The Brit List: Five Alternative Sources Of Paul McCartney

“I’m a little teapot, short and stout…” Sir Paul McCartney at the London Games (Press Association via AP Images)

Let’s face facts, Sir Paul McCartney – national treasure that he is, global unificator, former Beatle, former Wing, and generally energetic and breezy presence at the rock ‘n’ roll tea party – is not going to last forever. We all saw him at the opening ceremony of the London Games on Friday, somewhat hoarse of throat and clearly superfluous to demands, through no fault of his own (no matter who you are, when you’re booked to appear at the end of a four-and-a-half-hour long event, and you’re on AFTER the fireworks and AFTER they’ve lit a big torch, you’re going to struggle to meet the emotional needs of your audience). And the sight of him bashing through “Hey Jude” again, just as he does at so many of these sort of events, raised an important question:

What are we going to do when the Paul McCartney runs out?

This is no idle speculation. Reserves of Paul McCartney are finite and they’re being squandered at a heck of a rate at the moment. If he’s not putting together classic works, or playing his old hits to millions, or jamming out “I Saw Her Standing There” with anyone that will have him, he’s paying tribute to the Great American Songbook (complete with saucy title and a song that’s arguably better than any of his chosen covers). In contrast, Coldplay have released four albums in twelve years, and toured them. And there’s FOUR of them.

So we’re going to need to be ready for the inevitable day when global supplies of Macca begin to fail. He has become such a ubiquitous part of our everyday lives that it is doubtful one person, or group, can meet all of our needs, but at least if we plan ahead, have our alternatives in place, we can try and prevent a global shortage.

Here are a few of what we’re calling Paulternatives, and the services they provide:

1: Sir Elton John – World Ambassador

To put it bluntly, there are very few musicians who can close a big show like Macca. Now that almost all of the enormorock bands of the ’60s and ’70s have been put back together at least once, the thrill of seeing a still-popular musical legend in the flesh is becoming harder and harder to attain, and there are fewer and fewer heritage acts that have the authority to match the occasion. You couldn’t wheel out Paul Weller or Morrissey or Elvis Costello or Blur or Mumford and Sons and expect to get a nation unified in song at the climax of the Queen’s next Jubilee, but Sir Elton can do it. He might not have the same inclusive personal charm as Sir Paul, he may sometimes carry the facial expression of a disappointed gonk, but you can’t deny he’s the right man for the job.

2: Elbow – National Anthem Delivery

Once “Hey Jude” has lapsed into musical radioactive half-life, we’re going to need to isolate the stadium isotopes necessary to replace it as a source of event fuel. That’s when we’ll need to bring in Professor Guy Garvey and the boys from the Elbow laboratory in Bury. They’ve spent the past 20 years perfecting the procedure for anthemic fusion, the application of which can power an auditorium full of people for several hours, until they get home and go to bed, all warm and glowing. With an uncertain, Beatle-less future ahead of us, their work is a source of comfort and no small delight.

3: Adele – Musical Purchase Catalyst

Whether you like them or not, you can’t deny Sir Paul has had the hits. He’s written some of the most popular songs in history, and even now, the Beatles can be relied upon to cause a surge towards CD stores and iTunes whenever a newly reswizzled arrangement of their songs is made available. Adele is currently in a very similar position, having only recorded two albums. This means she’s not only close to attaining that show-closing popularity of Sirs Paul or Elton, but she’s got time to whack out a few more belters before her audience becomes bored and starts cat-calling for the hits. If anyone can continue to remind hard-working families that music is a vital part of our existence, it’s her.

4: Euros Childs – Head of Melodic Delight

In a parallel universe, people are talking about Euros Childs and his former band Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci in the same way we talk about the Beatles over here. He formed the band at school, just like they did. He hit upon a uniquely effective seam of plangent melody to draw his songs from, just like they did. He proceeded to cram Gorky’s albums with odd noises from unfamiliar instruments from non-rock cultures (the crumhorn and balalaika, rather than the sitar), as well as childlike singalongs and gadabout silliness, just like they did. And then he went on to forge a solo career in which he refined his balladeering (always a strong point), made a supergroup (he formed the band Jonny with Norman Blake from Teenage Fanclub) and made experimental tunes with synthesizers too. Whatever Sir Paul has, Euros has it too, it’s just you don’t hear quite so much about it.

And that’s a key point for anyone carping about why there’s always such a fuss about the Beatles. In actuality the fuss often gets in the way of the life of the songs. This song here? That’s just Euros Childs’ latest single. It can’t hope to battle the legendary status of anything off “The White Album” and it doesn’t try to, but it’s just as good in its own way.

5: Dave Grohl – Diplomatic Relations Supervisor

Some jobs are too important to be left within the purview of one nation alone. If there’s one single aspect of McCartney that will be hardest to replicate in non-laboratory conditions, it’s his abundant likeability. So while Dave may not be British, and therefore unable to take part in any future Olympic-type events in London, he is a perfect ambassador for rock music and its welcoming, healing qualities. He has the ability to fit in with most musical situations, being as dab a hand on drums and guitar as Sir Paul is on bass, guitar and piano, and is profoundly approachable. That he no longer gets on with the widow of his former bandmate is just coincidental, let’s not read too much into it.

What other sources of Paul McCartney should we also consider? Tell us here:

Fraser McAlpine

Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 13 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Music.

He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.

Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic

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