Top 10 Paul McCartney Songs
Once he decided to put an end to the Beatles, Paul McCartney wasted no time getting back in the game. Within the first couple years of the group’s breakup, its busiest songwriter had released a solo album, put out an LP with his wife and formed a new band. Soon, McCartney was having hits all over again. While much of his work, particularly the later material, could have used some of his old group’s rougher edge, the best of his post-Beatles cuts are every bit as tuneful as his ’60s hits, as you’ll see by our list of the Top 10 Paul McCartney Songs.
‘Helen Wheels’ was originally released as a single in 1973 and not intended for inclusion on the upcoming Wings album ‘Band on the Run.’ But by the time the LP was released two months later, it somehow ended up on the U.S. version. It didn’t show up on a U.K. album until the 2001 ‘Wingspan’ compilation. Either way, it’s one of McCartney’s tightest and sturdiest post-Beatles rockers.
‘With a Little Luck’
By the time Wings released ‘With a Little Luck,’ their final No. 1, McCartney was growing restless. He’d release one more album with the group (1979’s dismal ‘Back to the Egg’) before recording his second solo album in 1980. ‘London Town’ reflects some of this restlessness in its varied and sketchy songs. ‘With a Little Luck’ is its best track, with a killer vocal push by McCartney near the end.
‘Let Me Roll It’
‘Band on the Run’ is McCartney’s best post-Beatles album (four of its tracks show up on our list of the Top 10 Paul McCartney Songs) — the first solo work to fall together as consistently as the LPs he made with his old group. Not so coincidentally, one of its best songs recalls something Fab: not McCartney’s own songs but former bandmate John Lennon. In fact, ‘Let Me Roll It’ is a better John Lennon song than what Lennon himself was making in 1973.
‘Venus and Mars / Rock Show’
Flush from the success of ‘Band on the Run,’ Wings pretty much repeated the formula on their next album, ‘Venus and Mars,’ mixing world beats with pop smarts and tough rockers, like this two-part song that kicks off the album. Bonus points for name-dropping Jimmy Page, who gets rhymed with the word “stage” during the first part of the ‘Rock Show’ section.
‘Uncle Albert / Admiral Halsey’
Credited to Paul and Linda, McCartney’s second post-Beatles album, ‘Ram,’ is full of left turns and musical adventures. ‘Uncle Albert / Admiral Halsey,’ McCartney’s first solo No. 1, is one of the weirdest songs to ever reach the top spot. It’s a medley built around a solid hook, gurgling sound effects and vaudeville jokes. No way radio would ever play something like this today.
‘Silly Love Songs’
Hate all you want. McCartney’s fifth No. 1 (credited to Wings) is a solid piece of pop songcraft by a guy who knows a few things about the subject. Just listen to the way the various vocals weave in and out of each other near the song’s climatic finish. Or the way the horns blast past everything around them. Or even that hook, which is massive. So go on and hate all you want. It’s a good song, silly or not.
‘Band on the Run”s first single (if you don’t count ‘Helen Wheels’ — see No.10 on our list of the Top 10 Paul McCartney Songs) may be the hardest straight-up rock song McCartney recorded since the Beatles. There’s a glam-rock coating to the song — from distorted vocals to the sparkling glitter that’s dumped all over the guitars — which makes it stand out on the radio and on the album. One of McCartney’s all-time best.
‘Live and Let Die’
Recorded between ‘Red Rose Speedway’ (one of Paul McCartney and Wings’ worst records) and ‘Band on the Run’ (their best), the band’s theme song for the 1973 James Bond movie of the same name injected some much-needed muscle into McCartney’s songwriting. Like many of his songs from the era, ‘Live and Let Die’ jumps all over the place before settling back into its main groove. It reached No. 2 and remains one of the all-time greatest 007 themes.
‘Band on the Run’
Structured as a multi-part suite, ‘Band on the Run’ — McCartney’s third solo No. 1 — features one of his all-time greatest hooks. In fact, you have to go deep into his Beatles years to find one this huge. The song not only anchors McCartney’s best album (which is co-credited to Wings), it gave new life to a singer and songwriter many had given up on.
‘Maybe I’m Amazed’
McCartney officially put an end to the Beatles when he released his first solo album in April 1970. It’s generally a mixed bag, filled with leftover band ideas and bloated self-indulgence. But ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ is one of his best love songs. The hit came several years later with a live version recorded with Wings for the ‘Wings Over America’ LP. We prefer the more intimate studio take found on ‘McCartney.’