Coachella is always packed with surprises. Whenever a lineup is announced for the year, hardcore music junkies rush to see who the headliners are and what up and comers can be expected to play. They’re rarely let down by the interesting mix of artists that the concert’s programmers get, but this year had an especially interesting choice for a headliner: Sir Paul McCartney, ex-Beatle and celebrated songwriter.
It’s perhaps a little unusual, considering that most of the bands that appear at the festival are more from the indie rock culture. That’s not to say the Beatles, the band McCartney is obviously best known for, didn’t have their own dabbling with the counter-culture, or that their music transcends any preference for genre, but McCartney wouldn’t be a first guess. Not that anyone’s complaining concert-goers are sure to be thrilled to be seeing him Friday night.
Paul McCartney has a fascinating career, not least because of his role in the Fab Four. With that classic rock band, he earned a reputation for being an amazing songwriter, though John Lennon is largely remembered as the writer in chief for the Beatles. But as a solo artist, he distinguished himself as an exciting rock frontman with Wings and his long discography of solo work. Albums like 1971’s Ram stand out as an excellent example of his best pop-rock, while Wings, though it’s been disparaged by critics over the years, still has many dedicated fans.
But McCartney’s discography is a mite bit longer than it might appear at first glance. The talented singer and songwriter has sometimes resorted to using pseudonyms for certain albums. For example, several years after releasing Ram, he released an instrumental version of it, done completely with an orchestra. The album, titled Thrillington, was attributed to a Percy Thrillington, and to this day McCartney has not publicly acknowledged himself as the artist behind the work, though it’s generally accepted that he is in fact its creator.
McCartney has composed other interesting work under the pseudonym The Fireman, a joint project with an electronic music producer named Youth. Their first two albums were collections of ambient techno released during the ’90s, when it seemed everyone and their mother was experimenting with electronic music. Strawberries Oceans Ships Forest, their first collaboration, was issued in 1994 and totally ignored. Once rumors got around that McCartney was part of the project, interest soared but it remains a footnote. The last collaboration between the two artists was 2008’s Electric Arguments, an album filled with relaxed but exciting experimental rock, veering from anthemic songs to grittier, bluesy ones.
With all this in mind, the figure of Paul McCartney the artist is one of a daring musician unafraid to take risks, even if they’re risks taken under a different name. Still, it underscores the breadth of his talent, and these odd, forgotten records are treasures for hardcore fans to unearth.
Nothing compares with seeing the man live, of course, and you can do that by getting Paul McCartney tickets now.