Sticking Out Of My Back Pocket: ‘Dear Boy’
For this week’s ‘Sticking Out Of My Back Pocket’ we're heading to the RAM album for the track ‘Dear Boy’.
Now way back when, one of our favourite subjects at school was Music. Along with its history and making as much noise as possible in the practice rooms, we also got to learn about counterpoint. If you’re unfamiliar with counterpoint, it’s where you have different instruments voicing independent melodies all at the same time. Although it’s often associated with music from the Baroque period, counterpoint has been popular from Bach to Mozart, through to modern day film composers like John Williams (check out the brass in the opening bars of the ‘Star Wars’ theme for a triumphant example!). Counterpoint is also a difficult thing to pull off without the music sounding muddled, or messy.
If you’d like to hear a perfect example of counterpoint in pop music, all you need do is listen to Paul and Linda’s ‘Dear Boy’. In just over two minutes they weave together numerous tracks of vocals with a spellbinding effect.
Recorded at Sound Recorders Studio in Los Angeles for the 1971 album, ‘Dear Boy’ tips its cap to the style of music that Paul characterised as, “That sort of English, posh music hall”. In the liner notes for the album’s 2012 reissue, Paul described the song: "Originally the thought behind [it] was that Linda’s ex-husband – a very nice guy called Mel – I kinda felt like he had missed Linda – he’d not seen in her what I had seen in her – and so the song was really written to him. You know, ‘You’ll never know what you missed, dear boy’."
RAM is the only album credited to both Paul and Linda and it’s on tracks like ‘Dear Boy’ where Linda’s input really shines through. Here’s Paul talking about Linda’s vocals,
"What I liked about Linda’s singing was the tone of her voice – I’d never worked singing with a woman before, so I liked this idea of her range. I first found out she could sing and could sing well in the studio when we were finishing off my track ‘Let It Be’ with The Beatles. She and I were living near the studios and I went in one night to put some harmonies on it, and there was one high harmony I wanted to do, but it was just about out of my range. I said, 'Do you want to try it?' and I told her the line, and she tried it. It worked really well, you know. If you listen to it now – the high harmony on The Beatles’ ‘Let It Be’ – that’s Linda doing it. So I knew it could work.
"On something like ‘Dear Boy’, which was more complex – on ‘Let It Be’ it was basically one high note – on this there were more melodic lines so it was quite complex to do, but I could see that she could do it. So we just took the time. I put my part on, and then encouraged Linda to just take it easy, relax, put a good performance in, which she did. And years later, some of my really cool, professional friends who knew what was good and what wasn’t, would listen to those harmonies and point them out and say, ‘Those are really great harmonies’. I remember Elton John commenting on that, and I remember Michael Jackson commenting on that."
The recording of ‘Dear Boy' was also augmented by Denny Seiwell who contributed drums. Check out the full track below:
Pure McCartney will be available on 2CD, 4CD, 4LP and Digital, and is available to pre-order now from the links below: