Return to Pepperland refers to the material from the studio sessions between 1986–1987 with record producer Phil Ramone. The songs recorded during these sessions have been the basis of bootleg albums usually titled Return to Pepperland.
While promoting the release of Press To Play in New York City in August 1986, McCartney hooked up with Billy Joel’s producer Phil Ramone. Ramone had first worked with Paul the previous year on the title song of the Spies Like Us soundtrack.
Using Joel’s backing band they recorded two songs, “Beautiful Night” and “Loveliest Thing”.
Further songs were recorded at McCartney’s Hog Hill Studios which included: “Atlantic Ocean”, “Big Day”, “This One” and “Love Come Tumbling Down”.
During these sessions, the song “Return To Pepperland” was produced as a tribute to the 20th Anniversary of the Beatles’ 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band as well as the mashup of Lennon–McCartney-written “Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You” songs.
In the end, only two songs from the sessions; “Once Upon a Long Ago” and “Back On My Feet” were released at the time.
“Once Upon a Long Ago” and “Beautiful Night” were originally submitted to director Rob Reiner for the 1987 film The Princess Bride, but were rejected for being “too sentimental”.
In January 1988, McCartney took the remaining songs from the Phil Ramone sessions and compiled a cassette, along with other songs he had been working on since the early 80’s. This cassette was the source of many of the bootlegs associated with the Phil Ramone sessions.
McCartney continued to work with other producers, the results of which would eventually become the 1989 album Flowers In The Dirt.
“Beautiful Night” would be re-recorded and released on the 1997 album Flaming Pie. Other songs from his work with Phil Ramone would be released as B-sides and included on his Archive Collection releases in the following years.
Songs reviewed before will have just the rating listed. As there never was a formal track list (bootlegs have envisioned a 16 track album that is the accepted output) and anything more than a group of songs he had available to choose from or continue working on. I will rate the entire project as the sum total divided by tracks recorded…..
(produced by Phil Ramone unless noted)
“Return To Pepperland” Never officially released. Originally planned as a 12″ single release. Since most
Of the songs recorded were released later (sometimes 10 years later) I am surprised that this song never saw the light of day.
Again, maybe it was because George had released “When We Was Fab” in 1986 that Paul didn’t want to have people think he was jumping on the bandwagon. He had re-embraced his legacy more in this period but it would show much more in his live performances, especially after the recording and documentation of The Beatles Anthology series and music releases.
So, we are now faced with a song that was meant to capture the spirit of the 1967 album on its 20th anniversary. Maybe in 2022 on its 55th? Nah….
This is a delightful, quirky and happy go lucky song that filled with childlike wonder lyrically and a wonderful melody and the McCartney touch with hooks and assortment of sounds and flourishes.
Rating – 9
“It was Sixty Years Ago Today” Never released thirty one seconds track, that could have fit in with the Sgt. Pepper’s anniversary theme?
“Love Come Tumbling Down” Released as a B-side to “Beautiful Night”, 1997. A mid-tempo love song, sounding a bit like a lot of the love songs of the period. Nice lyrics and vocals and production (I hear xylophones!) but not one that is a home run. Rating – 6.5
“Christian Bop” McCartney produced track. Recorded January 11, 1981 at I.C.C Studios. Released as a bonus track on the 2015 remastered edition of 1983’s PIPES OF PEACE. Uptempo, piano based track with lush orchestration that feels much like someone in a race or being chased. Interesting jazzy piano chords from Paul was a surprise Rating – 7
The melody from “Christian Bop” has been used for the track entitled “Dance“, from “Movement III – Crypt”, of McCartney’s Liverpool Oratorio, released in 1991.
“Atlantic Ocean” Released as a B-side to “Young Boy”, 1997.
“Lindiana” David Foster produced. Never officially released. Another slower love song that sounds like many from the 1986-1990 era, except it has a nice perky refrain into the chorus. Rating – 7
“I Love This House” David Foster produced. Released as a B-side to “Young Boy”, 1997.
A hard driving track about the love his home, warts and all. Paul shouts, growls and howls his way thru a techno beat. Like many of the songs of this era they seem to mix Paul back into the mix, with a little too much echo on his vocals.
Was this a sign of the times, or was it a sign that once perfect voice that was always captured crystal clear was now slowly changing? Probably both. Rating – 7
“We Got Married” David Foster Produced. Started in 1984, this is an early/demo version; re-recorded for release on Flowers in the Dirt, 1989. Very close to final version released. David Gilmour’s guitar work is the star. Previous Rating – 7
“Rough Ride” Previous Rating – 8
“Squid” McCartney produced track. Recorded December 12, 1986 at Hog Hill Studio. Released as a B-side to “The World Tonight”, 1997.
Another instrumental that is acoustic based and ends in an orchestral flourish. It’s nautical feel is perfect for a cruising of a sunlit sea. The guitar phrase he uses to accent the main verse he HAS used before but at this moment I can’t put my finger on it (it’s driving me crazy!). If you can identify this riff, tell me….
Rating – 7.5
“My Big Day” Never officially released. Drum machine driven, with power chords and the lyric of “My Big Day…My Big Day….etc”. No other verse is offered. This would have been a nice chorus but the song was never flushed out…. Rating – 6
“Beautiful Night” Recorded with Phil Ramone in 1987; this track was later re-recorded for release on Flaming Pie, 1997. This version also appeared as a B-side of some CD versions of the “Beautiful Night” single, embedded in the longer track “Oobu Joobu (Part 5)”.
In 2020, the 1987 version was released as a free stand alone download track on McCartney’s website.
This version is much weaker than the final version. The lyrics were different in spots, no Ringo, and a much lower key production.
Rating – 6.5
“Loveliest Thing” Released as a B-side to “Figure of Eight”, 1989. Another of those slow piano based love songs we have discussed earlier, this one being the least memorable. Rating – 6
“Love Mix” Released as a B-side to “Beautiful Night”, 1997. A better than the most mid-tempo piano driven love song from that period. These songs are starting to blend into one giant super love song… yikes. Rating – 7.
“Peacocks”. Unreleased, drum machine and guitar track with just backing vocals and fake peacock sounds. Kind of like “Squid” on land. Not bad at all… but 7:03. Interesting period for Paul, a lot of slow mushy ballads and experimental instrumentals…. Just not enough meat in this stew.
Rating – 6.5
“This One” Demo version, finished for Flowers in the Dirt, 1989. Hey rearranged the whole song, as the demo starts in the chorus, is much slower. It was recorded with piano and drum machine augmented with drumming and Linda and Paul on backing vocals. The lyrics were not finished but you can still hear the magic that became the final version.
Rating – 7
“P.S. Love Me Do” Released on the Japanese edition of Flowers in the Dirt, 1989. A live version appeared on the CD single version of “Birthday”. Previous Rating – 4.5
“Once Upon A Long Ago” Released as a single in 1987 along with McCartney’s best-of compilation All the Best!. Previous Rating – 7
“Back On My Feet” Released as the b-side to “Once Upon A Long Ago.” Previous Rating – 8
“Same Love” McCartney produced track and recorded at Hog Hill Studios June 1, 1988. Released as a B-side to “Beautiful Night”, 1997.
Another of the slow love songs that have the same basic “feel” but this one has a nicer ending with the fade out on the chorus…. “The love you made… the love you made…the love you made….the love you made to ME. A nice change but this song doesn’t distinguish itself anymore than the half dozen or so that sound wise and emotionally feel the same
To me. Rating – 6.5
”Don’t Break The Promises” McCartney produced track and recorded at Hog Hill Studio June 9, 1988. Released as a B-side to “The World Tonight”, 1997. The last work he did with Eric Stewart and this demo may have been for 10cc. It is built around a reggae beat and Paul in falsetto and upper register. The demo finds the vocals sounding like they were recorded in another room.
Not a bad song, if it were properly recorded and engineered. Rating – 6
The entire lot of songs he could have chosen to make an album came in at 6.84/10. If he had made and album then maybe he could have redone some of the demos and flushed out some of the others started in the studio then maybe this would have been a nice follow up to PRESS TO PLAY and lead up to FLOWERS IN THE DIRT.
Next…. The rest of 1989….and on tho the 90’s….