My Top 1000 Songs #60: Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey
Prior visitors to this site and readers of my book (Thanks! Christmas is coming! Buy a copy for a friend!) know of the importance Paul & Linda McCartney's 1971 minor pop nugget Ram has played in my life. It was the lone rock album (well, 8-track tape) my parents had when I was a kid, and it made a lasting impression on me. And this song was my favorite thing on the record.
I'll admit that the ability to delight a 5-year-old child who doesn't know the first thing about music may not be the ideal endorsement for a musical work. But I do think the song transcends my personal relationship with it.
Why? It's catchy as hell, that's why. Particularly the "hands across the water, hands across the sky" refrain in the second half of the song; tell me you can listen without singing along. I refuse to believe it. And, sure, it's silly, McCartney wading into Monty Pythonesque absurdity and silly voices; yet even on the most seemingly throwaway of tracks, Sir Paul can't resist showing off--the complex two-part suite that switches from gentle, distinctly 70s ballad to rousing power pop; the layering of Paul and Linda's voices into a wash of joyous harmony; the odd little sound effects and studio tricks that make even an early 70s lo-fi home recording sound like a thoughtfully-constructed opus; and, of course, a veritable slew of hooks throughout.
Beatles and McCartney purists may mock it as inconsequential in the vein of "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" (another one I'll gladly defend, flaws and all); but I think I would have fallen in love with it even if I'd discovered it as a jaded adult rather than a wide-eyed soon-to-be-rock-and-roll-obsessed kid desperate for a break from my parents' Carpenters records.Paul himself wouldn't play the damn thing live, but Tim Christensen's wonderful Pure McCartney project did a bang-up job (though this video appears to be a little off-sync):
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