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Music

From Jimi Hendrix to Donovan: Paul McCartney reviews songs from 1967

@josephtaysom

Melody Maker was a great British publication that had access to every working musician of note, including Paul McCartney, who once stepped in as a guest reviewer as part of the 1967 print edition, and his answers were phenomenal.

This period was a transformative time for The Beatles. They’d just gotten off the back of releasing the groundbreaking Revolver in 1966 and were putting the final touches on their mind-spinning masterpiece, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Club Hearts Band.

Crucially, the Fab Four were also making a collective evolution from boys to men and wanted the public to start seeing them in this new light. Infamously, later in the year, McCartney went on television to defend his right to use LSD, and his reputation changed overnight.

Despite his hectic schedule, McCartney still found the time to review singles for Melody Maker. Below are his thoughts on tracks from Lee Dorsey, Dusty Springfield, the Lovin’ Spoonful, Alan Price, The Action, The Byrds, Gene Pitney, Paul & Bary Ryan, the Small Faces, The Move, and most notably, The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Paul McCartney reviews tracks from 1967

‘Rain Go Away’ – Lee Dorsey

“Lee Dorsey. It’s in the same old vein and it’ll be a hit. Sometimes I wonder if he can go on making records that all sound the same. It could be dangerous,” McCartney said.

Adding: “Still I think he can probably do a few more because there’s nobody else doing it — he’s the only one. It just doesn’t matter. Mind you, it will if he makes another five like this. This is good enough though.”

‘I’ll Try Anything’ – Dusty Springfield

Dusty Springfield! Yes, I can see this is an up-tempo teen slanted platter that should be a wow on the chart. And also it’s a fine record — bound to be a hit all over the world. And I like Madelience Bell too, Dusty,” McCartney said.

McCartney’s ability to smell success was proved once again to be impeccable on this occasion as ‘I’ll Try Anything’ went on to chart internationally.

‘Simon Smith and The Amazing Dancing Bear’ – Alan Price Set

“Who is it? Could it be Alan Price? Hooray,” McCartney celebrated. “It’s all about a guy, and his dancing bear. I think that’ll be a hit. Again, it’s a great thing that people like Alan have happened, made it. Great. Dancing bear. Great,” he wrote.

The Beatle added: “It’s so much better than the period, vaudeville stuff because it’s still a bit modern. It’s hip. No, no, I hate to see that word in print. It’s good. That’s a good word, ‘good’. ‘Good’ doesn’t date like ‘hip’. Yes, I like Simon Smith and his high-class dancing bear.”

‘Darling Be Home Soon – Lovin’ Spoonful

“John Lennon! No, John Sebastian. Is it from that film? Maybe the film’s on the other side then? The thing is, his voice is nice but the backing is very ordinary. This sounds like the backing that, ooh, who is it? Who has corny backing like that? Can’t remember,” Macca said.

“The thing is, the Spoonful are easily good enough musically to have arranged this themselves but it sounds as though they’ve had pressures from the film company to keep it filmsy! The end was the best bit,” McCartney added.

‘Epistle To Dippy’ – Donovan

“Yeah. Donovan,” McCartney said. “‘Epistle To Gippy’. Not as good as ‘Mellow Yellow’ or ‘Sunshine Superman’ in my estimation. Very nice words. No trouble there — it’s sold a million copies in the States already. I think it’ll do a little less than the other two.

“Basically the best thing is, Don hasn’t taken anything from the other two. This record’s a new sound all over again. I don’t like that bit there. I don’t like the drumming on it too much. I think this is good but I think his single should have been the one Julie Felix did, ‘Saturday Night’. He hasn’t arranged his version of it on the album too much because it’s an album track. I think that if he’d spent some time with that number and put it out as a single. It doesn’t matter what he records. He’ll go on forever.”

‘Never Ever’ – The Action

Speaking about The Action, McCartney wrote: “Dave Dee? Snotty, Mick and Griff. Who is it? Ah, The Action, yes. Yeah, it’s quite a good record. And they’re a good group. And I’m not biased just because George Martin records them, because they’re a good group. George Martin records them, you know.

“No, I’m not biased. Actually, this is a good record, and without wishing to give them a plug, I think it could be a hit. I’m not biased though. Hi, Judy (George Martin’s wife).”

‘So You Want To Be A Rock ‘N’ Roll Star’ – The Byrds

“The Byrds, ‘So You Want To Be A Rock ‘N’ Roll Star’. I don’t know, I think by know they should be getting off that style of 12-string guitar and that particular brand of harmony,” The Beatle bassist said. “They really should be splitting from that scene because they’ll end up finding themselves caught up in it.”

He continued: “David Crosby knows where they should be going, musically. And so does Jim McGuinn. They know what’s happening. They’re the only ones who know what’s happening. They’re the only ones who came round to see us in the States. They’ve done some good stuff on their albums. A funny group you know.”

‘Purple Haze’ – Jimi Hendrix

The big one. Next on McCartney’s list was the one and only Jimi Hendrix: “Must be Jimi Hendrix. So, Jimi freaks out and sounds all the better for it! It’s breaking out all over the place, you know. I thought it would be one of those things that people might keep down but it’s breaking through all over. You can’t stop it. Hooray.

“This is a good record too. I really don’t know whether it’s as commercial as ‘Hey Joe’ or ‘Stone Free’. I bet it is though. Probably will be. Fingers Hendrix. An absolute ace on the guitar. This is yet another incredible record from the great Twinkle Teeth Hendrix!”

‘In The Cold Light Of Day’ – Gene Pitney

“May be a hit but I don’t really know because I’m not keen on Pitney’s voice,” he brutally said. “I’ve heard him do this song hundreds of times before although I haven’t actually heard this record. If you know what I mean.

“It sounds like every song Gene Pitney has ever closed his show with. I just don’t like the style much. Jane likes him. She used to, unless she’s changed. I can’t honestly judge if Pitney’s records will be hits or not.”

‘Keep It Out Of Sight’ – Paul and Barry Ryan

“Paul and Barry Ryan. Is this one? Don’t like this record. Cat Stevens wrote it, didn’t he?” I don’t like that bit, the Billy Eckstine bit.

“But it could easily be a hit. That’s it. Hi, Marion,” McCartney added. The brothers were the son of singer Marion Ryan, and not long after this release, they went their separate ways as an act.

‘I Can’t Make It’ – Small Faces

“Spencer Davis? Mes Miller? I don’t know. Who is it? The Small Faces. It sounds like a complete change for them. And the voice is smoother and spadier.

“‘Spadier’ is this year’s trendy word for ‘better’. Did I say ‘trendy’? Ouch! It’s a nice record. I think the voice sounds better than on ‘My Mind’s Eye’. It’s a tighter sound in the group. Like Spencer. Nice, and it’ll be a hit. Incidentally. Hi, Chrissie!”

‘I Can Hear The Grass Grow’ – The Move

“Who is it? Go on, you can tell me. The Move, eh? They’re cool. They’ve just got to be cool. It’s a nice record. I haven’t actually seen them live or anything, but the reports I hear are very good. They sound good. They look good,” McCartney said.

“As for smashing up tellies, it’s all good, man. This is a very good record. It’ll be a hit. It just depends how they’re handled in the meantime. And how they look after themselves. Right, the next record. Oh is that it? Oh well, there you go.”