McCartney’s 10 Stinkers

Macca wrote some of the greatest pop songs ever. He also wrote a few of the worst

Image by Darkmoon_Art from Pixabay

Paul McCartney is one of the greatest songwriters the UK has ever produced.

He was just 23 years old when he wrote Yesterday, one of the most recorded songs of all time. He gave us classics such as Hey Jude, Eleanor Rigby, Penny Lane, Band on the Run, Maybe I’m Amazed and Venus and Mars. I could fill this article with huge lists of his musical works of genius, but we all know these songs.

Less remembered are his stinkers when he seemed to have forgotten he was supposed to be a genius. These howlers have been quietly forgotten.

Ive not forgotten them so here are Paul McCartney’s 10 worst stinkers so you can all suffer along with me.

1. Mary Had a Little Lamb

Yep, it’s the children’s nursery rhyme set to music complete with a chorus containing the never-to-be-forgotten refrain— la, la, la, la, la, la. I guess he got the idea from Hey Jude’s final refrain — na, na, na-na-na-na. Shame the rest of Hey Jude didn’t give him any other ideas. Like binning this song.

He recorded (unbelievably) several videos for Mary Had a Little Lamb, all excruciatingly bad. This one is possibly the worst, although it was a tough choice.

2. We All Stand Together (The Frog Song)

In Macca’s defence, he did write this song for the animated children’s film, Rupert and the Frog Song. His crime was to then release it as a single and appear in the video!

He has since said the song was meant to be in the same vein as Yellow Submarine; a catchy children’s singalong that adults would also enjoy. Instead, he gave us a song no one enjoyed. Not even frogs.

Was this really the person who wrote The Long and Winding Road?

3. Give Ireland Back to the Irish

1972 and Northern Ireland was in the midst of what was euphemistically called the Troubles but was, in reality, a civil war. 479 people died in that year and many more were injured in the worst year of violence of the entire conflict.

What no one needed was a multi-millionaire pop star, living in blissful seclusion on an idyllic island in Scotland, to wade in with a dirge accompanied by simplistic lyrics for a highly complex and dangerous political situation where people were dying. The lyrics appeared to lend support to terrorism and gang violence. Fuel, tinder and flames.

The song was banned in the UK and there was a de-facto ban in the US. Following a terrorist atrocity, McCartney belatedly realised his lyrics were ‘clumsy’ (and the melody awful). He pulled it from a forthcoming compilation album and dropped it from his live setlists; it was never to be heard of again.

We all love Paul McCartney but sometimes he likes to test us by displaying rank insensitivity and bad timing. I’m not even going to link to it.

4. Wonderful Christmastime

Where Lennon sang of his hopes of peace for black and white, old and young on Merry Christmas War is Over, McCartney was having a wonderful Christmastime, ding dong, ding dong. Truly truly truly appalling. Do not press that play button below. Do. Not. Press. Play. I have warned you.

5. Spies Like Us

Live and Let Die from the 1973 James Bond film of the same name, was one of the ’70s great movie theme songs. A masterpiece.

He had another go for the movie, Spies Like Us, a 1985 ‘comedy’ film with Chevy Chase and Dan Ackroyd. Rotten Tomatoes gave it 32% and I’d give McCartney’s theme tune 1%. I’m being generous.

It was not to be a reprise of the genius of Live and Let Die: the opposite. The accompanying video shows McCartney proving he can’t act.

6. Ebony and Ivory

A song performed with Stevie Wonder covering the issues of racial inequality and conflict. What could possibly go wrong? While you can’t knock the message they were trying to give, you can knock the delivery and childish approach to a serious topic from a lyrical and musical perspective.

Why can’t we just live together like the black and white keys on a keyboard? Thanks, Paul, and there we were thinking things were a touch more difficult.

In case you missed the point because you had the IQ of a baby mosquito, they were dressed in black suits and white shirts with Wonder sitting on giant black piano keys while McCartney walked on the white ones.

Now listen to Blackbird to remember how McCartney can write and sing so movingly about social issues in this song about the black civil rights issues of the ’60s. To understand the lyrics better, remember that bird is ’60s English slang for an attractive young lady.

7. Temporary Secretary

Rolling Stone thought it one of the best post-Beatles songs ever but I can only assume they confused the song with something else, Jet or Another Day maybe. More likely, they were on something hallucinogenic.

McCartney sings the song in an atrocious fake American accent (why?) and the synthesisers sound like a 1980's video game. There are creepy lyrics about finding a temporary secretary who will be sweet and sit on his knee. And she can be a belly dancer too. Enough said.

8. Wild Honey Pie

To show that McCartney was always capable of an occasionally appalling song, even in his Beatles days, here’s one from the White Album which foreshadows the other nine on this list for sheer awfulness.

Wild Honey Pie is a largely forgotten song since most of the other tracks on the White Album are works of timeless genius. And also because it’s outdone in terms of being utterly awful by Lennon’s Revolution 9.

This has McCartney screeching Honey Pie over an irritating tinny guitar riff. Wild Honey Pie is, mercifully, only 50 seconds long. It feels like 50 hours.

9. Check My Machine

McCartney II is generally considered one of Macca’s worst albums and this tune is the worst of the worst. Even worse than Temporary Secretary.

There’s a good song hiding in here somewhere, the main problem is that McCartney decided to sing it in a Chipmunk voice. Why?

10. All You Horse Riders

I saved the worst till last. This track was considered too bad even for McCartney II and left off the original release. It was unfortunately added as a bonus track on later re-releases.

Bonus? I can only think it was included to try to make the other songs sound a little better. In case you missed that it’s something to do with a horse race, there’s a clip-clop backing and he sings in the style of a horserace commentator with another fake American accent.

It should have been wiped from the original recording tapes just in case anyone thought it a good idea to add it as a bonus track at a later time. Oh.

Everyone has a bad day

Even musical geniuses have their bad moments. In truth, it was difficult to find ten Macca songs that were truly dreadful, most of his poorer songs fall innocuously into the mediocre bucket.

But let’s finish by remembering some of his greatest pieces of music; the genius of Let it Be, the rock and roll of Back in the USSR, Get Back, Hi Hi Hi and Only Mama Knows and the exceptional exquisite pop of Say Say Say and Back Seat of My Car.

Maybe we can forgive him a few stinkers for all the other works of genius he gave us. And besides, many of these stinkers were hits, so it’s only my opinion after all.

This article was adapted from an earlier version posted on Vocal Media by the author.

If you enjoyed this article, you can read more about my old-fashioned grandad-rock musical views and former lifestyle here:

Fiction and nonfiction, often with a touch of humour. Top writer in music. Also, travel, language and other topics.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store