It’s commonly accepted with any innovation in popular music that The Beatles did it first – from surreal music videos to nasty break-ups – but bedroom pop? Surely the most successful songwriters of all time didn’t pioneer the current trend for locked-down musicians experimenting under their duvets?
Yet it is so. Check out Paul McCartney’s debut solo album, released a month before The Beatles bid a final farewell with Let It Be in 1970, and simply called McCartney. The hallmarks are all there: one man playing every instrument, short songs and a sketched, lo-fi feel. It’s music with no expectations, and charming as a result.
He did it again on McCartney II a decade later, this time messing around with electronics to come up with one of his weirdest songs: the unexpected future dancefloor favourite Temporary Secretary. The common element was time on his hands on his own, in 1970 after the Beatles split and in 1980 while Wings were breaking up.
Forty years later, aged 78, with a world tour including a Glastonbury headline slot in the bin, he’s at a loose end again. Finally completing his trilogy with McCartney III, fans could be expecting something stranger than they actually get thanks to the associations of that title. The songs here are finely crafted, that effortless way with melody front and centre, and aside from permitting himself to get locked into a lengthy groove on the eight-minute Deep Deep Feeling, he never pushes too hard at the traditional stylings of classic pop songwriting.
He plays everything again, layering his own voice over the pipes and metallic guitar of Long Tailed Winter Bird. The mountainous riffing on Slidin’ sounds a long way from the scratchy quality of typical home recordings, but no one would expect the McCartney of today – neck and neck with Andrew Lloyd-Webber as wealthiest musician on the Sunday Times Rich List – to be shifting the clothes horse so he can harness the unique echo effects of the airing cupboard.
Yet even with such a rich, full sound, the overall feel is relaxed, freewheeling and fun. He won’t care if we laugh at his lyrics, which mention dinosaurs and Santa Claus on the warmhearted, optimistic Seize the Day, and find a relative for Polythene Pam and Lovely Rita, meter maid, on the basic blues rock of Lavatory Lil. He’s having fun knocking around the house, free from any pressure for these songs to unite an arena, and at his most appealing.