When it comes to an appreciation for vocal abilities, it’s hard to get higher praise than Sir Paul McCartney. In a band that had three great singers (and one very fine singer – justice for Ringo), McCartney easily had the most range and dynamics in The Beatles. John Lennon had raw power, George Harrison had earnest charm, but Paul McCartney was the singer, which he proved by taking high harmonies that few others could match, including on ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ and ‘The End’.
So which band did McCartney heap his praise on to when reportedly asked by a session musician? Maybe a group well known for their harmonies, like Fleetwood Mac? Perhaps a band that carried on The Beatles signature sound, like Electric Light Orchestra? Or maybe just a band with a damn good high tenor singer like himself – maybe Boston or The Police.
The answer, it turns out, was none of the above. In a strangely bizarre twist, McCartney is alleged to have claimed that his favourite modern-day vocal band was Canadian jokesters Barenaked Ladies. “A lot of the bands today are much more technical than we were,” McCartney said, according to journalist Ian Halperin. “But the Barenaked Ladies have to be my favourite. Their harmonies are right on. They could outsing us any day of the week. I don’t think John and myself ever had the sort of range they do.”
Just as a side note, I would love to know what Paul McCartney’s favourite Barenaked Ladies song is. Would he gravitate towards their mutual appreciation of ‘Brian Wilson’, or maybe delight in the callback references to his former band in ‘Be My Yoko Ono’? Maybe he’s into the wonky quasi-rap of ‘One Week’. Or maybe he’s not into the hits and prefers deep cuts like ‘Straw Hat and Old Dirty Hank’. Perhaps we will find out one day, but right now it’s a bit of a mystery.
One thing worth noting is that this could very well just be conjecture. Halperin’s claim comes from a 2008 article on his website, which doesn’t cite any sources or even bother to mention which session musician McCartney was talking to. Still, the claim remains on BnL’s Wikipedia page, so it had to have survived some level of vetting, right? Right?!?
Even if it’s an unverified claim, the idea of McCartney busting out a campfire tune like ‘If I Had $100000’ seems right in the singer’s wheelhouse, even if he feels like he can’t quite match those harmonies (or the playful banter, for that matter).