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“Silly Love Songs” Paul McCartney’s ultimate philosophical treatise

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“Silly Love Songs” rates as one of Paul McCartney’s greatest songs. Indeed, it may be considered his ultimate philosophical treatise as well.

For starters, you’ve got a model pop song melody. It’s uber catchy. It flows. It has that gentle love feeling. It’s Beatle worthy.

Then listen closely to the bass line. He’s practically got a great whole second counterpoint melody going on underneath.

He also whipped it up into an expertly made RECORD as well. It has a gentle, but deep and smooth groove and a unique sound.

On top of which, the lyric seems to be actually one of his most substantial as well. Take the lyric and by extension the song and recording as the best and most direct retort to Frank Zappa’s famously negative outlook on pop love songs, best expressed creatively through the classic satire of Cruisin’ with Ruben and the Jets.

“Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs
And what’s wrong with that, I’d like to know”

I’m just saying that the gentle love and romance of such songs as this rate just as legitimate as topics of art as any existential angst or anger. “Silly Love Songs” has at least equal emotional and philosophical legitimacy to the work of, say, Eminem.

Paul McCartney makes like Mr El Senor Love Daddy, spreading the love song vibe across the world. Yeah, hearing this you have to think the world is a little better place for it. The sublime musical presentation of his argument for the defense here should convince any wise and discerning listener of the merit of his position.

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  • Agentsmith

    Please tell me this is a joke. Personally I think it belongs to the 100 worst songs department. Not the worst one, but up there.

    Just my personal opinion, of course.

  • http://www.eddriscoll.com/weblog.html Ed Driscoll

    Hate the lyrics, but as Al says, it does indeed have one bitchin’ bassline. I’ll bet James Jamerson enjoyed it.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Why do people hate this lyric? It’s actually an outstanding lyric. It says something. Even besides music, this is a far better lyric than most of the meaningless strings of words clumped together. This is a much better lyric than, say, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” What does that crap mean?

    This song came up on Christopher Barger’s worst songs list. This shows, naturally, that he’s a doo-doo head.

    But I’ve noticed this particular song come up as a pet anti-fan song from other people over time.

    Now, you wouldn’t hate the song on grounds of not being good. It’s extremely effective pop music.

    I suspect that some people find the song somehow philosophically offensive. This of course only re-inforces my longstanding praise of this beauty.

    Cole Porter or Smokey Robinson either one would have been proud to have written this.

    I’d sure love to hear Smokey take a crack at singing it. Wouldn’t that be perfect?

  • Nick Jones

    You’re real name’s Patrick Bateman, isn’t it.

  • http://www.geocities.com/mondoirlando Aaron, Duke De Mondo

    Lol nick. yes, this reminds me of the great whitney houston analysis.

  • JR

    I like how McCartney introduces three different melodies, then at the end puts them all together. It’s a simple exercise in counterpoint, although probably a bit dumbed down (the song is a minute or two too long, in my opinion); but it shows that McCartney is interested in the music.

    While certainly not my favorite tune, this song is good for separating the people who love music from the people who are just looking for some kind of fashion statement to validate their own coolness. I don’t care much about romantic love, but I like good music and I like when a pop tune is composed with some genuine craftsmanship.

  • godoggo

    I’m with Al, except maybe I’d lose the superlatives, tone the hyperbole down a notch. I’m sort of a liberal reactionary, musically. The truly great silly love songs were written during the great depression, give or take a decade.

  • Dan

    I’m with ya Al. I overlooked this song when it was first released because there seemed like so much better stuff out there then. I used to change the frequency immediately when it came on my radio. Then, years later, I listened to it.

    It’s a little ironic that Paul would write this defense of the silly love song since he was the Beatle who seemed most likely to complicate songs. I think he’s havin’ a little fun with us by deliberately choosing the most sickeningly saccharine lyrics to expose our silly love song phobia.

    JR alluded to the three part melody weave, but I also like the double thump walking bass line.

    McCartney’s songs almost always make me think that he’s an artist who begins with a very rudimentary version of his vision, then just layers the melody, lyrics, and instrumentation around it without changing the original conception much. Whatever, he’s got a pretty good system.

  • Nick Jones

    I hate the song simply because I have a low tolerance for SAP (don’t get me started on “Titanic”…). Then again, my taste runs toward Charles Ives, Throbbing Gristle, Edgard Varese, John Cage, Fred Frith, John Fahey, Captain Beefheart, John Coltrane, The Residents, Brian Eno’s early rock albums, and any other artists that ignore, subvert, or stand outside the mainstream of “pop”, so there you go. I’ll take the equivalent amount of time listening to Lou Reed’s “Metal Machine Music” over Madonna’s entire output any day.

  • http://theapologist.blogspot.com CW Fisher

    Silly Love Songs proves McCartney was the real genius behind the Beatles. I lost all respect for John the moment I saw him naked. Al, God bless you for setting the record straight. Finally we can bury this idea that Lennon had any talent whatsoever. The interloper! What’s HIS name doing on all those songs McCartney wrote? Who gave us Maxwell Silver Hammer? Who was the genius behind Your Mother Should Know? Who pushed and pushed to get the guys to go along with Til There Was You? The Walrus. That’s who.

  • http://www.blogbloke.com BB

    I buried Paul, er I mean Cranberry Sauce. CW sometimes it’s hard to know the difference when your tongue is in your cheek or your foot is in it. :)

    Silly Love Songs has got to be one of the suckiest tunes ever. It’s a parody of Paul at his hammiest self – and a bad one at that. I was a fan until after his McCartney solo albums. Wings? Good God let us forget — please! Like Ed Driscoll said it has a “bitchin’ bassline” but that’s about it.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    So what, you bunch of tough guys are too tough and manly for pussy little love songs?

  • Nick Jones

    Um, yes, as a matter of fact, I am.

  • http://www.blogbloke.com BB

    Ditto!

  • Eric Olsen

    It’s a very good melody, clever arrangement, I could do without the strings, and the problem with the lyric is the “some people want to fill the world with silly love songs” part, because what’s wrong with that is that they have.

    Bravely argued, however.

  • JR

    “Till There Was You”, now THAT has some fine guitar work!

    “Your Mother Should Know” first taught me the power of the dominant 7 chord – he sings the arpeggio and it drives the melody right back into the next verse with the line “sing it again”. Very effective wedding of words to music.

    Isn’t there a scene in Let It Be where McCartney is showing “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” to rest of the band? I think he didn’t have all the words yet, so he was singing the chord changes instead. As someone who never learned to sing and play at the same time, that just blew me away.

  • http://www.foliage.com/~marks Mark Saleski

    yea, no matter how much i dislike an artist, i’ve gotta give respect if they can sing and play.

    i’ve done it (poorly) and it’s fricken’ hard.

  • Eric Olsen

    I was never all that good it it either, but the success I have had comes from thinking of the singing and playing as two halves of the same whole, as if from outside yourself, and then make it happen. Or something.

  • http://theapologist.blogspot.com CW Fisher

    I can! I can! I can sing and play at the same time! Yay for me! However, if you’re talking about playing bass and singing at the same time…. let’s just say I can handle about any bass line. No way could I sing at the same time. Guitar, yes.

    So we all play guitar then, do we? Is the BC Band far behind? We can use my garage. I’ll even bring out the hallowed Les Paul goldtop. Which I really should be selling, since it weighs a ton.

    Two bands, we’ll have a battle. McCartney on one side, Lennon on the other. We’ll see who wins.

    Btw, seeing Yoko naked didn’t help either.

  • http:///www.blogbloke.com BB

    Hey I want in too. I can actually play and chew gum simultaneously but not necessarily in the same rhythm. Makes for interesting listening though. Chomp, chomp, chomp… “sing it again.”

    Let’s face it, the Beatles were genius collectively, but the parts somehow never measured up to the sum of the whole.

  • http://www.foliage.com/~marks Mark Saleski

    we’ll do a version of “Allison”…but in the style of Nirvana, just to piss Barger off.

  • http://theapologist.blogspot.com CW Fisher

    I’m all for pissing off Barger. What else does he hate?

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Mark and Curt- I don’t think so. It’s going to take a lot more than doing a crappy cover of Elvis Costello for you fellas to get MY goat- though that would be a high crime against Geometry and Theology.

  • http://www.foliage.com/~marks Mark Saleski

    Purple Rain done in the style of Public Enemy?

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    No Mark- No PE style Prince covers. I FORBID YOU.

  • http://www.foliage.com/~marks Mark Saleski

    yea, but YOU, Al Barger, get to do the ‘singing’.

    c’mon, you can do Chuck D…

  • JR

    “When Doves Cry” sung by Ozzy Osbourne?

  • HW Saxton Jr.

    I wouldn’t mind hearing Prince doing a
    cover of “My Uzi Weighs A Ton”…

  • Eric Olsen

    I want to hear Declan doing “Little Red Corvette” or Prince doing “Oliver’s Army.”

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Elvis does in fact sometimes sing “Pop Life” in concert. There are bootlegs of such performances floating around.

    I’d dig hearing Prince sing “Silly Love Songs.”

  • Nicole

    I love this song. Paul brings up a really good point: since when has it become a bad thing to sing about love? It’s not like cheerful songs are unfashionable all of a sudden.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    JR- I’m a couple of months late getting the joke, but there will be NO Ozzy singing “When Doves Cry.” Perhaps he can sing “Wings of a Dove.” Perhaps we could compromise by having him sing “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park.”

    I’m also pleased to note from my referrer logs that this page is one of the top 10 results of a Google search for “philosophical songs.”

  • Argit

    Wat alot of mindless crap !

  • argit

    Wat a lot of mindless damned shit crap posted by people who noe a shit about music…

  • Eric Olsen

    it’s not just crap, it’s shit crap

  • http://www.rodneywelch.blogspot.com/ Rodney Welch

    It’s the SHITTIEST of shit crap, but what else is new? Argit apparently isn’t as aware as the rest of us that Al only writes music reviews after he’s spent an afternoon toking the old dummy pipe.

  • Eric Olsen

    I like it too, actually, though not for the lyrics: catchy melody, great bassline, and I really like the intertwining vocals.

    I like the term “shit crap,” though, reminds me of Jim Bouton’s “fuckshit” and its brother “shitfuck”

  • http://www.rodneywelch.blogspot.com/ Rodney Welch

    There are “catchy” melodies and there are “gum on your shoe” melodies that you can’t get rid of. “Silly Love Songs” and “Coming Up” are typical of Sir Paul in his dotage.

  • http://www.tantmieux.squarespace.com sadi

    silly, crap, yes, but still makes me sing in my car. still, nothing beats Mull of Kintyre, which i still love… remember that one?

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    but still makes me sing in my car

    on some days, that’s the most important thing of all.

  • http://www.morethings.com/senate Al Barger

    Rodney, Rodney, Rodney. Why all the hatin’ brother?

    It doesn’t make much sense to call “Silly Love Songs” an example of Paul’s “dotage” as it came out in 1976, when he was about 33 years old.

    Plus, the melody of “Silly Love Songs” not only has good hooks, but a lot of gentle soul. “Coming Up” is also a fine little pop song, though it has less significant emotional content.

    Plus, as Eric suggests, “Silly Love Songs” has outstanding songwriting and arranging craft. It took serious SKILLZ to roll this joint.

    Plus, Argit’s head is full of poopy shit crap. So there.

  • Eric Olsen

    as far as I can tell the only difference between “catchy melody” and “gum in the shoe melody” is the mood of the person making the determination

  • http://www.morethings.com/senate Al Barger

    “Mull of Kintyre” seems to be an English thing. It was apparently one of his biggest hits in England, but didn’t make much impression stateside.

    It’s put together pretty well, but never did a lot for me. It doesn’t have a beat, and the emotional tone strikes me as kind of sloppy sentimentality, rather than a real and current emotion.

  • godoggo

    I’ve changed my mind in the interim. I’m no longer with Al, which means, of course that I must be against him.

  • http://www.rodneywelch.blogspot.com/ Rodney Welch

    For me, Eric, the difference is a pleasant melody and an annoyingly memorable arrangement of notes

  • J.P.

    See post #43 and apply to almost any McCartney tune (sloppy sentamentality. I was a fan but his music just got more tiresome as the years went by. With a Little Luck, Ballroom Dancing? Yuck!Who cares about songcraft if the music is drippy and the lyrics are unengaging. Another poor song on that album was Let’em In. Paul really cornered the market on garbage in ’76. Thank GOD he let Linda do a song on that ALBUM!

    Yes, sarcasm.

  • Steve

    Well, I think Paul in his Wings days was probably a happy family guy, I can’t begrudge him those uplifting/positive tunes. “Mull Of Kintyre” was a fave of mine too, though having spent alot of years in Scotland, I suppose I’m a little prejudiced towards that song.

  • John Gabriel

    If you Love it or Hate it. I don’t care. I personally love it always have always will. Its one of McCartneys best songs that he’s ever written. The Lyrics, the Bass line hook. the melody, the whole comlexity of how he arranged it, leaves most song written today for dead.

    Say you don’t like it , thats fine. But if you say its crap, then you have’nt got a f……….g clue about Music

    John G

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    John Gabriel, meet Al Barger, your long lost father…

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    John, come join me on the Dark Side…

  • http://somethingelsemusic.blogspot.com/ Pico

    Anyone who likes “Silly Love Songs” probably needs to turn in their Dark Side membership card immediately.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    OK Pico, you got me there.

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