Paul McCartney’s Late-Era Albums Like McCartney III Are Fantastic. So Why Do We Take Him For Granted?

In 1970, Paul McCartney was in crisis. The Beatles were falling apart. Who was he without his bandmates and what kind of music would he make? He banged out a bunch of songs in isolation, playing all the instruments himself and recording on basic equipment, and released the results under the title McCartney.

In 1980, Paul McCartney was in crisis. He had just broken up his band, Wings, after he got busted in Japan for marijuana possession and spent nine days in jail. Now what was he supposed to do? He dug up some home recordings he had made the previous summer—experimental sketches, largely built on synthesizers—and released the results under the title McCartney II.

Both of these albums were vilified by critics, considered much too slight coming from such a Major Artist; the second was described at the time as “arguably the least well-received solo work of any Beatle.” Over time, though, both have been re-evaluated and risen in esteem. McCartney is considered an early example of the lo-fi indie spirit, while the unquestionably weird McCartney II is now seen as an influence on synth-pop.

In 2020, Paul McCartney was in crisis. Only this time, we all were. A…

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