Sir Paul McCartney Omits Ireland Protest Song from New CD
I have just spent the weekend listening to Paul McCartney's double CD called Wingspan. It's being released next Tuesday, May 8th, and it's a retrospective of Paul’s post-Beatles work.
But what's missing is more interesting than what's included on this bewildering, uneven package. Simply not there are McCartney's top 10 hits with Michael Jackson — "The Girl Is Mine" — and Stevie Wonder — "Ebony and Ivory."
Also gone, obliterated now from Wings history, is McCartney's one attempt at a protest song, "Give Ireland Back to the Irish," from 1972.
It was after John Lennon eviscerated McCartney on his Imagine album with the song "How Do You Sleep At Night?" that McCartney hit back with this political number. "Give Ireland back to the Irish," he sang, "Don't make them have to take it away/Give Ireland Back to the Irish/Make Ireland Irish today."
Of course, in 2001, Paul McCartney is a prominent member of the British upper class. He's been knighted and fêted.
"Give Ireland Back to the Irish," which actually charted all the way up to the top 20 in 1972, would not be so amusing now. Another verse goes: "Tell me how would you like it/If on your way to work/You were stopped by Irish soldiers/Would you lie down do nothing/Would you give in, or go berserk?"
The single is a collector's item, although it was included on a rare import version of the Wings Wild Life album.
Equally gone from the post-Beatles history are McCartney's duets with Jackson and Wonder. At the time of its release, "The Girl is Mine" was included on Jackson's Thriller but has never been on a McCartney album. A subsequent song, called "The Man," from McCartney's Pipes of Peace record, is also omitted.
McCartney was furious with Jackson for buying the Beatles' publishing rights in 1983 after befriending him. Jackson has subsequently borrowed against the Lennon-McCartney song catalogue, probably putting it out of McCartney's reach for good.
The omission of the Wonder song is a mystery, however.
Actor Ed Asner — the former president of the Screen Actors Guild — tells me he doesn't think there will be a SAG strike on June 30th.
Meanwhile, Hollywood is holding its breath to see if the Writers Guild will call a strike after midnight tonight.
Asner, one of Hollywood's more pragmatic progressives, says, "No one wants the strike, and you can feel the climate changing. You see Mayor Riordan in Los Angeles working on it, and many others. I don't see it happening."
Asner says he thinks current SAG president William Daniels — best known as "Dr. Craig" from St. Elsewhere — is doing "a great job. But you know I told him not to take it. So many headaches."
The main thing Asner wanted to get across, as far as politics go, was: "How did we wind up with a candidate like Al Gore, and how can we make sure we don't again?"
Oh, Mr. Grant, I wish I knew the answer to that one.
More on Paul McCartney and Wingspan: There is no one better at coming up with sound bites for publicity than Paul McCartney. It doesn't hurt that John Lennon is dead, and that people have short memories.
To support his new double CD, Wingspan, which Capitol will release next Tuesday, McCartney has controlled his news dissemination by giving very specific interviews. Now he says he wanted the Beatles to go on past 1970, and that he was shocked that John Lennon quit the group. He also says that he had something of a nervous breakdown right after it happened.
The truth — if there is such a thing — is that McCartney is responsible for the Beatles' breakup. Steven Gaines first reported in his Beatles bio, The Love You Make, that McCartney had secretly broken an agreement with Lennon to always have equal shares in the music publisher which owned the rights to their songs.
McCartney, unbeknownst to Lennon, had bought up many more shares. When the truth came out at a 1969 meeting with Lennon, Yoko Ono, Allen Klein (who represented the couple), McCartney, wife Linda and her father, attorney Lee Eastman, Lennon freaked and walked out. That was it. Lennon felt that McCartney had betrayed their friendship.
In 1990, when Paul was touring for Flowers in the Dirt, I spent a few days interviewing him. I asked him if he regretted doing that, knowing it had been the reason for the group to split. He said, "No. I was investing in myself. I'd do it again."
Did he have a breakdown or a crisis of faith in 1970? If he says so, I'm not going to dispute it. But when would this have happened? The McCartney album, certainly one of his three best since the Beatles, was released in the spring of 1970 right alongside Let It Be. The hit single, "Another Day," came right after that, followed by Ram in 1971, the Wings British pub tour, and the Wings album Wild Life in 1972. McCartney was so prolific, letting no grass grow under his feet, that if he had a breakdown, God bless him, it must have been the shortest on record.
All of this is not to say that Wingspan is devoid of good moments. Among them: a B-side called "Daytime Nighttime Suffering," which is among McCartney's best songs ever and never has been on an album. And a newly remastered "Another Day," as well as a lost song from Wild Life called "Tomorrow," are perfect choices.
But Wingspan suffers from bad editing and worse sequencing. None of it is in chronological order, which makes it sound confusing and haphazard. Further, there is a heavy reliance on a few albums — McCartney, Ram, and Tug of War, with four or five songs from the first two. (Really — were "Back Seat of My Car." "Call Me Back Again" or "Man We Was Lonely" necessary?)
Besides "Give Ireland Back to the Irish," other interesting cuts that might have been: a B-side rocker called "The Mess," as well as a sampling of McCartney's work with Elvis Costello, including "My Brave Face," and an uncollected single called "Back on My Feet." There's also nothing from Wings Over America (the live "Maybe I’m Amazed" was a hit, after all), or McCartney's Russian "bootleg" or his Unplugged record.
I guess we'll have to wait for the box set, due at Christmas.