Book Review: Paul McCartney: Recording Sessions (1969-2013) by Luca Perasi

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Essential reading for any serious Paul McCartney fan, Luca Perasi’s Paul McCartney: Recording Sessions (1969-2013) covers everything from the McCartney album (released in 1970) right through New (released in 2013). Perasi takes us from song to song, conveying tons of detailed information. The goal was to focus on factual information rather than critical analysis. While some of the author’s opinion-based commentary slips in, he makes a genuine effort to make this a reference guide above all else. Each song includes a listing of musicians involved, as well as where and when each tune was recorded.

It’s made clear in the introduction, the scope of the book is limited to songs written by McCartney that appeared on a release credited to Paul McCartney, Wings, or The Fireman (the latter being McCartney’s experimental collaboration with producer Martin Glover, aka Youth). Any song written by someone other than McCartney is not covered (though his many co-writes with various songwriters, including Denny Laine, Eric Stewart, and Elvis Costello, are included—with the exception of re-recorded Lennon/McCartney songs). As a result, much of the content of Give My Regards to Broadstreet (1984), Run Devil Run (1999), and Kisses on the Bottom (2012) is only given a brief mention.

Examining nearly 400 individual songs is ambitious enough, but what makes Recording Sessions of particular interest are quotes taken from some 70 original, exclusive interviews the author conducted with McCartney collaborators and session players. Some of these are ,prominent participants, such as engineer Tony Clark (who contributed a foreword in the form of a poem) and former Wings members Laurence Juber, Denny Seiwell, and Steve Holley. Others are far more obscure, such as Bill Wolfer, the keyboardist who plays on the Michael Jackson collaboration “Say, Say, Say,” or Stan Sulzmann, saxophonist on the U.K.-only single “Once Upon a Long Ago.”

In other words, Perasi dug deep to unearth new stories that even the hardest of hardcore McCartney fans have not likely heard. It’s a goldmine of anecdotes that all contribute to a further understanding and appreciation of McCartney’s solo career, especially the less-often discussed obscurities. Fascinating accounts emerge, such as how McCartney so admired Clare Fischer’s work with Prince that he hired Fischer to score the orchestration for the Flowers in the Dirt ballad “Distractions” (the late Fischer’s son, Brent, was interviewed by Persasi). This may sound like minutiae, and to casual fans many of the stories may be considered insignificant. But for those who crave every detail they can get their hands on, Perasi’s research yields plenty.

Perasi also draws from a wide variety of previously published interviews, always meticulously citing his sources (including, I’m proud to say, The Morton Report—my own interview with former Wings drummer Denny Seiwell is quoted a couple times). Whether culled from previously existing writings or from his personal research, Perasi organizes the information very clearly throughout the book. The basic layout takes us from year to year, with a numbered heading for each song (indexed in the back of the book for quick reference; there’s also a short bio for every person mentioned throughout). Where appropriate, Perasi also fills in the blanks by including general info about tours, live recordings, and side projects in order to provide some continuity to McCartney’s full recording career.

Perasi sought to present the McCartney songbook in strict order of recording date, with detailed credits listing who played which instrument on every song. Without having the kind of official, all-access pass that Mark Lewisohn had to the Beatles archive for The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, some of these dates and credits remain a mystery. But Perasi did the best he could, compiling the most comprehensive annotations to date. It should also be noted that this English translation (from Perasi’s native Italian) is not without some oddities in syntax. But generally speaking, it is always clear what the author is trying to communicate. While the translation could’ve probably been smoother in places, it shouldn’t be seen as a deal-breaker for anyone interested.

Paul McCartney: Recording Sessions (1969-2013) is an important work for anyone with a deep interest in the solo career of Paul McCartney. It is currently available for purchase on Amazon U.K. Follow author Luca Perasi on Twitter.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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