"Jet" / "Let Me Roll It"
Paul McCartney and Wings
THE BEST A + B SIDES
Okay, no more Beatles songs. But does a Wings song count?
Ah, Band on the Run -- what more proof did you need in 1973 that the spirit of the Beatles was alive and well? I remember sitting by my little fold-up stereo in my college dorm room, listening to this LP over and over, usually in the dark, and being thrilled by it in ways I still can't fathom. And whenever I heard these two songs on the radio, I felt so proud of my boy Paul.
"Jet" made such a triumphant album opener, with that dramatic movie-music intro. (Remember, Paul's James Bond theme song "Live and Let Die" was still fresh in our memory.) After a few chanted "Jet!'s," it switches into major key, Paul taking center stage to sing, "I can almost remember the funny faces / That time you told them that you'd gonna be marrying soon . . . " To me, this has always triggered memories of the global fangirl grief raised by the news that Paul McCartney had married Linda Eastman. (Yes, I did cry at the news. Wanna make something of it?)
Now, Wikipedia tells me that Jet was supposed to be Paul's pet Labrador retriever, but I didn't know that in 1973. And that still doesn't explain who the "Sergeant Major" is, or "Mater" or the "lady suffragette" . . . but I have to say, I don't care what it means. Hey, you don't go to Paul McCartney for lyrics. You know me, I'm usually a lyrics girl, and even I don't go to Paul McCartney for the lyrics. I'm too busy soaring on the long arc of that melodic line, punctuated with the action-movie strings, then chants of "Jet!" followed by a squiggle of harmonized "oooooh whoo-ooh whoo-ooh." (C'mon, admit it, you sing along on the ooooh's every time.) The melody gets picked up a synthesizer, then a saxophone, and Paul is ad-libbing yelps and groans all over the place. No matter how many times I hear this song, I can never remember what's going to happen next; I just have to submit to its crazy, impulsive logic.
Originally the flip side of the record was, apparently, "Mamunia" -- and I love "Mamunia" too, don't get me wrong. But I'm so glad the record company decided to make "Let Me Roll It" the B-side on later pressings. Again, the lyrics aren't much -- "You gave me something / I understand / You gave me lovin' in the palm of my hand" -- it's hardly literary stuff. "I can't tell you how I feel / My heart is like a wheel / Let me roll it / Let me roll it / Let me roll it to you." Oh, how profound.
While "Jet" is all joyous energy and impulse, "Let Me Roll It" offers something more visceral and, well, sexy. Like "Helter Skelter" (surely one of my top ten Sexiest Songs Ever), "Let Me Roll It" is all about physical movement -- I defy you to sit still while listening to it. The tension between that lounging bass line and those spasmodic quivers of guitar is intensely erotic, especially when those whacking drums are added in, and the long slow exhale of the organ. Paul's vocal wanders through, a little tinny and distant, searching vaguely for words, erupting into glissandos of ecstasy. This singer is not in control of the song; the bass line is.
With both on one single, McCartney scored a rare double hit. I've always had a problem with Paul's choice of tracks to release as singles -- he seems determined to ruin his own critical reputation by going for the lowest pop denominator. Really, it's so hard to defend being a Macca fan sometimes. But "Jet" and "Let Me Roll It"? No apologies necessary.