Paul McCartney: Bassist or Multi-Instrumentalist?

This post was inspired by the wealth of information in the 1989 book Beatlesongs by William Dowling.

While Paul played bass guitar on every Beatles recording that included bass, he did do some other notable things, too.

Lead guitar – originally a guitarist in the very early days of the band, he switched to bass, but he did play lead guitar on several songs. Among them were “Ticket to Ride”, “Helter Skelter”, “Polythene Pam”, “Back in the U.S.S.R.” and “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road”.

Piano – Countless songs featured Paul on piano. Some of them were “Octopus’ Garden”, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, “Glass Onion”, “I, Me, Mine”, “You Won’t See Me”, “Hey Jude”, “Your Mother Should Know” and “Hello Goodbye”

Organ – “Revolution”, “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” and “Mr. Moonlight”

Acoustic guitar – “Yesterday”, “I’ve Just Seen a Face”, “Here, There and Everywhere”, “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”, “I’ll Be Back”, “And I Love Her”

Fugelhorn – “Dear Prudence”

Harpischord – “Fixing a Hole”

Flute – “Glass Onion”, “Fool on the Hill”, “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane”

Maracas – “Ballad of John & Yoko”

Bongos – “Mother Nature’s Son”, “Hello Goodbye” and “Strawberry Fields Forever”

Tympani – “Mother Nature’s Son”

Recorder – “Fool on the Hill”

Congas – “Hello Goodbye”

Drums – played drums on “Back in the USSR”, “The Ballad of John & Yoko” and “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road” when Ringo briefly quit the band during the recording of The White Album. Actually, Paul had to fill in on drums on occasion during their early days in Liverpool and even in Hamburg. Years later when Wings was without a drummer prior to recording the Band on the Run album, Paul handled drumming chores himself. When Who drummer Keith Moon first heard the album, he immediately called his friend Paul and asked him who the great drummer was on the album.

Editor’s Note: After the Beatles broke up, Paul moonlighted by playing the kazoo on Ringo’s 1973 # 1 hit “You’re Sixteen”.

Have a listen to Paul on drums …………

1981: George Harrison’s “All Those Years Ago”

“All Those Years Ago” is a memorable George Harrison song that was the first single released from the 1981 Somehere in England album. It is a heartfelt tribute to John Lennon, whose death several months before greatly affected Harrison.

Harrison originally wrote the song before Lennon’s death for Ringo Starr to sing, but Ringo felt the vocal range needed on the song did not coincide with his own. Then, after Lennon was killed, Harrison decided to slightly alter the lyrics to make the song a tribute to the slain Beatle. Also, the lyrics make reference to the Beatles song “All You Need Is Love” and the John Lennon solo hit “Imagine”.

The song was the first to feature collaboration by all three remaining Beatles. Ringo played drums on the single while Paul and Linda McCartney provided backing vocals along with Wings guitarist Denny Laine. It represented the first time that Harrison, McCartney and Starr had worked on a song together since they were Beatles and recorded Harrison’s song “I Me Mine”. The next time the three would collaborate on a song would be 13 years later for the Beatles Anthology when the three recorded “Free As a Bird” and “Real Love” with old recordings of John Lennon’s vocals.

Beatles producer George Martin co-produced the single with Harrison, making it as complete a Beatles reunion as possible without John Lennon.

Ironically, at the time of John Lennon’s tragic death, McCartney had been recording the song “Take It Away” and the events of the day caused him to stop recording it and it would be more than a year before he returned to the song, which appeared on the 1982 album Tug of War. George Martin produced Tug of War for McCartney and even played electric piano on “Take It Away”. Many people at the time said that McCartney’s collaboration with Harrison on “All Those Years” ago was therapeutic in that it got him back on the right track in terms of recording.

“All Those Years Ago” was released on 11 May 1981 in the U.S. and reached # 2 on the charts and stayed there for three weeks, never making the jump to the top slot. Surprisingly, after being released on 15 May 1981 in Great Britain, it only reached # 13 there.

The video was meant to highlight the song’s obvious tribute to Lennon. It is no coincidence that many of the photos and footage used were of Harrison with Lennon.


The Eye of The Hurricane of Beatlemania: An Overlooked Genius

Today’s post was inspired by an event today. I heard the 1973 hit “Oh Babe, What Would You Say” by Hurricane Smith while listening to an oldies station and it made me think of Norman “Hurricane” Smith and his great contribution to the Beatles’ early success. Unfortunately, when critics talk about the people around the Beatles who aided their success, especially after last month’s 50th anniversary of the Beatles coming to the U.S. and generating Beatlemania, Smith’s name is not on the list. It most certainly should be.

A failed jazz musician who entered the recording industry at the late age of 36, Norman Smith was the sound engineer on duty at EMI records when the Beatles came in for their first sound test. He would be the recording engineer on every Beatles recording through 1965. Later, as a producer, he helped usher in an era of psychedelic rock when he discovered the band Pink Floyd; he would produce the group’s first, second and fourth studio albums.

The Beatles took an instant liking to Smith. While every EMI employee had to wear a jacket and tie, the Beatles liked his button-downed style and gave him the nickname “Normal”. Under the producer George Martin, it was Mr. Smith’s role to choose the equipment and techniques used to capture individual sounds in the studio and then to weave them into a finished recording. In the Beatles’ case, he favored sounds that were more stark than those typically heard in the ornamented and reverberation-drenched songs on popular radio.

In the last full album he worked on with the Beatles, Rubber Soul, in 1965, Smith helped the band members lay the groundwork for the increasingly radical studio performances they would feature on later albums like Revolver (1966) and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967).

Norman Smith almost convinced John and Paul to record one of his own songs during the beginning of Beatlemania. In 2007 he published his memoirs, which was entitled John Lennon Called Me Normal. In later years, Smith enjoyed the limelight as an honored and revered guest at many Beatles conventions around the world.

While the Fab Four never actually did record one of their beloved sound engineer’s songs, the sound engineer was encouraged to record and release some of his own songs. One of them, released under the name Hurricane Smith, was a transatlantic hit, reaching # 5 on the Billboard charts in the U.S. We all remember “Oh Babe, What Would You Say”. While critics who have anointed people who helped the Beatles have left Norman Smith off their list of noteworthy people, Norman Smith, who passed away in 2008, will live on forever on the airwaves, not only in his own recordings but also the countless Beatles hits to which he is credited for giving a sharper edge.  May he rest in peace.