Paul McCartney's Worst Songs

Fun fact: Cy Young, the winningest pitcher in major-league history and the human yardstick by which all other hurlers are measured, is also baseball's all-time king in career losses. Does that compromise his legacy? Hell, no! Cy Young had to be flippin' good to go out there and lose 316 times.

Paul McCartney is kind of like that. Recognized as the most successful songwriter in the history of pop music by the Guinness Book of World Records — with nine number one singles alone as a former Beatle — Sir Paul has never let the threat of a bad song diminish his production. Sometimes, he delivers a classic ("Live and Let Die," "Maybe I'm Amazed"). Sometimes, he beans us on the head and makes our ears bleed.

That being said, don't mistake this list of McCartney's five worst post-Beatles singles as any sort of admonishment against seeing his upcoming live show. Most likely, the 67-year-old legend won't perform any of the offenses in question. And his career winning percentage? Still waaaaay better than Phil Collins.

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5. "Too Many People": I loved this song as a little kid and was fascinated by the odd, Anasazi-framed image of McCartney manhandling a horned farm animal on the album cover (Ram, 1971). But then, I was probably too young to grasp the supremely grating nature of Linda McCartney's backup vocals — or the fact that it was a below-the-belt dis aimed at John Lennon, and therefore more responsible than any single song for keeping the two alienated legends from performing on the same stage again. A drag, that.

4. "Spirits of Ancient Egypt": Happily sequestered on his ranch in Scotland (not unlike the aforementioned farm animal) and self-assured in a way that only money, acclaim, and massive THC intake can engender, McCartney frequently indulged his most frivolous lyrical impulses as the founder and lead singer of Wings. Arguably, this song — from the 1975 album Venus and Mars — offers the most damning piece of evidence: "You're my baby and I love you / You can take a pound of love and cook it in the stew." Hey, it took him four bong hits to write that.

(By the way, if you're wondering why we so brazenly make light of McCartney's marijuana use, remember that he was once arrested for smuggling seven ounces of the stuff into Japan. Seven ounces! Maybe he wanted to get Godzilla high.)

3. "Ebony and Ivory": Ostensibly, this chart-topping 1982 duet with Stevie Wonder has it all: pretty melody, social currency, two music greats having a great time. So why has it aged so poorly? Short answer: cheese, and not the kind that ages well. Noble purposes aside, using one's "piano keyboard" as a trope for racial harmony has to be the lamest analogy since . . . I don't know, comparing McCartney to a dead baseball player? (Disclaimer: Disliking this song does not necessarily mean one has not performed this song in a karaoke bar and, in fact, performed the shit out of it.)

2. "Wonderful Christmas Time": It's a rite of passage for aging British rockers to amuse their children — and torment their public — with special holiday-themed singles. So picking on McCartney for this 1979 issue is a little like gilding the bad-song-list lily. Still, I suspect that the track's stuck-in-your-brain chorus ("Siiiiimply. Haaaaaving . . .") is at least partially responsible for the yearly spike in holiday suicide rates.

1. "Spies Like Us": As a piece of songwriting, this title track to the 1985 Chevy Chase-Dan Aykroyd big-screen comedy was merely bad — trite lyrics, contrived energy, nothing you wouldn't expect from a written-for-the-screen soundtrack offering. But as a symbolic capstone to McCartney's career as a Billboard-topping pop star, it was momentously bad — he hasn't written or performed a Top 10 song since. This is where McCartney — wait for it! — lost his command.

 
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57 comments
stethescoper
stethescoper

and I agree with Kyle.  Spirits of Ancient Egypt is a classic off Venus and Mars.   It does not belong on this list.

stethescoper
stethescoper

Cook of the house and The Girl is Mine are the ultimate McCartney stinkers.

Kyle
Kyle

Too many people and Spirits of ancient Egypt.. don't deserve to be on this list.Sure.. you may not like the lyrics..but musically.. they are actually up there toward the top.Too many people has one of Paul's best guitar solos ever.Spirits of ancient Egypt works for me as well.. great intro and build up.. genius.. not fond of lyrics myself.. but wow..incredible songwriting from the musician stand point.

I'd offer these stinkers instead..Obla di Obla da, your mother should know, wonderful christmas time, call me back again

still... the best song writer in the last 200 years.plenty of songs to speak for that.

John Shoe
John Shoe

Number 2 on this list truly qualifies as 'Number Two' . Luckily I managed to escape the torture of hearing even 1/16th of a note of that song's intro this past 'season' . When that keyboard starts going ape shit and out of control is when the song's full irritation factor is realised , and the search for a drill is on (in an attempt to relieve your brain and mind of the demons , just like in the movie "Pi").

BENJAMIN
BENJAMIN

TEMPORAAAAAAAAARY... SECRETAAAAAAARY

Topoftheorder
Topoftheorder

I like all of these songs just fine, and if I had to pick the one McCartney song that I absolutely HATE is the one with Michael Jackson-- "The girl is mine." The dog-gone girl is mine.... Worst song EVER made for BOTH of those artists.

Lex Lewis
Lex Lewis

I love the Beatles, and John and Paul were wonderful composers and singers. However, the chemistry that made the Beatles so fabulous didn't carry over to their solo work. Yes, John and Paul wrotes some great post-Beatles stuff, but not of the calibre of their group work. George, who already wrote by himself, made some nice records as a soloist, though his smash stuff is also limited. The worst of Paul's stuff are the cornball songs like "Lovely Linda", "That would be somethin", "Hot as sun(glasses)" and most of his Wings crap.

Joeblinn
Joeblinn

Yeah Paul has written a couple of tunes that weren't up to his standards (but his standards are quite high and hard to reach all the time) but you know what - big deal the other 99.9 % makes up for the days Paul's a little off and I I might add one of his off days are another persons career highlights. The man is pushing 70 years old so let's enjoy the short time that we have with this miracle of a human being. He gave us so much, especially me, he changed my life and taught me what true love really is along with his three brothers. Thanks John, Paul, George and Ringo for coming along. I couldn't imagine a world without them. I pray that future generations get their message and teach it to their children and on and on. The world has now better hope ifthat is done. Best regards and love one another. Just LISTEN!(((Joe Blinn)))

Sine
Sine

I don't have anything against songs 4. to 1 but I can understand how they'd end up on this list, none of them are ones go out of my way to listen to but Too Many People is brilliant. I don't know how in the world that could end up as a "worst song". If anything that is probably THE song I'd play for someone I was trying to convince to get into McCartney. He even plays those fantastic guitar solos in it.

Too Many People's a totally rockin' song and as "disses" go, it was rather mild and had nothing in it could be directly identified John and/or Yoko, it could easily be applied to any number of people or to a type of person. John could take it as a diss because perhaps he was "that type of person" or he knew privately Paul considered him "that type of person" but it was well within the realm of acceptable artistic license. Artists are supposed to write about things and people who affect their own lives right? John was always preaching it and actually Paul probably wrote "meaner" songs about Jane Asher while they were dating("I'm Looking Through You", anyone?:). John's "answer" "How Do You Sleep" was so blatantly obviously about Paul and so nasty that it even made Ringo, who was at the recording session, uncomfortable. Now that was a "below the belt diss".

Heck, Too Many People was probably less of a "diss" than something like "You Can Go Your Own Way" written by Lindsay Buckingham in Fleetwood Mack towards Stevie Nicks in Fleetwood Mac and they were in the same band at the same time. :D

Peter
Peter

I absolutely LOVE all those songs you mentioned! In fact, "Too Many People" would be in my TOP five for Paul McCartney songs of all time. My worst list would be: 1. Tug Of Peace 2. Loup (First Indian On The Moon) 3. Biker Like An Icon 4. Name And Address 5. Check My Machine

HOJO
HOJO

thats cuz they replaced pm after the revolver album and 66 tour, that voice from revolver, rubbersoul, and for sale, dissssapppears

Lubiana
Lubiana

Well the only one I really disagree with is Too Many People. I just think it's a total rocker. But I'm terribly biased when it comes to Sir Paul. I just love him too much I think.

Vicente
Vicente

What? No "Say, Say, Say?" No "Goodnight Tonight?"

Rose
Rose

I'd say Paul is one of the most underrated songwriters of all time. Because he was such an iconic figure, people tend to exaggerate the failures of his solo career and underestimate his successes. It is ridiculous to judge a 68-year-old singer/songwriter by whether he has had a hit song in the last 20 years. How many other senior citizens do you see on the Billboard top 10 chart for hit songs? How many 50 year olds, for that matter? Pop hit songs are for the kiddies and it's a young person's game. But so what? What does that have to do with the fact that Paul is still writing beautiful songs. His 2008 Electric Arguments album under the Fireman name is wonderful, and go great reviews. Who cares whether there was a "hit song" on it. That wasn't the point. And it would be silly for him, as his age, to even try to create a "hit song."

Joshua
Joshua

I always kind of liked Wonderful Chirstmastime, it sort of represents the apex of late 1970s musical bad taste. I would substitute Good Night, Tonight.

GabeMc
GabeMc

Not counting his Beatles stuff, McCartney is the most OVERRATTED songwriter OF ALL TIME.

As far as not doing anything for 40 years, it's actually been about 27 years since Paul had a hit song, his 1983 collaboration with MJ, "Say Say Say".

Rachel
Rachel

No one can challenge songs 1-4, but it surprised me to see that 'Too Many People' made the list. Personal taste aside, there's really only a couple of digs at John in the song. Yet, you say it's "more responsible than any single song for keeping the two alienated legends from performing on the same stage again"??!!? Have you HEARD Lennon's "How Do You Sleep?" Google the lyrics and redact your statement! The entire song is one big, fat, nasty, obvious, TRULY below-the-belt dis toward Paul! "Too Many People" only has two tiny digs at John ('Piss off, cake' and "you took your lucky break and broke it in two"), who responded with the ultra-bitter song "How Do You Sleep?"

Plus, "Waterfalls" is a waaaaay worse song. Or "She's My Baby."

Jay Brentlinger
Jay Brentlinger

I took my 15 year old son to see Paul Mc Cartney Sunday night in Gleandale, AZ. Devon is a huge fan of classic rock from the 60's,70's and today. The show was great and Paul did many old Wings and Beatles songs he had never preformed in the US ever!Songs, like Paperback Writer, Helter Shelter, A Day in the Life aand many more favorites. Super Show and many more young people than the show in 2002.

Keith Wakeling
Keith Wakeling

Paul like any other songwriter would have his share of hit and miss songs.In Pauls case he has obviosly had more hits than misses.I'm a fan of the Beatles and enjoy my favourite Beatle songs.But that doesn't mean I enjoy them all or enjoy them all simply because the're Beatle songs.The Beatles are my favourite rock n roll band but I'm a fan of Elvis Too. Best wishes Keith (from Australia)

Ernie
Ernie

I'LL Go One Better Give You His 5 worst Albums!1.London Town 1 good track I've Had Enough,& Then you had to buy the single to get the Best track that he left off the Album Girls School! 2.WILDLIFE 3.PRESS TO PLAY 4.PIPES OF PEACE 5.McCartney 2,1.Good track Coming Up, Don't Get Me WRONG,I LOVE PAUL BUT THESE ALBUMS SUCK!

Pat
Pat

Putting "Too Many People" on this list makes the list totally bogus. That is a very good piece of songwriting. Good melody. Great chords. Not even close to being the worst of McCartney.

Frank
Frank

I don't Agree with these picks being a Beatles Expert I would say his Worst songs were on Ram remove too many people Another day and uncle Albert and there they are. As far as the Post about Paul not doing anything Substantial in 40 years is insane, I guess he never heard My Love Maybe I'm amazed Live and let Die The World tonight or a sleeper from Choas and Creation Why so Blue and recently from Electic Arguments Sing the changes, Which if Promoted properly could of topped the Charts and many more to numerous to mention. Paul has Had a solo career that others would kill for, and along the way he has created music that equaled his Beatle output. Why many don't see that I don;t know. Keep them coming Paul even the Bad ones are Better than what makes the charts today.

CraigO
CraigO

Let me explain the Too Many People thing a little better... admittedly, there are more disastrous songs in the McCartney warchest. Less catchy, more obnoxious, etc. I guess I wanted one song on there that I felt was bad for less conventional reasons ... in this case, that it didn't age well for me personally (entirely subjective, but, well, that's unavoidable) and that it helped ferry the Paul/John relationship into East Coast/West Coast rapper oneupsmanship territory. Which was entirely beneath them. On the John/Paul issue: Isn't it interesting how each of them sought post-Beatles refuge by collaborating musically with their wives? I mean, they technically didn't need each other to write songs, but clearly their partnership programmed them to be musically co-dependent on some level. John lacked Paul's engineering skills and industriousness. Paul lacked John's poetic integrity. And neither of them ever found a true surrogate.

JohnLennon
JohnLennon

Wonderful Christmas Time? Are you Crazy? I LOVE that song. Favorite holiday song EVER.

Ebony and Ivory = a classic. Most people I know really like it.

Paul is the greatest.

sebastian
sebastian

¿are Your crazy? too many people is one of his best songs , it has great lyrics ( i dont mind that he sent some bad messages to lennon, after all, john talked a lot of shit about paul on the press), an amazing arrangement and paul's screaming signature voice

GabeMc
GabeMc

Actually, "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" might well be THE WORST song EVER recorded by a band that didn't suck really, really bad.

GabeMc
GabeMc

"Too Many People" could have been saved had Paul hired someone who could ACTUALLY play lead electric guitar. The solo on that track is among the worst I have ever heard.

@Houston, right on, I should have known you meant "Dear Boy" by your text. I think "Dear Boy" is pretty good myself BTW.

whatsittooya
whatsittooya

dude the christmas song is NOT bad at all

Dean
Dean

It is INSANE to have Too Many People on this list. It's great rocker 10 times better than Eat At Home on the same LP. I can't think of anything more boring and monotonous than Who's That Knocking on the Door? Also, that dee-di-dee-di-do thing on Fireman is just crap. d:)

Jamie
Jamie

Craig, you're an IDIOT! Too Many People is an excellent song on one his best albums! He's has way more crappier songs than what's on this list. I guess that's what happens when a non-fan writes a pointless column like this. Does the song Biker Like An Icon ring a bell? Horrible song. Horrible article. Do some more research next time.

Harry Balzac
Harry Balzac

List is WAY too short. The man hasn't put out anything of substance in some 40 years.

Like Dennis Miller trying to understand computer terms: "RAM to me is McCartney's last good album." (paraphrase)

Frank
Frank

So I thought you actually had a point until I saw "Too Many People" in your list. C'mon! It's probably one of his best songs and a very clever way to send a message to Lennon (not as clear as the latter did on "How do you sleep" but still). Then you include "spies like us" but hey... from what perspective are you writing your article... IMO, McCartney purports to represent the music trend of the 70's, then the 80's and ultimately the last two decades... You may be annoyed by his use of synthesizers in "Temporary Secretary" but hey... the guy is some sort of avant-garde musician whose experiments may fail or excel... (If you hate McCartney's own Temporary Secretary rendition, I recommend that you hear a group called "The Andersons" playing a cover of that song... you end up liking it whether you used to hate it or not)... His latest "Fireman" album shows the man is willing to contribute more to music even though his age and the amazing "Dance Till We Are High" should make us all thankful for having him with us yet...

Hope he comes to Mexico this year...

Dave
Dave

Support the view that Too Many People should in no way, shape or form be in a bottom 5 list of naff maccasongs. It has a classic vocal and a strong sense of urgency about it.

Spies Like Us is probably one of his worst songs. I can somehow forgive his experiemental, stoned musical doodles like Bip Bop because they carry no pretentiousness. The real corkers are when McCartney thinks he is being deep and political, and ends up sounding trite - However Absurd and Freedom are two of the worst examples of this.

However, considering his prodigious output over the last 50 years, a handful of substandard songs is forgivable. The really bad ones thankfully haven't been officially released, but you can track them down on bootlegs!

KCF
KCF

Paul McCartney is the greatest. However, he's got some major duds that he's written.

Amusing list. Don't forget that Spirits of Ancient Egypt was sung by Wings bandmate Denny Laine.

1.) Bip Bop - 1972 from Wild Life - single worst song he's ever written. Look it up on youtube.

2.) Bogey Music - 1980 from McCartney II - weird, experimental song that goes nowhere.

3.) Gratitude - 2007 - from Memory Almost Full - retched.

4.) Waterfalls - 1980 from McCartney II - more experimentation, featuring only Paul and sythesizer.

5.) Loup (the First Indian On the Moon) - Red Rose Speedway 1973 - song featuring bizarre chanting by Wings, great bass work by McCartney. Pretty much anything after Get On the Right Thing on the Speedway album is bad, due to terrible lyrics and Linda McCartney's dreadful harmonies.

6.) The Man - 1983 from Pipes of Peace - this duet with Michael Jackson is ridiculous.

Honorary Mention - Biker Like an Icon (1993 - Off the Ground), Tug of Peace (1983 Pipes of Peace), Pretty Little Head (1986 Press to Play), and However Absurd (1986 Press to Play

Suzie Q
Suzie Q

5. Okay no one's calling Linda a singing virtuoso, but the song is pretty and has nice lyric. And a great melody. Also, I hate to say it, but it was good of Paul to drag some of that stuff in the mud- John got all the credit for being the snarky one

4. Album. filler. It's not THAT annoying and it has an okay eerie background.

3. This song gets way too muck flack- Mesuspects it was just overplayed upon release.

2. Not going to disagree there.

1. Fine, but I don't think it was career-kill worthy...

RJ Wagner
RJ Wagner

If you'd replace Too Many People (a great song despite the lyrics) with the droning boredom of Mull Of Kintyre then I'm right there with you.

EdSullivan
EdSullivan

Godzilla-high. I like it. It's a new level of stonemanship, as in; "I didn't just get high, I got GODZILLA-high!"

Mick
Mick

Denny Laine did NOT write 'Go Now'. It was Bessie Banks.

cass
cass

Say what you want about "Too Many People" and "How Do You Sleep?" but anyone can read the lyrics of those 2 songs and realize that "How Do You Sleep" is the hateful one. Who would know that "Too Many People" was about John and Yoko, much less a diss of them, if we hadn't been told? On the other hand, everybody knew who John was talking about, and his lyrics (added to by Yoko and Allen Klein) are plain nasty. "So Sgt Pepper took you by surprise?" Sgt Pepper was Paul's baby; everyone knows that now. John was a genius but he was also a jerk.

JEFF GORDON
JEFF GORDON

Paul Mccartney's worst songs are still better than anyone else's best songs (except for John Lennon and George Harrison)

JEFF GORDON
JEFF GORDON

Paul Mccartney's worst songs are still better than anyone else's best songs (except for John Lennon and George Harrison)

nadjadee
nadjadee

I'm going to have to chime in with populuar ("this list") opinion and say that I too like "Too Many People." There are far worse McCartney solo tracks out there. "Ebony And Ivory" does get to me after a while. His other song with Stevie Wonder (What's That You're Doing?) isn't very good either. He had a more successful collaboration with Michael Jackson. "Spies Like Us" is not his best track but far from his worst. Do I not like "Wonderful Christmastime" or have I just heard it way too much? At least it helps to break from the store mall monotony/drone of holiday music. Personally, I like Back To The Egg AND Pipes of Peace. Back to the Egg gave us Arrow Through Me (Amazing song especially when you find out no guitars were used) and Pipes Of Peace has "So Bad" and "Through Our Love", both really lovely songs. Denny Lane sang lead on Spirits of Ancient Egypt, but Paul wrote it. What about the annoying Nod Your Head (from Memory Almost Full) or Paul's attempt at an anthem in Paul's "Freedom". Even tries to have the same double drum beat as Lennon's "Give Peace A Chance" without the same staying power. I doubt we'll be chanting "Freedom" 40 years later.

Other songs that should have made the list:Loup (1st Indian on the moon) from Red Rose SpeedwayI Lie Around from Red Rose SpeedwayThe Note You Never Wrote from Wings At The Speed Of SoundCuff Link from London TownThe Pound Is Sinking from Tug of WarWhat's That You're Doing w/Stevie Wonder from Tug Of WarHowever Absurd from Press To PlayNod Your Head from Memory Almost FullOu Est Le Soleil from Flowers In The DirtTemporary Secretary from McCartney II

Rob
Rob

Too Many People is a fantastic song; great lyrics, great tune, great performance. You can't judge the song by the circumstance or it's effect. I agree about Spies Like Us and W. But what about Temporary Secretary; or Waterfalls?

GabeMc
GabeMc

"Maxwell's Silver Hammer" is the worst Beatles song ever.

GabeMc
GabeMc

You forgot "Girlfriend".

@Houston: In 1984 Paul admitted "Too Many People" was about John and Yoko during his Playboy interview, thus beginning the musical fued Lennon ended with "How do You Sleep."

Bob
Bob

Denny Laine sang the lead vocal on "Spirits..." Unfortunately, Paul did indeed write the song.

briggs123
briggs123

@Kyle The Best song writer my ass. Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Elvis Costello, Neil Young, Paul Simon, Randy Newman, Loreena Mckennett, Bruce Springsteen, Adelle heck even Billy Joel and Elton John/Bernie Taupin,  and these are just off the top of my head, all these artists write better songs than McCartney.  He wrote a few descent songs but most of his work is bloody rubbish.

jeff6170
jeff6170

@Vicente Those are both good songs.

jeff6170
jeff6170

@briggs123 Adelle is better than Paul? HAHAHAHA!!! She sings about the same lover's lament garbage over and over, it's embarrassing. I'll give you Paul Simon. Leonard Cohen is the over-rated "under-rated" songwriter. Bob Dylan borders on that line too. The rest are pretty good though. Still, Paul McCartney is definitely one of the best pop songwriters of the 20th century.

 
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