By Brian Ives
Last week, Paul McCartney announced a massive four-disc greatest hits collection consisting of his post-Beatles material. It’s pretty amazing that he can fill four volumes with songs that he wrote and recorded after leaving the greatest rock band of all time, but as we combed through the track list, we noticed a few conspicuous songs missing.
Here, then, are our suggestions in case Sir Paul decides to add a “disc five” at the last moment.
“That Would Be Something” from McCartney (1970)
This laid back gem from Paul’s debut solo album (which featured no other musicians other than McCartney) is one of his finest early solo songs, but it got overshadowed by that album’s track “Maybe I’m Amazed.” When Neil Young presented McCartney at his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999 for his solo career, he focused on that first album, saying, “I loved that record, because it was so simple. There was so much to see and to hear, it was just Paul. There was no adornment at all. There was no attempt made to compete with the things he’d already done. So out he stepped from the shadow of the Beatles… It kind of blew my mind.” This was as unadorned and simple as Paul gets, but it’s classic.
“Take It Away” from Tug of War (1982)
It sounds crazy to say, but this song introduced a new generation to Paul McCartney. Sure, he was in the Beatles, and Wings dominated the radio in the ’70s. But this was Paul’s first big MTV-era hit and it seemed to be on the channel every hour. It’s too bad that the video isn’t on McCartney’s YouTube page: it’s a blast watching him and his band (including Linda McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Martin) portraying an up-and-coming band hoping to get a break. Speaking of Martin, his horn arrangement on this is one of his greatest outside of his Beatles sessions.
“My Brave Face” from Flowers in the Dirt (1989)
Flowers in the Dirt was something of a return to form for McCartney after a few years of lackluster albums. Besides that, he was about to go on his first tour in a decade, and would be playing a lot of Beatles songs; he knew he wanted to have new songs that held up to his classics. For that, he recruited a new co-writer: Elvis Costello. This song was the leadoff track and first single from Flowers, and the lyrics about a guy who finds himself “alone again” became much more poignant after the passing of Linda. Anyway, it holds up to any of Paul’s hits; it’s really surprising that it wasn’t included.
“Put It There” from Flowers in the Dirt (1989)
Another one from Flowers, this one was clearly influenced by some of his more simple acoustic Beatles material.
“Flying to My Home,” b-side to “My Brave Face” (1989)
An upbeat rocker that sounds like it could have been a Wings outtake, this one will hopefully be included on the (hopefully upcoming) reissue of Flowers.
“Veronica” from Elvis Costello’s Spike (1989)
Not all of the McCarntey/Costello songs ended up on Flowers in the Dirt; some landed on Elvis’s 1999 Spike (and others ended up on subsequent albums by both artists). McCarntey played bass on this one, but if there’s a version of Paul singing it, that belongs here as a bonus track at the very least.
“I Lost My Little Girl” from Unplugged (The Official Bootleg) (1991)
For his session on MTV Unplugged, Paul went way back for his setlist. Much of the show was either from McCartney, or from the Beatles. One song went back even further: this one minute, ten second little ditty. Which, as he sings in the song, was the very first song he ever wrote.
“Try Not To Cry” from Run Devil Run (1999)
After the tragic passing of Linda McCartney, Paul returned to his rock and roll roots with Run Devil Run, a collection of covers of songs from the pre-Beatles era, with a pretty hot band, featuring guitarists David Gilmour of Pink Floyd and Mick Green of Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, and drummer Ian Paice of Deep Purple. The song, however, was a rocking original that no doubt dealt with the pain Paul was going through at the time.
“Brown Eyed Handsome Man” from Run Devil Run (1999)
Here, he takes the Chuck Berry classic down to New Orleans and gives the timeless classic a completely different feel. As great as a songwriter as Sir Paul is, he’s also always had a gift for doing great covers (keep in mind, the Beatles used to be a covers band).
“Vanilla Sky” from the Vanilla Sky soundtrack (2001)
McCartney pretty much covered the “psychedelic lyrics” thing during the ’60s; in this song, for the Cameron Crowe film, he returned to writing pretty weird lines for the rather bizarre flick.
“Nothing Too Much Just Out of Sight” from The Fireman’s Electric Arguments (2008)
The Fireman was a collaboration between McCarntey and producer/Killing Joke member Youth; their first two albums were instrumental and McCartney never acknowledged them as being his albums. This song, featuring loud screaming guitarist and McCartney belting out the vocals, was the highlight of their third album (and this song even made it to some of McCartney’s set lists).
“It’s So Easy” from Rave On Buddy Holly (2011)
McCartney’s contribution to a 2011 Buddy Holly tribute hears McCartney falling back in love with one of his earliest influences. By the end of the track, he sounds absolutely unhinged, which is something that you don’t often hear in Sir Paul’s voice these days.
“Cut Me Some Slack” with Dave Grohl, Pat Smear and Krist Novoselic from the Sound City soundtrack (2013)
When Paul fronted the surviving members of Nirvana on this track (singing and playing cigar box guitar), he rocked harder than he had, perhaps, since “Helter Skelter.” We’d love to see a “Sirvana” reunion.