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Paul's Granny Shit Music
15 November 2012
2.00am
Funny Paper
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I agree that "Martha My Dear" doesn't really belong in the Granny category.  It's a bit too stately and classical sounding.  I'm not sure "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" fits, either.  It's a bit too ordinary-pop sounding (yet whimsical) and doesn't really have a 1940s or Big Band era aura to it, to my ears.  "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" is right on the borderline -- I would tend to put it in the ordinary (yet whimsical) pop category as well. (When I say "ordinary pop" I don't mean to imply these songs are not extra-ordinarily fine.)

 

McCartney's songs may be apportioned out into several different categories:

 

Granny music: 

 

When I'm 64

Your Mother Should Know

The Long And Winding Road

 

Classical type pop:

 

Martha My Dear

Eleanor Rigby

She's Leaving Home

For No One

Yesterday

 

Ordinary Whimsical pop:

 

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

Maxwell's Silver Hammer

Yellow Submarine

Penny Lane

Magical Mystery Tour

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Rocky Raccoon

 

There are other categories of course, but I'll leave it for now.

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15 November 2012
5.07am
vonbontee
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You raise some good points, with which I mostly agree. To my way of thinking, it's not Granny Shit unless it's got that swing/shuffle beat and music hall feel. That means it would include Maxwell, Honey Pie, and possibly Good Day Sunshine; but would definitely exclude The Long And Winding Road.

I appreciate your breakdown of subcategories, btw!

I just want to play. I’d like to think I could work opposite Sinatra, B.B. King, the Beatles, or a polka band... - Jazz musician Rahsaan Roland Kirk, 1967
15 November 2012
10.50am
GeorgeTSimpson
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I absolutly love the granny songsbecause I like 1920 music (not as much as I like the beatles or wings but i like it)

Once there was a way to get back homewards. Once there was a way to get back home; sleep pretty darling do not cry. And I will sing a lullaby
15 November 2012
11.04am
Ben Ramon
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I think those who castigate Paul for his "granny" music are overlooking the fact that there are few other songwriters in popular music able to emulate and invoke a genre with such accuracy, not only from a musical point of view but vocally, lyrically, and in terms of arrangement. Really, the McCartney penchant for music hall indicates a tremendous diversity of talent rather than a tendency to put out sub-par material.

SHUT UP - Paulie's talkin'
15 November 2012
11.13am
GeorgeTSimpson
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I agree

Once there was a way to get back homewards. Once there was a way to get back home; sleep pretty darling do not cry. And I will sing a lullaby
15 November 2012
2.48pm
Joe
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I was thinking about this last night. Rather than the music hall influence, I was wondering when McCartney became more interested in storytelling in songs. He switched from the earlier I/you/me songs to telling those third-person songs about invented characters.

I suppose you could argue that She Loves You is an early example, but I'd suggest that the first time he really went for an imagined scenario was Drive My Car, followed by Eleanor Rigby and Paperback Writer the following year. After that he seems to have realised it offered enormous songwriting potential, but seemed to get far worse at doing it shortly afterwards.

He wasn't the only one writing like this at that time - Ray Davies is probably the most notable example. I'm sure there are others (eg Syd Barrett in his less psychedelic moments). Personally I've never really cared for that sort of songwriting - I always think, "Why are they telling me about these non-existent people?", but it has its place.

McCartney's next major character song was Penny Lane, in which he invented a cast of people to inhabit a real location. I'd say this was his peak as a creator of scenarios. Lovely Rita and The Fool On The Hill were recorded in the same year, both exploring the third-person character style.

It started to go downhill in 1968, with Rocky Raccoon and Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da. He seemed to really lose his quality control around that time, and get carried away with creating characters and situations rather than conjuring magic tricks (the 1967 songs did both). Although Get Back and She Came In Through The Bathroom Window had sparks of magic, Maxwell's Silver Hammer and Teddy Boy were rightly hated by the other Beatles, and when he went solo he came up with some really bad character-led stuff (I'll always hate Admiral Halsey, though I know some people like it).

I think the key is whether the listener cares about the characters. They can go along with a nurse selling poppies and an aspiring novelist, but why anyone would want to hear about Desmond and Molly Jones has always been a mystery to me.

I always loved Lennon's "Paul's granny shit" and "boring people doing boring things" comments though. Lennon conveniently overlooked that he wasn't averse to writing nonsense and novelty songs such as Mean Mister Mustard/Polythene Pam/Bungalow Bill etc. If McCartney had written those Lennon would have hated them.

Thoughts? I was wondering whether this would make a good feature, but haven't really fleshed it out beyond what I've written above. Would, for example, McCartney's body of work have been better if he'd steered clear of the character-led songs, or do they actually improve it?

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15 November 2012
3.36pm
tkj
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'The Long And Winding Road' , a granny song?? Whats "granny" about that song?

I've never understood how Paul, or anyone, could accept John calling Pauls music for shit, while John himself was working on songs like "Revolution 9" ..  

But anyway, I love Pauls ""granny"" music!! Maxwell, Obladi, Let Em In, Martha My Dear, etc. Great stuff.

15 November 2012
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Joe said
I was thinking about this last night. Rather than the music hall influence, I was wondering when McCartney became more interested in storytelling in songs. He switched from the earlier I/you/me songs to telling those third-person songs about invented characters.

I suppose you could argue that She Loves You is an early example, but I'd suggest that the first time he really went for an imagined scenario was Drive My Car, followed by Eleanor Rigby and Paperback Writer the following year. After that he seems to have realised it offered enormous songwriting potential, but seemed to get far worse at doing it shortly afterwards.

He wasn't the only one writing like this at that time - Ray Davies is probably the most notable example. I'm sure there are others (eg Syd Barrett in his less psychedelic moments). Personally I've never really cared for that sort of songwriting - I always think, "Why are they telling me about these non-existent people?", but it has its place.

McCartney's next major character song was Penny Lane, in which he invented a cast of people to inhabit a real location. I'd say this was his peak as a creator of scenarios. Lovely Rita and The Fool On The Hill were recorded in the same year, both exploring the third-person character style.

It started to go downhill in 1968, with Rocky Raccoon and Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da. He seemed to really lose his quality control around that time, and get carried away with creating characters and situations rather than conjuring magic tricks (the 1967 songs did both). Although Get Back and She Came In Through The Bathroom Window had sparks of magic, Maxwell's Silver Hammer and Teddy Boy were rightly hated by the other Beatles, and when he went solo he came up with some really bad character-led stuff (I'll always hate Admiral Halsey, though I know some people like it).

I think the key is whether the listener cares about the characters. They can go along with a nurse selling poppies and an aspiring novelist, but why anyone would want to hear about Desmond and Molly Jones has always been a mystery to me.

I always loved Lennon's "Paul's granny shit" and "boring people doing boring things" comments though. Lennon conveniently overlooked that he wasn't averse to writing nonsense and novelty songs such as Mean Mister Mustard/Polythene Pam/Bungalow Bill etc. If McCartney had written those Lennon would have hated them.

Thoughts? I was wondering whether this would make a good feature, but haven't really fleshed it out beyond what I've written above. Would, for example, McCartney's body of work have been better if he'd steered clear of the character-led songs, or do they actually improve it?

I like his character songs.  One you didn't mention was "She's Leaving Home" -- it rises almost the the level of a Jane Austen novel.  (My father, a professor of literature and something of a snob about music -- only Bach, Beethoven and Mozart were "true" music, though he was open to John Cage's experiments -- told me once that he was very impressed with "She's Leaving Home".)

 

As for other songwriters, James Taylor has done this quite often -- in fact, I think he's done it more than most anyone else:

 

Rainy Day Man

Sunny Skies

Sweet Baby James (not really about himself, but about an imaginary cowboy)

Captain Jim's Drunken Dream (again, the "Jim" is not really him, but some imaginary James Taylor living another life as a drunk from the Caribbean stuck out of his element up North)

Company Man

Sleep Come Free Me

T-Bone

Never Die Young

Baby Boom Baby

Down in the Hole

The Frozen Man

Millworker

Jump Up Behind Me

Whenever You're Ready

 

-- along with a couple of the whimsical types of character-led songs:

 

Gorilla (where the character is an actual gorilla, yet in a surreal way almost human)

Jelly Man Kelly

Faded flowers, wait in a jar, till the evening is complete... complete... complete... complete...
15 November 2012
9.11pm
Zig
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Joe said
Thoughts? I was wondering whether this would make a good feature, but haven't really fleshed it out beyond what I've written above. Would, for example, McCartney's body of work have been better if he'd steered clear of the character-led songs, or do they actually improve it?

To me, it is not a matter of helping or hurting his body of work.

If I like or dislike any songs, it is based on my personal taste in music, not the subject matter. In most cases, when I hear a song that I have never heard before, I instantly like or dislike it based on the music itself, not so much the lyrics. It usually takes me a few listens before I get a feel for the story the song is telling. Maybe that is why I like John's "Run For Your Life" so much. The music, to me, is so damned catchy. I by no means condone the message some people take from that song, but I tap my toes and sing along because I like the music so much.

As for caring about the characters...I don't give a rat's sphincter about Maxwell Edison, Rocky Racoon, the girl who left home or any one who has been to Penny Lane. I do love the songs, however.

That being said, I do feel it would make a great feature as it would provoke a very lively discussion.a-hard-days-night-paul-7

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15 November 2012
10.37pm
vonbontee
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Interesting remarks, Joe. Personally, I never devoted much thought to Paul's character sketches because, for me, music trumps lyrics 80% of the time. It's basically what I primarily listen for. And as far as the text is concerned, I generally care more about the presentation, or the performance, than the content. Simplistically, I'd rather listen to somebody say nothing in an interesting way than say something in a boring way.  (But there are exceptions to all these rules, of course.)

Oh, and for the purposes of this thread, I'm assuming it's understood that the term "Granny shit" is being used as a mere descriptor, not a value judgement.

I just want to play. I’d like to think I could work opposite Sinatra, B.B. King, the Beatles, or a polka band... - Jazz musician Rahsaan Roland Kirk, 1967
28 December 2012
3.38am
Gerard
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All of Paul McCartney's music sounds GOOD for me except for the tracks after "Coming Up" on the McCartney II album. I can't tolerate listening to this "electronic" music.

"And in the End the Love you take is equal to the Love you make"
"When I was a robber *Piano Chord* in Boston Place"
"Let's hope this turns out pretty darn good huh"
"Pete may be the best, but Ringo is the star"
Paul:"Don't be nervous John"
John:"I 'm not"
28 December 2012
3.45pm
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Joe said, "I think the key is whether the listener cares about the characters. They can go along with a nurse selling poppies and an aspiring novelist, but why anyone would want to hear about Desmond and Molly Jones has always been a mystery to me."

I like these characters.

Lennon was by and large writing about himself or about social/political issues, and there's nothing wrong with that. McCartney writes mini novels which can be fun, imaginative and/or compelling.

But I agree that it's mostly about the music and the arrangement.

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28 December 2012
4.42pm
Linde
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I feel the same way as Zig and vonbontee. I like a song firstly for it's melody and arrangement. Most of the time when I hear a song for the first time I can't even make out most of the lyrics anyway. I don't give a hoot about the people in the songs.

Having said that, I personally LOVE Obladi Oblada. I like the music, it's funny and cheerful.

28 December 2012
4.44pm
Ben Ramon
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Gerell said
All of Paul McCartney's music sounds GOOD for me except for the tracks after "Coming Up" on the McCartney II album. I can't tolerate listening to this "electronic" music.

They're not all "electronic" music. What about Waterfalls, On The Way, One Of These Days, Nobody Knows and Summer's Day Song? If anything I'd say Coming Up has more electronic elements than some of these tracks. Give the album another chance- I was a bit weirded out by it initially but then grew to love it, there are some wonderful songs on there.

 

SHUT UP - Paulie's talkin'
28 December 2012
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Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Di is one of my top 20 Beatles songs.  However, there is one deficiency in my mind, to my ears, which I rectify whenever I play along to the song on acoustic guitar.  I don't have the capacity to record and upload here (nor can I write music), so I'd just have to describe it.  It comes each time that turnaround happens, "...for Desmond and Molly Jones...." and you can almost hear a lull in the song as it gathers itself for the turnaround.  In that window of time, some bass instrument (doesn't have to be the electric bass -- I envision bass piano keys way down low) should play, in a certain rhythm kind of a Latin feel, the notes A - B - E - E - E - E (those Es all low).

(Assuming the song is in the key of A).

 

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28 December 2012
10.28pm
The Walrus
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Joe said
I was thinking about this last night. Rather than the music hall influence, I was wondering when McCartney became more interested in storytelling in songs. He switched from the earlier I/you/me songs to telling those third-person songs about invented characters.

I suppose you could argue that She Loves You is an early example, but I'd suggest that the first time he really went for an imagined scenario was Drive My Car, followed by Eleanor Rigby and Paperback Writer the following year. After that he seems to have realised it offered enormous songwriting potential, but seemed to get far worse at doing it shortly afterwards.

He wasn't the only one writing like this at that time - Ray Davies is probably the most notable example. I'm sure there are others (eg Syd Barrett in his less psychedelic moments). Personally I've never really cared for that sort of songwriting - I always think, "Why are they telling me about these non-existent people?", but it has its place.

McCartney's next major character song was Penny Lane, in which he invented a cast of people to inhabit a real location. I'd say this was his peak as a creator of scenarios. Lovely Rita and The Fool On The Hill were recorded in the same year, both exploring the third-person character style.

It started to go downhill in 1968, with Rocky Raccoon and Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da. He seemed to really lose his quality control around that time, and get carried away with creating characters and situations rather than conjuring magic tricks (the 1967 songs did both). Although Get Back and She Came In Through The Bathroom Window had sparks of magic, Maxwell's Silver Hammer and Teddy Boy were rightly hated by the other Beatles, and when he went solo he came up with some really bad character-led stuff (I'll always hate Admiral Halsey, though I know some people like it).

I think the key is whether the listener cares about the characters. They can go along with a nurse selling poppies and an aspiring novelist, but why anyone would want to hear about Desmond and Molly Jones has always been a mystery to me.

I always loved Lennon's "Paul's granny shit" and "boring people doing boring things" comments though. Lennon conveniently overlooked that he wasn't averse to writing nonsense and novelty songs such as Mean Mister Mustard/Polythene Pam/Bungalow Bill etc. If McCartney had written those Lennon would have hated them.

Thoughts? I was wondering whether this would make a good feature, but haven't really fleshed it out beyond what I've written above. Would, for example, McCartney's body of work have been better if he'd steered clear of the character-led songs, or do they actually improve it?

McCartney's body of work definitely improved because of the character-led songs. Yes, a lot of his worst songs (particularly with the Beatles) were character led, but so were most of his best songs. Imagine what Paul's body of work would look like without Eleanor Rigby, Penny Lane and The Fool On The Hill, let alone songs like Lady Madonna and Get Back. You could even say that For No One is a "character song". Without those songs, the number of McCartney songs that can stand up with the best of Lennon's songs is very small.

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29 December 2012
5.46am
Gerard
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Ben Ramon said

Gerell said
All of Paul McCartney's music sounds GOOD for me except for the tracks after "Coming Up" on the McCartney II album. I can't tolerate listening to this "electronic" music.

They're not all "electronic" music. What about Waterfalls, On The Way, One Of These Days, Nobody Knows and Summer's Day Song? If anything I'd say Coming Up has more electronic elements than some of these tracks. Give the album another chance- I was a bit weirded out by it initially but then grew to love it, there are some wonderful songs on there.

 

OK, maybe not the whole album but still...

I forgot all of those tracks exist, I think I have heard them before, but it was on speakers. It sounds way better on headphones, Paul's overdubbed voice sounds better now. I kinda stopped listening to the album when I heard Temporary Secretary which reminded me of the "music" we have today. I decided to give the album a second try and grew fond of it, although I can't stand listening to some of the tracks. It's not in my nature to skip tracks in album (except for Revolution 9 which takes long).

I just listened to the tracks I hated at first till I went to the point of tolerating them until I liked them.

"And in the End the Love you take is equal to the Love you make"
"When I was a robber *Piano Chord* in Boston Place"
"Let's hope this turns out pretty darn good huh"
"Pete may be the best, but Ringo is the star"
Paul:"Don't be nervous John"
John:"I 'm not"
29 December 2012
10.41pm
meanmistermustard
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McCartney 2 has got some electronic music which i have to be in the mood for (i love Temporary Secretary however) but overall its a very strong album and in my opinion deserves to be given time to appreciate. One of these Days is a beautifully soft tender song and a real gem buried in the Macca depths.

However its all personal, i cant stand Memory Almost Full and some folk here love.

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29 December 2012
11.57pm
Ben Ramon
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What did you dislike about Memory Almost Full, mustard? Just out of interest. I seem to remember you asking for some opinions on it with a view to buying a few months back (or maybe that was CAC).

SHUT UP - Paulie's talkin'
18 May 2013
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I thought back to this thread last week when I watched 'Wings over America'. I think it's fair to say that Paul wrote more ''granny shit'' post-Beatles than with them (please correct me if I'm wrong). Why was that? Is it because he began to enjoy it more, or because he now was the leader of a band and he didn't have the pressure of John coming up with something better/telling him that it wasn't good enough?

A little question that I haven't been able to answer for myself, yet.

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