aul McCartney spent the seventies making hits -- more than two dozen, in fact, beginning with "Another Day" in 1971. As the leader of Wings, he cut all kinds of records, from mellow ballads to surging rockers, and nearly all made the American Top 10. In a sample year, 1973, there was a raver ("Hi,Hi,Hi"), a sentimental crooner ("My Love"), and a dramatic James Bond movie theme ("Live and Let Die"). After cutting the latter with a forty-piece orchestra, Wings reverted to primal scream for their next number, a raucous song inspired by Paul's nickname for his battered Land-Rover.
That tune, "Helen Wheels," came from Band On the Run, Wings' most popular abum of the decade. It was recorded in an eight-track studio, built over a swamp, in Lagos, Nigeria. The album included "Jet" (named after the McCartneys' little black dog) and the title track, both of which became top pop singles in the States. Their final record of 1974 was cut in Nashville: "Sally G," backed with "Junior's Farm" ("Junior" was lead guitarist Jimmy McCullough). Both sides of that 45 also got a lot of air play.
In 1975, Wings switched labels from Apple to Capitol, and recorded Venus and Mars in L.A. and New Orleans. That album amassed orders of one-and-a-half million copies before release. Afterward, it yielded three major hits: "Listen to What the Man Said," "Letting Go," and "Rock Show."
By 1976, Paul McCartney had certainly established himself as the consummate hitmaker -- composer, arranger, publisher, producer, bandleader, singer and musician. No one doubted his ability to make hits, but some criticized the sentimental way he sometimes did it. Even during his Beatle days, McCartney had been called a romantic, a softie, and he was never embarrassed by it. "I'm of fan of old-fashioned writing," he admitted. "I do like rhyme, when it comes off. I hate silly rhymes, but when they work, they're the greatest little things in songwriting."
At the height of their contentiousness immediately following the breakup of the Beatles, John Lennon said that Paul's material was "a lot of rubbish," and that he "couldn't rock if he tried." "He sounds like Englebert Humperdinck," said Lennon, who further attacked his old partner in "How Do You Sleep?," a cut off the Imagine album.
And with that, McCartney composed "Silly Love Songs" -- a tune that overcame its own silliness by its obvious sincerity. Its mass acceptance proved McCartney's point, much to his satisfaction.
"The fact is, deep down, people are very sentimental," he said. "If they watch a sentimental movie at home, they cry, but in public they won't. We don't like to show our emotions; we tend to sneer at that. And in the same way, people may not admit to liking love songs, but that's what they seem to crave."
Wings' single came out in mid-April 1976, just before the final leg of a tour that took them to the U.S., the U.K., Australia, and five cities in Europe (in Berlin, Paul and Linda painted the lyrics of "Silly Love Songs" on a bedsheet and paraded it along the Berlin Wall). In every town, the specter of Paul's former group was there -- in America, where a ten-year-old Beatle track, "Got to Get You Into My Life," had been revived; and in England, where almost a quarter of Britain's Top 100 single records were old Lennon-McCartney songs. In concert, post-Beatles material was emphasized, and the result was a rousing string of celebrative events. "Paul confronted his legacy," wrote one reviewer, "and was not engulfed by it."
And of course, to make things sweeter, both Wings' new album (At the Speed of Sound ) and single ("Silly Love Songs") reached number one while they were on the road.
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