Paul McCartney – Give My Regards to Broad Street (1984)

Although the 1980’s period of his career is generally overlooked today, the early MTV era was still a lucrative time for Paul McCartney as a solo artist, who was still putting out hits on the contemporary charts and not yet considered a “retro” artist.

Although each of the Beatles are special for their own merits, I think who your favorite member of the Fab Four is says a lot about your values in regard to culture and music.  If you want to be intellectual, you are a John fan.  If you are looking to be cutting edge, you are a George fan.  If you want to be whimsical, Ringo’s your guy.  But if you just want a good solid song, a memorable hook, a melody that’ll last the test of time and aren’t at all concerned with being “cool,” you are a Paul McCartney fan.   When I take stock of all of my most Beatles songs, Paul’s compositions seem to outnumber the work of all the other guys.  It might not be cool, intellectual, cutting edge or whimsical to be a Paul fan, but there is no denying that he is one of the greatest songwriters of the last century.

But perhaps my preference to the work of Paul McCartney’s work over that of the other Beatles has a lot to do with the fact that, without me knowing it at the time, he was my gateway into the world of the Beatles, not to mention the British invasion in general.  Long before I even knew who the Beatles were, I knew who Paul McCartney via my love for his 1984 hit “No More Lonely Nights” from his album “Give My Regards to Broad Street.” 

When it comes to any sort of pop culture, we all have our entry points, and for a lot of record collectors and music fans that entry point is The Beatles.  The influence they have had on music fans is still, to this day, immeasurable.  I often hear about how music collectors and musicians’ love for The Beatles came from either being music fans when the Beatles released their albums, or that they discovered their music because their parents or an older family member was a fan.  Well, this was not my experience.  My introduction to the Beatles was not that clear cut.  Although my parents didn’t dislike the Beatles, they weren’t that interested in them either and there wasn’t a single Beatles album in my parents’ record collection and, as a result, we didn’t listen to the Beatles when I was growing up.  My mother was an Elvis Presley fan, and I had a distinct understanding about his music and mythology from an early age.  My father, on the other hand, listened to country and western music, and his ears were pointed to Nashville and not Liverpool.  So, when I first started becoming interested in music, The Beatles were not a band I had any easy access to. 

Michael Jackson- Thriller (1982). Still the highest selling album of all time, like many people of my generation it was the first record we bought with our own money. The first single released from the album would be Jackson’s duet with Paul McCartney, “The Girl is Mine.”

But as for Paul McCarntney as a solo artist, that was another story.  Although often dismissed these days, in the early 1980’s Paul McCartney was still a major player in the modern music industry and was still a marketable artist during the early days of the MTV era.  Despite the chance of a Beatles reunion ending with the murder of John Lennon in 1980, and Wings dissolving in 1981, Paul McCartney was still releasing new music, and was still considered very much a contemporary artist and not yet a retro one. 

So, when I started really getting interested in music around 1982, I had no idea who The Beatles were.  They weren’t at all on my radar.  But do you know who was?  Like a lot of people my age, the first pop artist we knew was Michael Jackson.  I was seven years old when “Thriller” came out, and it was the first record I bought with my own money.  Michael Jackson, under the watchful eye of Quincy Jones, was creating the music that would define an entire generation with “Billie Jean,” “Beat It” and “Human Nature.”  But one of the sweetest songs on the album was his duet with Paul McCartney, “The Girl is Mine.”  The pairing of two of music’s most iconic “heartthrobs” in the fun and playful romantic rivalry hit all the right notes and was irresistible to listeners.  The first single to be released from “Thriller,” it wouldn’t be the most historical number from the album, but the song rose to the #2 spot on the Billboard Top 100.  A year later Michael and Paul doubled down releasing  “Say Say Say,” along with a third song, “The Man,” on McCartney’s solo album “Pipes of Peace.”  The video for “Say Say Say” would become an MTV staple. 

Although their relationship ended bitterly, during the early 1980’s the press tried to make Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney out to be best friends. Together they released three songs – “The Girl is Mine,” “The Man,” and “Say Say Say,” which would become an MTV staple.

At the time of Thrillermania, the press wrote a lot of stories about the friendship between Michael and Paul, often trying to make them out to be best pals, although we know now that their collaborations did not end on the best of terms when Jackson betrayed McCartney by purchasing the rights for the Beatles catalogue from underneath him. But, this hadn’t happened yet in 1982 and one of my earliest recollections about reading about Paul McCartney was in a teen magazine which talked about how Paul visited Neverland Ranch only to have Michael Jackson serve him cereal over Saturday morning cartoons.  Charming, but one must wonder just what McCartney thought of that if it was at all a true story.  But, as a seven year old Michael Jackson fan, Paul McCartney was just Michael’s friend who he sometimes released music with.  In my mind, Paul McCartney was part of Michael Jackson’s entourage. Look. I had a lot to learn.  We all gotta start somewhere.

Although technically a studio album, “Give My Regards to Broad Street” doubled as a soundtrack to Paul McCartney’s 1984 film project of the same name.

It wasn’t until 1984 that I finally began to understand the force of music that Paul McCartney was.  By this point I was nine years old and every day after school I ran home to watch music videos.  We didn’t have Much Music, which was Canada’s version of MTV and was, at the time, a premium channel, but there were multiple after school shows dedicated to music videos which I devoured.  By this point my interest in Michael Jackson had dissipated, and my favorite musicians of the day were Prince, Madonna, Wham! and Duran Duran.  I loved the flash and the energy and the spectacle of the 1980’s music industry and was still far too young to have much understanding of lyrical content.  But what I wasn’t too young to understand was the emotional content of a good song and when McCartney released his 1984 single “No More Lonely Nights,” it cut through my prepubescent heart like a hot knife in butter:

“I can wait another day
Until I call you
You’ve only got my heart on a string
And everything a-flutter

But another lonely night
Might take forever
We’ve only got each other to blame
It’s all the same to me, love

‘Cause I know what I feel to be right

No more lonely nights.”

Released as a single in conjunction with the film, “No More Lonely Nights” did moderately well on the charts, peaking at #2 in the UK and #6 in the US. But as the song won over old and new fans, the film was a critical and box office flop.

Did I know who The Beatles were by this point?  Doubtful.  Did I know about Wings?  I can guarantee you I did not.  Did I think Paul McCartney was cool?  Not really.  He had the look and energy of someone’s Dad.  But what I knew was I loved “No More Lonely Nights” because it made me feel something I couldn’t quite express into words.  At times it sounded sad, but also hopeful.  It had a hint of loneliness but there was a sense of romance within it. .  It had a lot of drama, and a sweeping killer guitar solo, which I didn’t know at the time, was provided by Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour (another band I didn’t know).  I couldn’t tell you what the song was about, but I knew that it was a fantastic song which connected with me,  None of my friends seemed to be at all interested in it, and nobody was talking about Paul McCartney in my elementary school playground, but “No More Lonely Nights” became a favorite song of mine.

Later that year, at a school fun fair, Paul McCartney’s “Give My Regards to Broad Street” album was on a prize table.  I can’t remember the other records that were up for grabs if you won enough tickets, but I immediately had my eye on that prize.  I went to the gym and played all the games it took and got enough tickets to take home the record.  “No More Lonely Nights” was the only song on the record I knew, but whether I knew it at the time or not, it ended up being my first exposure into the music of The Beatles.

Paul McCartney, with Linda and his band, as alien cat people from the “Silly Love Songs” sequence in “Give My Regards to Broad Street.” With very little coherent plot, the film was part of a short lived trend in 1980’s filmmaking to make feature length music videos.

Released in 1984, “Give My Regards to Broad Street” was a studio album as well as a sort of “Greatest Hits” package with McCartney rerecording new versions of songs from his entire career.  But its better remembered as the soundtrack to McCartney’s film project of the same name that was released in conjunction with the album.  However, while “No More Lonely Nights,” was climbing up the charts around the world, critics were not kind to “Give My Regards to Broad Street.”  It was called “pompous,” “nonsensical,” “plot less” and “self involved” by critics and a box office bomb.  I recall not thinking much of it when I first watched it as a film student in the 1990’s.  “Give My Regards to Broad Street” was part of an incredibly short-lived trend in 1980’s film making where studios, inspired by MTV, were making films with little plot but centered on music and performance that acted as feature length music videos.  The best examples of this would be Prince’s “Purple Rain” and director Adrian Lyn’s “Flashdance.”  “Give My Regards to Broad Street” was very much in the vein of this trend, but somehow it just missed the mark.  But when recently revisiting the film, I found it had a lot more merit to it than its reputation.  While the plot never seems to land at all, the music numbers are imaginative, the film beautiful to look at and the emotional chord’s McCartney and friends are trying to hit are often executed well.  As films featuring Beatles go, I find it much more watchable than “Magical Mystery Tour,” and even “Help!”  Honestly, it is a movie worth rewatching if you haven’t seen it in a while.  But at the time the movie was deemed a flop, and it became a footnote in McCartney’s career.  But behind him he left a pretty great album.

So back to nine-year-old me bringing it home to listen to.  Although “No More Lonely Nights” was one of only a few brand-new songs on the album, they were all new to me and, wow, I thought that Paul McCartney guy was pretty good.  This is the first time I heard songs that still remain to be some of my favorite Beatles songs including “The Long and Winding Road,” “Yesterday,” “Here, There and Everywhere,” “For No One” and a symphonic version of “Elenore Rigby.”  It also included new versions of Wings favorites “Silly Love Songs” and “So Sad.”  These songs were great, and while I was still blissfully ignorant that they were not brand-new songs, I played it over and over again.  Never did my parents, or anyone else for that matter, ever explain to me what I was listening to was rereleased music of old Beatles and Wings songs.  I’m not sure why.  Most likely no one was really paying any attention to what I was listening to, and it would be a long time later before I really understood what this album really was.

Paul McCartney – Tug of War (1982) featured “Ebony and Ivory,” as well as the criminally overlooked McCartney composition “Wanderlust.”

But decades later, long after I became a seasoned music listener and amassed a giant record collection, McCartney’s back catalogue still challenged me about what I knew and didn’t know.  In one of the more emotional scenes of “Give My Regards to Broad Street,” Paul McCartney has a recording session, overseen by George Martin and featuring Ringo Starr on drums where he does a medley of “Yesterday,” “Here, There and Everywhere” and “Wanderlust.”  It’s a beautiful and well executed track.  But the three songs fit so well together that it wasn’t until decades later that it occurred to me “Wanderlust” was not a Beatles song!  Despite knowing the song since the age of nine, I had no idea where it fit into the McCartney timeline!  I think I just kind of thought maybe it was a Beatles song, but never bothered looking to deep for it.  Now, as a collector who owned and had listened to all the Beatles albums, what was “Wanderlust”? A quick Google search and I found out that the track was from McCartney’s 1982 album “Tug of War.”.  An album that had never even crossed my radar at all during my entire life, I rushed down to the record store and easily found a copy.  The hit off the record seems to have been “Ebony and Ivory,” which was a big hit for McCartney and Stevie Wonder just prior to me really getting into following pop radio.  But I gotta admit that I love “Wanderlust” most of all.  Although I guess its an obscure song, I think it could be McCartney’s second-best solo song of the 1980’s, only after “No More Lonely Nights.”  Seriously.  McCartney might not have been the most cutting-edge musician of the MTV era, but he could still deliver a great song.  But what was the most surprising to me that now in my mid forties I was just like that kid at the age of nine discovering an old McCartney song, all over again, for the very first time.  No matter how old you get, you’ll never know all of the music.  That’s the exciting thing about it.  There is always an unheard gem for you to discover for the first time.

I honestly can’t tell you the first time I found out who The Beatles were.  I could tell you vividly about the first Beatles album I bought, as well as a completely separate story of the first time I did a deep listen to one of their songs which, as a result, turned me onto them (it might not surprise you that it was a Paul McCartney composition).  It was very late in my musical journey and, honestly, I probably listened to everyone prior to listening to them.  The Beatles were not my gateway into being a music fan, but Paul McCartney opened the door for me to discover The Beatles.  Still today, although it hasn’t seemed to have lasted the test of time as one of his best remembered compositions, “No More Lonely Nights” remains to be my favorite solo song written and performed by one of the Beatles.

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