In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!
Paul McCartney as a septuagenarian is still going strong, having just headlined Bonnaroo last month. Showcasing covers of Macca is a pretty easy gig, so we won’t touch the Beatles (as we’ve already done that in spades); instead, we’ll look at covers of his musical output during the Mullet Years, from the time the Beatles broke up to the dissolution of Wings in 1981. It’s true that McCartney pretty much recorded his solo debut McCartney by himself, except for some oohs and ahhs from the lovely Linda, and maybe it’s not technically a Wings album, but for simplicity’s sake we’re just going to go ahead and say that it is. Now, without further ado…
Owsley – Band on the Run (Paul McCartney and Wings cover)
Will Owsley was the former lead singer for the struggling band the Semantics and the touring guitarist for Amy Grant in the ’90s. Another musical casualty of depression, Owsley died at the age of 44. He escapes the confines of his darkness here with a perfect rendition of “Band on the Run,” capturing every nuance of the original recording.
The Faces – Maybe I’m Amazed (Paul McCartney cover)
The Faces have a lot of fun with “Maybe I’m Amazed,” released just 10 months after McCartney’s studio version. Bassist Ronnie Lane starts out singing the first verse, and then the whole band just falls in line until Rod Stewart coughs up his lungs. No sour notes here: Ron Wood wouldn’t commit adultery with the Rolling Stones for a couple more years.
Dave Grohl and Norah Jones – Maybe I’m Amazed (Paul McCartney cover)
Dave Grohl doesn’t quite have the range to sing this slower version of “Maybe I’m Amazed,” recorded during McCartney’s Kennedy Center Honors award presentation. But Norah Jones does, and Grohl makes up for his vocal shortcomings by doing some nice guitar work. Grohl previously had played for McCartney six months before, when McCartney received the Gershwin Award; Sir Paul repaid the favor by cutting a song with the surviving members of Nirvana earlier this year.
Semisonic – Jet (Paul McCartney and Wings cover)
Minneapolis’s ’90s band Semisonic flew close to the sun with their hit “Closing Time,” but the wax melted and gravity won out. (Read why in the drummer’s great book.) Recorded for the McCartney tribute album Listen to What the Man Said, it’s hard to know here what the man said because no one knows what the hell “Jet” is about. An airplane? Women’s right to vote? A pony? Your guess is as good as ours.
The Parson Red Heads – Ram On (Paul McCartney and Wings cover)
Let’s switch it up with an indie take on “Ram On,” from a McCartney tribute organized by the blog Aquarium Drunkard for No More Landmines. This is a hammock song, plain and simple.
Bodies of Water – Dear Boy (Paul McCartney and Wings cover)
John Lennon bristled at “Dear Boy,” thinking McCartney was taking a condescending shot at him. Why, nothing could be further from the truth, McCartney insisted: he was really taking a condescending shot at Linda’s ex-husband. Bodies of Water recorded “Dear Boy” for the same L.A. tribute above, with more Britpop sensibilities.
Matthew Sweet – Every Night (Paul McCartney cover)
Sweet’s cover of “Every Night,” a lesser-known song from McCartney, is pop perfection, tacking on a few more seconds of cake before licking the frosting off the chorus.
Patty Austin – Let ‘Em In (Paul McCartney and Wings cover)
“What happened to Paul?” Dave Barry asked in Dave Barry’s Book of Bad Songs. “Did his brain get taken over by aliens from the Planet Twinkie?” As evidence, he cites the lyrics to “Let ‘Em In,” perhaps not knowing that Paul’s version was a downright masterpiece next to Miss America pageant host Bert Parks’s. Austin’s version was just recorded a couple of years ago, but her jazzy style throws back to the ’70s from whence it came.
Golden Dogs – Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five (Paul McCartney and Wings cover)
We’ve featured this version of “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five” before when we covered Band on the Run track by track, and this song is so good we’re stealing it from ourselves. Enjoy this futuristic tune of the future, futurists!
Umphrey’s McGee – Live and Let Die (Paul McCartney and Wings cover)
Is Umphrey’s version of “Live and Let Die” more of a cover of Guns N’ Roses’ take than McCartney’s original James Bond classic? Sure, it might start out that way, but jam bands always put their own spin on everything (and besides, Brendan Bayliss sings way better than the strangled-chicken vocals of Axl Rose). Dashing off the symphony riff of the song, the band rolls around to a ska version of the bridge before settling in with a slow jam before the last crowd-pleasing chorus.
Grace Davies – Live and Let Die (Paul McCartney and Wings cover)
Davies is a 15-year-old singer from Manchester; her slowed down Adele-ish take on McCartney’s 007 anthem focuses on the vocals instead of the guitar theme. Well done.