Happy Birthday Paul!!
Some days you've just gotta do the obvious post. Sir Paul McCartney turns 70 today (but a very well-preserved 70, I must say!) and I feel compelled to add my voice to the international chorus of many happy returns.
I know, I know, a mere blog post is not as meaningful as Paul Weller's birthday present -- a gutsy cover of "Birthday" on sale today only at Amazon, priced at 70 cents, with the proceeds going to charity. (Classy move, Paul W.) Still, having been Paul McCartney's secret girlfriend for many years, and the muse who inspired most of his finest love songs -- "And I Love Her," "Got to Get You Into My Life," "I Will," "The Long and Winding Road," the list goes on and on -- I felt it would be extremely bad manners for me to let the day pass without a few words.
Having staked my claim as a Paul fan after the break-up of the Beatles, I felt positively smug when Paul's first solo album, the delightfully homemade McCartney, was followed up by the rambunctiously charming Ram. (By the way, I still haven't ponied up for the remastered deluxe reissue of Ram, but that's mostly because I so resent rockstars milking their fanbase by repackaging old stuff over and over. I have my worn-out vinyl LP, and I have it in CD, so why should I be expected to buy it in a third format?)
At the time I couldn't admit it, but my only beef with Ram is how besotted Paul sounds with his new wife, Linda. Songs like "Eat At Home" and "Back Seat of My Car" drove home to me the inescapeable truth that my guy was constantly having mind-blowing sex with somebody else. (What was her secret?)
Even "Dear Boy" is really all about how much Paul loves Linda. Ostensibly he wrote it to Linda's first husband, geologist John See, whom she'd married in Arizona in 1962, already pregnant with their daughter, Heather. See was apparently long out of the picture by the time Paul came along -- they'd divorced in 1965, at which time she packed up her toddler daughter and moved to New York to launch her career as a photographer/groupie. She didn't meet Paul until 1967, finally marrying him in 1969, so jealousy and betrayal were beside the point. Despite the minor key, Paul's attitude in this song is more bemusement than anything else: "I guess you never knew, / Dear boy, what you had found." Linda "was just the cutest thing around," he adds, still marveling -- so how could any guy have let her get away?
Which means that the song is really just another way of telling us that she is the World's Most Wonderful Woman. Did I really need to hear that?
After puzzling over this inexplicable behavior for one more verse, Paul shifts to major key in the bridge as he enters the song himself: "When I stepped in, my heart was down and out, / But her love came through / And brought me 'round, /Got me up / And about." Okay, not the most articulate description of a good woman's love, and here I was, still a teenager, looking for tips and techniques. (What was her secret?!) But still.
Look at how charitable Paul can afford to be in the last verse -- "I hope you never know, dear boy, / How much you missed" -- though he can't resist a little nyah nyah-nyah nyah nyah moment: "And even when you fall in love, / Dear boy, it won't be half as good as this." Ouch.
But here's the underlying message I love. Paul knew what he had found, eventually telephoning this lovely blond photographer in New York and asking her to move to London to be with him. Bold move on both their parts, but when you find love -- especially after it let you down once before -- have the courage to grab it. You can hear the happy skip in his step all through this song, with its jaunty syncopations and thrilled little warbles. Each verse's melody optimistically tap dances up the scale -- maybe this other guy blew it, but he, Paul, is deliriously happy. Because that's what love can do.
I think back to those old Beatle songs where they address the Other Man -- "She Loves You," "You're Going To Lose That Girl" -- and the subtext was always envy, as our hero watches his beloved's current boyfriend treating her callously. The shoe is on the other foot now, and Paul has NO intention of taking her for granted. Now that's the way a boyfriend -- lover -- husband should act.