It’s possible that, if someone said to you, “what do you get when you put Rod Stewart and Paul McCartney’s post-Beatles output together,” your answer would be “an unlistenable, sentimental mess,” and – let’s face it, in most cases, you’d be entirely correct. But then you get this, as the exception that proves the rule.
I’ve always loved “Maybe I’m Amazed,” which I’m pretty sure I first heard as a Carleen Anderson cover (produced by Paul Weller) at some point during the mid-90s. There’s definitely the McCartney sentiment at play, but it’s phrased in such a way – and couched in such wonderful music – that it doesn’t feel treacly or overly saccharine, as so much solo (and Wings-era) McCartney can; instead, it feels genuine and quite lovable. The original version is a great performance – Paul is in belter-mode (Listen to his voice at 0:47!), and the odd arrangement has an intensity and a push there that seems at odds with the vocal at times, but adds to it, at the same time; I especially love that the song seems to finish at 3:01, and then comes back for an instrumental coda that ends with a stompy, jammy mess. There’s a messiness there that really appeals to me, and makes it just ugly enough to feel like something more than a pretty love song.
Recent cover versions have lost this; you hear Jem covering it, and it’s… pretty, but that’s it (Pretty vacant, says John Lydon from thirty years ago, and he’s right). At its best – the McCartney version or the Faces version I started with – this is a weirdly masculine song because of the awkward interplay between the lyrics, the vocal performance and the guitar rock structure that goes off into riff-city when it gets too embarrassed by the honesty of what the words are trying to reveal. Yes, the basic melody means that it can be a pretty song, but I always think that it’s not meant to be; it’s supposed to be something more complex and confused.