Friday, April 07, 2017

[Books] Book Look: Man on the Run, Paul McCartney in the 1970s, by Tom Doyle

It was an odd set of circumstances that led me to this book, starting with a post I made on this site that referred to the first album I ever purchased with my own money, "Band on the Run", by Paul McCartney. I don't remember the exact path I followed but it ended up with me reading this biography of McCartney in the 70s. Much interesting info to be had here. I'll just highlight some random observations.
  • McCartney seems to be a true eccentric
  • He really, really likes (liked?) his weed.
  • Overall he is filled with contradictions
    • An inveterate pot snarfing hippie who is also a solid family man
    • An impossible wealthy dude who likes a pauper's home life
    • A shrewd and frugal business man who can be a babe in the woods in the real world
    • A man who can (and often does) write, sing, and play all the instruments on his songs but desperate wants a collaborator
    • He is known for silly love songs but is actually responsible for the bulk of the sort of amiable avant garde of the late Beatles albums
  • Allen Klein was thoroughly despicable and was the most responsible for the breakup of the Beatles
  • After the break, they all said and did fairly mean things to each other yet always seemed to maintain almost familial connections
  • Linda thought a pack of Nigerian muggers would leave them alone if they knew they were musicians (Shades of the Blues Brothers?)
  • The various incarnations of Wings were populated with some volatile characters.
  • His emotions are always close to the surface and he has a temper, but he seems like a very decent fellow overall
  • There's not a theme here or much of an arc -- 1970 McCartney doesn't seem that different than 1979 McCartney
McCartney's true legacy is of course his marvelous songwriting and his virtuoso musicianship, especially as it pertains to bass guitar. The events of his life are really just mildly interesting curiosities. Should you read Man on the Run? Sure. It's clearly written, lively, and nicely taut. You will likely find no great insights, but if you have an interest in the music and personalities of the times it's a fun read, and if you are of a certain age, there is a nice sense of nostalgia to it.

The end of this book roughly corresponds with the end of McCartney's music as something of cultural significance. He was still fairly prolific in the late 20th century but was no longer a force in popular culture in any way. To this day he remains productive and still moves in the circles of high popular music; he has recently announced a new album is coming and his concerts sell out like crazy. He's really one of the most enduring and remarkable talents of my lifetime. Even with my first album purchase I had demonstrably good taste.