Paul McCartney’s “Tug Of War” Reviewed
I know what you’re gonna say: “Freedom”. A song so lousy Eric Clapton refused to play guitar on it AT A 9-11 BENEFIT CONCERT. You remember that dog, right? “We talkin’ about freedom, talkin’ bout freedom. I will fight for the right to live in freedom” and now for the capper, “Ah yeah, c’mon now.” Not a word, right? The track itself was a monstrosity but the lyric… woah… So, there is your contender for worst Macca song of all time and we can mention “Ebony And Ivory” -which are not harmonious at all, and is on the album we are here to discuss, Tug Of War. Perhaps that crappy “The Girl Is Mine”… “Michelle”.? Not “Mary Had A Little Lamb” which is really great!!! All of them pale into insignificance compared to “Here Today”. A terrible song about a terrible thing that, whether it is true or not, sounds like one lie after another lie ad nauseum.
“Here Today” is McCartney’s memento mori to fallen brother in arms John Lennon, who had been murdered some two years before its release and… I don’t know what McCartney thinks we think about this astoundingly, embarrassingly bathetic bullshit. The worst line Paul ever wrote? “What about the night we cried, because there wasn’t any reason left to keep it all inside?”. If Paul I thinks I believe that Lennon and and he had a good bawl, he is greatly mistaken. BUT even if it is true, it isn’t true. It is stupendously out of whack with John’s public persona, it doesn’t sound even slightly like him. We have tons of film of Lennon, ever see him cry? It is completely not right, none of it is right, but this is wrong. What would Lennon say if he heard this awful awful song? He’d have said “How do you sleep, you cunt”. Just like he once did. Whatever we might want to say about Lennon, he never dealt in pathos. For fuck’s sake, this is the man who put a microphone to Yoko’s stomach and recorded his unborn babies heartbeat till she miscarried. AND THEN RELEASED IT ON AN ALBUM. And this is what Paul wants to tell us about him, a flirty lying, bunch of nonsense. It’s not impossible to write a song about Lennon’s murder (though it might be impossible for an ex-Beatle, Harrison blew it as well), Elton John’s “Empty Garden” is a heart wrenching tragedy about extreme loss, it is painful to listen to even today and not because it is bad but because it is so great: he manages to capture the disbelief and distress without an ounce of sentimentality. “Here Today” is beyond sentimental, it is sloppy mushed up garbage. When Lennon died, McCartney said “It’s a drag” and then later ratified the comment by saying “I didn’t mean it’s a drag, I meant it’s a draaaaaagggg.” Bingo, that’s it, that’s true, it’s pained and baffled. If he wrote a song as precisely honest and heartfelt as that comment, well, that would have done it.
If you can get past “Here Today” and “Ebony And Ivory”, Tug Of War is a pretty good album. Not great, but better than, say, Back To The Egg. George Martin is producing though all that proves is McCartney didn’t really need Martin anymore. “Get It” with the late great Carl Perkins is pretty awesome, a rolling rockabilly cool cat, “What’s That You’re Doing” is a terrific electronic disco rocker where Paul puts his McCartney II lessons to good use and has the bottle to steal a line from a Beatles classic and the same one he did on “All You Need Is Love”. “Ballroom Dancing” is a pleasant come dancing song. “Tug Of War”, with that grunted intro, is too obvious for agitprop. “Take It Away” is a fair enough examination of music’s effect on us, intellectually slight but then again so is “Here Today”. McCartney’s 14th solo album was considered a return to form in 1982, here today it isn’t all that at all.
Grade: B (without “Here Today” and “Ebony And Ivory”)
Grade: B- (without “Ebony And Ivory”)