Page A3 / The Joan
De Arc Crusader / Sunday, June 23, 2019
Editorials A2 /
Nostalgia on the Avenue
overdue defense of Wild Life
By J. Bueker
I doubt itís
possible to exaggerate the Beatlesí profound influence on the Joan De Arc
years. The bandís unrivaled fame and incomparable artistic achievement
permeated virtually every aspect of our lives, encompassing trends in music,
fashion, language, politics and beyond.
From a Joan De Arc perspective, the most intriguing fact about the Fab Four
is that their emergence into unprecedented and everlasting notoriety
coincided almost exactly with our familyís arrival on the street in
December, 1963. The Beatlesí career was precisely intertwined with our
entire Joan De Arc experience from beginning to end. John, Paul, George and
Ringo quite literally supplied the soundtrack for some of the happiest years
of our lives.
A mere kindergartener at the time
of the groupís breakthrough, I was swept up by Beatlemania to no less degree
than my older siblings. I still carry vivid memories of belting out She
Loves You from the kindergarten playground swing set and using my time
in art class to construct crude drawings from memory of the band performing
onstage. The Beatles were just a marvelous sensation, unlike anything weíd
ever seen. Our notions of what constituted popular music had suddenly
changed irrevocably, and yet little did any of us suspect what wonders still
Years were required to digest the
unpleasant reality of the bandís dissolution. There was always that
lingering hopeful suspicion that the boys were just having us on, and of
course there would be a wonderful new Beatles album soon forthcoming,
after which we would all feel quite silly believing these guys could ever
actually break up. As the Ď70s wore on, however, the world slowly absorbed
the sad fact that this matchless band now belonged exclusively to the
confines of musical history.
But we did get the
solo albums. Naturally we expected roughly the same uniform excellence when
the Beatles started producing their individual LPs and 45s, but this was
sadly not the case. Our surprise at this diminished quality seems curious in
retrospect, but at the time the Beatle magic still seemed quite invincible.
there was some quality material. Johnís profoundly emotional Plastic Ono
Band album is still rightly held in very high esteem, as are Georgeís
ambitious All Things Must Pass and Paulís pristine Band on the Run.
Even Ringo still stands up pretty well, and in fact that particular
LP actually features my all-time favorite Beatles solo tune, the beautiful
Taken as a whole, however,
the Beatlesí solo efforts seemed undeniably disappointing. When McCartney
formed a band called Wings in 1971 and swiftly recorded and released an
inaugural album entitled Wild Life, the scorn was immediate and
acute. Rolling Stone dismissed the new record as ďflaccid musically and
impotent lyrically, trivial and unaffecting.Ē And this was one of the kinder
At the time, I understood the
criticism. The songs seemed decidedly unsophisticated compared to the Fab
masterpieces of just a couple years earlier, say Abbey Road for
instance, or even Paulís immediately previous solo work, Ram. But
there was something about this Wild Life record that I instantly
found profoundly attractive.
Perhaps it was the carefree simplicity of the arrangements and the
spontaneous immediacy of the performances, many of which were recorded in a
single take or two. Suddenly this McCartney fellow seemed surprisingly
unconcerned with nailing the perfect recordings, and this from the artist
who just a few years earlier had insisted on 60-plus takes for Ob-La-Di,
Ob-La-Da. These new songs sounded fresh and unpretentious to a fault.
The album opens with the raucous and energetic jam Mumbo, followed by
the curiously appealing triviality that is Bip Bop, which 50 years
later does not seem quite as annoying as it did back in í71. In fact, the
melody here is undeniably catchy once you become inured to the vacuity of
the playfully inane lyrics. Paulís cover of Love is Strange is
expertly executed reggae, while the title track Wild Life presents a
stark, bluesy piano ballad decrying the plight of zoo animals.
I adore You Are My Singer, a charming duet that pleasingly slips into
focus in spite of, or perhaps even thanks to, the amateurish harmonies of
Linda McCartney. Letís give the girl some credit, sheís sharing the mic with
a Beatle for godís sake. This required more than a little courage on her
part and she acquits herself admirably here and throughout the album. Iíve
come to regard this particular song as an underrated gem and personal
The very finest tracks on Wild Life
however are as good as anything McCartney has ever done as a solo artist.
Dear Friend, a beautifully somber and equivocal olive branch to John
Lennon, subtly conveys extraordinary depth and emotion. The melodicism and
guitar work of Some People Never Know is first-rate McCartney
product, as is the terrific piano number Tomorrow, which features an
exceptional vocal arrangement and appears to be an oblique reference to
Paulís most famous Beatles number of all, Yesterday. (In what manner
this was intended, however, remains unclear to this day). All three of these
songs would be standout tracks on any McCartney LP.
The critical consensus though has long placed Wild Life rather low in
the overall rankings of Maccaís post-Beatle achievements. Perhaps itís
nostalgia to some degree, but I continue to completely dissent from this
judgment. There is no Paul McCartney LP I like better. It has a freshness
and timeless quality that I have never exhausted in countless listens over
the past half century. This material has only grown in my esteem and I am
not alone in this assessment.
Paul has been
cashing in on his musical legacy in a big way in recent years, and
deservedly so. Deluxe boxed sets of the aforementioned Ram and
Band on the Run have sold quite well amongst our aging population of
boomer Beatlemaniacs, but I had so far resisted the temptation to purchase
any of the pricey re-issues on the grounds that I already possessed the
remastered CDs, so what was the point really? But then the man released the
deluxe edition of Wild Life this last November and I caved. Just had
to have this one.
I was not disappointed. The clarity of the remastered album CD is
remarkable, and the main disc is complemented by a pair of companion CDs that
feature intriguing album rough mixes and both obscure and well-known bonus
tracks. The collection also contains a bonus DVD with films created around
the time of the albumís production, and the whole shebang is supplemented by
a fascinating 128-page book that documents the circumstances behind the
formation of Wings and the LPís creation. Itís been both a privilege and
delight to discover this remarkable work anew.
The Beatles were an amazingly prolific band, especially by todayís
standards. The group averaged about two masterpiece albums a year
for the balance of their incredible 7-year run. Every time we turned around
on Joan De Arc, it seemed a fabulous new Fab Four disc had appeared at
Billís Records. We quickly came to take the band completely for granted and
then they were gone.
In the ensuing aftermath of the Beatleís monumental achievement,
there was no way any of their individual works could ever measure up, and so
Wild Lifeís reputation was unfairly diminished from the beginning.
Paul wasnít trying to make the next Beatles album; he was testing the waters
for his new band, and no such endeavor was ever going to be well received
during this period. Only after all these years, perhaps, can we begin to
properly assess any of the Beatlesí individual works.
Funny then that my original opinion remains squarely unchanged: Wild Life
is one of the very best.
Editorials A2 /
Nostalgia on the Avenue