“Jet”

The Beatles had an amazing synergy, for their individual songs declined markedly in quality after the band broke up. That doesn’t mean that all the post-Beatle songs were stinkers, but baby I’m amazed that although individual Beatles songs were often nearly solo compositions by Lennon, McCartney, or Harrison, none of the three produced music on their own nearly as good as when the other band members were around. I don’t fully understand that. Harrison, however, was the one Beatle who maintained a fairly consistent level of musical quality on his own, though never reaching the heights of some of his best Beatles songs.

If you asked me what the best post-Beatles songs were by the three who actually wrote important songs, I’d say that for Lennon it would be “Imagine,” and for Harrison “My Sweet Lord” (though I’m a sucker for his two nostalgic songs about the Beatles, “When We Was Fab” and especially his wonderful song about John, “All Those Years Ago“).

For McCartney, it’s this one, which comes, I think, closest to the kind of song he wrote when he was with the Beatles. No, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I’m sure it did to Paul, and of course many Beatles songs were equally obscure. (The title of this one does come from a black dog.)

This is from a rehearsal, and Linda is backing up. (The original recording, from McCartney’s “Band on the Run” album, is here.)

It’s a rocker.

57 Comments

  1. pablo
    Posted October 18, 2020 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    Paul was maybe my least favorite Beatle, but Band on the Run was a great album.

  2. Dale
    Posted October 18, 2020 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    The Best McCartney song is Mull of Kintyre.

    • rickflick
      Posted October 18, 2020 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

      I had to check that out. I barely remember it, but it is a fine song. Very reminiscent of a traditional tune.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OrbuDWit1Co&feature=emb_logo

    • Barry Lyons
      Posted October 18, 2020 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I love that song. Also “Wanderlust.” I love the John/Paul–like vocal counterpoint near the end (when the two vocal tracks merge):

    • Posted October 19, 2020 at 4:31 am | Permalink

      Interesting. I quite like t and it sold a lot of copies, but it’s often maligned in the UK.

    • Hempenstein
      Posted October 19, 2020 at 6:53 am | Permalink

      Yes to Mull of K!

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted October 19, 2020 at 7:10 am | Permalink

        Mull of Kintyre is the kind of tune that carries me far away before it ever occurs to me “hey – thats in three!”

        I’m not sure how many modern new pop songs are in three, or anything but 4/4, with no weird bits.

  3. JMark
    Posted October 18, 2020 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Magneto and Titanium Man, Band on the Run, Venus & Mars..

  4. Florent
    Posted October 18, 2020 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    The very same could be said of Freddy Mercury. His solo album is… well…

  5. freiner
    Posted October 18, 2020 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    I’m not so concerned about bestness, but I have a soft spot for George’s “All Things Must Pass” (the song, not so much the whole album).

  6. Posted October 18, 2020 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    “The Beatles had an amazing synergy, for their individual songs declined markedly in quality after the band broke up.”

    It was only a little because the sum is greater than the parts. Mostly it is because artists, much like scientists and mathematicians, do their groundbreaking work in their 20s and, perhaps, their 30s. Not only is their energy high, they have no legacy to support, and they are so confident that they don’t take no for an answer. Also, a creative mind often has only so much to give the world. Each mind represents a unique configuration of components and capabilities. Once it has expressed what it has to express, it gets repetitive and formulaic. It falls back on what worked in the past.

    I was reminded of this just last night when watching David Byrne’s “American Utopia”. I was always a big Talking Heads fan. They had a unique musical statement to make, largely Byrne’s but not exclusively. His latest stuff is competent, interesting, but not a touch on his earlier work.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 18, 2020 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

      How is it that David Byrne has not aged save for having grey hair?! And I think The Talking Heads are making a big comeback. You hear them featured on so many TV soundtracks. I recently heard them on The Boys and I’ve heard them here and there on other shows as well.

      • Posted October 19, 2020 at 12:51 am | Permalink

        I don’t know that Talking Heads music ever really left. They have such a unique sound that their music is less associated with a specific time than most.

      • darrelle
        Posted October 19, 2020 at 6:18 am | Permalink

        The Talking Heads were pretty special.

      • Mark R.
        Posted October 19, 2020 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

        Love TH and DB. But my question is, watcha think about The Boys .2? Still don’t know if I like that series, but can’t help but watch. I think it’s Urban that keeps bringing me back. And when all the powerful women were kicking and pounding the Super-Nazi, I had schadenfreude.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted October 19, 2020 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

          I love The Boys. It is gruesomely violent but Homelander is so well acted and written!

  7. Posted October 18, 2020 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    The Beatles were relatively young when they broke up (Ringo at almost 30 was the oldest), but they were approaching the age when the magic fades for many songwriters and poets, even those who keep writing for many years after. Paul Simon is still writing songs at age 79 but one could argue that his last great album was “Still Crazy After All These Years,” which came out in 1975 when he was 34. One might say the same about Bob Dylan, who is also still writing songs at age 79 and whose album “Blood on the Tracks” also came out in 1975 when Dylan was 34. Just sayin’.

  8. Dave
    Posted October 18, 2020 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    I think John wrote lots of good songs after the breakup, he just didn’t always have the best production quality. Some covers of his work really make that clear, for example Working Class Hero, as performed by Green Day on the Instant Karma! Darfur album.

  9. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted October 18, 2020 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    I’m only familiar with the solo Beatles output for the first 5 to 10 years after their breakup, but from McCartney’s first album I like “Maybe I’m Amazed” and from Lennon’s final album I like “Woman”.

    Not a lot stands out for me from George’s solo work. His lyrics are more interesting than his melodies (notably on “Beware of Darkness”- the lyrics are wonderful but I find the melody pedestrian.) Frankly, my fave on his first solo album was his cover of Bob Dylan’s “If Not For You”.

    • prinzler
      Posted October 19, 2020 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

      “Maybe I’m Amazed” is an excellent song, right up there with the Beatles’ best:

      • great chromatic chord change right as the lyrics start;

      • trademark McCartney scalar background line right after the second line, “Maybe I’m afraid of the way I love you,” something he did with the Beatles (I presume it’s his idea). In this case it’s a chromatic line, but, still . . . ;

      • agreat lyric with “Right me when I’m wrong.”

  10. Max Blancke
    Posted October 18, 2020 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    I keep that Wings album on my permanent playlist. Lately, I have rediscovered “What is Life”, and listen to it pretty much daily.

    • craigp
      Posted October 18, 2020 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      Exactly what I was going to post! It’s very much in the style of the Beatles and in my opinion is a match for most Beatles songs.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted October 18, 2020 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

      I was still in the service in England when this came out. Maybe 1971.

    • Posted October 18, 2020 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

      HA! You beat me to it posting that!
      She is (was at the time) a ballet student in San Francisco and heartbreakingly talented and beautiful.
      D.A. NYC

    • prinzler
      Posted October 19, 2020 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      I love this song, too, and it’s very curious because one of the most captivating sections is the chorus (which starts with “What is my life. . . .” but when I analyze it it is really, really simple, especially the background 3-note descending line. So that makes me think that the heavy production and arrangement of the tune is what makes it, but how would you know that the whole thing would work before you got into the studio to really put it together. The lead sheet and the demo tape would never make you think the chorus would be as good as it is. Perhaps this is why George was one of the Beatles and I’m not.

  11. ashdeville
    Posted October 18, 2020 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    I used to love the song Jet but then I saw an episode of Alan Partridge……

  12. Barry Lyons
    Posted October 18, 2020 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    Another fine McCartney song, from 2005: “Jenny Wren.” McCartney called it a sequel to “Blackbird.” “Jenny Wren” really does sound like a song that would have fit nicely on the White Album (I also love the African instrument that appears throughout the song):

    • Barry Lyons
      Posted October 18, 2020 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

      I don’t know why that link for “Jenny Wren” isn’t rendering. Here it is again:

  13. revelator60
    Posted October 18, 2020 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    I would say McCartney ultimately had the best post-Beatles career. Lennon and Harrison both peaked early, whereas McCartney stumbled out of the gate but showed staying power.

    Lennon wrote the more important-sounding songs, but his politics were simplistic and even a pretty song like “Imagine” is ultimately incoherent as a message (his utopia sounds as bleak as all other utopias).

    McCartney’s lyrics were often vastly worse than Lennon’s—many of his songs are lyrically brain-dead stoner mush, as in “Jet.” But like “Jet” many of his songs are melodically magnificent and demonstrate a command of pure music that surpassed that of his colleagues. Being a contented family man, his songs lacked angst and urgency, but their musical richness is undeniable and overpowering.

    I held off going through McCartney’s solo work for a long time because of the conventional wisdom surrounding it. After I did I realized what a fool I’d been. Even on his weaker albums there is always a clutch of first rate material. Here’s a list of some my favorites from his first post-Beatles decade, organized by album:

    McCartney (1970):
    “Every Night”
    “Junk”
    “Maybe I’m Amazed”

    Ram (1971)
    “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey”
    “Monkberry Moon Delight”
    “Long Haired Lady”
    “The Back Seat of My Car”
    “Oh Woman, Oh Why”

    Wild Life (1971)
    “Some People Never Know”
    “I Am Your Singer”
    “Dear Friend”

    Red Rose Speedway (1973)
    “When the Night”
    “Little Lamb Dragonfly”
    “Hold Me Tight/Lazy Dynamite/Hands of Love/Power Cut”
    “Live and Let Die”

    Band on the Run (1974)
    “Band on the Run”
    “Jet”
    “Let Me Roll It”
    “No Words”
    “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five”

    Venus and Mars (1975)
    “Venus and Mars”
    “Rock Show”
    “Listen to What the Man Said”
    “Junior’s Farm”
    “4th of July”

    Wings at the Speed of Sound (1976)
    “Let ‘Em In”
    “Beware My Love”
    “Silly Love Songs”

    London Town (1978)
    “London Town”
    “With a Little Luck”
    “Famous Groupies”
    “Morse Moose and the Grey Goose”
    “Girls’ School”
    “Mull of Kintyre”

    Back to the Egg (1979)
    “Old Siam, Sire”
    “Arrow Through Me”
    “Winter Rose/Love Awake”
    “Daytime Nightime Suffering”

    McCartney II (1980)
    “Coming Up”
    “Temporary Secretary”
    “Waterfalls”
    “Front Parlour”
    “Blue Sway”

    • C.
      Posted October 18, 2020 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

      Heart of the Country, from Ram, was always one of my favorites. When at age 40 I finally purchased my own home (tumbledown shack if I’m honest) in a rural area, that was the song I played to celebrate.
      Cheesy but I love it.

      • Posted October 18, 2020 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

        Oh it is wonderful. Like Mull of Kintyre – a lot of Paul’s stuff w/ Wings then was fantastic.
        Me thinks our sweating professor is off base on this one. 😉
        D.

    • rickflick
      Posted October 18, 2020 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

      Thanks. I’ll be checking some of these out.

    • rickflick
      Posted October 18, 2020 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

      This video for I am Your Singer, is quite poignant.

  14. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted October 18, 2020 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    Love Jet.

    “none of the three produced music on their own nearly as good as when the other band members were around.”

    or George Martin. I think that is significant.

  15. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted October 18, 2020 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    Sub

  16. shoshidge
    Posted October 18, 2020 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    Jet is an extremely catchy song, it has haunted me for years.
    But that makes it all the more annoying that the lyrics were chosen for their phonetic value rather than their sensibility.

    • Doug
      Posted October 18, 2020 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

      Ironically, Lennon may have been partly responsible for Paul’s tendency to write gibberish. Paul likes to tell the story of playing “Hey Jude” to John for the first time. The song wasn’t finished, and he sang the nonsense line “The movement you need is on your shoulder,” explaining that the line was just there until he came up with real lyrics. John said “No, keep it! That’s great!” Paul says “That’s when I realized that your first idea is often the best, and you shouldn’t overthink it.”

      Someone should ask Paul if he thinks that “Yesterday” would have gone on to be the 20th-century’s most-recorded song if he had stayed with his original inspiration and called it “Scrambled Eggs.”

      • prinzler
        Posted October 19, 2020 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

        Yes, I’ve always questioned that “shoulder” line. Paul took Lennon’s advice, who was a lyricist famous for nonsense lines. Was John just putting Paul on, but Paul bought it?

        Now, nonsense is perfectly fine, just hear I Am the Walrus, or Come Together. But that shoulder line is out of place in Hey Jude, which is definitely not a nonsensical song.

  17. eric
    Posted October 18, 2020 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    No opinion on post-Beatles songs, but for George Harrison during-Beatles songs I gotta go with “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”

  18. Posted October 18, 2020 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    Not a Beatles fan, but I always thought that, as a group, they were more than the sum of their parts. I wonder what they might have done if they had stayed together.

    • prinzler
      Posted October 19, 2020 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

      Q: How many Beatles does it take to screw in a light bulb?

      A: All of them.

  19. Posted October 18, 2020 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    Ensorceled by Beatle magic well after the fact, (still are) so as far as individual solo albums went at the time, they were in the soup with every other band and solo artist.
    Still, there were gems to be had and I certainly lent my ear…

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted October 18, 2020 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

      “From Old French ensorceler (“to cast a spell, enchant; to captivate”), a variant of ensorcerer, from en- (prefix meaning ‘caused’) + sorcier (“sorcerer”)[1] (ultimately from Latin sors (“fate, lot; oracular response”), from Proto-Indo-European *ser- (“to bind”)).”

      I give you 200 WEIT points for that one!

  20. C.
    Posted October 18, 2020 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    I loved George’s final album, Brainwashed. It’s a bit goddy in places, unfortunately he was very religious, but still it was quite enjoyable.

  21. ronsch99
    Posted October 18, 2020 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    I believe the “before” / “after” is explained by their “before” producer, George Henry Martin.

  22. John Dentinger
    Posted October 18, 2020 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    You know (actually you don’t), I can vividly remember the first time I heard the Beatles–it was in the freshman* dorm–a bootleg copy of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” in November of ’63. And all of us who listened were VERY impressed.
    But, frankly, that was then, and there has been a ton of great stuff since then; so much that I don’t listen to the Beatles anymore. I’m a LOT more interested in a new AC/DC album than anything the Beatles have done. C’mon, people–it’s 2020. Let’s rock!
    *I know, it should be freshmxn. Shoot me now.

  23. Posted October 18, 2020 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    I must respectfully dissent here, Professor. I’ve been a Beatles nut since 1979 when I was 8 and I have many(most)of their post breakup albums.
    I feel that that 70s era, and George into the 80s was **every** bit as good as their earlier stuff, even “late” Beatles 1966-onwards which is when they really started gathering steam.
    All of them shined alone. Paul’s sheer prolific output means there were some clangers, but there are many gems there: (yes, like “Jet”).
    I came across this lately (admittedly not written by Paul but if you’ve seen the Let It Be Movie dozens of times you’ll recognize it).

    D.A., NYC

  24. Robert J Van Orden
    Posted October 18, 2020 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

    Photograph by Ringo Star is a catchy little tune. I don’t think it’s a particularly good song or important in anyway but it has that hook the way Ringo sings the word ‘photograph’. It did go to #1 on Billboard Hot 100. Whee!

  25. Rik G
    Posted October 19, 2020 at 5:59 am | Permalink

    I like some songs by The Beatles and individual members of the band, but am not a fan. McCartney released a few latter day songs that grabbed my ear though. The rocker
    “Run Devil Run” is great (I’m a sucker for the rockers!), and “My Valentine” is a good thoughtful mature song.

    Devil:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXIr-6weakY

    Valentine:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cXGVaP-DtAk

  26. Dave
    Posted October 19, 2020 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    “…and especially his wonderful song about John, “All Those Years Ago“).

    I’m sitting here at my desk with the radio on in the background, and just as I read the words above, that very song starts playing! It’s a miracle!!

  27. Posted October 19, 2020 at 6:18 am | Permalink

    “Jet” is probably the only post-Beatles Paul song I like, with the possible addition of “Helen Wheels”.

  28. TJR
    Posted October 19, 2020 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    I notice that nobody has mentioned The Frog Chorus yet……

  29. Mark R.
    Posted October 19, 2020 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    This thread was really fun. Thanks all, and I learned some things.

  30. Filippo
    Posted October 21, 2020 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    I “confess” to a fondness for McCartney’s 1973 “My Love.”

    I was on my high school class trip to NYC/DC/Philly/Charlottesville/Williamsburg, VA. It came on the radio and a classmate said, “There’s my song.” It’s interesting what ones brain “chooses” to remember. Why should I remember him saying that?

    • rickflick
      Posted October 21, 2020 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

      Somebody should write a book about crazy stuff that sticks in our minds. I was just musing the other day about a few incidents that stuck in my mind for no discernible reason. If I jotted them all down I might have enough for a book. A very dissipated book.


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