Since Paul McCartney’s 70th birthday is this week, most of the major media will be focusing on his most popular moments. His iconic Beatles anthems, beloved Wings singles, and No.1 solo hits will be on everybody’s radar. But instead of praising “Let It Be”, “Band on the Run”, or “Hey Jude”, let’s put the spotlight on the lesser-known songs in McCartney’s catalogue. Despite the fact that the following songs were either never released as a single or just aren’t played on the radio enough, they reveal the talent and personality behind one of the most successful and influential musicians of all time.
The epitome of underrated, “Cage” didn’t even make it onto an album. But the neglected Wings’ castoff has worked its way into the hearts of die-hard McCartney fans thanks to a few bootlegs. Wikipedia calls it “exquisite”. I call it a catchy little number with a surprisingly heartfelt bridge. A novel side note: the songs chords are C, A, G, and E. Get it?
Paul has experimented with virtually every genre of music, including country, as “Sally G” proves. This 1974 B-side to Wings’ “Junior’s Farm” (which is another under appreciated track) is better than rest of what the Nashville music scene was cooking up at the time. As crazy as it sounds, if it was released as a single itself at the time, it might have given McCartney his first No.1 hit on the country & western charts.
Have you ever noticed just how many different kinds of birds appear in various Paul McCartney songs? “Blackbird”, “Bluebird”, and “Jenny Wren” come off the top of my head, but you can add “Single Pigeon” to that excellent playlist. Appearing on Red Rose Speedway, this short and simple piano tune gets lost in the larger showy numbers it shares album space with, but that makes it all the more special. Not to mention, it gives you the great mental image of Paul talking to a pigeon and a seagull out on the street somewhere.
There are two different types of people in the world. Those who think “Morse Moose & The Grey Goose”, is a completely silly mess, and those who love it. I happen to belong to the latter group, and I saw we’re a lot more fun! I mean, how can anyone hate this? Equivalent to an ambitious sequel of “Yellow Submarine” with echoes of “Uncle Albert/ Admiral Halsey”, the song details a really rocking radio conversation between a warplane (Grey Goose) and a sub (Morse Moose).
Paul McCartney is responsible two of the most epic anthems that will go down into mass-sing-along history: “Let It Be” and, if you live in the UK, “Mull of Kintyre”. “Tug of War” was destined to be one of those songs, but somehow most people only remember the entire album it appears upon for “Ebony & Ivory” and “Here Today”. Detested by those hard-core fans who think that he hit his creative peak with “Helter Skelter” and don’t care to hear anything else from him, this would have been the perfect song for those Glee kids to cover. (Instead, they opted for a horn-free version of “Silly Love Songs”. Go figure.)
Paul reportedly made “Darkroom” up as he was recording it, but it manages to be one of the best tracks on the techno-inspiring, digitally pioneering McCartney II album. A recent deluxe remastered edition of the album gave us an extended version, but even his biggest fans often overlook this atmospherically seductive song.
Originally intended for the Flowers in the Dirt album, “The Lovers That Never Were” was re-recorded and released several years later on Off the Ground. Co-written by Elvis Costello (and I’d love to know who specifically wrote each lyric), it’s a shame that it was never released as a single. It’s unique to hear McCartney sing so convincingly about unrequited love, and a fine example of why those two should work together more often.