Paul McCartney just revealed the third single, “Fuh You,” from his upcoming album Egypt Station, due Sept. 7, and it’s… a lot. Not only does the jocund single feature swirling Mellotrons, gang vocals and a string orchestra, its title comes from its ever-so-winking chorus: “I just want it / Fuh you.”
Given the context, is Macca just expressing the reason he wants to “know how you feel,” why he has “a love so proud and real,” how you make him want to “go out and steal,” or is he talkin' dirty? Congratulations: you’ve asked the eternal McCartney question. The former Beatle and Wingsman never worked in outright fensiveness: ever since at least “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?” from The White Album, McCartney has occasionally gone coy and/or libidinous in song.
And that peevish streak — perhaps egged on by his black-humored former songwriting partner, John Lennon — has only grown more potent over the years. This has led to mixed response from the public. When Wings put out their single “Hi, Hi, Hi” in 1972, the BBC swiftly banned it for its suggestive content. In 2012, McCartney couldn’t resist calling his album jazz standards and originals Kisses on the Bottom, taken out context from the Great American Songbook — and it shot up to No. 5 on the Billboard 200.
While McCartney fans dissect the club-happy “Fuh You” for its raciness — or lack there — here are six other times McCartney’s work took a turn for the cheeky.
1971: Paul and Linda Throw Shade at the Sanctimonious on “Too Many People”
In an interview about the song, McCartney explained the point “Too Many People,” a coded hate song from the Ram album three decades earlier. “I felt John and Yoko were telling everyone what to do. And I felt we didn't need to be told what to do. The whole tenor the Beatles thing had been, like, to each his own. Freedom. Suddenly it was ‘You should do this’ … the wagging finger.” In the early ‘70s, Lennon and McCartney were letting the jabs, criticisms and put-downs fly their solo tunes, and “Too Many People” is perhaps the finest example. Quotable moments abound, but the real mic drop comes when McCartney frames their legendary partnership as such: “You took your lucky break and broke it in two / Now what can be done for you?” Never to be topped as the Acidic Beatle, Lennon would have the last dig: He mocked the cover Ram in a classic shot in which he pulls the ears a pig.
1972: “Hi, Hi, Hi” Gets Banned By BBC For Misheard Line
Wings’ 1972 single “Hi, Hi, Hi” (as in, “We’re gonna get…!”) is perhaps the closest analog “Fuh You.” Take a dirty joke, change the wording to the homonyms and wrap it in such a bright, cheery package that it’s impossible to express authentic fense. At least if you’re not the BBC — they banned the song over what they thought was McCartney singing “I want you to lie on the bed / Get you ready for my body gun.” McCartney would attempt to correct the Beeb and its verdict, informing the world that he was really saying “polygon,” as if that clarifies anything or makes any sense. But he acknowledged “Hi, Hi, Hi”’s ribald quality: “I was in a sensuous mood in Spain when I wrote it.”
1976: Linda Plays a Kitchen-Bound Wife To The Hilt on “Cook the House”
“A feminist’s nightmare,” writer Tim Riley called it. “Genuinely terrible,” opined Entertainment Weekly. Welcome to “Cook the House,” an infamous Wings at the Speed Sound cut from 1976 featuring Linda McCartney on lead vocal. So many aspects Paul’s co-written lyric and arrangement still fascinate: the dishwashing sound effect, the fluffy jazz backing, Linda singing pitchily about being a subservient domestic partner. Was it a dig at the critics? An authentic ode to the Great Indoors? According to Garry McGee’s biography Band on the Run, Wings’ Jimmy McCulloch simply called it “a tribute to her talent whipping up a meal in no time.”
1982: On Obscure B-Side, Paul Lustily Offers “I’ll Give You A Ring”
Buried on the B-side “Take it Away,” “I’ll Give You A Ring” is a charming throwaway — so much so that Paul seems to give up on vocal tracking and switch to funny voices by the end. It’s a lame joke, sure — the “ring” is both a phone call and jewelry — but also another Paul’s “invitation to bed” songs. By the end, Paul is clearly disinterested in just calling his love interest to shoot the breeze: “You look a little sleepy / Wanna go to bed, dear? / Tell me we can wed, dear.”
1989: “We Got Married” Condenses A Love Affair Into Four Sardonic Lines
McCartney’s much-needed commercial comeback, 1989’s Flowers in the Dirt, is full lovely, witty songs about the struggles romantic relationships — “This One,” “Distractions,” “Motor Love” — perhaps encouraged by his songwriting partner at the time, Elvis Costello, who made a career on that topic. And “We Got Married” would seem to take a snarky, time-lapse view all it. No time for nuance or detail: “Going fast, coming soon / We made love in the afternoon / Found a flat, after that / We got married.” You don’t say! It’s jarring to hear the writer stirring romantic ballads like “Here, There and Everywhere” sing from the perspective a bored, joyless union: “Working hard for the dream / Scoring goals for the other team.”
2012: Kisses on the Bottom’s Title Pushes The Envelope By Leaving It Out
By all means, 2012’s Kisses on the Bottom is a deeply dignified album jazzy originals and selections from the Great American Songbook. But, in a move indicative McCartney’s willingness to draw a moustache on any proverbial Mona Lisa, Bottom’s title was taken out context on purpose. It’s from “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter,” an innocuous standard by Fred E. Ahlert and Joe Young that was popularized by Fats Waller — the “bottom” is a love letter’s envelope. Paul fers bouquets on the cover; that sparkle in his eye is almost tangible — after all, he let a title like Kisses on the Bottom loose on the Starbucks Hear Music! buying public. And by the sound “Fuh You,” that streak is going strong.