My Love (Paul McCartney and Wings song)
|Single by Paul McCartney and Wings|
|from the album Red Rose Speedway|
|B-side||"The Mess (Live at the Hague)"|
|Released||23 March 1973|
|Studio||Abbey Road, London|
|Songwriter(s)||Paul McCartney, Linda McCartney|
|Paul McCartney and Wings singles chronology|
"My Love" is a song by Paul McCartney and Wings that was first released as the lead single from their 1973 album Red Rose Speedway. It was written by Paul McCartney as a love song to his wife and Wings bandmate Linda. Released on 23 March 1973, the song topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the US for four weeks and peaked at number 9 on the UK Singles Chart. The single was viewed as Wings' first significant success in the US. While the song was a commercial success, it was given a largely unfavourable reception by music critics, some of whom considered it overly sentimental.
Background and composition
Paul McCartney began writing "My Love" on piano as a love song to his wife Linda. He said he wrote it early on in their relationship; McCartney biographer Luca Perasi dates the composition to 1969 or 1970. The song is a piano ballad in the style of McCartney's Beatles song "The Long and Winding Road".
After forming the band Wings with Linda in the summer of 1971, McCartney included "My Love" in the set lists for the group's two concert tours in 1972. When they performed it at Nottingham University on 9 February for Wings' public debut, the song included Linda singing lines in response to McCartney's lead vocal. According to Perasi, the performance was otherwise "almost identical" to the version that the band subsequently recorded for official release.
The song is in the key of F major. It opens with an extended ambient note before the vocal enters. The composition has an AABAA structure followed by an outro, with the A sections comprising verse-choruses and the B section containing a bridge. According to musicologist Vincent Benitez, the verses establish a "sense of instability" through lyrics such as "And when I go away" and "And when the cupboard's bare", implying distance and material emptiness, respectively, and this mood is supported by the inclusion of chords such as B♭maj7 and D9 that suggest a departure from the home key. He says the choruses and the bridge then convey the emotional security provided by the singer's lover – lyrically, and through the incorporation of a plagal progression (in the chorus) and other chords that correspond with F major. The outro consists of the first part of the bridge; McCartney sings "Only my love does it good to" before pausing and then returning with a prolonged vocalisation of the word "me".
McCartney invited Richard Hewson, with whom he had worked before while with the Beatles, to arrange the orchestral accompaniment for "My Love". The song was recorded live at Abbey Road Studios in London with a 50-piece orchestra accompanying the band. The session took place in October 1972, late in the recording for Wings' second album, Red Rose Speedway. McCartney played Fender Rhodes electric piano on the track, while Denny Laine substituted for McCartney on bass guitar. The idea to tape the basic track and the orchestral arrangement simultaneously went against music industry convention, since the session musicians were paid by the hour. Hewson recalled that he recruited "the best jazz musicians I knew ... They had this particular warm sound" and that the reason for the live recording was because McCartney wanted to capture "a certain feeling". In music journalist Tom Breihan's description, although the song appears to lack a formal structure, "It chugs and twinkles with the slow confidence of an old torch song, while the orchestra ... swells and contracts."
According to Hewson, around 20 takes were performed over three hours, leaving the musicians tired and having to assure McCartney that their playing could not be improved on. The song contains a guitar solo by the Northern Irish guitarist Henry McCullough, then part of the Wings line-up. McCartney said in 2010 about the solo:
I'd sort of written the solo, as I often did write our solos. And he walked up to me right before the take and said, "Hey, would it be alright if I try something else?" And I said, "Er ... yeah." It was like, "Do I believe in this guy?" And he played the solo on My Love, which came right out of the blue. And I just thought, Fucking great. And so there were plenty of moments like that where somebody's skill or feeling would overtake my wishes.
McCullough said, "it had got to the point where I achingly wanted to be the guitar player in the band" rather than playing lines dictated by McCartney's regimented approach to recording. He described the end result as "a stroke of luck, a gift from God really, and you get that in music".
"My Love" was issued as a single on 23 March 1973, with the US release following on 9 April. The B-side was "The Mess", recorded live at the Netherlands Congresgebouw in The Hague on 21 August 1972. For the first time in the group's career, the release was credited to "Paul McCartney & Wings", rather than Wings alone. The name change was made in the belief that the disappointing sales of Wings' 1971 debut, Wild Life, were due to the public being unaware of McCartney's involvement.
The single's release marked the start of a highly active period for Wings. The band filmed a promotional clip for the song in which they were surrounded by smog in a den with a ceiling window. This promo used an alternate McCartney lead vocal. Red Rose Speedway was released on 30 April with "My Love" sequenced as the second track, between "Big Barn Bed" and "Get on the Right Thing". Wings also promoted the single on the James Paul McCartney TV special. McCartney had agreed to do the special in return for Lew Grade, whose company ATV owned the Northern Songs publishing catalogue, dropping his legal objections to Linda being credited as a co-writer on many of his songs since 1971. The band filmed a performance of "My Love" for Top of the Pops, which was shown on the 4 and 11 April editions of the show. Immediately after completing this performance, McCullough vomited on the stage, partly as a result of studio effects smoke. The incident had an adverse effect on his already fractious relationship with McCartney. Wings played "My Love" throughout their 1973 UK tour, which was the band's first major tour. These live performances were the source of frustration for McCullough, who was denied the freedom to improvise when playing the solo. Adhering to a populist approach over McCullough's blues sensibilities, McCartney insisted that he reproduce the solo exactly as heard on the studio recording.
The single topped the US Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks and peaked at number nine on the UK Singles Chart. The song also went to number one on Billboard's Easy Listening chart for three weeks. On the Billboard Hot 100, it was demoted by George Harrison's "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)" in late June, marking the first time since 25 April 1964 that the Beatles had occupied the top two positions on the chart, and the only occasion that any of its former members have done so as solo artists. The popularity of "My Love" also contributed to the commercial success of Red Rose Speedway, which became Wings' first chart-topping album in the US; according to author Bruce Spizer, it was "the song that sold the album". The single was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America on 9 July, for sales of over one million copies. Billboard ranked "My Love" at number five on its Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1973 chart.
The song was subsequently included on the 1978 Wings compilation album Wings Greatest. It has also appeared on the McCartney compilations All the Best! (1987), Wingspan: Hits and History (2001) and Pure McCartney (2016). A live version from Wings' 1976 US tour, with McCullough's replacement, Jimmy McCulloch, on lead guitar, was released on the Wings over America triple album. McCartney has since included live performances of the song on his albums Paul Is Live (1993), Back in the World (2002) and Good Evening New York City (2009).
Cash Box's single reviewer described "My Love as a "fine ballad" and added that, although it was lacking in melody, McCartney's "added sentiment & crooning will soon make this a classic". Chris Welch of Melody Maker wrote: "A grand ballad from Paul, rather in the tradition of songs that turned on the troops in the days of the Cyprus Crisis and other manifestations of the '50s. In a way its appeal is timeless, and it certainly rates among his seemingly unstoppable flow of classics." Welch highlighted the "splendid gutty guitar solo" and predicted: "Much fluttering of wings and handkerchiefs as this sails up the charts."
Other critics ridiculed the song. To writers in the countercultural press, it furthered McCartney's standing as an artist of little consequence, a perception that was increased by his decision to supply the theme song for the 1973 James Bond film Live and Let Die. According to Beatles biographer Nicholas Schaffner, the inclusion of lyrics such as "Wo wo wo wo, only my love does it good" in the packaging for Red Rose Speedway "didn't help McCartney's dissolving reputation" as a lyricist.
In his "Consumer Guide" review for The Village Voice, Robert Christgau wrote that "[McCartney's] new love ballad meanders hopelessly where 'Yesterday' shifted enticingly" and he described Red Rose Speedway as "Quite possibly the worst album ever made by a rock and roller of the first rank". Five years later, in his review of Wings Greatest, Christgau wished for "a stylus-width scratch across 'My Love'". NME critics Roy Carr and Tony Tyler said the song was among the "dreamy weepies" that were a signature of McCartney's songwriting and, with all the former Beatles' artist royalties frozen due to ongoing litigation over Apple, an important source of income as material for other artists to cover. They described the song as "positively oozing Manciniesque strings and the kind of sentimentality that one finds either cloying or soothing".
Greg Kot, writing in the 2004 edition of The Rolling Stone Album Guide, described "My Love" as McCartney's "soggiest hit" and "over-orchestrated". Former Mojo editor Mat Snow calls the song a "slow-dance single" that, although commercially successful, suffered unfavourable comparison with the Beatles' 1962–1966 and 1967–1970 compilation albums, which were released around the same time in 1973 and "reminded everyone of just how good Paul's old band was". Writing in 2017, Rolling Stone critic Rob Sheffield dismissed it as "the worst song any of the Beatles had anything to do with". In Sheffield's opinion, McCartney was seeking to emulate the Beatles' 1969 ballad "Something", written by Harrison, but he missed the aesthetic significance of the six-note guitar "hook" that precedes the verse of Harrison's composition, instead inserting the "Wo-wo-wo-wo" refrain that sinks "My Love". In his song review for Stereogum, Tom Breihan gives the track a score of five out of ten and concludes: "So 'My Love,' like a lot of McCartney songs, is a pretty and fluffy and sincere and meaningless thing – a song that would probably work as a prom ballad if it had the discipline to hit the big prom-ballad moments. It's nice enough, and I'll never understand, beyond simple name recognition, how it was as big as it was."
In his book on McCartney for the Praeger Singer-Songwriter Series, Vincent Benitez describes "My Love" as "an outstanding song highlighted by equally outstanding ensemble playing", particularly the "sublime solo" contributed by McCullough. Author Robert Rodriguez, writing in his book on the Beatles' first decade as solo artists, says that McCullough's playing redeemed a "potentially mawkish McCartney valentine" and he considers the song to be the highlight of an otherwise unsatisfactory album.
Rodriguez describes "My Love" as McCartney's "first post-Beatles evergreen" and a standard, due to its instant popularity among other recording artists. In 1976, Linda reflected that Red Rose Speedway was "such a non-confident record" made during a "terribly unsure period", yet it still contained "beautiful songs" such as "My Love". In 1986, McCartney selected it as his favourite track from the Wings era and recalled the time as "a romantic period, folks!"
"My Love" was among the songs McCartney chose for the musical program at Linda's memorial services, the first of which was held at St Martin-in-the-Fields church in London's Trafalgar Square on 8 June 1998. Arranged for strings, it was performed there by the Brodsky Quartet, and by the Loma Mar Quartet at the service held in New York soon afterwards. McCartney also included it among the Linda-inspired compositions recorded for his 1999 classical music album Working Classical, where it was again performed by the Loma Mar Quartet.
- Paul McCartney – lead vocal, Fender Rhodes electric piano
- Linda McCartney – backing vocals
- Denny Laine – bass guitar, backing vocals
- Henry McCullough – lead guitar
- Denny Seiwell – drums
By the late 1970s, "My Love" was the second most-covered song written and released by a former Beatle since the band's break-up, after Harrison's "My Sweet Lord". Tony Bennett, Nancy Wilson and Cass Elliott are among the many singers who recorded the song. Others include Johnny Gill, Cher, Brenda Lee, Margie Joseph, Salena Jones, Mina, Shinehead, Andy Williams, Warren Hill and Dottie West. There have also been three jazz instrumental versions, by Ivan "Boogaloo Joe" Jones, Pieces of a Dream (from their 1996 album The Best of Pieces of a Dream), and Michael Lington (from the 2004 album Stay with Me).
In 1974 Lincoln Mayorga included an instrumental version on his LP Lincoln Mayorga & Distinguished Colleagues – Volume III, on the esoteric audiophile label Sheffield Lab, naming the track "The Perfect Song".
An instrumental of the song can be heard during Monica and Chandler's wedding in the American sitcom Friends.
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