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The solo track that Paul McCartney called "one of my favourite songs"


Statistically speaking, few people in the world can claim to have written as many memorable songs as Paul McCartney has. Starting with the very first song on the very first Beatles record, McCartney came out of the gate swinging with ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ and just never stopped for almost 60 years. Even in the modern-day, when McCartney is no longer a contemporary hit-making machine, the man continues to crank out songs with interesting melodies and memorable hooks that show off his unmatched abilities as a songwriter.

But what does that man himself like? Certainly none of those Beatles tracks, which have been analysed and dissected to death in the 50 years since the band’s breakup. How about songs that are a little bit more obscure in his discography? He’s got plenty, including great Wings tracks like ‘Hi Hi Hi’ and ‘Let Me Roll It’, Linda McCartney co-writes like ‘Live and Let Die’ and ‘Eat at Home’, and true-blue solo cuts like ‘Temporary Secretary’ and ‘The Back Seat of My Car’.

When compiling some of his favourite stories for the recent book The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present, McCartney elected to highlight material from across his career, including late-period gems like ‘Only Mama Knows’ and even material from The Fireman like ‘Nothing Too Much Just Out of Sight’. But McCartney held special praise for an under-appreciated single from McCartney II, the melancholy electric piano ballad ‘Waterfalls’.

Originally, McCartney came up with the song before the sessions for McCartney II. “I think the waterfall idea came to me when I was on holiday in the US with my family. It was a song that I had started working on when I was still in Wings, but it ended up on my solo record, McCartney II. In fact, it was the only song on that record that wasn’t made up during the recording sessions. I think I left it off the Wings album because I wasn’t happy with the lyrics; they had just spewed out, and I thought I would probably change them.”

“But in time, I got to like them as they were,” McCartney continued. “So I stripped it right down, kept it simple, and it became one of my favourite songs at the time. It could have been called ‘I Need Love’, but that’s too ordinary for me.”

McCartney also alludes to TLC’s ‘Waterfalls’, which hit number one in America and landed in the top five of the UK Singles Chart. “I remember thinking, ‘I wonder if they heard mine?’ I think it nearly had the same chorus, but then I also thought, ‘Great. There must have been something right about it.’ Either that or ‘Sue the bastards.’ But then, like I always say, songwriters are always stealing a bit from here and a bit from there.”

McCartney laments that, thanks to the early 1980s synthesiser sound, ‘Waterfalls’ likely didn’t get the proper arrangement that could have kept it from ageing quite as quickly. But McCartney also cites the spontaneity of the track as a good example of his mindset of the time, making ‘Waterfalls’ more important as a reflection of his attitude towards recording at that specific moment. Even though it does sound firmly rooted in the early ’80s, ‘Waterfalls’ is easily one of McCartney’s most underappreciated gems in his vast back catalogue.