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The Meaning Behind “Arrow Through Me” by Paul McCartney and Wings and Why It Was a High Point of the Band’s Last Gasp

Paul McCartney‘s “other” band Wings enjoyed some dizzying highs throughout the ’70s, but seemed to run its course as the decade petered out. They enjoyed one final flurry of activity surrounding the 1979 album Back to the Egg, which included the silky and soulful “Arrow Through Me” as one of its high points.

What was the song about? What inspired McCartney to write it? And how did it deviate from the sound of the rest of the album? Let’s take a look at the story and meaning behind “Arrow Through Me,” one of the most underrated tracks in the Wings catalog.

“Egg”-ing Them On
Considering the bevy of promotional activity that surrounded the release of Back to the Egg in 1979, you would never have guessed at the time that it would turn out to be Wings’ last album. In fact, it was considered a new beginning of sorts (hence the name of the record), as new members Lawrence Juber (lead guitar) and Steve Holley (drums) had recently joined the core trio of Paul and Linda McCartney and Denny Laine.

While composing the album, McCartney seemed to be inspired by the punk and New Wave movements that were riding high at the time. Back to the Egg largely stayed away from ballads and concentrated on bouncy, rocking songs that captured the five-piece band without much embellishment. Unfortunately, the record came up shy on the big hit singles the band had regularly churned out in the past.

McCartney’s next project would be a solo affair (McCartney II) in 1980. He then attempted to reconvene Wings for his next record, but rehearsals didn’t go well. In 1981, it was announced Wings was no more, meaning that Back to the Egg was indeed their final release.

A Stray “Arrow”
Back to the Egg is a solid album, but if there’s a major issue with it it’s that it lacks the variety that had always been a hallmark of past Wings LPs. A few more diversions like “Arrow Through Me” would have gone a long way. It’s a song where McCartney eschewed a hard-charging approach and sunk into a slinky soul groove that goes down extremely smooth.

In his book The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present, McCartney explained “Arrow Through Me” was all about capturing a mood:

“I have always had a soft spot for this song. There’s a nice horn riff in it, and it’s funky. Sometimes you write to get a sort of feeling rather than a perfectly ‘correct’ lyric. Sometimes the lyric can be secondary to the feeling. This one has as much, or more, to do with the feel of the song, the groove.”

McCartney achieved that groove through the use of various keyboard instruments, including electric piano and clavinet. As he mentioned, the brass has a lot to do with the vibe, with trombones and saxophones blasting away throughout the track. Drummer Steve Holley is the only other member of Wings to appear.

What is the Meaning of “Arrow Through Me”?
McCartney may downplay the lyrics of “Arrow Through Me” in the quote above, but they’re actually quite clever in an offhand way. The basic idea comes from the notion that Cupid’s arrow can occasionally cause serious damage: Ooh, baby, you couldn’t have done a worse thing to me / If you’d have taken an arrow and run it right through me.

The narrator regrets the fact this rendezvous petered out without ever really getting off the ground: It could have been a finer thing / Would have been a major attraction. He is left to lament just how brokenhearted he is, but at least give him credit for doing so in imaginative fashion: Ooh, baby, you wouldn’t have found a more down hero / If you’d have started at nothin’ and counted to zero.

As Wings trundled off into the history books, Paul McCartney would once again be free to take stylistic detours without having to worry about maintaining a “band” sound. “Arrow Through Me” found him winningly taking those steps even while still operating under the Wings’ moniker.

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