This will be the first installment of a series that, I hope, will help you discover songs you weren’t familiar with, from artists you’re probably very familiar with. I will list the songs in the form of a playlist so feel free to sequence them as follows on the audio device of your choice!

One of the greatest joys of loving an artist is discovering their hidden gems. The songs that some might think of as “album fillers” or b-sides to singles or even, in some cases, songs that were released as singles but failed to chart or have simply been forgotten over time. There are no exceptions to this rule, really. No matter the artist or band, there are always bound to be songs that most people aren’t familiar with that have that certain magical element that makes you think: “Wow, people ought to know about this song!”

My first candidate in this “Hidden Gems” series is the great Paul McCartney. You may know him exclusively from The Beatles, you may know a few of his hits with Wings and you may also know a few of his solo hits, but chances are, unless you, like me, worship McCartney’s work and own each and every one of his albums, don’t know these fine songs. They are, after all, hidden gems.

1. The Song We Were Singing (McCartney)

(Can be found on Flaming Pie, 1997)

“The Song We Were Singing” opens McCartney’s 1997 return to form album, “Flaming Pie” and sets the mood beautifully: “For awhile, we could sit, smoke a pipe and discuss all the vast intricacies of life…” he sings. One cannot help but think that this song came from his work on The Beatles mammoth Anthology project. The melody is rich and his vocals warm and reassuring. He’s taking us on a journey – and who wouldn’t want to sit and smoke a pipe with Macca?

 

2. How Kind Of You (McCartney)

(Can be found on Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, 2005)

A song written during a rather dark period in McCartney’s life following his divorce from Heather Mills. It started off as a simple acoustic guitar number and then Nigel Godrich, producer of some of Radiohead, Travis and Beck’s finest albums, suggested adding tape loops. The loops, comprised mainly of McCartney on the piano, add a real sense of drama and haunting sorrow to the proceedings. It is a powerful piece that shows a vulnerability from McCartney we rarely get to hear from him.

 

3. I’m Carrying (McCartney)

(Can be found on London Town, 1978)

Critics blasted Wings’ “London Town” when it was first released. They criticized it for being too comfy, too soft and too sweet. It’s unfortunate because the album actually features a number of fantastic tracks. One of the highlights is “I’m Carrying”, an absolute gem in the vein of “Yesterday” and “Blackbird”. You get the impression he can churn these songs out with his eyes closed yet there’s something special and unique about “I’m Carrying”, again a sort of vulnerability wrapped into a bit of an enigma. What is he carrying, anyways? Back then, “carrying” usually referred to drugs. No matter, whatever it is in this package he’s carrying, it’s something beautiful and meaningful.

 

4. Ever Present Past (McCartney)

(Can be found on Memory Almost Full, 2007)

If you, like me, love Sgt. Pepper’s “Getting Better”, this song is its brother (or sister). A rare bit of self-recrimination from McCartney where he tells us he has “no time to be a decent lover”. The song features, like many on this list, Paul on every single instrument from the drums to the bass to the guitars and many keyboards. It’s an energized powerhouse of a pop song that, were there any justice in this world, should’ve been a huge hit back when it was released as a single in 2007. Its failure to chart probably explains why he never performed it live but that’s a shame because its earworm-quality and sing-a-long power is undeniable.

 

5. Some People Never Know (Paul and Linda McCartney)

(Can be found on Wild Life, 1971)

Wings’ first album, “Wild Life” wasn’t quite the masterpiece one could’ve expected after the brilliant “McCartney” and “Ram”, but as with every McCartney album, it did include its fair share of gems. “Some People Never Know” is one of those songs that perfectly captures the love that existed between he and Linda. Their harmonies and McCartney’s superb phrasings, are absolutely exquisite and the stripped-down acoustic feel of the track just makes you want to sit back and bask in the beauty of this love, probably the greatest love story in rock n’ roll history.

 

6. Put it There (McCartney)

(Can be found on Flowers in the Dirt, 1989)

A father and son song that Paul wrote for his son James, inspired by a saying McCartney learned from his father, “Put it there [handshake] if it weighs a ton.” It’s a simple acoustic piece featuring superb harmonies from his then bandmate, Hamish Stuart. Again, you could say: “McCartney can write these songs in his sleep!” but he does so so effectively and, in this case, poignantly, that one cannot resist its melodic charms and heartfelt message of hope.

 

7. Sweetest Little Show (McCartney)

(Can be found on Pipes of Peace, 1983)

“Well they can treat you like a brother, yeah they can treat you like a clown – but if they treat you like a lover, you’ve got the sweetest little show in town!” I always, comically, felt this song was about strippers but who cares what it’s really about? As with many of McCartney’s songs, it’s all about the melody here and that fantastic acoustic solo in the middle. Produced by George Martin, one could argue the song could’ve benefited from a more sparse, scaled-down approach, but its melodic strengths shine through along with McCartney’s nimble bassline.

 

8. Arrow Through Me (McCartney)

(Can be found on Back to the Egg, 1979)

Stevie Wonder’s influence on McCartney’s work is undeniable as can be heard on this highlight from Wings final album, “Back to the Egg”. It’s pure R n’ B with a bit of funk thrown in, guitarist Laurence Juber even said it had shades of Duke Ellington in it. It’s a rare instance where Paul plays the part of the jilted, heartbroken lover. I remember playing this at HMV when I worked there in 1999 and co-workers who always dismissed Paul’s post-Beatles work would stop dead in their tracks, listen, recognize the unmistakable voice and automatically turn to me: “This is McCartney? Well I’ll be damned… this is funky!” Indeed it is.

 

9. Oh Woman, Oh Why (McCartney)

(Can be found as a bonus track on RAM, 1971)

B-side to McCartney’s first ever solo single, “Another Day”, this is Paul being very un-Paul-like. It’s a dirty, sweaty, almost violent and visceral plea to his woman … “Where did you get that gun? What have I done?”. This isn’t “When I’m 64” Paul, this is Paul the rocker. His vocal range and performance on this song is worth the admission price alone. You can sometimes get the impression Paul is acting or “becoming a character” but here, it’s straight from his gut. We’ll probably never know what triggered and inspired this song but it’s nothing short of thunderous. Oh, and Paul actually fired a gun in the studio for this recording … how badass can you get?

 

10. Why So Blue (McCartney)

(Can be found on the Deluxe Edition of Memory Almost Full, 2007)

“And in my hour of darkness, there is still a light that shines on me…” as he sang on The Beatles’ “Let it Be” – this song is the light that shines on me when I’m feeling “so blue”. A gorgeous melody and lyric that would’ve fit perfectly on the Nigel Godrich-helmed “Chaos and Creation in the Backyard”, here Paul puts his arm around your shoulders and tells you he’s glad and proud for you and reminds me you it’s not the end of the world, you’ll make it out of the darkness and find happiness again.

 

I could and would go on for another 10, 20, 30 songs … McCartney’s catalogue is truly worth exploring. Take a moment to listen to these 10 first Hidden Gems and if you like what you hear – jump in and discover surprises such as “Alligator”, “Nothing Too Much Just Out of Sight”, “The Lovers That Never Were”, “Only Love Remains” and yes, even a great one titled “Single Pigeon”. The man is a genius – but as you can see from the variety of eras in this list, he remains a genius to this day and keeps surprising and amazing us.

Check out these 10 deeper-hidden gems by Paul McCartney here!

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About The Author

Max Comeau
Blogueur - RREVERB

Intensely passionate about music, Max is in constant search for new sounds yet he never tires of his idols whom he calls his “Pillars”. A musician himself, he released, as singer-songwriter, an album with The Calm in 2007 and, this past June 2015, released his first solo album, “You”. Max has also written a few plays and adaptations which he staged with his theater troupe in the early 2000s. He is thrilled to be part of the RREVERB team to further explore the great classics, as well as the newer classics-to-be, whether ‘en français’ or in English.