Paul McCartney is bringing his “One on One” tour to Hershey tonight, and there is nothing left to say about the man. No amount of words or varied syntax could do him justice, just like no live concert could contain all of the songs you want to hear. Instead, for the occasion, we’re going to take a quick look back at, arguably, McCartney’s weirdest album, “McCartney II.”
Like his first solo album “McCartney,” recorded quickly after the Beatles breakup, “McCartney II” was recorded entirely by McCartney himself on his farm. However, to really understand “McCartney II,” it’s important to know what immediately predated it. Wings was on their last legs in 1979, releasing what would be their final album, “Back to the Egg.” The album received a relatively ho-hum reception, apart from the cartoonish “Rockestra Theme,” which featured David Gilmour, Pete Townshend and a dozen other rock stars. Going seemingly further into the cartoon rabbit hole, McCartney closed out 1979 with the release of the saccharine, unfortunate and overall unavoidable “Wonderful Christmastime.” Even 35 years later, it seems impossible that he would follow that up with general weirdness he’d throw together on “McCartney II.”
The album’s tone is set with “Coming Up,” a bizarre funk tune that would go on to become Wing’s last number No. 1 single in the form of a live version. The studio version is quirky and indicative of where McCartney’s mind was at the time. After all, it can’t be a coincidence that months before the release, McCartney was imprisoned for nine days in a Japanese jail for being found in an airport with over 200 grams(!) of marijuana.
The one-two punch is fulfilled with “Temporary Secretary,” by far the most idiosyncratic tune McCartney created in his solo career. Buoyed by a frantic synth line, the song finds McCartney in search of acrobatic help. “She could be a belly dancer, I don’t need a true romancer/She could be a diplomat but I don’t need someone like that/She could be a neurosurgeon if she’s doing nothing urgent.” His exasperated-sounding call of “I NEED A!” before the chorus should at least be as famous as the call of “JET!” but, alas, the world is dark and full of terrors. And lest you think that this is an example of someone picking a purposefully obscure song as a favorite, McCartney played the song live for the first time last year and has included it at nearly every show since.
Elsewhere on the album are groovy instrumental tunes with unfortunate names and more singles that should have been huge, but special attention should also be paid to “One of These Days,” the closing number. Hearkening back to the best of McCartney’s solo acoustic numbers with the Beatles, “One of These Days” is the closest thing to, well, McCartney on the whole album. It’s sweet, gentle and features a melody that seems like you’ve heard it before but you haven’t. That’s really the summation of the Paul McCartney experience throughout time: You can’t believe this one guy still has things to show you, but he keeps finding ways.