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The 7” Singles Box
By John M. Borack
It’s no secret that Paul McCartney has had a hand in some of the finest, most innovative singles of the rock and roll era, both with The Beatles and during his storied solo career, which is now well into its sixth decade. One could make a strong case for bestowing the title of the Greatest Record Ever Made upon such 7-inch legends as “Paperback Writer”/”Rain,” “Penny Lane”/”Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Hey Jude”/”Revolution” or even “We Can Work it Out”/”Day Tripper.”
But Sir Paul certainly did not misplace his hit-making mojo or songwriting magic after The Beatles split in 1970; au contraire, he was churning out some of the tastiest ear candy to hit the airwaves and the charts in the ‘70s and ‘80s (with and without Wings). While singles such as “Jet,” “Band on the Run,” “Silly Love Songs,” “Junior’s Farm” and “My Brave Face” (to name but a handful) may not carry the same aura of coolness as The Beatles tunes for some, they still stand as top-drawer songs and rank as some of McCartney’s best-ever efforts released via the 45 RPM format. And while the top 10 singles chart action may have ceased (for the most part) for McCartney in the U.S. and the U.K. by the end of the ‘80s, his gift for melody and crafting catchy singles has continued unabated.
That’s one of the many reasons why the limited edition 7” Singles Box is such a treat: aside from the fact that it’s beautifully appointed (we’ll get to that in a sec), it contains an amazing cross-section of material from 1971 (the sweet character study “Another Day,” backed with the raging “Oh Woman, Oh Why”) to the present day (the Lead Belly-influenced “Women and Wives”). It’s somewhat akin to “Paul McCartney: This is Your Life,” as it contains large doses of everything that has helped to make the man one of the premier tunesmiths of our generation, all wrapped up in 80, career-spanning 7” singles. There’s Paul as pop craftsman supreme (“With a Little Luck,” “Let ‘Em In”), as the self-proclaimed “mad professor” (“Temporary Secretary”), as hopeless romantic (“No More Lonely Nights,” “Waterfalls,” “My Love”), as ace interpreter (the haunting “No Other Baby”), as stoned experimentalist (“Check My Machine,” “C Moon”), as a legendary live performer (“Maybe I’m Amazed,” “Coming Up”), and so much more.
The set is housed in a custom-made wooden crate and limited to 3,000 copies. In addition to the 80 singles — 15 of which have not previously been released in the 7” format — each box includes one exclusive test pressing randomly selected from the manufacturing process. (Our set included the “Jenny Wren”/”Summer of ‘59” single.) The majority of the singles feature hard-cover picture sleeves with restored original artwork from 11 different countries. (The “Venus and Mars/Rock Show” sleeve from Belgium is very smart looking, but the less said about the garish “My Love” sleeve from Israel, the better; the original Italian or French issues would have been much more stylish choices.)
Also included is an expertly annotated, 148-page book with an enthusiastically illuminating foreword from McCartney—where he gives a shout out to “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)” and “Ode to a Koala Bear”—and an excellent essay by Rob Sheffield, along with recording notes, and US and UK release dates and chart information on each single.
The 7” Singles Box contains 163 tracks, with more than 50 being newly remastered for this collection. The production notes state that everything has been “optimized for vinyl,” whether it is the 2022 remasters or those done for McCartney’s Archive Series releases or 2016’s Pure McCartney compilation. Among the tracks that shine particularly brightly due to the ’22 remastering are two underrated late ‘70s rockers, “Girls’ School” and “I’ve Had Enough,” along with the gorgeous London Town ballad, “I’m Carrying,” and the 1974 country weeper, “Sally G.” Alternately (and strangely), the tracks from 1979’s Back to the Egg LP sound strangely flat.
There are tons of goodies sprinkled throughout: two unreleased demos (“Dance Tonight” and “[I Want to] Come Home”); a previously unheard 7” single edit of the oddly trancey “Secret Friend”; a freshly remastered mono 45 of “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” and “Too Many People”; a previously unissued 45 with a single edit of “Love is Strange” backed with “I Am Your Singer” (which was slated to be Wings’ debut single until it was nixed in favor of the topical “Give Ireland Back to the Irish”); a previously unreleased mix of the gorgeous “Only Love Remains”; a B-side called “Walking in the Park with Eloise,” an instrumental written by Paul’s father Jim McCartney and originally released in 1974 under the moniker The Country Hams; and three singles from Flaming Pie reformatted from their original iteration as picture discs.
The hits that helped define his solo career; glorious singles that failed to attract US record buyers (the aforementioned “Only Love Remains,” “Hope of Deliverance”); sorely undervalued B-sides (“Daytime Nighttime Suffering,” “Fabulous,” “Back on My Feet”); rarities and more. It’s all here, expertly curated and nicely packaged. If you’re a Paul McCartney fan and/or collector and you can scare up a copy of The 7” Singles Box, grab it. It’s already a highly prized collectible and it’s bursting with 10 hours’ worth of wonderful music from one of the masters.