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Inside Paul McCartney’s Career-Turning Stumble on ‘Give My Regards to Broad Street’

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It should have worked, right? Any album that finds Paul McCartney collaborating with David Gilmour – last heard helping the former Beatles star to a Grammy on the “Rockestra Theme” – should have worked. Led Zeppelin‘s John Paul Jones, Dave Edmunds, members of Toto and Eric Stewart of 10cc were there, too. Should have worked. Any album filled out with some of McCartney’s greatest previously released songs, and featuring both George Martin and Ringo Starr, should have worked.

To say Give My Regards to Broad Street, which arrived on Oct. 22, 1984, didn’t work is an insult to anything that’s ever worked. The album, which served as a soundtrack to a failed film, stalled at No. 21 on the Billboard chart, McCartney’s worst showing up to that point. The album would make it to No. 1 in his native U.K., but Broad Street ended a stirring run of U.S. sales successes that included nine platinum post-Beatles albums. McCartney would never reach such heights again.

Could you blame his fans? After all, he packaged in 10 songs from his Beatles, Wings and solo career – but all of them were needlessly re-recorded, including classics like “Good Day Sunshine,” “Yesterday,” “Eleanor Rigby” and “The Long and Winding Road.” (Curiously, the latter update was again based on the Phil Spector arrangement that Paul McCartney had always insisted he hated.) Even the affable Ringo Starr found the project confusing and refused to drum on any of the reworked Beatles songs.

“Ringo wasn’t happy to get involved with it,” McCartney later admitted. “We had some songs in the film where we wanted him to drum on them, but he didn’t want to attempt a new version. I can see it from his point of view, actually, because it would have been, ‘Did I drum good on version A or version B?,’ and he didn’t even want a comparison. From my point of view, I’m looking at a song. I’m looking at one of my songs. I don’t want to be ashamed of anything I’ve written.”

Not that Starr was necessarily better used elsewhere. He joined Jones (who’d also been part of the “Rockestra” lineup), Edmunds and Chris Spedding for a slouch through “Ballroom Dancing,” originally released on 1982’s Tug of War‘ In fact, a trio of remakes on Broad Street were less than two years old, including the forgettable Pipes of Peace ballad “So Bad,” which hardly needed another pass.

Still, there were, if you looked hard enough, two small saving graces, both of them loose, original rockers and both featuring Dave Edmunds and Ringo Starr: “Not Such a Bad Boy” and “No Values,” which ends in a scalding mini-jam. They couldn’t have been more welcome – or out of place. Their attitude and crunch only made the rest of the throwaway material on Give My Regards to Broad Street feel more washed out.

Elsewhere, you had Toto’s Jeff Porcaro and Steve Lukather wasting their time on an update of “Silly Love Songs.” (There’s a disturbing video to go with it, too.) David Gilmour added a tacked-on guitar solo to the hit ballad version of “No More Lonely Nights.” It became McCartney’s second-to-last U.S. Top 10 hit, but hasn’t aged much better than “Silly Love Songs.” Stewart, who’d previously appeared on both Tug of War and Pipes of Peace, was tucked away as background singer on a dance version (yes, a dance version) of “No More Lonely Nights” that closed things out.

It didn’t work.

Anyone who saw the movie, and there weren’t many, will remember that the Paul McCartney-written script for Give My Regards to Broad Street turned on a search for the masters for his new album, which had gone missing. If only life, this one time, could have imitated art.

Paul McCartney Albums, Ranked Worst to best

This Day in Rock History: October 22

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