The song Paul McCartney was “embarrassed” to perform live

No rule says an artist must love every song they put out. For all of the great anthems that might come out of songwriting sessions, there are just as many silly detours that don’t necessarily measure up to the standards that came a few days before. Although Paul McCartney rarely struck out when writing a perfect melody, he thought a handful of his greatest songs needed some work.

Then again, the early days of McCartney’s solo work saw him starting back at zero again. Being without his writing partner, John Lennon, for the first time, Macca was convinced that he needed another band behind him to get back in the public’s good graces. Forming Wings with his wife, Linda, and Moody Blues guitarist Denny Laine, the first few tracks that the band laid down were meant to be scattershot, with Wild Life being one of the most ramshackle recordings the former Beatle had ever made.

As the band started to become bigger off the success of singles like ‘My Love’, though, McCartney finally could fly high again after making Band on the Run. Recording under distress in Nigeria, McCartney turned in some of the most incredible material of his career on Wings’ third outing, including the massive rock and roll of ‘Jet’ and the John Lennon-esque ‘Let Me Roll It’.

Capping off with a lavish worldwide tour, McCartney was ready to build off the momentum for the follow-up. Creating the sound of a rock and roll show in outer space, Venus and Mars would be the next phase of Wings taking off, benefiting from Laine and newcomer Jimmy McCulloch writing tunes like ‘Medicine Jar’.

Needing an opening tune for the album, McCartney felt it was only appropriate to put the song ‘Rock Show’ at the top. Much like Sgt Peppers had done ages before, the song provides the backdrop for the rest of the album unfolding, with the brash sounds of electric guitar coming out of the speakers as McCartney calls out fellow rockers like Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin.

While the song may have worked then, McCartney admitted to cooling on the song fairly quickly. Talking about the endurance of the song, McCartney wrote in The Lyrics, “The guys in Wings always wanted to do ‘Rock Show’, but I was a bit reluctant: ‘Oh no, not axes and Jimmy Page and silly willy. I’m not sure I want to do all that’. To tell you the truth, I’m a little bit embarrassed by this song. I’m describing a rock show, but I would never have called it ‘rock show’”.

Despite McCartney’s reservations about the song, it would become one of the foundational pieces of Wings’ live set, getting the ball rolling with rambunctious energy from when they hit the stage and sustaining that energy to the end of the show. McCartney would even resurrect the song in his solo years, throwing it into the set off and on throughout the past few decades.

Even though McCartney may not have been proud of the slang used in the song, ‘Rock Show’ was never about the intricacies of the lyrics. It was about putting the listener in the middle of the crowd, and in just a few minutes, Macca created the musical euphoria that comes with standing in a crowded arena watching magic unfold onstage.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *