McCartney was recorded between December 1969 and February 1970. Paul McCartney began by recording at his home at 7 Cavendish Avenue, St John’s Wood, London, assembling a Studer four-track recorder and a single microphone. A mixing desk he had ordered was yet to arrive, so the microphone was initially plugged directly into the Studer.
The home-made nature of the recordings was reflected in much of the songwriting. The 30-second opener The Lovely Linda was a test recording which McCartney intended to replace with a fuller version. The next two songs on the album, That Would Be Something and Valentine Day, were also simple home recordings, as were Momma Miss America, Glasses, Oo You, Teddy Boy, Junk and the instrumental Singalong Junk.
Some of these were begun at Cavendish Avenue but completed at EMI Studios on Abbey Road, or at Morgan Studios in Willesden, London. McCartney took the songs to Morgan early in February 1970, although no detailed documentation is known. He made eight-track recordings of Hot As Sun and Kreen-Akrore, added overdubs to Junk, Singalong Junk, Oo You and Teddy Boy, and made stereo mixes of those songs as well as The Lovely Linda, Glasses and Momma Miss America.
McCartney was keen to keep the recordings under wraps, partly to keep press speculation at bay, but also as a measure of his distrust of Allen Klein at Apple. He initially didn’t even tell his former bandmates, although ironically the first public mention came in a BBC interview given by George Harrison on 11 March 1970 in a show titled The Beatles Today. It was broadcast on 30 March, a full 10 days before the press learnt of The Beatles’ demise.
On 21 February 1970 McCartney began work at EMI Studios, recording under the pseudonym Billy Martin – a reference to the US baseball player. In just one week he made new mixes of The Lovely Linda, Momma Miss America, Glasses, Singalong Junk, That Would Be Something, Valentine Day and Hot As Sun.
He also recorded three new songs in Studio Two: Every Night, Maybe I’m Amazed and Man We Was Lonely. McCartney had entered the studio on 22 February with the intention of mixing That Would Be Something, but completed it more quickly than expected. With the remaining session time he remade Every Night, which had previously been a home recording, and then taped Maybe I’m Amazed.
A private playback was held in Studio Two on 16 March 1970, followed by final mastering seven days later. The album then entered a swift pre-production stage, and was released on 7 April in the UK.
The McCartney album was issued with a stark photograph by Linda McCartney on its front cover. On the rear of the sleeve was a photograph, also by Linda, of Paul with their daughter Mary – who had been born on 28 August 1969 – looking out from inside his jacket.
The album was issued in a gatefold sleeve, with various other family portraits taken by Linda. The record was placed in the front pocket rather than the rear, and the package was designed by the McCartneys with artist Gordon House and graphic designer Roger Huggett.
McCartney spent three weeks at number one in the United States, and was eventually certified double platinum. It fared slightly less well in the United Kingdom, being held off the top spot by Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water.
There were no singles taked from McCartney in 1970, although a short film was made for Maybe I’m Amazed using Linda McCartney’s photographs. A live version of the song was issued belatedly in 1977. It reached number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, following its inclusion on the 1976 album Wings Over America.
McCartney was reissued in June 2011 as part of the Paul McCartney Archive Collection, as a single disc, double-disc special edition, two-CD and DVD version with a 128-page hardcover book, double-disc vinyl and digital download.
The original album was presented with bonus tracks: the out-takes Suicide, Don’t Cry Baby and Women Kind, a version of Maybe I’m Amazed from the One Hand Clapping film, and live versions of Every Night, Hot As Sun and Maybe I’m Amazed from 1979. The bonus DVD with the Deluxe Edition featured a film containing various live performances and documentary footage.