The Albion Beatnik Bookstore website (or how a bookshop can change a light bulb)

The web page of the Albion Beatnik Bookstore in Oxford: muses and misspills on books, jazz, poetry, stuff like false flags and smoke screen: is randomly decrepid and is neo-bankrupt: is so analogue it's anal.

Maybe I’m Amazed

PaulMcCartneyHere is the finest of Paul McCartney’s songs, the highlight of the album released to announce formally the break-up of the Beatles, the eponymous McCartney, the song of course being Maybe I’m Amazed; not surprisingly it is the song of which McCartney has said he is most proud. He wrote it as he emerged from alcohol infused depression that engulfed him after the Beatles had broken up in early 1969, a news story to be hidden and announced only after the release of their last two albums, Let It Be and Abbey Road. McCartney had started eventually to write and record again, if randomly, in his Scottish hideaway. But this track was recorded at Abbey Road studios on one day in February 1970, the half-session booked using an alias for secrecy, McCartney overdubbing all the instruments on an 8-track, his wife adding simple harmonies.

Even when with the Beatles, when Lennon was there to act as antidote to his tendency to parody rather than write from the heart, McCartney was most prone to the whimsical, the kitsch and nostalgic; as his solo career progressed he was prone more to the unfinished, certainly the pointless – Silly Love Songs one of the many nadirs of his later career. But consistent throughout his musical journey is his matchless and innate ability, when he wished to use it, to bind music to words, a gift not so commonplace amongst his contemporaries and the reason why he can trace his lineage back to Schubert. The introduction to Maybe I’m Amazed closes on a flourish, an A chord, and the verse starts with a piece of magic: a surprise modulation to Bb for the first line of the song, and of course the perfect and most amazing setting for the opening lyrics [Maybe I’m amazed…]. The modulations for the song are bold, seemingly suggesting a sense of non-related discomfort, yet logically very tidy, sometimes with arresting and false harmony in the bass. Then seemingly finding a musical resting point, an anchor in C, it modulates again up a full tone, and a bombastic, ritualistic, one chord riot follows, McCartney spitting and screaming the words.

LPcoverOne of the faults of YouTube is that people try to make sense of lyrics and tidy them up. The whole point of this song is that we are never sure if it is a cry for help or a bask in his finding emotional harbour, if it is fretful and fearful or joyful and affirmative: the words will slip to incoherence, their meaning ricocheting off conflicting emotions. And as such the song is the perfect couplet to McCartney’s throwaway song for the previous Let It Be studio filming, recorded on the studio rooftop, I’ve Got A Feeling, a final true Lennon and McCartney collaboration with Lennon’s chorus added to McCartney’s verse. This is a song full of life affirmation (optimism is rampant in the opening guitar chords) yet supremely ambivalent: “yeh” and “no” sit side by side in the lyrics with no hint of nonsense. This is a songwriter unsure of his changing world, which at once spins out of control and offers shelter, and McCartney’s unsure and nervous reaction to it is writ large. And in this sense the collocated lyrics make perfect sense, enriched by the tussled music.

McCartney’s singing on Maybe I’m Amazed is carefree and outrageous, with layered depths of sonority and emotional timbre, depths that I think surprised him. It is the singing of a man who has learnt to control his voice – through lengthy theatre sessions in Hamburg, touring in threadbare vans, long nights in the studio – yet lose control of it also (in fact reminiscent of the Lennon and McCartney early vocal lines). Sadly he exaggerated these tonal qualities on his next studio album, Ram, and he lost its biting effect. But the frenzy and commitment of his singing on Maybe I’m Amazed remained unsurpassed before or after; Lennon was discovering simultaneously new emotional and musical resonance with songs like Mother. What immediately follows this song for McCartney was the polaric, less schizophrenic (yet rarely mentioned) single, Another Day, third person storytelling of undefined suburban loneliness and, if much more tame and controlled, another flash of McCartney brilliance.

Luxuriously, Maybe I’m Amazed was never released as a single. McCartney at this urgent time in his life had no time and no interest in the merry-go-round that would accompany all of that. A promotional sequence of photographs was cobbled together by McCartney’s friend, David Puttnam, and the song received buckets of airplay and was recorded almost immediately by many disparate artists, famously the Faces (thank goodness Rod Stewart takes over from a visibly drunk Ronnie Lane on this video clip), also Petula Clark and the ineffably sexual and 60s’ throwback Sandie Shaw (listen to the echo, the early Beatle beat rhythms and clichéd mid-Beatle orchestrations on the recording!); later Joe Cocker, who introduces the musical aesthetic of Liberace to a heart-stop of popular music.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cm2YyVZBL8U


Baby, I’m amazed at the way you love me all the time,
And maybe I’m afraid of the way I love you.

Maybe I’m amazed at the way you pulled me out of time,
You hung me on the line.
Maybe I’m amazed at the way I really need you.

Baby, I’m a man, maybe I’m a lonely man
Who’s in the middle of something
That he doesn’t really understand.

Baby, I’m a man,
And maybe you’re the only woman who could ever help me.
Baby, won’t you help me to understand?
Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh.

Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,
Oh, oh, oh,
Oh, oh, oh, oh,
Oh.

Baby, I’m a man, maybe I’m a lonely man
Who’s in the middle of something
That he doesn’t really understand.

Baby, I’m a man,
And maybe you’re the only woman who could ever help me.
Baby, won’t you help me to understand?
Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh.

Maybe I’m amazed at the way you’re with me all the time,
Maybe I’m afraid of the way I leave you.

Maybe I’m amazed at the way you help me sing my song,
Right me when I’m wrong-
Maybe I’m amazed at the way I really need you.

Leave a Reply

Information

This entry was posted on 15th November 2015 by in music, Paul McCartney, songwriting, The Beatles and tagged , , .
%d bloggers like this: