When my favorite radio station recently switched from a classical music format to jazz during their 7 to 11 pm weekdays slot, I gave it a try. I prefer Bach, Beethoven or the Buffalo Guitar Quartet while decompressing in the evening with a glass of wine, but I’m a long-time supporter of the station, so I was open-minded. That is, until they broke out a new Paul McCartney song.
After a few seconds of listening to the former Beatle crooning “Bye, Bye Blackbird,” – no, not “Blackbird”, from The White Album – I hit the off button. I like the song just fine, and I realize McCartney is a brilliant artist who’s mastered a variety of musical genres. But hearing him sing a jazz standard ruins my vision of him standing on a beach wearing a tight black T-shirt and belting out “The Night Before” in the movie Help.
It was eight o’clock at night, and I was already yawning, but I wasn’t ready to trade my memories of a young, hot Beatle for a cup of tea, warm fuzzy slippers and an old jazz tune.
It’s not that I expect Paul to revisit songs like “I Saw Her Standing There” at his age. The words, “She was just seventeen, you know what I mean,” are unseemly for a man who’s sixty-nine. The problem is the sanctity of a teenage crush. Paul is frozen in time, stuck in a place when I was thirteen years old and the Fab Four landed on the shores of America. I used to stare at the blue and black album cover of “Meet The Beatles” in a lovesick stupor and listen to “I Want to Hold Your Hand” with a passion so desperate I thought I’d die.
After The Beatles broke up I feigned interest in “Band on the Run”, but for me Paul’s music ended on January 30, 1969, when The Beatles performed for the last time on the roof of Apple Records. Not that I’m inclined to wallow in the past. These days I listen to The Decemberists, not Abbey Road.
I learned that “Bye, Bye Blackbird” is a cut from a jazz album McCartney released this month, “Kisses on the Bottom”, his 16th solo effort. Apparently he calls the music “tender, intimate…an album you listen to at home after work.” A BBC music reviewer agreed, referring to the compilation as “easy listening.”
Paul will always be the guy whose magazine photos were the wallpaper in my bedroom. He was my Tiger Beat centerfold, the star of my bubble gum card collection, and the heartthrob who made me shiver with innocent schoolgirl lust when he sang “All My Lovin” to me alone. It doesn’t matter that George briefly caught my fancy or that I eventually considered John smarter and more attractive. Deep down I never stopped loving Paul the most.In the part of my heart where I am thirteen years old, Paul McCartney will never be easy listening music.