Every artist has a signature song, which becomes the symbol of their entire career. For better or worse, it sums up how the public views them in usually less than five minutes. In Paul McCartney’s case, that song is “Maybe I’m Amazed”.
Ironically, it almost didn’t become a hit. When he originally recorded the song in 1970, McCartney refused to release the song as a single, in keeping with the British tradition of not releasing album tracks as singles. Despite this, the song still became well known enough through radio airplay that he performed it during Wings’ concerts. In 1977, the group included a live version with an extended ending on Wings Over America, a three-record live set. Performed in June 1976 at the Seattle Kingdome, this is the version that most people identify with the song. Capitol records released a promotional 12” record with four different versions of the song on it to radio stations, but for the commercially released version, the live rocker “Soily” was its flipside. In the UK, it only hit number 28 on the singles chart, but in the US, it cracked the top 10.
As for the original studio version, it was written and recorded in London. He recorded many different versions of the song, most of which have never been released to the public (these original takes were examined by DJ Hellraiser for the 2005 Twin Freaks album’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” remix; additionally, some of the “beat-boxing” sounds McCartney recorded for those sessions were scattered throughout the rest of the album). Not surprisingly, McCartney wrote the song about how his wife Linda helped him through the emotional mess that was the break-up of the Beatles. Originally entitling it “Baby, I’m Amazed”, McCartney changed it in order to sound less “self-assured”. Linda’s voice can be heard singing back-up on the track, but that is not the only involvement she originally had with it.
Despite Paul’s refusal to release “Maybe I’m Amazed” as a single, a “promotional film” was created for it. Paul’s first ever music video, it was solely comprised of professionally taken photographs of Paul, Linda, and her daughter, Heather, that were taken by Linda herself. The Ed Sullivan Show aired it on April 19th, 1970 in America, whereas in the UK, it was aired on the same night on London Weekend Television.
“Maybe I’m Amazed” is also one of the most highly praised solo McCartney songs. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine deemed it number 338 on its “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list. This year, it garnered number 347 on the updated version of that list. Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, however, and a wide variety of artists have covered it. Rod Stewart and the Faces, Petula Clark, Joe Cocker, Jem, Carleen Anderson, and Gov’t Mule have all recorded versions of “Maybe I’m Amazed”, with perhaps the most recent remake being Crystal Bowersox’s American Idol performance.
When asked what solo song he would like to be remembered for, McCartney once responded “Maybe I’m Amazed”. So it fittingly appears on the All the Best and Wingspan: Hits and History compilation albums. He rarely misses an opportunity to perform it live, including it on his Back in the U.S., Back in the World, and Tripping the Live Fantastic live albums. Not to mention, it was reworked as a classical number on the Working Classical album. Not ones to take themselves too seriously, Paul and Linda appeared on a 1995 episode of The Simpsons, in which Paul says that “Maybe I’m Amazed” played backwards contains a recipe for vegetarian lentil soup. Sure enough, he recorded a studio version of the song containing the backmasked recipe that was played during the show’s credits.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong online. Please consider a donation to support our work as an independent publisher devoted to the arts and humanities. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times where advertising no longer covers our costs. We need your help to keep PopMatters publishing. Thank you.