paul mccartney Rock Flashback: Silly Love Songs

Paul McCartney. His head, anyhow. (Getty Images/Mark Wilson)

Earlier this week we wrote about “Ebony and Ivory,” the 1982 [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Paul McCartney[/lastfm]/[lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Stevie Wonder[/lastfm] duet. At the time of its release, it was a love-it-or-hate-it record — very few people were neutral about it. But “Ebony and Ivory” wasn’t the first love-it-or-hate-it record of McCartney’s solo career. Six years earlier, there was another one.

McCartney recorded “Silly Love Songs” during the early 1976 sessions that preceded the Wings Over America tour. It hit the radio in late March and swiftly climbed the American charts, hitting #1 in some cities by early May, and on the Hot 100 for the week of May 22, 1976. Surprisingly, however, it stayed there for only a week at first. It had ascended the chart in tandem with “Love Hangover” by [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Diana Ross[/lastfm], and that song’s momentum carried it to the top for the weeks of May 29 and June 5, knocking “Silly Love Songs” to #2. But on June 12, “Silly Love Songs” reclaimed the top spot and stayed there for four weeks in a row. Its ride at the top would be the second-longest of any single in 1976, behind [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Rod Stewart[/lastfm]’s “Tonight’s the Night.”

So it’s pretty clear that a lot of people liked “Silly Love Songs,” and why not? It’s a hook monster, with those horns and that mighty Macca bass line. Many other people did not like it, though. How is it possible, they wondered, for a man responsible for writing some of the greatest music in the canon of Western civilization to produce cotton candy like this? If the criticism stung McCartney in private, in public he didn’t seem to mind. The song was its own argument: If people want to fill the world with silly love songs, what’s wrong with that? It’s as if he were saying that not  everything can be Revolver. Some things have to be “Silly Love Songs.”

Here’s the band performing the song on the Wings Over America tour in 1976.

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