Tuesday, May 21, 2013

"Coming Up" Live

Wings Performing "Coming Up" Live

Coming Up paulmccartney.filminspector.com

Coming Up paulmccartney.filminspector.com

"Coming Up" was a transitional song and can be confusing to explain. "Coming Up" was a Paul McCartney track on McCartney II, not a Wings song, and McCartney II was a solo project (though Wings was still technically in existence). However, somewhat confusingly, the most popular rendition of "Coming Up" was by Wings during a concert in Glasgow. The single had a studio performance on one side and the live performance by the group at Glasgow on the other, and the intent was for the studio version to be the "A" side everywhere. However, the live version was preferred by US DJs of the day, and so the Wings version took the single to No. 1 in the United States - only credited to Paul McCartney, not Wings.

Coming Up paulmccartney.filminspector.com
Paul spoofed his own Moptop image in the music video.

So, basically, Paul used his band Wings as a backing band with him as a solo artist frontman - overlooking the fact that Wings with McCartney also was considered by many to be just his backing band. It's all kind of weird but makes sense when they parcel out the money. Incidentally, the whole point of McCartney II was for Paul to not use Wings, so for the most popular version of the song to feature Wings must have been somewhat ironic and perhaps even discouraging to Paul. Just to clarify, the live version hit No. 1 in the United States and Canada, while the studio version hit No. 2 in Great Britain. But even that is not completely accurate, as we'll get to below.

Coming Up paulmccartney.filminspector.com

There was a third version of "Coming Up" that was not the studio version nor the Glasgow performance that became the radio hit. This "Concert for Kampuchea" version is more like the album version, sort of midway between the album and the raucous Glasgow version. All are nice versions. The Concert for Kampuchea version is quite nice, with the full Wings lineup along with a full horn section but minus the outdoor-stadium vibe. As Paul explains about the song:
I originally cut it on my farm in Scotland. I went into the studio each day and just started with a drum track. Then I built it up bit by bit without any idea of how the song was going to turn out. After laying down the drum track, I added guitars and bass, building up the backing track. 
Then I thought, 'Well, OK, what am I going to do for the voice?' I was working with a vari-speed machine with which you can speed up your voice, or take it down a little bit. That's how the voice sound came about.
John Lennon heard the song - he couldn't avoid it if he was listening to the radio in 1980 - and his desire to match or top it became one of the reasons for his own return to the recording studio. Those sessions turned into Lennon's "Double Fantasy" as well as much of his posthumously released work.

Coming Up paulmccartney.filminspector.com
Deadpan keyboard players were a "thing" in the late 1970s.

The "Concert for Kampuchea" version is a very clean take, Paul knows how to make the sound come out just right. I'm sure I don't have to tell you how extremely difficult it is to get a live performance to sound this similar to the album version. It is so close that when Paul varies his phrasing just slightly, you really notice it (if you are familiar with the original, of course).

Coming Up paulmccartney.filminspector.com
The studio version on "McCartney II" did not fare as well as the live version with Wings.

Incidentally, Linda McCartney adds a high-pitched chorus refrain that may be her biggest contribution in the history of Wings (and Paul's solo career). Very unique sound, never duplicated or copied. Very tight band overall, I must say. The music video is notorious in its own right, with McCartney obviously tweaking Lennon by calling his "group" "The Plastic Macs," a take-off on the name of Lennon's "Plastic Ono Band" group of the early 1970s. In essence, Paul imitates various iconic and not-so-iconic figures of rock, including a couple of generic rock figures that apparently weren't based on anyone in particular (or so Paul claims).

Coming Up paulmccartney.filminspector.com
The music video for "Coming Up" featured Paul performing his studio version - which was not the popular version.

Pretty much everything about "Coming Up" leads to more questions. Paul apparently didn't want the live Wings version to be used in the States - after all, this was a solo project, not a Wings project - but his US record label knew better. It turned out that Columbia Records indeed knew its business since it is difficult to see the studio version hitting No. 1 like the Wings live version did (in fact, if not technically). Despite the live version receiving the most airplay, Billboard Magazine, which decides these things, gave credit to the studio version rather than the live version (though it switched that decision midway through the single's chart run, causing more confusion). Thus, what might have been the final Wings triumph turned into (technically, at least) Paul's first solo No. 1 since the early 1970s. Or, looked at another way, "Coming Up" was both the last Wings hit and the first solo Paul McCartney hit since... before Wings.

Paul performed "Coming Up" on the marquee of the Ed Sullivan Theater for the David Letterman Show. Notice how he works a little bit of the "Peter Gunn Theme" into it. The song begins at 14:55.


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