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In catching up on recent comments, I ran across a couple that suggested Hey Dullblog judges Paul McCartney more harshly than it does the other Beatles; and one of the persistent conversations here for the last couple years is an anti-Paul bias in the media (I suppose we are part of the media?). Why doesn’t Paul get his due? commenters ask. Is it because he’s been coded as feminine? Is it because he traditionally appealed to female Beatles fans? Is it misguided post-murder worship of Lennon? Is it Jann Wenner’s Rolling Stone vendetta hardening into a permanent attitude?
I don’t think there are any definitive answers to this question; sometimes I’m not even sure that it’s a valid question. In this era of so-called “cancel culture,” has Paul McCartney really been ill-treated? And could we tell if he had been? Feeling aggrieved is one of fandom’s enduring pleasures—”Jaco Pastorius has never gotten his due as a bassist!”—that’s fine, and part of the fun. But in a time when nobody agrees on anything, we all pretty much agree that Paul McCartney is a genius.
In terms of popular culture, Paul’s influence has diminished steadily since 1980—the possibility of a Beatles reunion did so much to keep all four current, and when that hope was dashed, popular music really did move on. This recession has only accelerated since the turn of the century, but that’s perhaps a mercy: could we really have survived another forty years of Macca front and center? Could he? And it should be noted that Paul’s fate has been shared by most of his contemporaries; who talks about Clapton these days? One-time giants like Dylan and Keith Richards only make news now when they release a memoir. The 60s/70s music that has achieved a recent renaissance—Queen, Elton John—is a side-effect from popular movies. That doesn’t work with The Beatles; no movie is bigger than the group itself.
Nancy and I are the only people posting here super-regularly, and both of us are definite Macca fans. I can’t speak for Nancy, but I listen to Wings literally all the time, from “Another Day” to “Goodnight Tonight.” My interest trails off after about 1980, but that’s about me, not Paul. I’m interested in The Beatles so much more than John, Paul, George or Ringo; the solo work only fascinates me in light of the Beatles phenomenon.
And let’s be honest: after 1980, there is simply no controversy. After the tragic sudden death of his foil, Paul’s story becomes one of a productive, avuncular, celebrated Englishman seemingly contented in both life and work. There are few public outbursts, no controversial opinions. Since 1980, Paul’s simply a difficult guy to write about. There’s no obvious drama — only music.
Paul’s music comes in for more critique because there’s so much of it. Paul’s body of work dwarves that of any other Beatle; he’s already released more studio albums than Lennon and Harrison combined. And unlike his Beatles bandmates, each of whom found their post-Beatles style quickly and didn’t stray from that for the rest of their careers, Paul has made a career out of wiggling to and fro, embarking on stylistic experiments and collaborations. So he has hits and misses. It isn’t all glitter and gold.
Blogs like this run on opinions; and they only really hum if there’s well-reasoned disagreement. Hey Dullblog has gone increasingly quiet in these last couple years because there’s little to no new Beatles content to talk about. Eleven years on, I just don’t have a lot of unexpressed opinions about John, Paul, George and Ringo…and the ones left are usually vinegary takes on John’s Dakota years, or Paul’s possible codependence, or George’s weirdly bipolar saint-sinner act through the 70s. These are each juicy in their way, but not much fun to write or think about, especially compared to what I love: the miracle that was The Beatles and their era.
So what does that leave us with? Paul’s new album. Paul’s appearance on Carpool Karaoke. And Paul’s geniusness. Hymns of praise make for boring reading, so he gets critique. But never unkindly, and always keeping in mind his past accomplishments—which put him far beyond the reach of any critic. As he always will be.