What's Wrong With That? How Paul McCartney and Wings hit back at snide John Lennon with the #1 hit 'Silly Love Songs'
Back in 1976, McCartney and Wings wrote a self-aware rebuttal to his critics regarding his penchant for writing silly love songs
On this day, August 3, back in the year 1971, the beloved music icon Sir Paul McCartney formed the band, Wings, following the break-up of the Beatles in 1970. So today, let's take a walk down memory lane as we examine one of Macca's No.1 hits, 'Silly Love Songs'. Forty-four years ago, back in 1976, McCartney and his musical project, Wings, wrote a self-aware rebuttal to his critics regarding McCartney’s penchant for writing love songs. The resulting hit ‘Silly Love Songs’ was a clap back at the singer's naysayers, including John Lennon, who had once slammed his former bandmate in an interview, saying that all Macca ever wrote anymore were silly love songs. McCartney promptly responded with this gem and went on to top the chart with his 27th overall No.1 hit. So let's revisit Sir Paul McCartney at his groovy, goofy and sentimental best. You can check the light-hearted music video out here below, which also serves as a charming tribute to Linda McCartney, the rockstar's wife.
In the post-Beatlemania era of the 1970s, every Beatle had branched out on their own musical paths. McCartney founded Wings with wife Linda and the founder of The Moody Blues, Denny Laine, as well as the prolific session drummer Denny Seiwell whose work on film and television scores had earned him many accolades. The late great guitarist Henry McCullough also joined in 1972, but he later departed along with Seiwell in 1973, after the duo became disillusioned with the band's direction. But it was during the second iteration of Wings, which included the contributions of drummer Joe English, that McCartney wrote ‘Silly Love Songs’, off the 1976 album, ‘Wings At The Speed Of Sound’.
'Silly Love Songs' was released on April 1, 1976, and went on to spend a total of five weeks at No.1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 charts. It also came in as the No.1 pop song on Billboard's Year-End Charts of 1976, was later even certified gold after selling a million copies. The song is a proper romantic groover, filled with shiny brass flourishes, but it was its subject matter that really got people intrigued. “I was getting slagged off for writing love songs. You see, I’m looking at love not from the perspective of ‘boring old love’, I’m looking at it like when you get married and have a baby. That’s pretty strong: it’s something deeper. For me, that’s what always makes me write the next love song – that I love it. I don’t mind being sentimental, I love the old movies. I’ve never been too ashamed of all that stuff,” McCartney explained in a 1988 interview. 'Silly Love Songs' was also listed at No.31 on Billboard's Greatest Songs of All Time list in 2008.
McCartney was actually constantly criticized for his insistence on writing love songs and "sentimental slush" through most of his career. Although he is credited for writing universally-loved Beatles hits such as ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’, and ‘Hey Jude’, his friend and former bandmate, John Lennon, were among the critics of McCartney’s style of songwriting. McCartney went on to say, “But over the years people have said, 'Aw, he sings love songs, he writes love songs, he's so soppy at times.' I thought, 'Well, I know what they mean, but, people have been doing love songs forever. I like 'em, other people like 'em, and there's a lot of people I love — I'm lucky enough to have that in my life. So the idea was that 'you' may call them silly, but what's wrong with that?'”
As the opening lines of the songs go, “You'd think that people would have had enough of silly love songs / But I look around me / And I see it isn't so / Some people want to fill the world / With silly love songs / And what's wrong with that?” In today’s technological marvel-filled era, it is a considerable treat to watch old VHS rips of Wings concerts and see young and old folk alike sing along to this sweet, ‘silly’ song with pure abandon.
As McCartney admitted, “The song was, in a way, to answer people who just accuse me of being soppy. The nice payoff now is that a lot of the people I meet are at the age where they've just got a couple of kids and have grown up a bit, settling down, they'll say to me, 'I thought you were really soppy for years, 'but I get it now! I see what you were doing!'" The singer also revealed, “By the way, 'Silly Love Songs' also had a good bass line and worked well live.” On re-watching those old videos, one can see that McCartney is clearly having a blast slapping that bass, and it still remains his signature go-to instrument.
While everything in existence often boils down to our subjective experiences, McCartney figured that sometimes you need to go against the grain and stand for the things you believe in, even if they are sickly sweet or hopelessly silly. Songwriters are often inspired by the notion that "love makes the world go around" which is why we will always treasure immortal love songs the way we do. McCartney has since amassed a billion-dollar fortune thanks to his songwriting prowess, so we're really glad he chose to unfurl his Wings and take off into the musical stratosphere with this everlasting hit.