Top 5 Paul McCartney Vocals

paul-mccartneyNow that my Yoko Ono series is over, I can safely return to my other regularly-scheduled Beatles blogging — and that means the Top 5 lists.

Clearly, it was time for a Paul list.  I’ve done my Top 5 John vocals, my Top 5 George songs, and Paul needs a turn.  Paul, like John, was a truly excellent vocalist (and though he’s lost some of his range with age, mostly still is).  And putting together his list, again like John’s (which I would now change if I could), was difficult.

In his case, it wasn’t because there were so many incredibly above par songs, like there were with John, but because Paul was remarkably consistent with his vocal work.  With the exception of, say, Wild Honey Pie, they’re all really good.  Paul didn’t turn in bad or lazy vocals.  Unlike John, who reportedly loathed doing a vocal take more than once all the way through, Paul would literally do it 100 times if necessary to get the exact sound he wanted.

So I’ve gone through, and tried to pick five tracks where Paul’s vocal work really just went that tiny bit above and beyond all the rest.  And surely, someone is going to have my head for failing to include Yesterday.  But . . . here we go.

1. Let It Be

There are few songs in this world that I would describe as “perfect.”  There are also very few songs in this world that have ever made me cry just by listening.  Let It Be is both.  I personally think it’s the best song that Paul McCartney has ever written and performed.  I think it’s one of the very, very best Beatles songs.  And Paul’s vocal is a huge part of that perfection and emotion.

Written about his mother (whose name was Mary; and who died of cancer when he was 14, mere months before he met John Lennon), it shows a vulnerability that isn’t, frankly, often heard coming from Paul.  And the way that he sings my favorite line — “there will be an answer” — gets me every time.

2. Blackbird

Blackbird is a truly great and understated little song. Paul’s vocal is extremely simple, and extremely exposed. It feels as though Paul’s singing only for himself, and that’s a beautiful thing. Though it’s a great guitar bit, the vocal really is the song. And it’s a wonderful song.



3. Got To Get You Into My Life

One of the best songs on one of their best albums, Got To Get You Into My Life is jubilant, and Paul’s double-tracked vocal reflects that. He gives it his all and delivers perfectly. Leave it to Paul to sing about drugs in such a way that a love song had never before inspired!

4. I Saw Her Standing There

From the exuberant count in and throughout, Paul’s voice sounds youthful, excited and unflinching — all of which, in 1963, he was. One, and perhaps the biggest, of Paul McCartney’s often exposed John Lennon-related inferiority complexes is that Paul feels he never gets the credit he deserves for also being a rock musician, like John, rather than just a writer of lovely little ballads. You want the credit, Paul? You got it.

(And thanks to Ian for necessarily drawing a completely obvious pick to my attention.)

5. Eleanor Rigby

Number 5 is always the hardest to pick. Indeed, I just changed my mind at the last minute while writing a description for my previous pick, which I intended to publish. But no, I’m giving it to Eleanor Rigby. Why did I change my mind? Because it’s better. Duh.


And now for a bonus track . . .


6. The Long and Winding Road… Naked

This was my real number 5. No, not the one I just replaced, but the reason why I had so much trouble coming up with a number 5 at all. Indeed, I might have actually placed it higher than that.

You see, I always hated this song. Because Phil Spector fucking ruined it with all of his strings and other ridiculous bullshit. I thought it was just a horrible, sappy piece of absolute shit, if we’re being perfectly honest, for many, many years.

That was until I heard Let It Be… Naked, released in 2003. I was really opposed to it being released when it first was. Because I don’t think that John and George would have wanted it (though George allegedly gave his permission before his death). They both wanted Phil Spector to produce, and they hated the infamous “Get Back” tapes. Paul was the one who liked them. And I didn’t like how Paul released them with both John and George now dead.

But once I finally heard the album, I did understood why he did it. With the single exception of the title track (and the tacked on Don’t Let Me Down, which is also better in its original form), every cut was vastly superior. And none more so than The Long and Winding Road.

It is, in fact a beautiful song. And Paul’s vocal is just wonderful. It is, like with Let It Be, a rare moment of vulnerability on Paul’s part. It makes you feel for him. It really does. And when he sings (again, my favorite line) “many times I’ve been alone/and many times I’ve cried/anyway, you’ve always known/the many ways I’ve tried” you’d almost swear that we see into his soul for just a moment.

That’s why it belongs up there, and why, if I could have managed to convince myself that it qualified as a part of official Beatles canon, I would have absolutely included it. That’s why it’s below.

And there you have it. Bring it on, Paul lovers. How have I managed to inadvertently insult your mighty hero this time? And, the more rational among you, what are your favorite Paul McCartney vocals?

Previous installments:

Top 5 Beatles Rock Band Songs
Top 5 John Lennon Vocals
Top 5 Anti-Feminist Beatles Songs
Top 5 George Harrison Songs

0 thoughts on “Top 5 Paul McCartney Vocals

  1. Angie

    What about Oh! Darling? That would definitely be in my top five. I know John Lennon said he could have done a better job, but I think this is one of McCartney’s best.

    Reply
    1. Cara Post author

      Hehe . . . that’s the thing, Angie. I think that John could have done it better 🙂

      I knew Oh! Darling was going to come up. I think it’s a great song, and Paul does well on it. But, in case you can’t tell from my picks on the list, I’m not exactly a huge fan of the McCartney Scream. Personally.

      Reply
  2. Emma

    Arggh! Is this a Paul fan club congregation? lol
    I have to say, poor old George is my favourite.

    I agree with your picks Cara. Blackbird is one of my all-time favourites. I am also very glad Oh! Darling was left out.

    oh & a “g’day” to you Australian husband from a fellow Aussie 🙂

    Reply
    1. Cara Post author

      Hahaha . . . Emma, I think that is the first and probably last time that my blog will ever be accused of being a gathering place for Paul McCartney fans.

      I will say that the lack of swift response to my Paul post, in stark contrast to both my John and George posts, tells me that most of my readers are likely John (or George) people. I will certainly say that this makes me happy. But I will also say that I was expecting more props, after being accused of “hating” and “being mean to” Paul for so long, for making such a strong and sincere effort on his behalf! LOL 🙂

      Anyway, we love George around here! He’s my second favorite Beatle, and he already got his own post 😛

      Reply
  3. Florinda

    I read your posts in my feed reader and don’t think I’ve commented here before, but I had to de-lurk for this one. Paul was my favorite Beatle when I was younger and more impressionable, but over time, it’s shifted to George (R.I.P.). I did a paper on John in high school once, shortly after he was killed.

    Anyway, I think you made some excellent choices, especially #6. I LOVE that version of “The Long and Winding Road” – so simple, clean, and beautiful. As you mention, though, Paul was probably the most consistent Beatle vocally.

    I really enjoy your Beatles blogging, and look forward to your next post. The Yoko series was excellent – glad you’ve gotten props for that, including from the woman herself!

    Reply
  4. AG

    Wow – had never heard that version of Long and Winding Road before. It had a similar melancholy, vulnerable, and calming effect as Let It Be.

    I like Paul a tad more now after listening to that.

    Reply
    1. Cara Post author

      Yay, thanks for de-lurking Florina. Come out more often 🙂

      AG, I’m glad I could turn you onto it. Despite ethical caveats, I do really highly recommend Let It Be… Naked. Again, with the exception of Let It Be itself — the Phil Spector version is vastly superior, if only for the takes chosen, IMHO — and the completely pointless and worse remix of Don’t Let Me Down, which was added onto the album, it really is such an improvement. Like I said, Long and Winding Road is easily the biggest difference, but all of the other tracks are so much better. And so is the ordering of them. And Dig It and Maggie Mae are removed. It’s like . . . listenable. LOL.

      Reply
  5. jovan byars

    All of those are group efforts that Sir McCartney had lead vocals. Here are three of my favorite solo works from him:

    1. Jet
    2. Live and Let Die
    3. The medley from Red Rose Speedway

    Reply
  6. E.M. Russell

    I agree with Jovan, Paul’s work with Wings was really poppy and fun. I’d definitely have to put a few of his songs from that era in my top picks. It would probably take a few weeks and serious thought to make a list of my favorites though, haha.

    Reply
    1. Cara Post author

      Paul’s work with Wings was really poppy and fun

      *shudders*

      It would probably take a few weeks and serious thought to make a list of my favorites though, haha.

      Yes. Haha. Yes, it does 🙂

      Reply
  7. ideealisme

    I know it’s very much a minor Paul song, but I have to admit that “For No One” gives me the creepies. You get the feeling it’s not quite finished either, which adds to the strangeness.

    Reply
  8. hsull

    Did anyone see him sing at the Grammys?
    He sang “I Saw Her Standing There”, which I was pretty happy about considering his new stuff is kind of awful.

    Reply
  9. frau sally benz

    I know Cara, I’m awful! Better late than never!

    I just want to start by admitting (if I haven’t already) that I do love Paul. I do! Heresy, I know. Of course, I love John too, but who I love more on any given day varies a lot.

    I love your list. I don’t actually think Yesterday belongs in the top 5. Maxwell’s Silver Hammer is cool, but also not top 5.

    If I had to make a change to your list, I’d take out I Saw Her Standing There and plop in The Long and Winding Road — either version. Hear me out. I do consider the stripped version part of canon simply b/c it was intended to be. But even if I didn’t, the Phil Spector version, while in some ways just god-awful lol, still has Paul shining through. His power in that song is still so real even w/all the extra crap. I still love it. I’ve also come to terms w/all the extra instruments and sometimes really like what it does. But that’s cuz I’m an instrument nerd.

    Reply
  10. frau sally benz

    OH! I almost forgot!

    I can’t leave without giving a shout-out to one of my all-time favorite Beatles songs, Golden Slumbers. It’s actually my guy’s fave, but he hasn’t heard as many as I have since I just converted him to a Beatles fan.

    In such a short span of time, there is such beauty and AWESOMENESS in that song, even without the Carry that Weight segue (though I admit I start singing it in my head even if I’m listening on random and it doesn’t actually play)

    Ok, I’m done!

    Reply
    1. Cara Post author

      Of course, I love John too, but who I love more on any given day varies a lot.

      *gasp* That is heresy! 😉

      I seriously did consider Golden Slumbers. I seriously considered a lot of songs. Golden Slumbers starts out as a truly great vocal . . . until he segues into what I have officially dubbed as the McCartney Scream. I’m not always opposed to it, and I really do love Golden Slumbers regardless (I think that the entire Abbey Road medley is one of the greatest things ever created, and it’s Paul up and down!), that shift has always struck me as pretty nonsensical. Especially since the rest of the vocal is just so beautiful, and it’s, you know, a lullaby. I’m sure you’ll disagree, but there you go — that’s my official reasoning! 🙂

      p.s. did you ever make your ultimate Beatles list? The husband and I have almost finally finished ours, and I’m trying to figure out what to do with it once we’re done!

      Reply
  11. frau sally benz

    HAHAHA I LOVE the McCartney scream!! It’s a little odd, yes, but that’s one of the things I love about it. Even in a song like Golden Slumbers, it is unexpected and yeah maybe it would have been better if he kept singing it like a normal person, but it gives it some character. Your reasoning sounds perfectly fine to me though.

    I keep wanting to start my list, but my guy is seriously slacking! Seriously! I told him a couple of days ago that I was going to do it without him and he said no no no! Let’s start it this week! Truthfully, I’ve already started formulating some of my decisions and I will veto him whenever anyway. I am, after all, the ultimate Beatle-nut in the family and there’s only room for one. 😉

    Reply
  12. frau sally benz

    OH! And one last thing! (seriously, why did you ever remind me to comment on here? lol)

    I know exactly what you would do with your list — post it on here of course! DUH! Break it up into sections and then provide commentary on the important ones. That’d be enough posts to last a while.

    I, for one, can’t wait to read it. Damn, I need to get started on mine so we can compare notes.

    Reply
    1. Cara Post author

      Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking. But . . .

      Well, let’s say plainly that since I’m not getting paid for it, I’m not providing the kind of in depth commentary that the writer of the other list did! That’d be, uh, a LOT of work. But I was thinking of posting in parts — but how many parts? — and also providing commentary on certain tracks — but which tracks? Once the list is finally finished, and I work out those minor questions, it should be a breeze 🙂

      Reply
  13. frau sally benz

    I thought he had too much commentary anyway, so that works for me.

    Did you do a top 100 or list out literally every song you consider canon (which would be a separate question anyway I suppose)?

    I’d say provide about 20/25 (whatever round number works best w/the total) at a time. Then either comment on the ones you have an interesting story for, or that you think will cause some reaction from the fans, or some other such reason. My guess is that depending on how you break it up, and how much work you want to put in, you’d end up with about 3-7 comments in each section of the series. I’m very mathematical today.

    Hmm… maybe I should’ve just emailed you all of that instead. I sorta hijacked the thread lol MY BAD!

    Reply
    1. Cara Post author

      Haha, it’s okay. I think the thread is probably largely done otherwise, anyway 🙂

      We did every song considered canon. Husband INSISTED AGAINST MY PROTESTS that we include Free as a Bird and Real Love. That’s a whole other argument, too. We also decided, with great strife, to break up every song in the medley . . . including the final three that the original list maker totally cheated by keeping together 😛 Twas a very difficult process that has taken many hours . . . and still isn’t over! LOL. We’ve had fun, though 🙂

      Reply
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  18. Eric

    “Golden Slumbers” is a masterpiece no doubt. I never thought that the scream should be dubbed the “McCartney Scream”. If you listen to it closely enough (smiles AWAAAAAAKE you..), he emotes so effectively that I could almost see the man crying. Its a deeply person scream, not his “rocker” scream.

    On the other hand, his rocker scream is terrific in my opinion. Lennon didn’t nearly have the consistent scream that McCartney did. And Lennon resented him for it. During the Lennon-McCartney feud there was an interview that Lennon mocked McCartney for his screams likeness to his hero, Little Richard. But, as previously mentioned, McCartney could consistently scream. Listen to “Wings Over America”. The whole albums vocal is tinged with that “McCartney Scream”. I honestly think its great. Better than a Lennon scream, at least.

    But, thats JUST me.

    Reply
  19. john

    I think Paul’s best vocal performance is on “Monkberry Moon Delight”.

    I wish he’d sing that one in concert. Then again, he’d probably blow out his voice on every show.

    Reply
  20. Jeremiah

    This is the most pedestrian list of McCartney vocals I could possibly imagine. Truly, this must have been written by a John fan. It’s not that I don’t understand the allure of John; he is the reason I became a Beatles fan in the first place. But then I matured as a musician and a person, and realized the true genius of the Beatles was Paul. John and George are terrific singers, musicians and songwriters, but neither of them can compare to Paul. We know that John often gave Paul vocal duties in the early days when he could not hit the notes. We know that Paul began taking over lead guitar duties in the later years. We also know that Paul and John helped George become the great songwriter he was by the end of the band. Paul has written music of every conceivable style, including classical and electronic. If you your biggest complaint about Paul is his sentimentality, well, that’s just a personal thing. It has nothing to do with his talent.
    As far as Paul’s top 5 vocals, the list should go something like this:
    #1 Long Tall Sally. (This is Rock singing at its finest; raw and rough and hitting all of the high notes)
    #2 The Ballad of John and Yoko (A “John” song yes, but Paul’s harmonies steal the whole thing)
    #3 Oh! Darling (Enough has been written about this in the previous comments)
    #4 We Can Work it Out (Not so much for the verses, which are great, but again his harmony line in the chorus is very difficult and he nails without much effort)
    #5 Hello, Goodbye (John had to speed up or slow down the tape sometimes to get the right pitch, Paul didn’t)
    So many songs get honorable mention, I’ve Just Seen a Face, Pennylane, his harmonies in Act Naturally, And I love Her, Golden Slumbers, You Never Give Me Your Money, and Rocky Raccoon just to name a few…

    Reply
  21. Anna

    Jeremiah, I completely agree with you on your choice of songs and your view on Paul’s place in the band. I know the “coolest” thing is to love John most, but still I don’t get why you received such a crude and vulgar reply to your well-written, thoughtful post.

    Reply
  22. Cara Post author

    The answer is simple, Anna. Jeremiah’s list was totally fine and welcome. Tacking on a dig at the other Beatles about their relative uselessness within the band is obnoxious, and a narrative that grates on my last nerve. So is feeling the need to adamantly defend Paul on a post in which, for once, I gave him nothing but praise. I’m used to the Paul fanboys and fangirls putting up a stink when I make my little jokes about Paul (something I am totally fine with folks doing with John, George, and Ringo, by the way), which are affectionate in nature but rarely taken that way. To see it on a post that I dedicated entirely to him, and which I feel was extremely complimentary, is baffling and frustrating.

    Reply
  23. Harold Brinkman

    I think Paul was a great pop vocalist, but he did not have the vision, talent, and creative originality of John Lennon.

    Also, think about reality here Jeremiah:

    How many great Paul McCartney solo songs do we have? I would say perhaps 6 at most while we have least at least 10 great Lennon classics.

    McCartney is a Sentimental Has been without the beatles and John Lennons help.

    Reply
  24. Nona

    Ah I love the so-called McCartney Scream – from those Little Richard screamers the Beatles covered(not to mention the Chan Romero cover “Hippy Hippy Shake”) all through the Beatles and into his solo career. I agree with Eric, there’s a lot of emotion in Golden Slumbers. John may have wished he’d gotten to sing Oh Darling but I don’t know why he thought he would or should, they ALWAYS sang the songs they wrote, or at most shared vocals – that song wouldn’t have been his to sing even if it had been written by Paul in 1963.

    Harold that comment shows just how LITTLE you know about McCartney’s solo career. First off his recent albums have some great stuff on them(and they have generally been rather well-reviewed) but going back to when all the former Beatles were still alive, Paul has more than a few rockers. Heck even Maybe Amazed, a ballad, actually rocks.

    Just two examples – There is for example this song written in 1971, Wild Life(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lhxgf7P8-NU&feature=related), which is an environmental song, and this song which closed out the Wings Over America concerts, Soily, I like the way he sort of increases the intensity of his voice as it goes on(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKtaUeswXp8&feature=related), awesome SCREAMS starting at around the 4:58 mark. 🙂

    Love ’em or hate ’em – they sure as heck aren’t sentimental ballads. And there are more where they came from.

    Reply
  25. Rodolfo

    You really don´t know about Paul McCartney!. And by the title this list is not supposed to be about your favorite songs but Paul´s best vocals. And you never mentioned them.
    How about Log Tall Sally, I´m Down, The Hippy Hippy Shake, Drive My Car, Oh Darling, Helter Skelter, Golden Slumbers, Maybe I´m Amazed, Call Me Back Again, Calico Skies, Live And Let Die or Girlfriend?.
    And Harlod, you are a little lost. No composer in music history has had as many hits as Paul McCartney, like it or not. He´s still No. 1.

    Reply

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