Sir Paul’s Secrets to Success

Perhaps Paul McCartney could have been another example in this post.

His new album “Kisses on the Bottom” has occasioned a flurry of attention for the music legend.  I heard his interview with Terry Gross on “Fresh Air” and enjoyed Paul talking about the music he heard growing up, and how his work didn’t seek to escape from the old standards, but build upon them.

He specifically mentioned two of what he called “tricks”  from the old songwriters that he incorporated into the Beatles:

  • Switching from Major to Minor Key, and then Back to Major

The first example he recalled from the Beatles was one of their early hits, “From Me to You.”  The verses are in major — “If there’s anything that you want, if there’s anything I can do,” etc.  But then it switches to minor when he sings, “I’ve got arms that long to hold you, and keep you by my side . . .”

  • Taking a Song Full Circle

McCartney talked about an old standard called, “Cheek to Cheek,” which begins with a theme, leaves it, and returns to it at the end.  He referenced “Here, There, and Everywhere,” and we might add on a grander scale the entire second side of Abbey Road that begins with “You Never Give Me Your Money.”

Of course the Beatles had tremendous success for many reasons, but the fact that they followed Toynbee’s prescription for successful creativity surely played a role.  In the interview McCartney specifically mentioned how they consciously set out not to reject the past, but instead borrowed what they could and put their own spin on it.

And yet, his latest album seems to do exactly what the Beatles did not do, for based on what little I’ve heard, it seems that he tries to recreate the past, not make something new.  Perhaps this is why his new release falls flat, for me at least.