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Which Side Is This Ex-Beatle on? A Reassessment of the 1970s Rock Press’ Framing, Interpretation, and Consideration of Paul McCartney and Wings

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Words, Music, and the Popular

Part of the book series: Palgrave Studies in Music and Literature ((PASTMULI))

Abstract

While classifying Paul McCartney and Wings as a rock band may seem commonplace in this era, original reviews from the 1970s press suggested they lacked key rock aesthetics and were negatively referred to as a pop band. Through textual analysis, this chapter examines how the 1970s rock press originally received the music of Paul McCartney and Wings and will scrutinize the reviewers’ oscillating tendency to discuss ‘pop’ negatively and ‘rock’ as a form of authentic and socio-politically meaningful art. The early reviews of Wings institutionalized pre-mainstreamed aesthetics of pop and rock but also dwelled in core narratives of their time, such as Paul McCartney as the man who broke up the Beatles, as a lesser ex-Beatle in comparison to Lennon, and as a producer of bland pop music. These narratives, in turn, unfairly frame Wings as a ‘meaningless’ pop ‘back-up’ band and lead to the consideration of why modern reviews of Paul McCartney and Wings are not inundated with the same type of criticisms. Ultimately, this chapter illuminates a complex ideological divide between the genres of rock and pop within the words of the 1970s popular music press, and their attempt to grapple with a changing musical landscape and the evolving genre of rock, in which Paul McCartney and Wings were apart.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Jann Wenner’s fascination with John Lennon is evident throughout the early 1970s: he wrote a very devotional article on Lennon deeming him Rolling Stone’s “Man of the Year” (see Wenner 1970).

  2. 2.

    The issue was published on 7 November and depicts Paul with Linda and their two children whilst on holiday in Scotland. The setting is rural and could be even described as pastoral, since the image prominently features a shepherd’s crook.

  3. 3.

    The fans Gambaccini meets are young teenage females who also are reported to like David Cassidy. This could further the cause to dismiss Wings—as young female teens are often not taken seriously in rock—which Gambaccini however refrains from.

  4. 4.

    The rock press’ treatment of Linda McCartney will be further explored in a future study. Whilst there are elements of masculine rock rhetoric, Linda’s involvement is ridiculed and questioned beyond her gender.

  5. 5.

    The portrayal of the Beatles in Let it Be (1970) is currently being reconsidered in Peter Jackson’s upcoming release of Get Back (2021). Jackson has curated and narrowed over fifty hours of the original reels of film from the Let it Be sessions into a documentary which has been advertised to portray a very different narrative of the Beatles together at that time.

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Correspondence to Allison Bumsted .

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Bumsted, A. (2021). Which Side Is This Ex-Beatle on? A Reassessment of the 1970s Rock Press’ Framing, Interpretation, and Consideration of Paul McCartney and Wings. In: Gurke, T., Winnett, S. (eds) Words, Music, and the Popular. Palgrave Studies in Music and Literature. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-85543-7_5

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