On This Day in 1970: Paul McCartney Became First Beatle to Score a No. 1 Solo Album with ‘McCartney’

On May 23, 1970, Paul McCartney’s debut solo album, McCartney, ascended to the top of the Billboard 200 chart. The previous month, McCartney issued a press release announcing the album in the form of a Q&A he put together featuring comments perceived by fans and the press that confirmed The Beatles had broken up.

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In fact, John Lennon had informed his bandmates in September 1969 that he was leaving the group, but had agreed to keep quiet about it for business reasons. McCartney’s press release featured a comment saying he had no future plans to work with the other Beatles.

[RELATED: On This Day: Paul McCartney Enjoyed His Sixth No. 1 Hit on the Hot 100 with the Wings Tune “With a Little Luck”]

The declaration angered his bandmates. So did his decision to release his solo album on April 17, 1970, right around the time The Beatles’ Let It Be album and film were scheduled to arrive.

McCartney took over the top spot of the Billboard 200 from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s Déjà Vu. After spending three weeks at No. 1, McCartney’s album was bumped from the top of the chart by his old band’s final studio effort, Let It Be.

About the Making of McCartney

McCartney was a solo album in the truest sense. Paul wrote, sang, and played every instrument on every track, assisted by his wife, Linda, on backing vocals. The project was a lo-fi affair; McCartney recorded much of the album at home using a Studer four-track tape machine. The album features Paul on acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, drums, piano, organ, percussion, Mellotron, and sound effects.

No singles were released from McCartney, although the album does feature the classic love ballad “Maybe I’m Amazed.” A live version of “Maybe I’m Amazed,” from the 1976 Wings over America album, reached No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Other standout tracks on McCartney include “Junk,” “Teddy Boy,” “Every Night,” and “Man We Was Lonely.” Paul wrote “Junk” and “Teddy Boy” during The Beatles’ visit to Rishikesh, India, in 1968. He subsequently recorded those tunes with the group, but they didn’t make it onto a Beatles album.

In addition to the raw production, McCartney included a number of partial tunes, and a few instrumentals.

Album Art

McCartney’s front cover features a bowl of red liquid on a shelf or board and surrounded by loose cherries. The back cover features an iconic photo taken by Linda at the couple’s farm in Scotland. In the pic, a bearded McCartney is shown with their baby daughter, Mary, tucked inside a fur-lined leather jacket Paul is wearing.

McCartney Wasn’t Initially Embraced by Critics

The album initially was poorly received, with critics complaining about the inclusion of throwaway tracks, subpar production, and the light nature of much of the material. The perception that McCartney was responsible for The Beatles’ breakup also may have played a role in the negative feelings about the record.

In the ensuing years, McCartney has been reassessed by many fans and critics, and some consider the album an early example of lo-fi indie rock.

Commercial Success

Despite lacking hit singles and the initial negative reviews, McCartney went on to sell more than 2 million copies in the U.S., making it Paul’s second-best-selling solo album after the three-times-platinum Band on the Run.

McCartney Track List:

Side One

  1. “The Lovely Linda”
  2. “That Would Be Something”
  3. “Valentine Day”
  4. “Every Night”
  5. “Hot as Sun/Glasses”
  6. “Junk”
  7. “Man We Was Lonely”

Side Two

  1. “Oo You”
  2. “Momma Miss America”
  3. “Teddy Boy”
  4. “Singalong Junk”
  5. “Maybe I’m Amazed”
  6. “Kreen-Akrore”

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