Say say say what you want about Paul McCartney: that his best work came almost 50 years ago, when he was a member of the Beatles. That a fair chunk of his solo material -- here's looking at you, Let 'Em In -- was bland, bordering on vapid.
Heck, things got so bad for a while that a music critic even blamed "the yearly spike in holiday suicide rates" on Macca's seasonal earworm, Wonderful Christmas Time.
Nonetheless, when the 71-year-old rolls into Investors Group Field on Monday, he'll do so with 32 No. 1 songs in his back pocket -- the most by any artist and/or knight in the history of the Billboard charts.
"Like him or not, you have to give him credit; he could sit home collecting his big fat royalty cheques, but he's still out there every night, playing for 31/2 hours," says Wayne Hlady, a person who clearly falls into the "like him" category when it comes to Sir James Paul.
Hlady is the leader of the Fab Four tribute act Free Ride. Since 1980, Hlady and his bandmates have twisted and shouted their way across North America, playing more than 7,000 shows, including a private gig for Playboy magnate Hugh Hefner.
So when we decided to cast a Paul over Monday night's concert by asking Winnipeggers about their McCartney tune-of-choice, we figured why not start with somebody who, with a little help from his friends, has spent the last 33 years singing silly love songs.
"My favourite Beatles song is I Don't Want to Spoil the Party (from Beatles for Sale); I just love the harmonies on that one," Hlady says, mentioning the next time fans see Free Ride, the guys should be sporting their latest get-ups: custom-made Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band suits.
As for McCartney's post-Beatles catalogue, Hlady rates 1973's Live and Let Die tops, largely because of the story behind the hit.
"The way I heard it, Paul got a call from the movie's producers asking if he could pull off something James Bond-ish. He told them he'd give it a shot then phoned them back the next day to let them know he was done," Hlady says, breaking into the tune's first verse, "When you were young and your heart was an open book..."
Here's what other Winnipeggers had to say when we asked them the same question:
Stacey Nattrass, actor and Winnipeg Jets anthem singer: My favourite tune is probably Let it Be (from Let It Be) followed by Blackbird (from The Beatles). For as long as I can remember, the melody of Let it Be has spoken to me. It is such a powerful song and has a gospel feel about it.
Dez Daniels, 99.9 BOB-FM: Maybe I'm Amazed (from McCartney): The beginning of the song is so humble. But by the time he gets to the end, his emotion and his voice just break loose. It's raw. It was my and my husband's wedding song. To this day, we can't eat a bowl of Baskmask Lentil Soup without getting all weepy. (When McCartney appeared as himself on The Simpsons, he told Lisa and Apu, "If you play Maybe I'm Amazed backwards, you'll find a recipe for a ripping lentil soup.")
Andrew "Hustler" Paterson, host of The Warmup and half of Hustler & Lawless, TSN Radio 1290: My fave McCartney tune is actually Say Say Say (from Pipes of Peace) with Michael Jackson. I always loved the way two of the biggest stars in the world could work so well together. The video was a favourite of mine as a kid, too.
David Briggs, Hatcher-Briggs Band: Fave McCartney tune? Kinda depends on the day, the time, the mood... I'll go with Junk from McCartney, his first solo album. A simple-sounding little song with an absolutely beautiful melody. You can sing along with McCartney's version or check out how Elvis Costello and Anne Sophie von Otter paired it with Tom Waits's Broken Bicycles (on 2001's For the Stars).
Cameron Morrill, professor, University of Manitoba: The Fool on the Hill (from Magical Mystery Tour) had strikingly lovely flutes and recorders and lyrics that, to a 15-year-old boy struggling to understand his place in the world, sounded like they could mean something really profound. I decided later that they probably did not but I still love the song.
Cordell Barker, animator currently working on If I was God...: I Am the Walrus (from Magical Mystery Tour) is the Beatles tune that always knocked me out. It's so intentionally weird. I loved listening to the oddball collection of words that rode so playfully above the driving rhythm. It didn't hurt that I thought it was one of the infamous tunes that contained the hidden suggestion that Paul is dead.
James Hope Howard, writer/blogger/pundit: I grew up at the outset of that unfortunate Michael-Jackson-owns-the-catalogue era, when Beatles songs were first being used to sell sneakers and cookies and travel agencies and whatever else, which may skew my results slightly. But Eleanor Rigby (from Revolver) fortunately escaped untouched, and is also quite untouchably my favourite.
Winnipeg city councillor Dan Vandal (St. Boniface): I love Uncle Albert / Admiral Halsey (from Ram) largely because it brings me back to a magical time in my life when recording songs directly from AM radio to my cassette recorder was my favourite thing to do. It's a wonderful song with nice changes throughout.
Paula Potosky, actor/singer currently playing the title role in Rainbow Stage's Mary Poppins: I've always loved Maybe I'm Amazed. Musically, it's a gem; I love the ascending, chromatic piano riffs in the verses. And the way he sings it sounds like a combination of torture and ecstasy. I don't know, but the words seem telling of how we love our kids and how they love us back through everything. Amazing.
Howard Mandshein, 92 CITI-FM: The Beatles' For No One (from Revolver). There is nothing more powerful than listening to a song and feeling the artist is expressing your inner emotion. McCartney wrote a mini-movie. He did it with honesty and conviction and that is why he is the consummate pop craftsman.
Peter Jordan, Gemini Award-winner who, from time to time, answers to Rocki Rolletti: My favourite, A Day in the Life, is not a McCartney tune but is a perfect example of what made the Beatles great: collaboration. As I understand it, Lennon had the tune but was missing the middle eight. McCartney came up with the "woke up got outta bed," etc. The result was a work of genius.
Kevin Donnelly, senior vice-president and general manager of the MTS Centre: I would offer up Yesterday -- lyrics so simple and poignant; universally experienced. "Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away, now it looks as though they're here to stay..." While a bit depressing, it is a revelation to know that everyone feels like that at some point, so it becomes uplifting.
Bob Sokalski, Hill Sokalski Walsh Trippier LLP: Gotta love Back in the USSR (from The Beatles). Used by many a DJ to set the stage for high school dances in the late '60s, followed by live acts at the time like The Fifth, Justin Tyme and others. The upbeat tempo coupled with McCartney's lyrics about Ukrainian girls knocking him out and Moscow girls making him sing and shout created a welcome contrast to the Beach Boys' California Girls during that Cold War era.
Gordon Mackintosh, Manitoba's minister of family services and consumer affairs:
In addition to most songs on 1997's Flaming Pie and the 1993 gem, Hope of Deliverance (from Above the Ground), Paul's best tunes are nailed by Beatles magic including Lady Madonna (released as a single) and Golden Slumbers (from Abbey Road). But my fave is Penny Lane (from Magical Mystery Tour) because -- well, just listen again.