McCartney II – 1980

McCartney II is the second completely solo album by Paul McCartney, and the first since the formation of Wings in 1971. It was released in 1980, a year before the band’s dissolution and while their future lay in limbo. The album is a significant departure for McCartney, as much of it relies heavily on synthesizers and studio experimentation. It was reissued on 13 June 2011 as part of the Paul McCartney Archive Collection.

After the release of what turned out to be Wings’ final album, Back to the Egg, McCartney went north to his farm in Scotland to begin some private recordings in July 1979. The first song he recorded was “Check My Machine” as a way to test the equipment, hence its title. The track also samples dialogue from the 1957 Tweety and Sylvester cartoon Tweet Zoo. By sessions’ end, he had recorded over 20 songs. With no immediate use for the recordings, he put them aside for the time being and returned to work with Wings to prepare for a UK tour that November and December. Simultaneously with the performances (which included the new “Coming Up”), McCartney released his first solo single since 1971, the Christmas-themed “Wonderful Christmastime”, backed with “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reggae”, which charted at No. 6 in the UK, but only No. 83 in the U.S. The A-side was recorded during the McCartney II sessions, while its flip side had been cut in 1975. However, upcoming events were about to change McCartney’s plans with Wings.

After years of visa refusals due to his past arrests for marijuana possession, Japan had finally allowed McCartney, and thus Wings, to perform. It would be McCartney’s first time playing there since 1966 with the Beatles, and anticipation was running high with Wings’ tour completely sold out. However, upon his arrival in Tokyo on 16 January 1980, a search of McCartney’s luggage revealed a bag containing 219 grams of marijuana, prompting his immediate arrest and eventually cancelling the tour. After a nine-day jail stay, McCartney was released and returned home to his Scottish farm. Deciding to put Wings on hold while he contemplated his future, he now decided to issue his solo recordings from the previous summer.

Music and lyrics

The record has been described as “airless proto-electronica.”

“Coming Up”

Main article: Coming Up (song)
“Coming Up” – an uplifting dance number – appeared that April with a video (Paul playing all the bandmates, dubbed ‘The Plastic Macs’, except for the backing singers (played by Linda)) and with two B-sides by Wings: “Coming Up (Live at Glasgow)”, recorded during Wings’ December 1979 show there, and the piano laden instrumental “Lunch Box/Odd Sox” (a Venus and Mars outtake). An immediate UK No. 2 hit, “Coming Up” was flipped over for the live Wings version in the US where it became another No. 1 for McCartney, greatly raising hopes for his first solo album proper in years. The live Wings version of “Coming Up” was also issued as a white-labeled, one-sided 7″ vinyl bonus record in many copies of McCartney II within the US and Canada.

“Temporary Secretary”

Main article: Temporary Secretary

“Temporary Secretary” features frantic synthesizer lines and lyrics about requiring a secretary of any skill level for a short period of time. McCartney dubbed the song an “experiment,” saying that he found the concept of a temporary secretary humorous. “Temporary Secretary” was released as a 12″ single in Britain, backed with the experimental non-album track “Secret Friend.” The single was only released in a quantity of 25,000 copies, failing to make an impact on the charts. The single artwork was created by Jeff Cummins of Hipgnosis.

The song was performed live for the first time at the London O2 Arena on 23 May 2015.

Track listing

All songs written by Paul McCartney.

Side one

“Coming Up” – 3:53
“Temporary Secretary” – 3:14
“On the Way” – 3:38
“Waterfalls” – 4:43
“Nobody Knows” – 2:52
Side two
“Front Parlour” – 3:32
“Summer’s Day Song” – 3:25
“Frozen Jap” – 3:40
“Bogey Music” – 3:27
“Darkroom” – 2:20
“One of These Days” – 3:35