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.
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.
Sun., March 28, 7:30 p.m., 2010