Released last December, McCartney III represented the completion of a trilogy that Paul McCartney began in 1970 with McCartney, the first solo album he made as The Beatles were breaking up, and then with 1980’s McCartney II. Just like the first two albums were created, McCartney III was performed, recorded, and produced entirely by McCartney in his home studio during lockdown (well…except for the lockdown part) and it’s a stunning display of continuity from one of music’s timeless masters. And while he’s already released the III Reimagined compilation of versions of the album’s songs by artists like Beck, Phoebe Bridgers, and Anderson .Paak, this next act might be the most incredible of them all.
A new mini-documentary documents the process of McCartney and Detroit’s famed Third Man Records pressing plant literally destroying old vinyl copies of the first two solo albums, only to recycle their remains into a 333-copy limited edition vinyl pressing, entitled McCartney/333. In the film, you witness parts of every step in the process: First, labels get chipped off the record, which then gets ground into pellets that are heated to make a soft plastic rope. The rope gets placed into a molded press with the grooves that get pressed into the record before it heads to audio quality control and then sleeved and packaged.
“He’s always thinking about right now,” says Rolling Stone’s Rob Sheffield in the film. “He’s an artist committed to spontaneity. Stagnation is not his thing.” The project definitely has the “metaphysical rebirth” of the album that Third Man Records co-founder Ben Swank alludes to in the mini-doc and it’s truly a fascinating thing to watch and learn about. Because while a lot of vinyl re-issues and special editions seem like the same-ol’-same-ol’ of remasters with bonus tracks, this is a groundbreaking idea from someone who has records in their catalog iconic enough for the pieces of what is created to mean something deeper.
Watch the McCartney/333 mini-doc above and order an indie record copy of the related and slightly more available 3333 edition (also made with reground records at Third Man, here.)