere pop; you have to believe in it. Nobody has ever believed in romantic pop the way Paul McCartney does. But just to make sure it doesn't get too goopy, he pushes into a wilder rock-and-roll voice in the bridge -- "Got to get you into my life!" -- and the repeats of the fade-out. His joy just overtakes him, and he can't hold it in any more.

Watching Paul last night, it never occurred to me to wonder how many times he has sung this particular song. All I knew was that he launched into it with all the bubbling, buoyant energy of a brand-new song. For that moment in time, it was a brand-new song.

Is it my favorite Beatles song ever? No way. But that's holding it to a crazy standard: In this great world, most Beatles songs are wildly superior to most other songs. I already knew that, but last night's show convinced me all over again. My 45 years of loving Paul McCartney have NOT been wasted.


Anonymous said...

Actually, it's Paul's song about falling in love with herbal remedies.

I still love the song, though.

Holly A Hughes said...

Well, it just goes to show how the era of "coded" drug messages inspired extra creativity -- by the time he'd worked over this song to make sure it could also be taken as an innocent love song, those lyrics were air-tight! Nowadays when you can say anything you please in a rock song, I kinda miss all that subterranean tension.

Paul was right about the herbal remedies, anyway -- they've never let him down. ;)

Mark said...

I'm really glad you finally got to see Paul live! He's simply amazing in concert, I've seen him twice, in 1993 and in 2005. His voice is still so damn good! He can still hit all those notes he hit 40-plus years ago! This is such a great song, one of his highlights on Revolver. (Actually, all of his songs on Revolver are highlights!) Did Ringo play drums with Paul at the concert?

Holly A Hughes said...

Only on the last two numbers, the group finales, "Cosmic Consciousness" and "I Saw Her Standing There." Otherwise Paul had his regular back-up group. They're quite good, actually.

wwolfe said...

My Paul McCartney concert story. When he launched the Wings Over America tour in 1976, I stood in line at Ticketron at the Summit Mall for a couple hours, only to discover that the guy in front of me bought the last tickets. Much wailing and lamenting ensued. The, on the day of the concert, a friend told me a couple hundred tickets were on sale (the stage apparently wasn't as big as they'd expected). So he and I hopped in my mom's big tank of a Buick station wagon (pre-emission controls!) and drove, no exaggeration, 100 MPH to the Mall, covering the eleven miles in six minutes. I sprinted to the Ticketron and got four seats right next to the stage. In the middle of the show, Paul did a long acoustic set, with just him and his guitar, concluding (if I recall correctly) with "Yesterday." When he finished, I was in such a stage of addled bliss, that I kept applauding after everyone else had stopped, causing Paul to look right at me and wave. As a Beatles lover - really, no other artist could I say truly changed my life - that was one of the peaks of my existence. Glad you finally got to experience the magic first-hand.