12 of the greatest Paul McCartney songs

18 June 2019, 12:01

Paul McCartney

Sir Paul McCartney will forever be one of the world's most successful and best loved musicians.

He has been a prolific songwriter and performer ever since his teenage days in the Quarrymen in the late 1950s, and shows no signs of slowing down.

We've picked our very favourite Paul McCartney songs (not including his work with The Beatles otherwise we'll be here all day, or Christmas tunes) to make for a perfect Macca setlist...

1. 'Maybe I'm Amazed'

McCartney dedicated this song to his wife Linda, who had helped him get through the break-up of the Beatles. Despite it being one of his best known solo songs, he never actually released it as a single.

During his guest appearance in The Simpsons, McCartney says to Lisa and Apu “If you play ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ backwards, you’ll find a recipe for a ripping lentil soup”, which can be heard in the background when the song is played during the closing credits.

2. 'Live and Let Die' (with Wings)

Commissioned specifically for James Bond movie Live and Let Die, it reunited McCartney with Beatles producer, George Martin, who both produced the song and arranged the orchestral break.

McCartney said of tackling the song: “It was a job of work for me in a way because writing a song around a title like that’s not the easiest thing going.” Guns N’ Roses released a popular cover version in 1991.

3. 'Junk'

This song was written by McCartney in 1968 while The Beatles were in India, and was originally under consideration for The Beatles album. It was passed over for that LP, as it was for Abbey Road.

He eventually included it on his debut solo album in 1970. The song’s working title was ‘Jubilee’, and also known as ‘Junk in the Yard’. The album also includes an instrumental version titled ‘Singalong Junk’, used in the movie Jerry Maguire

4. 'Band on the Run' (with Wings)

This song was partly inspired by a comment George Harrison had made (“if we ever get out of here”) during a meeting of the Beatles’ Apple record label. Its creation coincided with Harrison, John Lennon and Ringo Starr having parted with manager Allen Klein in March 1973, leading to improved relations between McCartney and his fellow ex-Beatles.

McCartney later said of the song: “It’s a million things all put together. Band on the run – escaping, freedom, criminals. You name it, it’s there.” 

5. 'This Never Happened Before'

McCartney released this song as a promo single from his thirteenth studio album Chaos and Creation in the Backyard. McCartney said that the track was “a straight love song and, you know, I’m a lover not a fighter as they say. I think that’s such an important thing in the world”.

He gave the song to his masseuse as a gift after she heard a demo, and she gave the song its first official play as the first dance to her wedding shorly after. Though, she had to give it back to him to avoid it being bootlegged. The song was used in the 2006 movie The Lake House, in a scene where Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock’s characters enjoy a slow dance to it while attending her birthday party.

6. 'Silly Love Songs' (with Wings)

This track was written as a response to music critics who had criticised McCartney for writing lightweight love songs. 

He later said: "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 who 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!'".

7. 'Say Say Say' (with Michael Jackson)

Produced by Beatles collaborator George Martin, this song was actually recorded before 'The Girl Is Mine' on Jackson's Thriller album, but was released a year later.

Michael stayed at the home of Paul and his wife Linda during the recording sessions, and became friends with both. While there, Paul apparently showed Michael a booklet that showed all the songs that he owned publishing rights for. "This is the way to make big money", he told Michael. "Every time someone records one of these songs, I get paid. Every time someone plays these songs on the radio, or in live performances, I get paid." Whoops.

8. 'My Valentine'

This was one of two original songs featured on Paul McCartney’s mostly-jazz covers album in 2012. It was first written back in 1983, but it remained unreleased until this new arrangement.

Eric Clapton plays guitar on the song, while actors Johnny Depp and Natalie Portman appeared in its music video, performing the lyrics via sign language.

9. 'Little Willow'

This song was written for the children of former Beatles bandmate Ringo Starr’s first wife, Maureen Starkey Tigrett, who had recently died of cancer.

McCartney sporadically recorded the song's album Flaming Pie in a space of two years, working with Jeff Lynne, Steve Miller, George Martin, Ringo Starr and his own son, James McCartney. 

10. 'Every Night'

McCartney first introduced this song to The Beatles in 1969, but it wasn't included on one of their albums at the time.

Recorded for his debut album a year later, the song's lyrics reflect the difficult situation he was dealing with at the time in relation to the imminent breakup of the band, but also looked on in hope for the future.

11. 'Waterfalls'

This relaxing song featured on McCartney's 1980 album McCartney II, and reached number 9 in the UK charts.

TLC's 1995 anthem 'Waterfalls' unofficially shares elements of the song, including the opening line. McCartney later said: "In fact, somebody had a hit, a few years ago, using the first line...then they go off into another song. It's like, 'Excuse me?'".

12. 'Mull of Kintyre' (with Wings)

The Christmas number one of 1977 was written in tribute to the picturesque Kintyre peninsula in Scotland and its headland, the Mull of Kintyre, where Paul McCartney has owned High Park Farm since 1966.

At the time, it was the UK’s best-selling single ever. He said of the song: “I certainly loved Scotland enough, so I came up with a song about where we were living. It was a love song really, about how I enjoyed being there and imagining I was travelling away and wanting to get back there.”