Top 10 Paul McCartney Vocal Performances

Maybe it doesn’t have the same way of resonating with the listener like Lennon’s, but McCartney’s voice is just as instantly recognizable. By tackling both ballads and rockers, he’s proved his incredible range as early as The Beatles’ first albums. Listening to the Wings’ material and even some 80s efforts proves he’s remained just as consistent and flexible in the following decades. And here’s ten songs collected from various periods and albums that prove it (click on the titles for links for those available on YouTube):

10. She’s Leaving Home

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A rare occasion of Paul using his falsetto. And apparently enough to impress even Brian Wilson, himself no stranger to angelic high vocal deliveries – the story goes that the Beatle played the Beach Boy a piano demo of what would become She’s Leaving Home, and the latter couldn’t help but cry. And of course, the story of the girl leaving home sung from her parents’ perspective is emotional enough on its own, but the delivery is impeccable as well – sounding as if the narrator is trying his best to give an objective account of the events in the verses, but then just breaks down in the chorus.

9. I’ve Got a Feeling

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I’ve always thought this song to be sort of a continuation to Get Better – not because the two have that much in common musically, but because McCartney’s optimism is again juxtaposed with Lennon’s skepticism. I don’t think the latter’s deadpan “Everybody had a bad year” would work on its own, but when combined with the enthusiasm of “I’ve got a feeling, a feeling deep inside” –  sung in such a manner that nearly makes the listener feel it himself – we get another slice of Beatle magic.

8. Here, There and Everywhere

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Just like with acting, sometimes less is more, sometimes the best performances are those that are subtle. Not every song requires its vocalist to go over the top and give it all. Here, There and Everywhere is such an example, a love ballad that wouldn’t be the same if not for the intimate delivery. Paul chooses just the right timber, making it sound as if the protagonist is right there near his loved one, whispering the words in her ear.

7. Maybe I’m Amazed

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Maybe I’m Amazed has always sounded to me a bit out-of-place within McCartney’s eponymous debut – a dynamic, flashed-out masterwork among a sea of homespun, outtake-like ditties. But then again maybe it’s the context that makes it so special – when you least expect, this soaring ballad comes out of nowhere, throwing inspired instrumental passages, unforgettable lyrics and heartfelt vocals at every step. It’s simply how a love song should be approached on all fronts.

6. Call Me Back Again

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Sort of like a silver-age Oh! Darling this one – more raspy and less polished, but just as passionate. New Orleans horns and bluesy guitar licks set the scene for Paul to come on and have a go at emulating his favorite soul singers. The results are obviously not comparable from a technical point of view, but fuck that, rock has always been more about passion than proficiency. And Call Me Back Again definitely sounds like one of those Wings tracks where Paul’s heart truly was in it.

5. The Pound Is Sinking

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Paul’s very own Happiness Is a Warm Gun? Not quite as far from the truth as you’d think. Multiple sections that manage to connect with each other and flow naturally? Checked. McCartney adopting a different vocal tone for each one of them? Checked again. Everything building up to a ferocious crescendo and him pushing his voice past the limits to match it? You bet.

4. Helter Skelter

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Did McCartney succeed with Helter Skelter in his original goal to out-heavy The Who’s I Can See for Miles? Hard to tell, but he sure as hell succeeded in making the heaviest Beatles song ever. The distorted groove chugs along mercilessly, the guitar lines are proto-metallic, and Paul uses his ‘rocking’ voice to maximum effect to keep up with that. Heck, he even manages to make a bunch of lyrics about an amusement park slide sound absolutely terrifying.

3. Monkberry Moon Delight

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Paul’s most nuts song ever? Quite possibly. I’ve given up attempting to find any meaning in the lyrics a long time ago, but it’s that vocal performance that always makes me come back. It sounds like him just going crazy in the studio, screaming, mumbling, grunting and whatnot, without any care in the world of what the ending results might sound like. Luckily enough, he has just the necessary set of pipes to make it work and be enjoyable for us.

2. Long Tall Sally

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Paul McCartney doing his best Little Richard? Or more like the Beatle beating the rock ‘n’ roll pioneer at his own game? Depends on where you look at it from – in terms of sheer “where-the-hell-did-that-come-from” visceral impact, few voices would rank higher than Richard’s. But Paul perfectly understood that when he covered Long Tall Sally, and he gave it everything he could. We get no second to catch our breath or to even think about what lyrics he’s singing, and, combined with a more rocking instrumental background than Richard could ever dream of we might just have the perfect recipe on how to cover a classic.

1. Oh! Darling

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Lennon once complained about how this song would’ve suited his voice more, and indeed it seems to push a bit in the direction of I Want You (She’s So Heavy), in that you can’t really tell where the love plea ends and where the dangerous obsession begins. McCartney does sing “Believe me when I tell you / I’ll never do you no harm” but the place his voice goes immediately after seems to suggest the exact opposite. It’s those roars and screams that elevate an otherwise passable composition to incredible new highs.

 

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Categories: Tops

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17 replies

  1. There’d be as many variations of one such list as the number of your readers. I could add Penny Lane, Hello Goodbye, That Day Is Done, Motor of Love, Only Love Remains, and so many more, until I realized it’d be a silly exercise, since I could live with those you’ve picked or any variations of your list. Cheers

    Liked by 1 person

  2. How did you manage to get that down to 10?! Maybe I’m Amazed should be in anyone’s list, and no doubt everyone who reads this will pick out songs they would have included instead of your choice (Birthday?) But that’s the beauty of music, it means something to all of us, and that meaning can be different for every one of us.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Cool list! But There are so many amazing vocal performances by him with or without the Beatles, anyone could be on the list. Think of I’ll follow the Sun or Another Girl, Yesterday, anyone you like it… I love You Won’t See Me as much as Penny Lane. Could never be sure enough which one is better.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. BTW, I also loved your comments. Really insightful ones.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. As soon as I saw the teaser in my email inbox I thought “I hope Monkberry Moon Delight is in there.” I was not disappointed. Good post!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for this! Macca definitely deserves kudos for lots of his vocal performances. He has so many different voices at his command, it’s like he’s got multiple personality syndrome.

    I just rediscovered Wings’ first album, “Wild Life,” and came away loving “Mumbo” after all these years. Talk about weird, wild lyrics, but the vocal is fab.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. A great list, and glad to see “Helter Skelter” here, maybe the heaviest song the Beatles ever did. In fact, the White Album is notable for a wide variety of vocals by both McCartney and Lennon. “Back in the U.S.S.R” and “Do It in the Road” are two more “heavy” McCartney vocals. On a softer note, there’s “Martha My Dear” and “Blackbird,” where his voice goes up and down the scales.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Good #1. I read he sang it several times to get his voice hoarser and more plaintive before recording it. the version on the record is marvelous.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Nice post. Almost makes me want to listen to some ‘sir’ Paul. Cut Me Some Slack from the Sound City soundtrack is pretty good, though – a good, visceral performance…

    Like

  10. Exemplary choice for #1 Ovidiu! Really nice to see the gentle Here, There, Everywhere crack the top 10 too

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I knew Oh! Darling was gonna be #1. It’s my #1 too, and #2 is Kansas City for me, but it’s not on your list! 😦

    Liked by 1 person

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