Greatest Un-Hits: Paul McCartney’s “Young Boy” (1997)

Written by Greatest Un-Hits, Music

The Beatles are kind of always in the not-distant background, as they are the goddamn Beatles. But every five years or so, there’s a major resurgence in Beatles interest, popularity, and nostalgia. It generally revolves around a new reissue (the 1 collection), reworking (Let It Be…Naked), documentary (George Harrison: Living in the Material World), or tangential player (the brief popularity of Julian Lennon). But the biggest Beatles surge in recent memory has to be ABC’s Beatles Anthology documentary series, and the accompanying set of three double-disc Anthology albums of rare Beatles cuts, demos, and early stuff. All three albums hit #1. The documentary topped the ratings. The thing was parodied on The Dana Carvey Show. 

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But the most exciting thing about this Beatles rehash, unlike all the other Beatles rehashes, was that it actually contained real, actual, new Beatles music. Using very (very) rough unfinished John Lennon solo demos, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and the other one, Robert something, convened and recorded full instrumental and backing vocal tracks and released “Free As a Bird,” and “Real Love.” Critical reception was lukewarm, but, hey new Beatles songs, and they charted at #5 and #10, respectively.
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About a year and a half later, in spring 1997 Paul McCartney released his latest album, Flaming Pie, his first in four years. The leadoff single: “Young Boy.” a straightforward, mainstream rock song with a pop sensibility, the kind Paul McCartney basically invented and perfected over and over and over again. (Ironically, it sounds like a song by ELO, the world’s most famous Beatles fans.) It was a true comeback, as McCartney had been on a four-year break and also because it was good. (His last hit single: 1989’s “My Brave Face,” co-written with Elvis Costello, which reached #25.) The Anthology resurgence definitely fueled McCartney here, but didn’t fuel a large enough group of people to give McCartney a well-timed pop chart comeback. “Young Boy” didn’t chart in the U.S.

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