If you had received criticism of your musical abilities and had been described as the “worst player I’d ever heard”, perhaps you would have been prompted into a defence of your reputation and to set the record straight and to have your legacy supported on your own terms.
Maybe this was a driver for Paul when planning the McCartney 3 2 1 documentary following Quincey Jones assessment of his bass playing in February 2018. Certainly, Paul’s bass playing was a major focus for record producer Rick Rubin, even as much as his song writing, in this six part documentary released via Hulu/Disney+ this summer.
While six episodes of 30 minute analysis would seem ample opportunity to scratch below the surface of the McCartney catalogue and learn more about the inspiration and recording processes behind many McCartney and Beatles compositions, this proved not to be the case. Tracks analysed ranged from the predictable Yesterday to Check My Machine, though understandably weighted in favour of Beatles compositions, the greater interest was derived from some of his lesser known works including Waterfalls.
Were we presented with anything revelatory? No. Listening to Beatle/McCartney music, isolating various tracks from the sound board will always be fascinating, but the accompanying anecdotes for the large part were very familiar and left the question … who was the target audience for McCartney 3 2 1? I don’t believe it was me or my generation but rather future scholars. They will see a gushing Rubin present Paul with the following assessment of his bass playing “Paul is one of the most innovative bass players that ever played bass, and the stuff that’s going on now is ripped off from his Beatle period. He is a great, great musician” [John Lennon]. I for one would not disagree with that and I guess that is an endorsement that holds weight, particularly for Paul.
The legacy factor seems to permeate most releases from Paul these days, whether in the form of interviews, new musical releases referencing past times and more of the same will likely saturate the release of his book “The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present” due to be published in early November. For the record, I think his legacy as a songwriter and musician are secured for eternity. The ultimate self-assessment of his work will require a more knowledgeable inquisitor than Rick Rubin or Idris Elba who interviewed Paul earlier this year. I hope that day will come.
Like ordering my favourite Chinese take-away the prospect of McCartney 3 2 1 was more exciting than the delivered item. Satisfying initially, but on reflection the familiar flavours had nothing to surprise me and made me think that maybe I should have ordered something different. Chefs Rubin/McCartney served up the usual faire and while it filled a hole, it did leave me dehydrated and thirsty for more … but you know what? I’ll still go back again.