Looking back at Paul McCartney’s biggest misstep: ‘Give My Regards to Broad Street’
Former Beatle Paul McCartney is the creator of so much genius work over the course of his life that we can let him off the hook for pretty much anything that doesn’t go according to plan. On October 22nd, 1984, McCartney released the official soundtrack to accompany his film Give My Regards to Broad Street which, although isn’t quite as disastrous as the film, doesn’t mean that it is anywhere near the level you would associate with a talent like McCartney. In fact, we’d say the whole project was McCartney’s biggest misstep.
Give My Regards To Broad Street is regarded as one of the former Beatle’s larger mistakes over the years. The film, a project which centres around a fictional day in the life of McCartney, was written alongside Ringo Starr and Linda McCartney who, in turn appeared on screen as themselves—already there’s a strong sense of ego attached. The film was nothing short of a disaster commercially, only managing to recoup $1.4 million from it’s $9 million budget. However, the soundtrack album release, which accompanied Give My Regards to Broad Street, made up for the film’s shortcomings from a financial perspective despite being another low par performance from the maestro.
In a 1984 interview conducted around the time of the film’s release, it appeared as though McCartney yearned for the days of The Beatles’ films and attempted to orchestrate his own: “I wanted to be involved in the making of a movie. I remembered from the time of A Hard Day’s Night and Help! what a pleasant experience it is. And there’s a funny thing. It’s a real luxury, having 10 people looking after you,” he said.
“It’s silly, I know,” continued Macca, “But I come from a big working-class family in Liverpool, and we had to look after ourselves, and if someone wants to come and brush my hair, I must admit I like it. And being fussed over for makeup and costumes, I like that, too. Also, I like creating an illusion. I think I could have been very happy as part of the Muppets team.” It’s a side of McCartney which is rarely given a proper airing in public.
The soundtrack wasn’t received as poorly as the film but it still failed to receive more than two stars by any critic at the time of release. It’s safe to say that the record hasn’t aged gracefully. Despite being made up of largely old music that had been revisited from the Beatles or Wings eras, giving it a chance to bring some golden nostalgia to the fore, the whole project feels cobbled together and rushed with the songs unnecessarily given the Broad Street treatment.
The version of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ that appears on the record is the perfect encapsulation of the album as a whole. While the original is nothing short of a bonafide masterpiece that never fails to send shivers down your spine, the track loses near enough all of that beguiling magic when reworked on this album. Partly because of a bizarre section of the song titled ‘Eleanor’s Dream’ which makes the self-indulgent piece clock in at over nine minutes, with eight minutes and 30 seconds of it being overkill.
The one saving grace of the record is undoubtedly McCartney’s collaboration with Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour on ‘No More Lonely Nights’, a track in which the Floyd man took the plaudits for a guitar solo of the highest margins. The track would go on to top the UK Charts and then receive nominations by both the Golden Globes and BAFTA.
On reflection, Give My Regards to Broad Street feels as though McCartney was desperately attempting to take a journey back to a nostalgic time with The Beatles, a time when the group made similar films and sat atop the cultural mountaintop. However, in truth, his solo effort just feels drab and off the mark. The film and the accompanying soundtrack is undoubtedly a project that is capable of making McCartney wince with artistic embarrassment, one which arrived as an expensive way to cure boredom rather than a burning desire to create.