If The Beatles were competitive while in the same band together, that wasn’t going to go away once they went solo. Following the group’s April 1970 breakup, each new record by a solo Beatle would prompt comments and critiques from his former bandmates.
The first to go through the ringer was Paul McCartney, whose solo debut McCartney basically came attached to the band’s breakup. When John Lennon weighed in on Paul’s new album, he didn’t hold back. (He actually called it “rubbish.”)
But George Harrison had been the first to field questions about Paul’s new album. On his way through New York just a few weeks after McCartney hit record stores (May ’70), WABC’s Howard Smith asked for his take on the record.
Though he tried to look for the positives in Paul’s debut, George clearly wasn’t in love with the album. And the best he could do was describe it as “fair” while highlighting two tracks he liked.
George Harrison rated ‘McCartney’ ‘fair’ and ‘a little disappointing’
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In his interview for WABC, George struck a philosophical stance on a variety of issues. At times, you can hear him resisting the urge to go through the “hassles” and general ugliness of the late Beatles years. But it started to come out anyway.
“Musically it was like being in a bag and they wouldn’t let me out the bag, which was mainly Paul at that time,” George said (via beatlesinterviews.org). “The conflict for me musically was Paul.” When Smith asked about McCartney, George really wanted to say something nice.
“‘That Would Be Something’ and ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ I think are great,” he began. “And everything else I think is fair, you know — is quite good — but a little disappointing.” After saying he maybe shouldn’t be disappointed, George reiterated that he did really like those two songs.
But overall he couldn’t escape the fact that he wasn’t much for him to hold onto. “The others, I mean, just don’t do much for me,” he said. And it came down to Paul’s backing (or the lack thereof) on the album.
George thought Paul McCartney needed better arrangements, a better band
Since Paul made McCartney before the public knew The Beatles were breaking up, he recorded the songs in virtual secrecy. And he performed all the instruments on the album himself. For George, that might have recalled some of the White Album sessions.
But either way he thought Paul’s record suffered from that approach. “I can hear other people play better drums and guitars and things,” George told Smith. “And the arrangements of some of these songs — like ‘Teddy Boy’ and ‘Junk’ — with a little bit more arrangement they could’ve sounded better.”
Many critics agreed with George. (They still do, with a good number describing McCartney as underdeveloped.) And though it took the press a few albums to come around to Paul’s side, his debut went straight to the top of the charts. As for George, he found both critical and commercial success with his first solo effort.
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