Under The Radar: Paul McCartney-Press to Play (1986)
Updated: Mar 25
Paul McCartney: vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar, piano, synth bass, keyboards, spinet, wine glass, drums Linda McCartney: vocals Eric Stewart: vocals, guitar, harpsichord, keyboards Carlos Alomar,
Pete Townshend: guitar Eddie Rayner: guitar, keyboards, synth bass Nick Glennie-Smith: keyboards Jerry Marotta: drums, marimba, vibraphone, percussion Phil Collins: drums Gavyn Wright: violin Dick Morrisey: saxophone, flute Gary Barnacle, John Bradbury, Lennie Pickett: saxophone Ruby James, Kate Robbins: vocals James McCartney, Steve Jackson, Matt Howe, John Hammel, Eddie Klein: spoken word
1. Stranglehold 2.Good Times Coming/Feel The Sun
3.Talk More Talk 4. Footprints
5.Only Love Remains 6.Press
7.Pretty Little Head 8.Move Over Busker
9.Angry 10.However Absurd
11. Write Away 12.It's Not True
13.Tough On A Tightrope
With the announcement of Egypt Station, the first full album of all-new McCartney music since 2013, I decided to through his back catalogue.
So, there I was going through my collection, Tug Of War, Flaming Pie, New, Band On The Run, McCartney, Press To Play…. Hey wait minute, Press To Play, what on the Red Rose Speedway is this?
After the initial shock of totally forgetting this record, I decided to do a little research on it and of course, I had to give it a spin.
Press to Play (P2P) is the sixth solo studio album from Paul McCartney. The album was released on August 26th, 1986 and was produced by McCartney and Hugh Padgham (Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, The Police, Sting, The Tragically Hip). P2P is one of McCartney’s weakest-selling studio album, failing to go gold, only peaking at number 30 on the Billboard charts and selling a mere 250,000 copies.
After listening to P2P, I can honestly say, it is a decent record. Even though P2P has been forgotten or ignored, we all know McCartney is a master craftsman so no matter how questionable the quality of the recording is, there is always a gem or two to be found on his records, and P2P is no exception. Highlights on P2P include: the rockabilly album opener; Stranglehold, the pop/reggae infused second track; Good Times Coming/Feel The Sun and the beautiful ballad Only Love Remains. In my opinion all these tracks deserve a second chance to be heard.
There are numerous factors which impacted P2P’s ability to resonate with the record buying public. First off, McCartney was in a creative tailspin with some lacklustre performances from Pipes Of Peace and the musical box office flop, Give My Regards To Broad Street. Second, some of his biggest hits at the time were “Ebony and Ivory and Say Say Say which only fueled many of his detractors that McCartney was only capable of producing Silly Love Songs (and what's wrong with that?) and little else, which hurt his credibility. Third as adventurous as P2P is, the production values reek of the 80’s digital technology; making the album mechanized, compressed and cold.
It’s my opinion that with P2P, McCartney was making a conscious choice of driving his sound into the present by embracing the production and musical styles of the times thus establishing himself as an artist of the times. For the first time, McCartney was trying to create an album that could stand toe-toe with contemporary releases from Peter Gabriel, David Bowie, Phil Collins, Steve Winwood, etc, etc, etc, which may have hurt his standing with his fan base. Like I said previously P2P was adventurous, but I don’t think that McCartney was totally embracing the idea of “modernizing” his sound. McCartney has never shied away from using collaborators, but he has always steered his own ship sort to speak. Well, it’s my belief that as much as his co-writer Eric Stewart and producer Hugh Padgham were trying to give McCartney a record of the times with the 80’s production techniques, it just didn’t fit with McCartney’s minimalist recording style.
Honestly, P2P isn’t as bad an album that most fans think. It’s just not a “great” McCartney album. It sounds like an album of its time which is too bad, because under all that heavy production value it’s a solid McCartney album waiting to be discovered.