In 1973 Paul McCartney was beginning to truly forge his solo career. The Beatles were at the back of his mind and his path to solo stardom was laid out in front of him. But that didn’t mean the Fab Four weren’t still looming over everything he did.
One such presence was that of Sir Lew Grade, owner of the ATV television Network and, by extension, the Beatles’ Northern Songs catalogue. The singer had been crediting his wife Linda as his co-writer since 1971 and Grade was not happy about the inclusion.
Sir Lew Grade and Paul McCartney were deeply embroiled in a legal battle over the issue. Linda’s inclusion as the second composer of the song meant that Grade’s company were missing out on the royalties that would otherwise be due to them. Grade cited Linda’s lack of professional experience as a songwriter or musician as proof of McCartney’s clever switch to keep the PRS cheques in the family.
The only way to settle the dispute was with James Paul McCartney, the ‘Blackbird’ singer’s first television special since The Beatles’ 1967 TV film Magical Mystery Tour. It would be an exploration of McCartney as an artist, from The Beatles to Wings and featured the band heavily in a series of performances. It would also allow the band to promote their second album Red Rose Speedway.
ATV hired Gary Smith and Dwight Hemion as producer and director, respectively, and although McCartney was assured full control over the program’s content, the special received a less than warm reception. Across the board critics and fans were turned off by the over-stylised performances and although McCartney is a dab-hand and being romantic without being hacky, the songs all seemed a little ordinary.
McCartney would give some solo performances and pull out some Beatles classics too with his performance of ‘Blackbird’ a particular highlight. There was a further nod to the Fab Four, who at this point were all on fairly bad terms, especially with McCartney, as a filmed segment invited the public to sing some of the band’s biggest hits.
There was also room for some more personal moments in the show as McCartney visits his local pub in Liverpool with some family for a jolly good sing-song and a special performance alongside wife Linda opens the show. James Bond also makes an appearance as McCartney performs his theme song ‘Live and Let Die’ that comes after Macca has a dance in an absurdly pink tuxedo.
It had all the rankings of a classic show but, perhaps because of the circumstances which led to the show in the first place, McCartney seems cut off from the cameras. Never really connecting beyond his obligations, it’s a performance Macca would largely like to forget.
It’s been milling around the internet for some time and below you can watch the full TV special, James Paul McCartney, from 1973 below