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MY BRAVE FACE
PAUL McCartney is not one to look back. 'Onwards and up-wards is his motto, and rightly so. But being "the act you've known for all these years", he's bound to remind us occasionally of past glories.
'My Brave Face' is a dynamic example. The lustrous guitar sound recalls 'A Hard Day's Night', while the pumping synco-pation has a hint of 'Taxman' about it. These elements add a rosy glow to a song that's new-minted and instantly memorable.
It was written with Elvis Costello, though he doesn't feature on the track. "There was a nice kind of equal collaboration on it," Paul told Mike Read. "We'd just sort of throw words about and stuff and where I thought he was getting maybe a bit too cryptic or whatever, I'd just say 'I don't like that, we should go a bit further here, or we should maybe take it there', and it was nice. If he spotted an idea he liked then we'd go that way, or similarly with me".
'My Brave Face' is a great recommendation for this way of working. Simultaneously upbeat and mysterious, the song bears the stamp of both writers. Paul has long been adept at weaving the threads of everyday phrases into a new tapestry: "Unaccustomed as I am" is one such, but you don't expect the words "to the life of a housewife" to follow. The hand of Elvis?
And what a performance! Hamish Stuart is the only other vocalist and he fully backs up Paul's words to Mike Read: "He's a very good singer...he can always handle harmony lines anywhere, and...wailing and singing generally". He certainly can: the blend of voices on 'My Brave Face' is well on the rousing side.
Instrumentally, Hamish is on acoustic and electric guitars and David Rhodes (known to the cognoscenti for his work with Peter Gabriel) is on ebow guitar. (Don't let these medical details throw you.) Less exotic, but just as valuable, is Robbie McIntosh's work on acoustic and electric guitars. Paul is on bass, acoustic and electric guitars.
Plenty of colour there, but what of that 'texturing' so dear to us oil painters? Well, Mitchell Froom, who co-produced the track with Paul and Neil Dorfsman, provides much of this on keyboards. (When producing Crowded House, he's almost a band member as well.) Add Chris Davis, Chris White and Dave Bishop on saxes and any more would be cluttering the canvas.
And what of this Dorfsman fellow? Co-producer of Bruce Springsteen's The River, he's best known for his work on Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms, claimed (against opposition from EMI on Sgt. Pepper's behalf) to be Britain's best selling album ever. On Flowers in the Dirt, he co-produced seven tracks and mixed 'Distractions' and 'This One', both produced by Paul.
First mention of 'My Brave Face' (positive) was in none other than the Sun. And what of the rest of the package? The B-side, 'Flying to my Home', was a strong contender for the album. As well as producing the track, Paul is on autoharp (see Johnny Cash item in CSSO), bass, drums, keyboards, lead guitar, organ, percussion, rhythm guitar and slide guitar. (This last is a rarity for Paul, though 'Jet' and 'Band on the Run' spring to mind.) Amazingly, there's still room for Hamish to add acoustic and rhythm guitars and harmonies. Also harmonizing is Chris, who plays 'accordion synthesiser' (eh?) and more drums. Engineer is Geoff Emerick, with Matt Butler assisting.
The 12", CD and cassette versions also contain 'Ain't That A Shame' and 'I'm Gonna Be A Wheel Someday', the Fats Domino numbers from Choba B CCCP (Funny how it's now the West that has to wait with bated breath for songs to be released.) A certain inconsistency with the Fat Man's 'I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire' needn't spoil our enjoyment of the latter item. The cassette has the four songs on each side.
The first single can be crucial to an album's fate. With 'My Brave Face, Flowers in the Dirt has received the best possible launch.