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“Put it There”

Posted by purplemary54 on October 15, 2013

I’ve had this song stuck in my head for the last couple of days.  I don’t really know why.

I don’t pay much attention to Paul McCartney’s new music these days.  It seems like he puts out a new album of mostly inoffensive, mostly forgettable Pop every couple of years.  But back in 1989, when Flowers in the Dirt was released, his work was still a pretty big deal to me.  And this album always seemed like a pretty big deal for him.

McCartney is one of those songwriters that will write nothing but maudlin pabulum if left to his own devices.  He needs someone cynical and kind of nasty to play off of, someone with a little acid in his voice.  John Lennon was that perfect foil for a long time, and I think that effect lingered until John’s death.  In the 80s, however, whatever edge Paul had carried with him since the early 60s had been worn away, blunted by years of fame, money, and happy family life.  His records sold well, but were increasingly criticized for being, well, kind of soft.

Flowers in the Dirt represented a real return to form for Paul McCartney.  The love songs were sweet without giving you cavities.  The gentle acoustic work, like “Put it There,” was quiet without sounding like Muzak.  And there was some bite and laughter in Paul’s voice for the first time in a long time.  I think a lot of the success of this album was due to McCartney working with a partner who really challenged him, the wonderfully nasty and acid-tongued Elvis Costello.  He brought out the best in the former Beatle, and helped remind everyone what a real talent Paul McCartney really was (check out “You Want Her Too” to hear them play off each other).

He’s let that talent lie fallow again.  I don’t really blame him.  He’s in his 70s, and has more money than some small countries would be able to spend.  He’s on his third marriage, with children mostly grown.  He doesn’t have to do anything new or interesting anymore.  Of course, once in a while he’ll pop up for a surprise concert somewhere, or collaborate with the surviving members of another generation-defining band.  He’s not dead.  Or stupid.  He still enjoys his work and being creative.  He just doesn’t feel the need to be anyone’s spokesman anymore.

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