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Live a little, be a gypsy, get around

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

Much like, I’m sure, many other A.V. Club readers, I was obsessed with The Beatles in high school. More specifically, I was obsessed with Paul McCartney. The whole thing started with The Beatles Anthology, which aired while I was in middle school, and quickly devolved into me ordering huge McCartney biographies from the library and daydreaming about how I could possibly end up meeting and subsequently marrying McCartney’s son, James, no matter what he looked like. Eventually I got into other bands and realized that maybe being obsessed with The Beatles wasn’t the most cool or unique move of all time, but not before almost all of McCartney’s songs embedded themselves in my brain as the quintessential declarations of true romance, whimsy, and songcraft. (And I mean all his songs, not just “Yesterday.” I bought the Flaming Pie record the day it came out.)

To this day, I get one McCartney song stuck in my head more than any other: “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” from Ram. I have no real idea why this is the song that chooses to pop up almost daily, though I suspect it’s the horns. It could also be that, as the title and the record etching would suggest, “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” is actually two songs seamlessly woven into one. “Uncle Albert” is melancholy and a little experimental, with McCartney sampling the sound of a rainstorm and somehow emulating the chirp of crickets. The song then blends over into “Admiral Halsey,” a joyous sing-along that finds McCartney belting out the chorus in a tone that I’ve always thought made him sound a lot like John Lennon. (That could be due to the addition of wife Linda McCartney’s iffy voice on the harmonies, though.)

Sure, the song’s a little goofy, what with McCartney’s hokey impressions of someone discussing the titular admiral’s need for a berth, but that kind of tightrope walk between joke and pop is what McCartney did—and still does—best. It’s why I’ve always found myself drawn to McCartney’s songs more than any other Beatle’s. George’s tracks are beautiful and challenging, John’s are undeniably great, and Ringo’s… well, they’re Ringo’s, but Paul brings that balance of wit and whimsy that I enjoy not only in music but in other forms of entertainment and, really, in life in general. Having been a McCartney fan for so long, I’m not sure whether I loved that blend before I loved the Beatle or whether my love of McCartney has instead shaped that aspect of my life, but either way, I’m okay with it.