In addition to penning the soundtrack for a generation, it’s sometimes overlooked that Sir Paul McCartney is one of the most gifted multi-instrumentalists of all time. The man plays more things than you can believe, sometimes all on the same song. He’s a venerable one man band! And he’s never shy about spreading the love, quietly guesting on a number of songs large and small over the years. He just loves to play! So in honor of today being the musical genius’ 72nd birthday, we’ve decided to take a look back at 10 songs that feature a secret dose of Beatle. Read on for some obscure songs you probably never realize Macca had a hand in recording!
“Caroline In My Mind” by James Taylor (1968)
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When a young J.T. signed to the Beatles’ Apple Records, many of the Fabs took an active interest in recording his first album. Both Paul and an uncredited George Harrison performed backing vocals on the original version of this ode to Carolina, with Macca also adding the bass guitar track. Another title on the album was “Something In The Way She Moves,” which George later borrowed for the opening lyrics to his stately single, “Something.”
“Night Owl” by Carly Simon (1972)
Several years after working on Taylor’s debut album, McCartney later worked with his then-wife Carly Simon. Paul, wife Linda, Doris Troy and Bonnie Bramlett of Delaney & Bonnie all provided backing vocals for her version of this song, originally written and recorded by husband James.
“You’re Sixteen” by Ringo Starr (1973)
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Paul is just one of several famous guests who helped his old bandmate record this Johnny Burnette number. That’s Harry Nilsson on backing vocals, session giant Nicky Hopkins on piano, as well as McCartney on the razzmatazz kazoo solo.
“Vegetables” by The Beach Boys (1967)
McCartney was visiting Los Angeles when his musical hero/rival Brian Wilson was working on his epic SMiLE project, which featured America’s band using their trademark harmonies to sing the praises of veggies. In the humor-filled, avate-garde spirit of the project, the So-Cal virtuoso famously called upon the Beatle to munch celery in time to the music! Years later, as the most famous vegetarian in the world, he reprised his celery muching part in 2002 for Super Fury Animals’ very Beach Boy-like “Receptacale For The Respectable.”
“My Dark Hour” by The Steve Miller Band (1970)
According the legend, this collaboration took place after a mixing session for the Beatles’ Abbey Road came to an abrupt halt following a business squabble. “Steve Miller happened to be around: ‘Hi, how you doing? Is the studio free?,'” Paul described later for The Beatles Anthology. “I said: ‘Well, it looks like it is now, mate.’ He said, ‘Mind if I use it?’ So I ended up drumming on a track of his that night. He and I made it alone. I had to do something, thrash something, to get it out of my system.” Paul not only plays the drums, but also bass and backing vocals on the track, which Steve would later reuse for his monster hit, “Fly Like An Eagle.”
“We Love You” by The Rolling Stones (1967)
Contrary to press reports of a “rivalry,” the Beatles and the Stones were very close friends and were often guests at each other’s recording sessions. John Lennon and Paul stopped by this session in June ’67, when Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were recording this song as a sign of gratitude to their fans for supporting them during their recent drug bust and jail charges. A few weeks later the Stones returned the favor, appearing in the Beatles’ live telecast for “All You Need Is Love.”
“Rock Of All Ages” by Badfinger (1969)
Originally known as The Ivey’s, this Welsh group became the most successful act signed to the Beatles’ Apple Records. Of course, this was helped in no small part by the fact that Paul McCartney wrote and produced their first major single, “Come And Get It.” He also produced song of their tracks for the soundtrack to The Magic Christian film starring Ringo Starr! This song is a band original, but features McCartney serving up song rollicking piano. The Beatle connection led them to become unfairly labeled the Faux Four, but their talent was the real deal.
“Goodbye” by Mary Hopkin (1969)
Like James Taylor and Badfinger, Mary Hopkin was another artist signed to the Beatles’ fledgling Apple Records talent stable in the late ’60s. The lovely folk singer was closely overseen by Paul, who selected and produced her first hit, the mournful waltz “Those Were The Days.” Paul penned the follow-up himself, offering up this jolly farewell song and playing the bass, drums and acoustic guitar parts himself.
“Veronica” by Elvis Costello (1989)
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Paul co-wrote and played his trademark Hofner violin bass on this bouncy ’80s hit with fellow Liverpudlian Elvis Costello. With Costello’s nasal delivery and dry lyrical wit, McCartney later admitted that it reminded him of writing alongside John Lennon.
“Mellow Yellow” by Donovan (1966)
For years it has been rumored that Paul whispered the song’s distinctive “quite rightly” answering line on the chorus. Donovan claims this isn’t so, but he is indeed close friends with McCartney, who can indeed by heard cheering in the background during the trumpet solo. He also plays bass elsewhere on the accompanying Mellow Yellow album.
[Photo: Getty Images]