Macca’s back pages: chapter 5

David Pascoe writes:

Exhibit E: Check My Machine
AKA: Macca does dubstep
“I figure that in time they’ll get around to more recent stuff, Check My Machine, those funny little ones.”

Now this is more like it. Liberated by going properly solo, McCartney produced a corking album in McCartney II, containing some of his finest moments. Coming Up, Temporary Secretary (“She can be a neurosurgeon/If she’s doing nothing urgent” – Genius) and One of These Days all ring out with the fresh clear confidence of the Ram sessions nine years earlier. But when it came to recording a B-side for TLC-inspiring Waterfalls, McCartney produced something truly surprising.

Starting out with some looped cartoon clips including Barney Rubble in The Flinstones and something sounding suspiciously like a “D’oh” but most probably a clip from the Laurel and Hardy cartoon, we dip into a helium voiced McCartney beseeching us to “Check my machine/Che-eck my machine”.

The request continues over a gorgeously, mellow banjo, keyboard and dub bass line. The pace seldom rises above the nodding but the invitation to bob is irresistible. At regular intervals we break off from our bobbing to hear Macca play with the “dropping a metal dustbin on its side” voice on his synthesiser before returning to the hypnotic, circling riff. Finishing with some high-spirited audio verite mucking about, this track is crystal proof that the surge in popularity McCartney enjoyed in the early 80s was no fluke.

Why should we be interested in it?
This track (and the equally lesser-heard Secret Friend, a kind of death disco released on 12″ with Temporary Secretary) show that McCartney’s instincts for dabbling in different musical styles and for keeping up with contemporary sounds remained as strong as ever. In its own demented way, this track is as timeless as anything he recorded with The Beatles. It could have popped up on late night Radio 1 in 1980, 1990, 2000 or 2010 and would have sounded as exciting and vibrant as anything else going on at the time. McCartney’s dance music alter-ego, The Fireman was born here.

FURTHER LISTENING
“Sticks and stones may break my bones…”

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