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Song: Soily (Studio Version)
Sample Lyric: “To your left and to your right / Got some pretty soily company.”
Ampersands (out of 5): & & & 1/2
“Soily” was always about the best reason available to listen to the massive, studio-jiggered, three-disc mess that is Wings Over America. Unavailable on any normal Wings album, it rocked reasonably hard in that pseudo-live performance and puzzled millions with its lyrics (which were nonsensical when they were discernable at all). But true Wings fans would do well to track down this never-released studio cut of the song, which dates from roughly the Band on the Run / Venus & Mars period. This latter fact probably accounts for the song’s obscurity. It was a fertile period for Wings, and one can easily imagine that the band, forced to choose between an assortment of excellent tunes, flipped a coin and decided to finish “Letting Go” instead of “Soily.” So it goes. Besides, even in the studio, “Soily” sounds like a song waiting to be played live – McCartney’s vocal delivery on the chorus sounds a litle thin and overprocessed, and there’s even a part where he says something about a “tommy gun” and the drummer takes a moment to mimic the sound of machinegun fire on the drums! The song would also benefit (as it does on Wings Over America) from having its lyrics buried in the roar of a rock band in full swing. In fact, this is the only song (to my knowledge) whose lyrics McCartney has publicly ridiculed:
Q. With Wings, did you feel pressurised to live up to The Beatles?
A. Yes, it was a case of “follow that!”. Impossible to do. Looking back on it, it’s a lot better than I thought, though some of it is just not PLAYED as well as The Beatles. My son [...] plays a lot of Wings, so I’m re-listening, and there’s good shit that I’d forgotten about. A lot of the lyrics were off the wall, drug stimulated. Things like “Soily – the cat in the satin trousers says its oily”. What was I on? I think the answer is stimulants. (From Q magazine interview, 1997, transcribed by Usenet poster Allison Fiddler, emphasis added by me. This is my new all-time favorite McCartney quote, by the way.)
So what are we left with? A sloppy, concert-ready rocker by a band just about to find its legs as worldwide arena sellouts, that just happened to be headed by one Paul McCartney. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it sounds more than a bit like “The Mess,” with a little of the bizarre vocal inflection that later crept into such bad songs as “Famous Groupies.” For all its admitted virtues, I find myself recommending it primarily based on the fact that the chorus is, indeed, “Soily! Soilyyyyy! The cat in the satin trousers says it’s oily.” Note: This is the worst idea for a chorus ever. Only Paul McCartney could ever bring himself to write such a thing, and then, while singing, amend it with rock-n-rollisms like “Yes it is!” and “And you know he’s right!” Yes, Paul. The cat in the satin trousers does say it’s oily, and I do know he’s right. “Yes he is!!” Ah, who am I kidding, it’s genius, or at least better than “The Mess.” Three ampersands.