Thursday, January 31, 2013

High Expectations: Wings: "Hi Hi Hi/C Moon"

When I think of Paul McCartney, I tend to remember two things first:  both of them immediate and heartfelt reactions.  One was during the Oscars back in '02 when he was performing the title song of Vanilla Sky and a friend yelled at the tv set, in exasperation, "You used to be a BEATLE!"

The other reaction was from my best friend, Gemma, who was taken by her then boyfriend around 1990 to see McCartney in concert.  Her review was mixed, at best; she didn't (and still doesn't) hate the man per se, but the show went on for so very long, and it was fine when he was doing Beatles songs...but his own...

In the 70s people had the right to expect the same levels of genius from the now ex-Beatles as they did when they were still a group; that they all devolved into their constituent parts is one of those letdowns the 70s were so very, very good at.  Lennon cut his losses, as such, by just stopping altogether in 1975; no one expected much from Ringo and thus he didn't make out all that badly; and George kept going, though more and more of his attention was towards making movies, namely in helping to produce them, than trying to have hit singles.

McCartney though, on evidence, really needed to keep himself busy churning out single after single; he was, according to Dellio and Woods, "a Top Forty automaton, a three-minute warlord in an LP combat zone, a human jukebox run amok."  From what I gather in Fab by Howard Sounes, McCartney is the kind of musician who most definitely needs someone who could talk back to him, or else what he would record would be, to put it kindly, not very good.  A George Martin or Lennon to say "No."  McCartney sadly didn't have this in Wings (Denny Laine?  Linda*?  Anyone else?) and thus he would do songs like this one, a song Sounes calls, frankly, "stupid**."  I can only agree, and note that it only did well in the UK as it was banned for clearly being about drugs.  (It is here as it got to #2 on the Radio Luxembourg chart.)  McCartney had recently had a problem with the law about pot plants found on his Scottish farm; and this rockin' tune man is a "So what, I'm still Paul MF McCartney, suck it" sort of reaction that probably sounded like a good idea at the time***, but has no more impact than pushing over an outhouse while someone's in it and running away.  Our Macca, I can hear his fans say, no one tells him what to do!

That it was a hit shows how many adolescents sympathized with him, wanted to own a sh-sh banned single, and maybe how this mild nyah-nyahing was easier to absorb into pop culture than tougher songs which were sold in the wrong shops.  In McCartney's view, it was another hit, proof (sad proof, I'd say) that the public were perfectly happy with the post-Beatle letdown, or that maybe they didn't think they had that right to genius after all.  If "Hi Hi Hi" is bad, then "C Moon" is the kind of genial inanity that he does very well; a kind of reggae-ish love song that lilts and glides along, the sort of thing I imagine McCartney can do in his sleep, practically.  It was played on the BBC instead of the a-side (which was played on Luxembourg); both of these songs have, as far as I can tell, fallen into The Void, which is rare for McCartney but understandable; his big ballad "My Love" came next, followed by the crazed (and Martin-produced) "Live And Let Die."  Those were both songs I'm sure Gemma heard back in the day, and songs he likely still performs; "Hi Hi Hi" is the kind of song that quietly was shelved once the counterculture 70s were gone, and McCartney had grown up.  A little...

I will return to Wings in the fullness of time, with a song that by them that I actually like, believe it or not.   

Next up:  gossip girl.

*Is it just me or was it somehow mean for Paul to make Linda join the band?  Did he really feel so embattled by the end of The Beatles that he needed his wife to be there in the studio with him? 

**Get you ready for my polygon" is enough to make me say "Block that metaphor!"

***I know I don't need to say it, but once you're on drugs so many, many things do seem like good ideas; seem is the key word here.


MikeMCSG said...

I expect it was the need to keep up with Lennon in their pissing contest - look I've got a female muse too ! Didn't really work out though; few musicians have attracted as much derision as Linda. There was a great sketch on Carrot's Lib circa 83 where Nick Wilton as Macca performs a typically inane song then says "Take it away Linda!" and Jan Ravens (I think) as Linda plays a single note on the piano.
Most of Wings's stuff is in The Void - apart from your exceptions only "Jet" and "Band On The Run" have held up - unlike your next entry which is immortal.

Unknown said...

McCartney actually sings "get you ready for my BODY GUN" not polygon.