This year, of course, marks the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ legendary Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It also marks, however, the 45th anniversary of the first solo album by Beatle Paul’s younger brother Mike McCartney, a.k.a. Mike McGear. Following its new edition last year of 1968’s McGough and McGear from Mike and his musical partner Roger McGough, Cherry Red’s Esoteric Recordings imprint has recently reissued 1972’s Woman with one bonus track.
McGough and McGear had, of course, rose to fame as two-thirds of The Scaffold. The Liverpool trio began as a comedy-poetry act featuring Post Office employee/actor John Gorman, English teacher/poet McGough, and apprentice hairdresser/musician McGear. Exposure on the late-night television program Gazette catapulted The Scaffold to the professional realm; it wasn’t long before the trio began adding songs into their stage act. None other than George Martin oversaw their signing to Parlophone Records, and their third single – “Thank U Very Much,” written as an onstage finale for the group to express gratitude to its audience – became a surprise No. 4 hit on the U.K. singles chart. The Scaffold was still an ongoing concern at the time of McGough and McGear, and indeed, of Woman.
Whereas the star-studded 1968 McGough and McGear welcomed Jimi Hendrix, Spencer Davis, Gary Leeds of the Walker Brothers, Dave Mason, John Mayall, Graham Nash, Paul Samwell-Smith, Jane Asher and Paul McCartney among its special guests, Woman was a more low-key affair. Released on Island Records and featuring Mike and Paul’s own mother Mary on the cover, it featured six songs co-written with McGough and six entirely self-penned by McGear. Though McGear’s loose, charming vocals occasionally resemble those of his Beatle brother, his musical style was different: dry, droll, often satirical. But Woman would be a bit more “serious” than either The Scaffold or McGough and McGear. The artist-producer was joined at Strawberry Studios by Andy Roberts (guitars), Zoot Money (keyboards), Gerry Conway (drums), Dave Richards (bass), John Megginson (piano) and Norm “Yard Dog” Yardley (harmonica).
A pleasantly varied album, Woman incorporates moody balladry (the title track), blues riffs (“Witness,” “Sister”), glam-ish rousers (“Jolly Good Show”, sunny jollity (“Roamin’ a Road”), folk-rock (“Young Man”) and boogieing rock-and-roll (“Wishin’,” “Tiger”), with just enough of an offbeat sensibility to sate the appetites of Scaffold fans. The whimsical “Bored as Butterscotch” showcases a gentle melodic quality. Its music is credited to Mike and “friend,” and it’s not too difficult to discern who that friend may have been.
Esoteric’s reissue boasts deluxe packaging, with liner notes in the 20-page booklet based on a new interview with McGear as well as lyrics. One bonus track is present, an alternate take of “Sister,” but some longtime fans might be disappointed with the non-inclusion of “Kill,” the B-side of “Woman.” Both “Kill” and a “Rock Version” of the track are included on the track listing and crossed out at the artist’s request. He explains in the liner notes, “Unfortunately, the lyrics are so reflective of our times that I don’t feel I can include the track on this CD release as they might be misinterpreted by some people. I don’t want my words to be used as an excuse by anyone to commit acts of violence…the words are a plea for the killing to STOP.” Ben Wiseman has newly remastered.
Mike McGear’s Woman, enjoyable from start to finish, is available now from Cherry Red and Esoteric Recordings at the links below!
- Jolly Good Show
- Benna/Roamin’ a Road
- Young Young Man (Five Years Ago)/Young Man (Five Years Later)
- Edward Heath
- Bored as Butterscotch
- Black Beauty/Tiger/Strawberry Jam
- Sister (Alternate Take) (previously unreleased)