The one song Paul McCartney says didn’t get what it “deserved”

After The Beatles’ breakup, Paul McCartney wasn’t sure what to do next. Having been known as one of the founding members of one of the greatest bands in the world, Macca was almost considered yesterday’s news for a while until the success of Wings blew everything wide open a few years later. When working solo a second time, though, McCartney thought that one song didn’t get its just due.

When first putting Wings together, McCartney thought it would be best to put his name on the front, becoming one of the biggest attractions in the world thanks to massive hits off albums like Band on the Run. Comprised of Paul, his wife Linda, and Moody Blues guitarist Denny Laine as the core members, the band would become a stadium act thanks to the success of albums like Venus and Mars, notching up hits like ‘Listen to What the Man Said’.

As the band were spinning their wheels after the release of the album Back to the Egg, disaster struck when McCartney was caught in Japan with cannabis, which led to a short trial which involved the singer being incarcerated. When returning home, though, McCartney quietly washed his hands of Wings, going into the studio independently and doing different sonic experiments.

What blossomed was McCartney II, which featured McCartney’s first foray into electronic music. Although he had a handful of songs left over from Wings’s final days, like ‘Coming Up’, much of the album comprises songs that came from wild experiments, like the glitchy sounds of ‘Temporary Secretary’ or the plaintive acoustic tone of ‘One Of These Days’.

One of the leftovers would become ‘Waterfalls’, a smooth ballad that McCartney wrote reflecting on the lessons that he was teaching his children. When it was brought into the studio, though, the smooth sounds of the original were given the synthesiser treatment, featuring primitive sounds of 1980s string pads as McCartney sings along.

While McCartney often spoke fondly of the song, he thought that the final arrangement left a lot to be desired, remarking in The Lyrics, “The downside of doing that record so spontaneously was that a song like ‘Waterfalls’ didn’t get the arrangement that perhaps it deserved. In the early days of synthesisers, you got fooled into thinking the synth strings always sounded good, which they didn’t”.

Regardless of the 1980s lens of the song, McCartney’s performance is the show’s real star. Rather than pull from the traditional well of McCartney ballads, he tests out different spaces within his vocal register throughout the song, sounding like a weathered man who’s put miles on his heart during the chorus.

Even though McCartney could recognise the blemishes, the album would be fully embraced by his former partner, John Lennon, who wanted to make an album just as good when crafting his final album, Double Fantasy. While McCartney may have had second thoughts about how ‘Waterfalls’ turned out, even the most incredible songs can shine through the most dated productions.

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