It’s been 50 years since Paul McCartney released his self-titled solo debut, McCartney. Then, after wrapping up his first decade with Wings, McCartney returned with the more sonic McCartney II in 1980. Following the structure of I and II, of creating a piece of work that was predominantly a one-man solo project, McCartney took advantage of the recent lockdown, which he affectionately dubs “Rockdown,” to craft McCartney III, out Dec. 11.
Staying true to the structure of his McCartney releases, Paul wrote every song, played each instrument, recorded and produced McCartney III in its entirety.
During this year’s self quarantine, McCartney found himself sifting through fragments of songs and writing new ones and everything pieced together after he found an unreleased track from the early ’90s, “When Winter Comes,” which was co-produced by George Martin. Deconstructing the track and expanding it, McCartney wrote opener “Long Tailed Winter Bird” with “When Winter Comes” (and added intro “Winter Bird”) closing the album, bookending III, and paying homage to Martin.
Recorded live at his Sussex home, McCartney III is a collection of stripped back tracks with Paul on vocals, guitar, and piano with his overdubbed bass playing and drumming. Many of the instruments used on the album are also musical snapshots into McCartney’s albums with gear used from 1971 Wings sessions and pieces from Paul’s vintage collection, including his own iconic Hofner violin bass, a mellotron from Abbey Road Studios, which was used on Beatles recordings, and a double bass used by Bill Black of Elvis Presley’s original trio.
Also in keeping with the artistic concept of McCartney I and II, which featured photography from his later wife Linda, daughter Mary McCartney took the photo reins on III, with additional photos by nephew Sonny McCartney and some taken directly by Paul on his phone.
“I was living lockdown life on my farm with my family and I would go to my studio every day,” says McCartney of III. “I had to do a little bit of work on some film music and that turned into the opening track and then when it was done I thought what will I do next? I had some stuff I’d worked on over the years but sometimes time would run out and it would be left half-finished so I started thinking about what I had.”
McCartney adds, “Each day I’d start recording with the instrument I wrote the song on and then gradually layer it all up. It was a lot of fun. It was about making music for yourself rather than making music that has to do a job. So, I just did stuff I fancied doing. I had no idea this would end up as an album.”