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“Let Me Roll It” is about rolling a joint?

In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing. This week: songs by Paul McCartney.

I would tend to agree that “Maybe I’m Amazed” has become Paul McCartney’s definitive post-Beatles love song. Yet when I consulted my iTunes library to see my most-played McCartney solo tune, it turned out to be a cut from the 1973 Wings album Band On The Run: “Let Me Roll It.” The premise is pretty simple, perhaps deceptively so, as is the case with so many songs from Sir Paul. There’s been a breakdown in communication between McCartney and a loved one, and words are failing him. Action is required: “I can’t tell you how I feel / My heart is like a wheel / Let me roll it.” 

It’s also a straightforward song lyrically—there are only nine total lines—but it remains one of my favorite vocals from solo McCartney, perhaps because it harkens back to my favorite Beatles era, circa The White Album/Abbey Road. McCartney’s growling vocal, the general chord progression, and doo-wop feel on “Let Me Roll It” sounds so much like those from Abbey Road’s “Oh! Darling,” that he’s been accused more than once of trying to encode the song with messages about his relationship with the other Beatles, particularly John Lennon.

But when he was asked about this album a few years ago, McCartney revealed that although the use of echo could perhaps be tied back to Lennon, the song itself was less a message to his former bandmate than it was an allusion to rolling a joint. In the ’70s McCartney was fond of marijuana, and he had a string of cannabis-related arrests throughout the decade. New revelations about the song and amazing Fiona Apple/Roots cover not withstanding, the original track still gets my vote on the strength of its raw vocal and the unconventional use of the stuttered downbeat that kicks off each verse. Apparently McCartney still digs the song, too, which explains its inclusion in his set list throughout the years since he recorded it.