‘The Best Covers Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.
There are a lot of weird and wacky images within Alan Aldridge’s 1969 cult classic book The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics. One of the most memorable is a drawing imagining what John, Paul, George, and Ringo will look like as senior citizens. In this fantastical portrait, John and George are depicted as eccentric elders. Ringo, in keeping with his everyman persona, is shown as a shopworn sad sack. But it is Paul McCartney who offers the most disturbing vision of the future. “The cute one” appears as a conservative besuited and well-fed bank manager. His smug grin suggests he is proud to have finally outgrown all that silly pop music nonsense.
Over fifty years have passed since the creation of that “future Beatles” portrait and Paul McCartney has neither turned into a complacent fiduciary president nor has he given up that “pop nonsense.” He has in fact become the world’s most beloved rock ‘n’ roll “Grandude” (Paul’s word, not mine), still touring like a madman, kicking out new albums, and, it has to be said, looking quite stylish, thank you, for an older gent.
The music Paul McCartney created as a solo artist and with his band Wings was looked upon with contempt by the critics in the ’70s and ’80s, an attitude fueled by his perceived role in The Beatles’ break-up. During that time, he was the undisputed poster child of that antiquated betrayal known as “selling out” and was frequently held up as an example of what happens when no one is around to tell a musician “no.”
But times have changed. Over the 21st century, this crazy thing called streaming happened. And the ease of music consumption removed that old barnacle known as “context.” As a result, people listening to Paul’s solo stuff these days now are far less likely to consider it an affront to his time with The Beatles and see it for what it is and always was; the work of Paul freakin’ McCartney, a legendary and outrageously gifted musician in his own right.
The initially maligned Ram album is now regarded as a stone-cold classic (we concur!). “Arrow Through Me”, from the critically savaged Wings album Back To The Egg, is now thought to be an innovative work of genius, garnering streams in the millions and rapturous admiration from Questlove. Harry Styles is an unabashed fan of Macca’s solo works – the London Town, Ram, and Back to the Egg albums in particular – and you can hear their influence all over his work. There are also nerds like me who have written endlessly unspooling, adoring essays dedicated solely to the solo discography that they would love for you to read.
All of which is to say it’s 2022, and now that Paul is officially 80 years old (!), we thought it was about damn time to pay tribute to his wondrous post-Beatle excursions. Please join us now for the 50 Best Paul McCartney Covers Ever, containing reimagined versions of songs from across his entire discography (well, with the exception of one band…). Within this list, you will encounter some bizarre re-imaginings and bear witness to much gleeful liberty-taking. There are tear-jerking ballads of faithful poignance and sloppy mountains of muddy-booted joy. You will hear all that and more in these fabulous, crazy, and heartfelt covers. Do me a favor: open the door and let ’em in. – Hope Silverman