Here, There, and Everywhere: A Treatise on the Awesome Creative Prowess of Sir Paul McCartney, Musician and Legend, as He Collaborates with Radiohead Producer Nigel Godrich, Plays Most of the Instruments on His Brand New Album, and Is Forbidden to Play His Les Paul
Molenda, Michael, Guitar Player
If you were lucky enough to be Paul McCartney in 2005, how the hell would you approach a new album? Would you avoid competing with your legend, and just coast on your rep? Would you pitch and churn in a vortex of option anxiety, knowing that you could easily write fabulous pop songs, kick-ass rockers, soaring ballads, cinematic underscores, or even a classical concerto? Are you even excited about being a musician anymore? Hell, you've been dragging yourself to recording studios, concert stages, television and movie facilities, charity events, and other celebrity functions for more than 40 years. You've seen it all, you've done it all, you've gotten tremendously rich, and you're a "Sir" for crying out loud! What could possibly still be driving you to sit all alone in a quiet room waiting for inspiration to boil up into your imagination?
Well, who knows what your bogus McCartney reasons might be, but for the authentic and genuine Sir Paul it's all about LOVE. Yep. That simultaneously goofy and deadly serious word that slithers its way through literature, movies, and countless Beatles songs. Paul McCartney still LOVES making music. And it ain't just talk, luv. This September, the 63-year-old former Fab released his 20th post-Beatle album, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard [Capitol], and launched his fastest-ever selling U.S. solo tour (some dates sold out in less than 20 minutes).
Chaos was recorded in London and Los Angeles during a two-year period with Radiohead and Beck producer Nigel Godrich, who was recommended by McCartney's long-time studio main man, George Martin. (The legendary Sir George, who famously shepherded the Beatles, and whose recording career spans back to the direct-to-lacquer days, obviously listens to rock radio!) And lest you think McCartney has reached a point of artistic complacency, he remains passionate enough about his musical children to fight for their lives, as was the case when Godrich expressed disappointment in "Riding to Vanity Fair," and suggested that the song be left off the album. He also agreed to play most of the instruments on the album after Godrich expressed a desire to cop a McCartney vibe (McCartney's 1970 solo album where he famously tracked almost all the instruments himself at his home studio).
"Nigel had a clear idea of the record he wanted to make," explains McCartney, "and he started off by saying, 'I want to make a record that's you.' We worked a week with my live band, but Nigel decided to take the approach of me playing most of the parts. 'I'd like to hear you play drums,' he'd say. So I talked to my band about it, and they said it was no problem if they didn't play on the album. They were into whatever it took to make a good record, and they said they'd be happy to play the tracks live."
So what happens when one of classic rock's most astounding talents is guided by one of modern rock's most cutting-edge production visionaries? Well, in a cagey sabotage of expectations, the culmination of the McCartney/Godrich collaboration is a spectacle of stark, exquisite simplicity. Godrich directed an extremely organic and uncluttered sonic spectrum for Chaos. As a result, every instrument stands out like a sentry, and supports McCartney's still-beautiful and beguiling melodies. Nothing is wasted. Nothing is superfluous. There are no obvious production tricks, nor any bizarre effects or textures presented simply because they might sound hip for the next 15 minutes. All you get on the introspective Chaos is one astounding voice, 13 fantastic songs, a collection of evocative instrumental performances, and a heart full of good feelings.
Going into pre-production for the album, was it a surprise that Nigel wanted to pursue a very simple and natural approach--one that almost brought you back to the unfussy charm of your first solo album.
It really did sneak up on me, but I figured that we were looking for some sort of direction, and it was good to get Nigel to make some of the key decisions. …