AFTER his momentous, career-spanning headline show at Glastonbury, Sir Paul McCartney’s 80th birthday celebrations continue with The 7” Singles Box.
It comprises 80 solo and Wings singles, 65 recreations of his 45s from 1971 onwards, complete with their B-sides, as well as 15 previously unreleased pairings in the format.
Personally curated by McCartney, it comprises 163 tracks in total, including hits such as Live And Let Die, Band On The Run and Silly Love Songs as well as a treasure trove of rarities.
Available as a limited-edition crate and digitally from today, The 7” Singles Box has special significance for the Beatles legend, particularly when it comes to his B-sides.
So here, exclusively for SFTW in his own words, is an extract from Macca’s foreword which comes with his magical, musical box.
In his own words…
AFTER The Beatles had our first big success in America, I started to get their Top 20 soul records sent to me on 7”.
They were the jukebox singles with the larger hole in the middle so you had to use an adaptor to play them on your turntable.
It felt romantic, these songs coming all the way from America. I did it because I really liked the music, but it also meant I kept up with what was happening.
And you could only really do that with vinyl back then. People couldn’t send you a link or a video to watch. You had to get hold of the record.
I’ve always found there’s something exciting about flicking through the crates in a record shop and looking for that next discovery.
Most read in Music
I still love it and there are some cool independent record shops near my office in London.
Some of my happiest memories of buying 7” singles come from the Jamaican record shop that we used to go to when we were on holiday in Montego Bay.
In the town there was this place called Tony’s Records, on Fustic Road. It was great. There were records you didn’t know what they were, they weren’t established artists.
So, it was kind of a great adventure, just asking the guy behind the counter: “What’s this like? Is it any good?”
There would be songs with titles like Lick I Pipe. Another was called Poison Pressure — by Byron Lee And The Dragonaires, written by Lennon & McCartney. I had to buy that one.
Had they just recorded one of our songs? No. It was something completely different and we all presumed it might be a couple of guys called Tony Lennon and Bill McCartney. Either that, or it was a total scam.
Something we noted on those 7” singles in Jamaica is that they did the same thing as the early 1960s vocal group — the B-side would be the A-side’s instrumental titled something like “sing-a-long”, they would just take the vocal off. On these Jamaican records they would call it “version”.
I remember being in a club and some guy who was a little bit of a hustler was showing us around.
This song came on and I said: “Oh, I love this. Did you just take the vocal off?” And he would not accept that they’d just taken the vocal off. He saw it as a completely blank canvas.
But that story reminds me of how much respect The Beatles had for the B-side. We wanted to give our fans a treat and value for money.
We knew what it was like to save up to afford a record as that had been us a few years before and we didn’t want fans to feel disappointed when they turned the record over to find the same song with the vocals taken off.
With Day Tripper and We Can Work It Out, what we couldn’t work out was which was the better song, so we ended up creating the first double A-side.
Sometimes the flip side complements the A-side, so with Strawberry Fields you have Penny Lane, another one of our double A-side singles.
But more often than not, you don’t really try and pair them. Or, at least, I don’t.
You pick your A-side and just think: “You know what would be good?” And you find a song — sometimes, right out of the blue, that works well.
I still respect the B-side — where else can you find songs like You Know My Name (Look Up The Number) or Ode To A Koala Bear’?
So, when my team suggested we put out this box of 45s, one of my hopes was that both sides of the record will be of interest to you.
It includes my first solo single, Another Day b/w Oh Woman, Oh Why. And it includes my latest single, Women And Wives b/w St Vincent’s McCartney III “imagining”.
Between those two singles are 78 others. It doesn’t include my last single because I haven’t written that one yet.
Women And Wives was inspired by Lead Belly, one of the blues singers we discovered as scruffs back in Liverpool.
I’m now lucky enough to have a jukebox at home and in the office and we even released some of these 45s with the jukebox in mind, adding the title strips on the sleeve artwork for fans to cut out.
The jukebox in my office is from a scene in the film Give My Regards To Broad Street. I liked it a lot, so I talked to the guy who had brought it along and I ended up buying it off him.
It’s such a nice vintage piece and the songs on there — things like Long Tall Sally by Little Richard and Hound Dog by Elvis Presley — really take me back to my childhood.
All these memories of when we were kids, back even before The Beatles.
New collection is such a joy
By Simon Cosyns
OF all the great Bond theme tunes, the exhilarating Live And Let Die by Paul McCartney’s band Wings lays claim to be the best.
Released in 1973, Macca’s soundtrack to Roger Moore’s crocodile-hopping 007 became a global chart hit, by turns becalmed, funky and frantic.
Such is its standing within his storied career that a pyrotechnic-enhanced performance was sandwiched between Let It Be and Hey Jude at his Glastonbury headline set in June, a week after his 80th birthday.
But even McCartney obsessives might struggle to remember Live And Let Die’s B-side, I Lie Around.
To hear that as part of his fabulous 7” Singles Box helps explain why the new collection is such a joy.
For every familiar song among 80 post-Beatles 45s, there’s an intriguing, more obscure pairing.
The laidback I Lie Around, for instance, was first recorded in 1970 and highlighted McCartney’s new life away from it all in the wilds of Scotland with wife Linda and their young family. “In the country, I will lay my burden down,” it goes.
‘Mississippi Delta blues influence’
The version featured here has Wings guitarist Denny Laine on lead vocals for the first two verses, with Macca taking over for the third.
With back stories like that in mind, I’m delving into the singles box for more buried treasure but, first up, why not mention a few whimsical oddities.
As the festive season is nearly upon us, it’s worth noting the familiar Wonderful Christmastime comes with Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reggae — a short instrumental driven by Jamaican beats and, strange but it somehow works, fiddle.
Then there’s the humming version of We All Stand Together by Paul McCartney and the Frog Chorus, written for a Rupert Bear cartoon. Instead of giving us lyrics, the flip side lets listeners hum along with the choir.
And what about the song to accompany Say Say Say, the 1983 Macca/Jacko hit duet?
It’s a dreamy piano-led ditty called Ode To A Koala Bear, with Linda and 10CC’s Eric Stewart on backing vocals.
But these are entertaining diversions compared to some truly worthwhile songs that ended up on the B-side of McCartney’s releases.
Turn over his first solo single, 1971’s Another Day, and you’ll hear Oh Woman, Oh Why, one of 154 songs to make the cut in last year’s momentous two-volume Lyrics: 1956 To The Present.
The searing “woman done me wrong” track was influenced by Mississippi Delta blues pioneer Lead Belly and finds Macca in raucous voice. In his lyrics book, he writes: “When you get right down to it, in everything I’ve ever done — The Beatles, Wings, solo — there’s an undercurrent of black music. You could say it is blues but it could be soul.”
His Wings years in the Seventies reached an early peak with 1973 album Band On The Run.
Its three singles, Jet, the title track and Mrs Vanderbilt all came with high-class accompanying tracks — Let Me Roll It, Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five and Bluebird respectively.
Over the decades since, Let Me Roll It has become another staple of Macca’s live set.
In 2001, he said: “People saw it later as a kind of John pastiche — as Lennon-ish, Lennon-esque. Which I don’t mind. That could have been a Beatles song. Me and John would have sung that good.”
Ranking as one of the strangest McCartney song titles is 1975’s Magneto And Titanium Man, the reverse of Venus And Mars/Rock Show. Perhaps it’s not so unlikely when you realise that he was hugely into Marvel Comics at the time and that another Stan Lee baddie, the Crimson Dynamo, also makes an appearance.
In 1976, a big hit arrived in the shape of Silly Loves Songs, seen as McCartney having a laugh at himself for writing, er, silly love songs.
But he had the last laugh. We couldn’t get enough of the earworm tune and it hit No1 in the US and No2 in the UK.
It was paired with Cook Of The House, which he remembers as “basically Linda’s song with a little help from me”.
In a laugh-out-loud moment, the simple slice of rock ’n’ roll, a kitchen-based ode to domestic bliss, begins with “the sound of bacon frying in the key of E-flat”.
Another strong B-side was stomping Girl’s School, which helped the continued chart domination of the monster A-side, Mull Of Kintyre, the 1977 Christmas No1 and first UK single to sell more than two million copies.
By 1980, Wings were on the way out and a new solo chapter began with the album McCartney II. Among it’s delights is the sublime single Waterfalls, backed with Check My Machine, a slinky six-minute improvised number from what he calls his “mad professor” period.
McCartney plays a long list of instruments himself, to accompany echo-laden repetition of the song title. In his lyrics book, he reveals he was probably referring to an old-school computer or his answering machine.
In December 1983, Pipes Of Peace, with its video depicting the World War One Christmas truce, reached No1 in the UK but in the US its B-side, So Bad, became the A-side.
It was notable for having Ringo Starr on drums, thus, with bass player McCartney, reuniting The Beatles rhythm section.
There are countless more stories to be found in The 7” Singles Box, like the nostalgic Summer Of ’59, which recalled pre-Beatles Liverpool and supported 2005’s Jenny Wren.
Or even trad-jazz Walking In The Park With Eloise, recorded by Wings under the name The Country Hams and written by none other than McCartney’s dad Jim.
This is a stunning way to follow the long, winding and wonderful road of a national treasure.