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Music / Paul McCartney

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Still the Cute One.

Reporter: I'd like to direct this question to messrs. Lennon and McCartney. In a recent article, Time magazine put down pop music. And they referred to "Day Tripper" as being about a prostitute, and "Norwegian Wood" as being about a lesbian. I just wanted to know what your intent was when you wrote it, and what your feeling is about the Time magazine criticism of the music that is being written today.

Sir James Paul McCartney, CH MBE (born 18 June 1942) is an English musician who gained worldwide fame as co-lead vocalist and bassist for The Beatles. His songwriting partnership with John Lennon remains the most successful in history.

McCartney began his career as a member of the band The Quarrymen in 1957, already a skilled songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. That band evolved into the Beatles in 1960. Starting with the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), he gradually became the Beatles' de facto leader. His songs with the Beatles "And I Love Her" (1964), "Yesterday" (1965), "Eleanor Rigby" (1966) and "Blackbird" (1968) rank among the most covered songs in history. Along the way, despite his innocuous, sentimental reputation, he helped also create one of the earliest examples of Heavy Metal with "Helter Skelter."

Shortly before the Beatles disbanded in 1970, McCartney debuted as a solo artist with the album McCartney. The following year, he released Ram and formed the band Wings with his first wife, Linda. After leading Wings throughout the 1970s, McCartney resumed his solo career in 1980.

Beyond music, he has been known for promoting subjects such as vegetarianism and donating to charity, and arguing against others such as animal cruelty/hunting, land mines and fracking.

He ended at #18 in 100 Greatest Britons.

Studio Discography (McCartney's discography with The Beatles and Wings are on those bands' pages):

  • 1970 - McCartney
  • 1971 - Ram note 
  • 1980 - McCartney II
  • 1982 - Tug of War
  • 1983 - Pipes of Peace
  • 1984 - Give My Regards to Broad Street
  • 1986 - Press To Play
  • 1988 - Снова в СССР note 
  • 1989 - Flowers In The Dirt
  • 1993 - Off The Ground
  • 1997 - Flaming Pie
  • 1999 - Run Devil Run
  • 2001 - Driving Rain
  • 2005 - Chaos And Creation In The Backyard
  • 2007 - Memory Almost Full
  • 2012 - Kisses On The Bottom
  • 2013 - New
  • 2018 - Egypt Station
  • 2020 - McCartney III
    • 2021 - McCartney III Imagined note 

Live Discography:

  • 1990 - Tripping The Live Fantastic
  • 1991 - Unplugged (The Official Bootleg)
  • 1993 - Paul Is Live
  • 2002 - Back In The U.S.
  • 2003 - Back In The World
  • 2007 - iTunes Festival: London
  • 2007 - Amoeba's Secret note 
  • 2009 - Good Evening New York City
  • 2010 - Paul McCartney Live In Los Angeles note 
  • 2012 - iTunes Live From Capitol Studios

Electronic Discography:

  • 1993 - Strawberries Oceans Ships Forest note 
  • 1998 - Rushes note 
  • 2000 - Liverpool Sound Collage note 
  • 2005 - Twin Freaks
  • 2008 - Electric Arguments note 

Classical Discography:

  • 1967 - The Family Way
  • 1977 - Thrillington
  • 1991 - Paul McCartney's Liverpool Oratorio
  • 1997 - Standing Stone
  • 1999 - Working Classical
  • 2006 - Ecce Cor Meum
  • 2011 - Ocean's Kingdom


  • Abbey Road Crossing: The cover of the concert album Paul Is Live features an older Paul digitally inserted into the original, iconic Abbey Road cover photo.
  • Album Title Drop:
    • "She sprinkles flowers in the dirt, that's when a thrill becomes a hurt", from the song "That Day Is Done".
    • There's a partial one in the song "Fine Line": "There is a long way between chaos and creation" (the album in question being Chaos and Creation in the Backyard).
  • Alternate Reality Episode:
    • Three albums released under the name "The Fireman", a "group" consisting of Paul and the record producer Youth. The first two albums were sound collages. Electric Arguments, still rough and unpolished but a more conventional collection of songs, got strong reviews.
    • There was also his and Linda's 1971 (but not released until 1977 due to other obligations) Thrillington project (an orchestral album consisting of covers of Paul's entire Ram album), credited to the pseudonym Percy "Thrills" Thrillington.
  • Audience Participation Song:
    • "Hey Jude", especially because of its ending.
    • "Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da" is a joy to sing along with a stadium full of people.
  • Auto Erotica: "Back Seat of My Car".
    But listen to her daddy's song
    Making love is wrong
    Ooh, we're just busy riding
    Sitting in the back seat of my car
  • Beard of Sorrow: The only time during his life that Paul was known to sport a beard was the period in 1969-70 that coincided with the breakup of the Beatles. Confirmed by the man himself.
  • Bishōnen: Of all The Beatles he was called "the cute one", due to his delicate features and large, expressive eyes.
  • Call-Back:
    • "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five", the last song on the Band on the Run album, ends with a reprise of the chorus from "Band on the Run".
    • The song right before it, "Picasso's Last Words", contains brief snippets of "Jet" and "Mrs. Vanderbilt".
  • Christmas Songs:
  • Chronological Album Title: McCartney II. It's technically his second album only if you don't include Wings releases or Ram, which was officially credited to Paul and Linda as a duo.
  • Cool Old Guy: He's in his 80s, and in an era where artists like Kesha, Taylor Swift, Kanye West, Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Kenny Chesney and other young pop-oriented and country artists are top concert attractions, Paul remains solidly in that group of top concert attractions, regularly selling out top venues and drawing fans both young and old. He even had a voice cameo on Bojack Horseman where he jumped out of a cake at Diane's birthday.
  • Cover Album: Снова в СССР. Run Devil Run and Kisses on the Bottom also qualify, though they contain three and two originals, respectively.
  • Cult Soundtrack: His soundtrack for the film The Family Way, which is famous for technically being considered to be the first solo album by a member of the Beatles.note 
  • Cross-Referenced Titles: The album titles All the Best and Kisses on the Bottom combine to describe the way he usually signs autographs, "All the best, Paul McCartney X X X".
  • Divorce Assets Conflict: Part of the extremely ugly end to his second marriage, with model Heather Mills. Mills got a large sum that was still less than a fifth of what she wanted, along with the judge's assessment that she had been "less than candid".
  • Elvis Lives: Inverted with McCartney, who is said to have died in the '60s and been replaced by a Doppelgänger.
  • Embarrassing First Name: His full name is James Paul McCartney. You wouldn't think James was all that embarrassing, but no fewer than three post-World War I British prime ministers have had the same aversion: James Ramsay Mac Donald, James Harold Wilson and James Gordon Brown. Another was more enthusiastic, or maybe saw it as the lesser of two evils: Leonard James Callaghan. Word of Biographer has it that everyone called him Paul to avoid confusion with his father, James 'Jim' McCartney, and Paul named his own son James Louis, after his father and Linda's mother Louise.
  • Epic Rocking:
    • “What’s That You’re Doing?” note  from Tug of War is 6:19.
    • “Motor of Love” from Flowers in the Dirt is 6:18.
    • “C’mon People” from Off the Ground is 7:42 note .
    • “Rinse the Raindrops” from Driving Rain is 10:08.
    • “Anyway” from Chaos and Creation in the Backyard is 7:22 note .
    • “Road” from New is 7:39 note .
    • ''Egypt Station’' has two cases; “Despite Repeated Warnings” is 6:58, while the medley of “Hunt You Down/Naked/C-Link” is 6:22.
    • “Deep Deep Feeling” from McCartney III is 8:25.
  • Friend to All Living Things: A prominent vegetarian and animal rights activist.
  • Fake-Out Fade-Out: "Find My Way" appears to end before the three-minutes mark before the minute-long coda starts.
  • Gratuitous French: The Beatles song "Michelle" contains several lines in French. Paul later did an entire song like this, "Ou Est Le Soleil", on his Flowers in the Dirt album.
  • Gratuitous Latin:
    • From the Wings song "Jet": "Ah, mater, want Jet to always love me"
    • From his classic album Liverpool Oratorio:
      Non nobis solum
      Sed toti mundo
      Toti mundo nati
  • Greatest Hits Album: He's had several. Wings Greatest covers mainly Wings, but has some early solo tracks. All the Best is under Paul's name, but half of the album contains Wings material. The two-disc Wingspan was a comprehensive collection, covering both Wings and Paul's solo output through 1984. Wingspan was supplanted in 2016 by Pure McCartney, which is available in two and four-disc configurations and covers his career from 1970 to 2014.
  • Grief Song:
    • "Here Today", written after the death of John Lennon.
    • Also, "Little Willow", written in memory of Maureen Starkey (Ringo Starr's first wife).
  • Happily Married: Paul and Linda McCartney for 29 years, until Linda's death from cancer in 1998.
  • Heroes Love Dogs: Has written at least two songs inspired by pet dogs: "Martha My Dear" from The White Album and "Jet" from Band on the Run.
  • Hidden Depths: McCartney may be best known for his Silly Love Songs, but he also wrote one of the bleakest and saddest songs in the Beatles catalogue, "Eleanor Rigby".
  • I Am the Band:
    • "Paul McCartney and Wings". To the extent that the greatest hits album All the Best is attributed solely to McCartney despite being about half-Wings.
    • On McCartney, McCartney II, and McCartney III, Paul performs all the instruments and produced the albums himself. Chaos and Creation in the Backyard also fits, with Paul credited for a majority of the instruments in the album's liner notes, to the point that many people considered it to be essentially McCartney III before the actual McCartney III was released years later.
  • Iconic Item: His trademark violin-shaped Höfner 500/1 bass. As the page image above shows, he even has guitars that look like it. He chose the Höfner violin bass because it looked symmetrical and therefore was not as weird-looking for a left-handed player like Paul.
  • Intentionally Awkward Title: Kisses on the Bottom. It's a line from "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter," and in that context clearly refers to signing love letters with X's, but still... Paul...
  • Intercourse with You: "Hi Hi Hi" contains sexually suggestive lyrics, but was banned by the BBC for being about drugs.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: He's always had a knack for making new friends from his connections in the music industry, and that's continued even as he's grown far older than most of his peers. Decades-younger pals of his include Taylor Swift, Kanye West and Dave Grohl.
  • In the Style of: "Let Me Roll It" from Band on the Run is often regarded as Paul recording a John Lennon-style song.
  • Ironic Nursery Rhyme: After the BBC refused to play his Protest Song "Give Ireland Back to the Irish", an irritated Paul set "Mary Had a Little Lamb" to music and actually released it as a single.
  • Lead Bassist: The best known bassist of all time. And the "lead" part is prevalent in both Wings and the latter part of The Beatles.
  • Let's Duet:
    • In the early 80s, McCartney had big hits singing duets with Stevie Wonder ("Ebony and Ivory") and Michael Jackson ("The Girl Is Mine", "Say Say Say").
    • He also contributed vocals for the song "Best Love" on Steve Martin's 2011 album Rare Bird Alert.
    • One of his songs from his late-80s partnership with Elvis Costello was the duet "You Want Her Too" from Flowers in the Dirt.
  • Limited Wardrobe: These days, he usually performs in a long sleeved red shirt.
  • Living Legend: When he appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, he was introduced to the audience in the only way possible:
    Stephen: Ladies and gentlemen, you know my first guest tonight because he's Paul McCartney.
  • Long-Runner Line-up: After two groups that didn't qualify (The Beatles only lasted eight years after Ringo joined, and aside from the core three of Paul, Linda and Denny Laine the Wings were a Revolving Door Band) his current live band - and at times going along in the studio - qualifies, having been the same musicians since 2001.
  • Magpies as Portents: "Two Magpies" from The Fireman uses the "One for sorrow, two for joy" line from the famous Nursery Rhyme.
  • Missing Mom: Mary McCartney died from cancer when Paul was 14. This tragedy has undoubtedly inspired quite a few of his songs, including "Let It Be", and helped him bond with John Lennon, who'd also lost his mother at a young age.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Although all the Beatles had some in Help!, Paul had the most of it, between getting naked in the "The Exciting Adventure of Paul on the Floor" segment, and Paul on the beach in tight t-shirt and jeans.
  • Mythology Gag: Since The Beatles had famously played their last public concert as a band at Candlestick Park in San Francisco in 1966, he was the obvious choice for the final event at the stadium in 2014 before its scheduled demolition, and he delivered a marathon two-and-a-half-hour concert, playing 40 songs in total, 24 of them Beatles tunes. He wrapped up the final encore with "Long Tall Sally" (the final song the band had played at the 1966 show), followed by the "Golden Slumbers" portion of the side two Abbey Road medley, finishing with "The End".
  • Never Learned to Read: He can't read sheet music.
  • New Sound Album: Plenty of his earlier solo stuff was Synth-Pop-ish, compared to his later music, which had a harder rock sound to it. Later on, his 2013 solo album, which he specifically had produced by a younger staff, was given a mostly electronic rock style rather than straight-up rock (as with his previous albums), complete with electronically distorted guitar audio. Fittingly, the album is called New.
  • Odd Friendship: With Kanye West out of all people... the two have collaborated on quite a few songs, famously "FourFiveSeconds" with Rihanna, and surprisingly, they still keep in touch despite Kanye's ongoing douchebag behavior.
  • Older Than They Look: He's 80 years old as of 2022, and has aged remarkably well.
  • One-Man Song: "Teddy Boy", "Maxwell's Silver Hammer", "Rocky Raccoon", "Hey Jude"
  • One-Woman Song: "The Lovely Linda", "Michelle"
  • Parental Substitute: Julian Lennon has admitted that he was much closer to Paul than his own father, especially during his early childhood and adolescence. When John deserted Julian and his mother, Paul stepped in as a role model and even wrote the song "Hey Jude" to console a young Julian over his parents' divorce.
    Julian Lennon: Paul and I used to hang about quite a bit—more than Dad and I did. We had a great friendship going and there seems to be far more pictures of me and Paul playing together at that age than there are pictures of me and my dad.
  • Prison: McCartney's infamous bust in 1980, when, as he and Wings were arriving in Japan on a tour, he was caught at customs with 218 grams of marijuana in his luggage. He spent ten days in jail and could have faced a seven-year sentence, but the Japanese government elected to deport him. Reports of John's reaction to the bust range from "delighted with his ex-partner's misfortune to the point where he literally danced with joy" to "furious that his friend let himself get caught and increasingly anxious as Paul was detained"; at any rate, he called to provide moral support. According to Paul, his 10 days in jail had been the only time he wasn't with Linda during their marriage.
  • Protest Song:
    • "Give Ireland Back to the Irish", a 1972 single that was banned by The BBC.
    • "How Many People?" from Flowers in the Dirt
    • "Looking For Changes" from Off The Ground is a sharp one against animal lab testing. "Big Boys Bickering" takes the anger up to eleven.
  • Punny Name: The 1973 Wings single "Helen Wheels", which sounds like "hell on wheels", and even includes it in the lyrics.
  • Rearrange the Song: The Give My Regards to Broad Street soundtrack. Although it spawned the hit single "No More Lonely Nights", most of the album was Paul rearranging old songs from both his Beatles and solo careers.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Despite having full knowledge that it would be banned by the BBC (which it was), "Give Ireland Back to the Irish" was released as a single by Wings. Their first single.
    • "Fuh You", from Egypt Station, also might count
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: His reaction to the "Paul Is Dead" rumors. He even named one album "Paul Is Live" as a sly reference to it.
    "I wasn't really dead." (Paul to Chris Farley on Saturday Night Live)
  • Re-release the Song: "Maybe I'm Amazed" and "Coming Up" were solo songs which also saw live releases by Wings. "Another Day / Oh Woman, Oh Why", his debut single, was also made available for Record Day 2012.
  • Rooftop Concert: Naturally, played with the other three Beatles in the band's final performance on the roof of Apple Corps, but Paul has also done it solo, having played on the marquee of the Ed Sullivan Theater on The Late Show with David Letterman.
  • Self-Parody: A variation. The album cover for Paul Is Live is based on the album cover for The Beatles' Abbey Road, but it only features Paul walking his dog, Arrow. The cover was also deliberately constructed as a response to the Paul is Dead legend; several of the "clues" proving Paul's death from the original cover have either been deliberately changed or removed.
  • Self-Titled Album: McCartney (his solo debut, in which he belatedly announced the breakup of the Beatles) and the later McCartney II.
  • Significant Anagram: While it's unclear whether it's intentional, Memory Almost Full can be rearranged to spell "For My Soulmate LLM" (Linda McCartney's full married name was Linda Louise McCartney).
  • Significant Reference Date: He married his third wife, Nancy Shevell, on October 9, 2011, which would have been John Lennon's 71st birthday.
  • Silly Love Songs: Trope Namer, a Take That to his critics, and a shining example of Tropes Are Not Bad.
  • Singing Simlish: "Wo wo wo wo, wo wo wo wo, my love does it good." Not Paul's best moment as a lyricist.
  • Solo Side Project: He wrote the score for the film The Family Way while still being a Beatle.
  • Song Style Shift:
    • "A Day in the Life". Partly because Paul only wrote the middle bit; the outer bits were John's.
    • "Band on the Run"
    • "Live And Let Die"
    • "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey", although this is because (as with "A Day in the Life") it is actually two (or three) song-fragments combined to make one whole song.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Linda, his wife, performed along on some of his albums and during his tours, despite not being musically gifted at all.
  • The Stoner: Paul smoked a lot of marijuana, especially in the 70s and 80s.
  • The Storyteller: His lyrics (especially compared to other Beatles') are notable for often telling stories rather than pondering about abstract subjects. He's also a master storyteller during interviews. His age and career certainly help.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: His son James is basically a blond version of himself.
  • Supergroup: Performed a new original song called "Cut Me Some Slack" with the surviving members of Nirvana for the "12 12 12" benefit concert. It rocked.
  • Talking to the Dead: "Here Today" is written as a conversation between Paul and a deceased John Lennon.
  • Take That!:
    • "Too Many People" from Ram is a rather veiled Take That towards John Lennon. The photo on the inside sleeve of Ram—a, screwing another beetle—is less veiled, though Paul intended it as a reference to the acrimonious collapse of the Beatles instead of specifically insulting John. Lennon, always more willing to get nasty than McCartney, took his revenge with "How Do You Sleep?" on Imagine.
    • Word of God is that only the line "too many people preaching practices" was about John and Yoko, and "you took your lucky break and broke it in two" was about John's part in the Beatles' dissolution. John thought the whole album was about them.
    • "Silly Love Songs" is one big Take That! at critics who accused Paul of wallowing in saccharine pop songs about love.
  • Textless Album Cover: McCartney and Chaos and Creation in the Backyard.
  • This Is a Song: "Silly Love Songs".
  • Unplugged Version: Paul's Unplugged (The Official Bootleg) album is among the first unplugged albums ever released and was the very first MTV Unplugged performance/album.
  • Updated Re-release: His post-Beatles discography has seen two rounds of these, 1993's Paul McCartney Collection and the ongoing, creatively-titled Paul McCartney Archive Collection.
  • Urban Legend: The whole Paul Is Dead conspiracy theory note . Which the man himself has lampshaded a few times, most notably on the Paul Is Live album cover (itself also an example of Self-Parody).
  • Veganopia: Subverted. One of the most famous vegetarians in showbusiness, but lacto, not completely vegan.
  • Visual Pun: The cover photo of New is a stylised version of the album's name in neon. This is a pun because "neon" means "new gas".
  • Vocal Evolution: Paul's singing voice has gotten raspier, lower and deeper over the years, particularly after the mid-1980s.
  • Wanderlust Song: "Wanderlust", sort of. It seems like it would be this, and one can certainly read the lyrics as being a wanderlust song, but it's actually about an incident where the captain of a boat McCartney had chartered said he couldn't carry any weed. Paul responded by finding another boat.
  • We Used to Be Friends:
    • A personal and professional relationship with Michael Jackson abruptly ended when Jackson bought the publishing rights to the Lennon/McCartney catalogue. McCartney's specific reason for being angry at Jackson seemed to change through the years, however, from MJ "buying the rug he was standing on", to some of the choices he made in exploitation of the songs (e.g. putting certain Beatles songs in certain commercials) to simply not giving McCartney—despite the fact that McCartney is one of the wealthiest men in showbiz—a raise in the royalties.
    • Paul and Linda's relationship with Denny Laine of Wings didn't end well, either, although Paul and Denny seem to have reconciled.
    • And, of course, Paul's relationships with the other Beatles melted down rather spectacularly in the late 1960s. They all later managed to patch up their differences to some degree following that, but there was reportedly never the same closeness.
  • Wig, Dress, Accent: During Beatlemania he took to wearing disguises so that he could wander the streets without being mobbed (and occasionally play pranks on the other Beatles and Brian Epstein). In one amusing incident, he was recognized by a bartender who wasn't fooled when Paul asked for "a drop o' the hard stuff" in an Irish accent. See also Paul and Linda incognito at a George Harrison concert.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Paul was fond of these; "Junior's Farm" and "Jet" are two prime examples.


Video Example(s):


Yesterday - The Beatles

One of the most famous songs ever written, Paul McCartney performs "Yesterday" during his time in The Beatles, a melancholy song about a break-up.

How well does it match the trope?

4.9 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / BreakupSong

Media sources: