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"Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey"
Paul and Linda McCartney
Apple 1837
Aug. 1971
Billboard: #1    Lyrics Icon Videos Icon

Paul & Linda McCartneyoward the latter part of his career with the Beatles, Paul McCartney hit upon a useful songwriting method. Bits and pieces of unfinished songs were lying around that had never gelled into any unified vision. Rather than toss them off and start with something fresh, he began to compile these fragments into something that resembled a complete song. The tactic was far from new. Often he and John Lennon would combine pieces of their ideas to create a song that transcended the mundanity of the ingredients. Since McCartney and Lennon were not cooperating as much in Beatles' later years, this happened less and less frequently. One obvious example from their later period was "I've Got a Feeling" from the Let It Be sessions, which featured verses by McCartney and a bridge by Lennon. McCartney began to do the same thing using his own unfinished ideas. On the Beatles' last album, Abbey Road, the results were startling.
Released in May 1971, Ram peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 200 and remained on the charts for 37 weeks. Paul and Linda shared equal billing in the production and the couple also designed the album cover.
Not only did he come up with the musical collage that became "You Never Give Me Your Money," but he assembled the "Sun King" medley by combining bits and pieces from his own and Lennon's backlog. Rather than sounding like a collection of half-baked, unfinished compositions, the fragments blend to imply a connection that otherwise simply didn't exist. Tiny snippets became a broad, interpretable vision, and the Beatles once again were perceived as geniuses.

"Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" is a similar, although much more trite, pastiche. On Abbey Road, McCartney had Lennon to add a touch of vinegar to the mix. Left to his own devices, he produces pointlessly meandering lyrics and a character who seems to be extracted from a Popeye cartoon. The obvious lack of relation between song fragments is anything but boring, though. The atmosphere and production techniques change so rapidly that the song holds your interest while McCartney's impeccable melodic sense pulls us in further.

After the "do it yourself in the bathroom with one microphone" approach of his first solo album the rich structure of "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" seemed huge. To record it, he returned to a proper recording studio and used top-notch session players throughout. The sessions resulted in Ram, his now classic and, in retrospect, probably best solo effort. At the time, it appeared to be nothing more than an almost passable approximation of his ability as a solo performer. He seemed to be coasting, waiting for the right moment to release his grandiose statement. It never came. Critics were merciless and definitely overly critical of Ram and the single "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey." They never could have dreamed that it was probably the best album and single that McCartney would ever make. Not until "Band on the Run" would he receive even a modicum of respect. Twenty years later, he still hasn't been able to do much better.

- Thomas Ryan, American Hit Radio, Prima Entertainment, 1996.

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