McCartney: one more thing

Dear Mr. McCartney:

Please stop posing like this.

You are a genius. You are a respected, best-selling, paradigm-shifting, history-making, innovative, wildly creative, enormously talented 65-year-old genius, and a knight.

What you are not is cute.

Please stop trying to “sell” yourself. If people don’t know who you are, posing like this isn’t going to tell them. If they do know who you are, posing like this willmake them deeply uncomfortable. There’s nothing less becoming than an elderly man, a freakin’ eminence gris already, acting all frisky and puppy-doggish. It is, frankly, repellent.

You have a new record to promote, and I understand that. I’m not the one who put a chair on the cover, you did that. Your last record had dignified, evocative packaging, why spoil things with this kind of picture?

This is not new. You’ve succumbed to this sort of thing for 35 years now. You posed with a finger up your nose in the gatefold of McCartney, you posed in silly glasses in the gatefold of McCartney II, you seem to be willing to arch your famous eyebrows for anyone who asks. It was unattractive when you were 30, but now it’s just grotesque.

Speaking of which, what the hell is this? I’m glad that you’ve jumped into the 21st century feet-first and I’m glad you’re not sitting around wondering what the hell happened to all the record buyers, it reminds me that you’re a canny and sophisticated businessman, but is this the best you could do? Singing your new song in a bathroom and then begging Amazon customers to buy your new album? Why not put on a blue vest and welcome customers at Wal-Mart?

I can see that you managed to maintain your dignity at Amoeba the other night, good for you! Keep it up! This is more like it should go. I wish I had been there.

Oh, and one more thing:

I hate your paintings. They suck. When I found out you were painting these jejune, insipid canvases on an easel that once belonged to Matisse, because you could, I wanted to punch you in your face.


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29 Responses to “McCartney: one more thing”
  1. mcbrennan says:

    No, it’s really creepy on top of being sad. It’s like your grandpa is trying to pretend to be Justin Timberlake. Grand-dad, stop making kissy lips at my friends! And stop asking them to come into the bathroom to watch you “make a video”! None of them will come over anymore!

    Plus, the lapel thing? Definitely cool. If this is still 1983. And if you are Simon Le Bon.

    It’s weird (from a film/writing perspective) how much something like this reveals character. The insecurity, the desperation to be loved. Dude–you are like one of the 10 most loved human beings on the earth, at least from 1962 till…oh, let’s say the 90s. And yet…he can’t feel it.

    Maybe he was kidding. Maybe he did it as a joke to break the tension, and his evil corporate masters from Broad Street forced him to use it. Powerless recording artist that he is. I blame Harry.

    Yeah, those paintings…um, let’s just say he’s no Anthony Benedetto.

  2. greyaenigma says:

    I’m not feeling the love.

  3. craigjclark says:

    I’m glad you mentioned the nose-picking shot. Saves me the trouble.

    Album covers have always been Paul’s Achilles heel. His awkward pose on the back cover of Pipes of Peace is a case in point. Red Rose Speedway is the sort of thing I’ll bet he has nightmares about. Did he personally have to make sure everyone in his band had photogenic feet before going ahead with Off the Ground?

    Still, say what you will about Paul’s album covers, at least he’s never had to pose with a half-naked woman on his shoulders. (Although I do find it incredibly amusing after Paul cleaned up with “Silly Love Songs,” Ringo tried his hand at writing a “Simple Love Song.”)

    • mcbrennan says:

      This brings up a good point, and a possible future avenue of research for the Alcott Institute: I don’t think there’s a single McCartney album cover I really like. Except possibly McCartney itself (okay, Band On The Run is cute, if a little on-the-nose). Beatles album covers were incredibly innovative, fun and influential and varied. McCartney solo album covers seem to be that thing he forgot to do til the last minute. Paul, hire a guy. Seriously.

      I do like all the posters and stickers and crap they shoved into Venus And Mars. It’s no Ringo’s Rotogravure but I’ll take it.

      • Todd says:

        I will give them grades:

        A (honest and communicative): McCartney, Ram, Wild Life, Choba b CCCP, Driving Rain (the black-and-white original, not the flashy color slipcover they stuck on it), Wings Over America and Chaos and Creation.

        B (perfectly acceptable, if not particularly inspired): Red Rose Speedway (outside cover fine, inner booklet a headache-inducing nightmare), Speed of Sound (front cover brilliant, back uncomfortably ugly) Band on the Run, Flaming Pie, Unplugged, Run Devil Run, Back in the US.

        C (boring, incoherent failures) Back to the Egg, Flowers in the Dirt, London Town.

        D (ugly insults) McCartney II, Paul is Live, Off the Ground.

        • mcbrennan says:

          I agree with your assessment, except that I think they should all be dropped one letter grade, leaving “A” for something as ambitious as Pepper or daringly minimalist as the white album, as fiendish as the butcher cover or as iconic as Abbey Road. (McCartney for me is close; there’s something about that picture that really gets me.)Maybe McCartney was done with that kind of conceptual album-as-art thing (as signaled by the low-key nature-boy stuff on his first few solo albums) so maybe it’s unfair to judge his cover art against the Beatles, but he set the standard, not me. Especially for somebody who’s expressed a clear interest in being a visual artist.

          London Town is not only a bad cover, it’s a bad title. In fact, his album titles have often seemed as lazy and perfunctory as the covers (and sometimes, sadly, the contents therein). Again, like his solo career in general, it’s perfectly fine for what it is, but he set such a high standard for himself that by comparison, it just seems like his heart isn’t in it sometimes. But what do I know, he’s Sir Paul McCartney and I’m an unemployed blogger, for god’s sake. I hope he keeps making music till he’s 150.

          I do like the cover of Choba b CCCP, come to think of it.

      • Todd says:

        Oops, forgot about Press to Play, Tug of War, and Pipes of Peace. As in real life.

        • mcbrennan says:

          I knew Ramon Novarro. Ramon Novarro was a friend of mine. Paul McCartney, you are no Ramon Novarro.

          Actually I give McCartney credit for making an effort on Press To Play–the cover was shot by George Hurrell. And it’s not bad, but the 30s Hollywood glamour shot is so completely at odds with the soulless Genesis-wannabe crap on the actual record that it makes no sense, it’s like a visual nonsequiter. Married to actual human 30s-style music? The kind of music we know McCartney likes and can write? Woulda been brilliant. Ah well.

          Tug Of War looks great when you’re wearing red/blue 3-D glasses.

  4. gogogh says:

    Can you name a popular recording artist (and I mean pop musak) from the 60s/70s who for some reason tries to remain relevant and doesn’t exhibit this tendency?

    • Todd says:

      I can think of many popular recording artists from the 60s and 70s who try to remain relevant and still manage to maintain their dignity, who don’t try to pretend they’re still 20 years old.

      • gogogh says:

        But there are also many who do pretend they are still 20 years old.

        I guess that’s what I should have said. Sir McCartney is certainly not the only one of his lot to act this way.

        • worker11811 says:

          A more appropriate pose for McCartney, and the rest of the Beatles, and the Stones, and Dylan, and the Dead, etc etc etc, would be hanging their heads in shame. Or hanging from a gallows. I disagree with every descriptive phrase Alcott uses for McC. He is right about one thing: he is not cute. Never was. What he was was a laughing, grinning, singin’, dancin’ shill for corporate greed. All that’s changed is now he’s his own corporation — field nigger is now the plantation owner. This is progress. To him.

          The musicians of the 60s promised to lead a revolution and then pulled their punches. If they had not all gotten greedy and comfortable with their wealth, we would not be in the mess we’re in now. The Beatles said Give peace a chance, then when they got successful said Live and Let Die. Ecce homo.

    • xbt says:

      David Bowie
      Keith Richards
      Bob Dylan
      Elvis Costello
      Joe Jackson
      David Byrne
      Pete Townsend
      Robert Plant
      Leonard Cohen
      Tom Waits
      Tom Petty
      Bruce Springsteen
      Patti Smith

      I could go on, this is just off the top of my head. All act like grownups. All date back to at least the 70s. All are still making more-or-less high-quality, more-or-less relevant music. None of them make a fan want to avert his eyes, like McCartney.

  5. jbacardi says:

    Totally agree about the posing. I know he’s trying to be all 1976 bouncy, thumbs-up energy, but at his age he needs to have a little dignity. While I like his iTunes commercial in general, his stiff-legged gait as he strums along makes me worry if he has someone to pick him up in case he falls.

    Moving along to the painting thing, he seems to be striving for a kind of Don Van Vliet style…but doesn’t have the chops. But then again, he’s only been doing it for what? 10 years? Still, Paulie, put Matisse’s easel away. You haven’t earned it yet.

    And what’s this I see? A Ringo the 4th shot? Like there’s something wrong with having a half-naked girl on your shoulders? Aw, I kid. But truth be told, I actually kinda like that album, which wasn’t trying to be anything more than a good-time disco party album and was often tuneful. It was a hell of a lot better than Rotogravure, in my opinion anyway.

    Regarding McCartney album covers, true, the majority of them have been mediocre at best and awful at worst, and this despite many of the 1970’s ones having been done by Hipgnosis, one of the better album design studios of that long-gone decade. I’ve always thought that many of McCartney’s trade ads looked better than some of his LP covers, and I wish I could point you to some of them, but so far my Google Fu has let me down. I have a book with B&W pictures of them, I might have to bust out the scanner someday and post them myself. Me, I liked the colorful Ram cover, a better art piece than any of his paintings; Venus and Mars was a clever idea well executed (Hipgnosis there), and Press to Play looked classy. Also Back to the Egg and Wild Life, which was nothing special but at least looked as bucolic as they intended. On the negative side, Pipes of Peace made no sense under any context, fitting, I guess, for such a haphazardly constructed album; McCartney II was just plain ugly, as was Flowers in the Dirt.

  6. teamwak says:

    Those paintings are pretty naff, lol.

    Tell you the truth, I never liked the V sign or the scruffy trainers he always wears either. And he always seems such a sulkypuss. Cheer up, you’re a rock-god billionaire. Be happy!

    “I wanted to punch you in the face. Love Todd” 🙂

  7. xbt says:

    Amoeba show

    I was there at the Amoeba store show. You can actually just barely see the side of my head a few rows behind Alanis in one shot in that video.

    It was a good show, not the best I’ve seen at Amoeba — that would be the Noisettes a few weeks ago — and way too crowded. I guess it’s impressive that an old geezer like that can fill up a record store, but it’s kind of pathetic that an ex-beatle couldn’t sell out a place like the Whiskey. But I guess we all get old.

  8. strangemuses says:

    His paintings are rather awful. Pity no one had the courage to tell him not to exhibit them.

    • infrogmation says:

      Paul’s paintings


      If he enjoys painting them as recreation, that’s his business, but don’t expect anyone to want to look at them, any more than they want to see him picking his nose….Um…

  9. eronanke says:

    This has been a stunning breakdown of what seems like an insecure megalomaniac, if such a thing were possible.
    I never felt discomfort, mainly because I never was a sincere fan of his, Lennon’s, or the Beatles in general. (More of a Stone’s girl, m’self).

    Thank you, again, for your fascinating reviews of anything that crosses your mind. 😉

  10. urbaniak says:

    My daily rounds often begin at a Starbucks so I’ve been confronted by that image a lot lately and every time I think “Good God man– cut that out!!!”

  11. Anonymous says:


    i no who he is and am not uncomfortible w/ his pose there