Paul McCartney kind of saved my life once; he has no idea of course

I was away at my first year of engineering school working harder than ever before or since. My full class load was delivering six to ten hours of homework every night. I tried to keep up but it involved too many late nighters. My life consisted of meals, class, homework, and too little sleep. As my fatigue mounted I became increasingly isolated and my health began to suffer. I lost hope. I fell into a deep funk. I began thinking a lot about how I might be better off no longer walking around on the face of the Earth.

That’s when I came across this record.

This is the cover of Paul McCartney’s first solo album after the Beatles broke up. He released the album in 1970; I first heard it 15 years later in my dorm room at the center of my despair. The music sounded spare; many mixes were rough and some songs seemed unfinished. The music gave a strong sense of a man shut away in a room, playing alone, trying to get his head together. Indeed, I learned later that Paul produced and engineered the album himself, and except for an occasional backing vocal from his wife Linda he played and sang every note.

McCartney’s signature musical move has always been to find a bright side even when the going is rough. This song, which closed side 1, is a perfect example. It led me to consider that after the Beatles ended, he released (at that time) more than a dozen albums and had given concerts all over the world. It had been impossible to listen to the radio and not hear his music! He’d done quite all right in the intervening years. I could see that perhaps so could I, and so perhaps I should push through.

And now I’m fine all the while.

McCartney also wrote a song about the joy of trials, but he disguised it in a song about rain. Or at least that’s how I interpret it. Read about it here.


20 responses to “Paul McCartney kind of saved my life once; he has no idea of course”

  1. vanilla Avatar

    Interesting. Perhaps Paul did that number just for you, or at any rate is fortunate that you found it at the right time.

    I had not heard this number. I like it.

    1. Jim Avatar

      I think I was looking for a reason to find hope, and so this unlikely source worked.

  2. Lone Primate Avatar
    Lone Primate

    I don’t remember this one either, but it sounds to me like Paul while still giving off the vapour trail of the Beatles. I can see how you could latch onto this in a moment of grasping for a branch in the river, sure thing.

    I found a lot to admire in John’s, and especially Paul’s, work after the break-up, but for my money, Lennon-McCartney was usually more than the sum of its parts. John kept Paul from being treacly and Paul kept John from being screachy. Uncoupled, they indulged themselves and a lot of Paul’s solo stuff was just mush, and John’s is often pointed but not very listenable. In my opinion, the Beatle who grew the most afterward was George. Whether that’s because he was held back or was too young to shine in the Beatles days is hard to say, but I think he really hit his stride in the late 80s where I’d call him the equal of John and Paul at last. And, of course, Good Night, Vienna, which was to a large extent an unofficial Beatles album with Ringo calling the shots, and good on yah, Ringo! :)

    Okay, blah blah blah, I’m sorry… I went off track there. :) I understand that Man We Was Lonely lit the fuse on your rocket, but what was the rocket? What did the song give you the oomph to take on and do? That is, if you care to say. :)

    1. Jim Avatar

      It’s hard to refute that Paul and John were best together as they tended to cancel each others’ excesses. I think George merely emerged from the shadows when he was on his own.

      The song was merely the knot at the end of the rope to which I clung. This Thursday’s blog tells of the action I took to finally climb out of the pit.

  3. Renee Davies Avatar

    Funny how I’m always teling my husband that I’m drawn to Paul’s music more, because it’s more hopeful. His lyrics, more often than not, encourage. It’s very telling of who McCartney is – he wrote Hey Jude to encourage Lennon’s little son. I’m glad his word came to you at the right time. It’s incredible what sleep deprivation can do to warp a frame of mind.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Renee, I’m with you, I like McCartney’s optimism. He also wrote a song for the children of Maureen Starkey (Ringo’s ex-wife) when she died. Here’s a link.

  4. jennifer Avatar

    Love that album. My best friend Julie and I got it the minute it was in the bins at Gramaphone, our local record store. Was a huge McCartney fan — and the album was a real surprise first solo effort — especially after all of the highly produced Beatles efforts. The intimacy of “McCartney” has always appealed to me — I think it is one of his most honest efforts — as his work has become increasingly formulaic and saccharine in recent years. Still love him – my favorite Beatle – and Julie and I would have married him if Linda hadn’t gotten there first — and we weren’t in seventh grade! ;-)

    Great post!

    1. Jim Avatar

      Jennifer, I still get this record out frequently just for the attitude adjustment it provides! If you haven’t checked out Paul’s two most recent studio albums, I recommend them. The first, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, is intimate in the same vein as McCartney. The second, Memory Almost Full, is well crafted.

      1. Jennifer Avatar

        My husband has those albums on his i-pod – I’m going to download them tonight! Thanks for suggesting them.

  5. versa kay Avatar

    “the knot ant the end of the rope to which I clung”
    Beautiful description of a soulful song.. There have been any number such ropes with many mor such knts, mostly metaphorical ones, but occassionally real ones which provided succour to me while iwas in the dumps, thank God for that.
    And thanks for the. Great post.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Thank you! The rope is inside us after all, and it’s up to us to choose whether to cling.

  6. Tori Nelson Avatar

    Oh, the title to this post is just the best thing ever.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Thank you Tori! I kind of like it too.

  7. Todd Pack Avatar

    I’m glad you posted this, Jim, and I’m glad you found something to bring you out of your funk. When you’re old (like me), it’s easy to forget how much an album or a song could mean to you when you were young.

    1. Jim Avatar

      It’s not just when we’re young. This song really helped me keep my chin up during my divorce.

      1. Renee Davies Avatar

        He’s got the cutest face, if ever I saw one. I love this song. It reminds me of this by G.K.Chesterton:

        “He is a sane man who can have tragedy in his heart and comedy in his head.”

  8. The Good Greatsby Avatar

    Lennon gave McCartney a hard time for writing so many cheerful songs, but I think it also requires a great genius to cheer and uplift no matter the circumstances.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Great point. It seems like no matter what was going on in Paul’s life, he came out with optimistic music. That couldn’t always have been easy.

  9. James Wiser Avatar
    James Wiser

    Well thought out.

    Reminds me of little line from his NEW album … “there but for the grace of God go you … and I” ; )

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Absolutely…and thanks for stopping by.

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