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A rock nyc Christmas Playlist # 14 – Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime” Reviewed

If you have finished with #15 (here), here is something nothing if not controversial in its lack on controversy, Paul McCartney and Wings much loathed and emasculated “Wonderful Christmastime”. I, myself, considered it an awful song, a coupla ding dongs with generic (read terrible) lyric. Released in November 1979, it seemed as though Paulie was falling apart.

Fast forward forty years and one thing is clear, it is a very well written song, not unlike “Silly Love Song,” the twee lyric gets in the way of the song itself, with that five note piano hook and the sailing with ease between verse, chorus, and bridge. Recorded circa McCartney II, Paul played all the instrument (though that is Linda on background vocals) and in August of 1979 filmed the video at Fountain Inn in West Sussex, a beautiful pub and you can almost smell the stale beer and Christmas cheer though the snow is faked…

So forty years later the sound has improved, and 40 years later the lyric has improved: in its straight up simplicity and catchy (but annoying) three major hooks, it seems to be coming from an essentially lost and gone place -particularly seeing Paul and Linda as this rich, cool, married couple, it is touching.

In 1979 it was another bad Christmas song, in 2020 it is a bright light on past Christmases, it is a place from there that is happening now. All the post-DIckens, post 1820s, Xmas revisionism comes together as a branded article in McCartney’s song, the point is his drilling into the essence of modern day Christmas. In McCartney’s world Christmas takes a form that fits into his bonhomie, thumbs up, with a little luck persona in 1979. While New Wave and post punk tour through the country, Paul retracted into form (and money, huge bucks in perennials, according to Wikipedia he pockets $40K annually from the song).

I have left out comparisons with the Lennon song (which will be reviewed at a later date), and instead compare it to both “Silly Love Songs” and “Live And Let Die” -both of which take a generic form, and excels at it, the former marred by naff lyric and the latter a triumph of 007 meets McCartney. What Paul is attempting is a song that is a resemblance of the moment for as many people as possible, it is objective beyond belief, it is so objective that in feels fake. But fake in a song and words that wants to unmoor itself from 1979 and sail into many futures. But that isn’t what happened, instead it became much more subjective, it became a part of Christmases past that Macca can’t return to and that provides it with a heart it hadn’t had before. McCartney’s objective pop form is given heart through the passing of time

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