Until recently, only three of the Beatles' sons had followed in their fab fathers' footsteps and become musicians. The lone holdout was Paul McCartney, whose most famous offspring was daughter Stella McCartney, a successful fashion designer. But now Paul's only son, James, is finally getting on the act, announcing details of his debut EP, Available Light.
Out September 21 on the indie label Engine Company Records, the five-track EP was actually co-produced by Paul, and was recorded over a two-year period at London's Abbey Road Studios (of course!) and well as in New York. Available Light will include four originals penned by James ("Angel," "Glisten," "My Friend," and "Denial"), along with a cover of Neil Young's "Old Man," and will feature multi-instrumentation by James (guitar, mandolin, piano, and bass).
While this is James's first release, this isn't the first time he's worked on music with his father. He's played guitar and drums on some of Paul's solo releases, and even co-wrote songs on his dad's albums Flaming Pie and Driving Rain. He also toured with Paul in 2005 and played guitar on his late mother Linda McCartney's one posthumous solo album, Wide Prairie. With a history of familial collaboration like that, it's no wonder that the lyrics on James's debut EP "refer to spirituality, love, family, [and] trying to sort out one's life," according to a recent interview with British paper The Mirror.
Despite all this, James has managed to lead a relatively reclusive life, waiting until his thirties (his 33rd birthday is next Monday, September 12) to finally release material under his own name. When he toured the U.K. for the first time last year, he even performed under a pseudonym. He probably did this due to the baggage, pressure, and high expectations that come with being the son of an almighty Beatle.
As mentioned earlier, all of the Beatles' sons have gotten into the music game at this point, with varying degrees of success. George Harrison's son, Dhani, fared well critically by choosing to release music with a band called thenewno2 rather than under his own name; the group's indie music has been well-received by critics and tastemaker types, but they haven't sold many records.
Ringo Starr's son, Zak Starkey, has remained relatively behind the scenes as an in-demand drummer for hire--playing with the Who since 1996, and well as with Oasis, Paul Weller, Johnny Marr, the Waterboys, Lightning Seeds, and Icicle Works--but he has never recorded music in his own right.
The most famous Beatle-offspring musicians so far have been John Lennon's children, Julian and Sean. Both have both had long recording careers, but while Sean has always been a critics' darling, Julian sadly has never really gotten much respect, and has never fully escaped his late father's looming shadow. However, Julian's first album, Valotte, was a major hit in the '80s, making him arguably the most commercially successful second-generation Beatle musician.
Now the music world is waiting to see what James McCartney can do. According to The Mirror, James describes Available Light as being "inspired by the Beatles [of course!], Nirvana, the Cure, PJ Harvey, Radiohead--and all good music," so it sounds promising indeed. But it remains to be seen if this McCartney will be able to establish a real name for himself. Hear some snippets from the EP below and decide:
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- Paul McCartney