The year 1991 was a busy year for Paul. In January Paul and his band went into rehearsals for the new MTV show, Unplugged. This time brought another change in the band, as Chris Whitten was replaced by a new drummer, Blair Cunningham.
Unplugged (The Official Bootleg) is a live unplugged performance by Paul McCartney, recorded on the television show on January 25th and the cd/album was released on May 20th, 1991.
Following the vastness of his world tour recently captured on Tripping the Live Fantastic, McCartney relished the opportunity to strip back his songs and appear on the newly launched acoustic-only show MTV Unplugged.
Consequently, McCartney was the first in a long line of artists to release an unplugged album.
Unlike other artists who appeared on the acclaimed show with acoustic instruments plugged into amplifiers (producing the sound heard), McCartney’s instruments were 100% unplugged. Microphones were carefully placed close to guitars, pianos, etc. to pick up the sound (this can be seen on the album cover, where a large rectangular microphone is pictured in front of McCartney’s acoustic guitar).
Using the same line-up that had recently backed him (save for Blair Cunningham who had replaced Chris Whitten), McCartney used the opportunity to dust off some of his rarer tracks, including three from his 1970 debut album McCartney, alongside several covers and amid a helping of familiar Beatles hits.
This recording was one of the first in the famed MTV Unplugged series.
Several tracks performed in the show were not included on the album, as follows: “Things We Said Today“, “Midnight Special“, “Matchbox“, “Mean Woman Blues” and “The Fool“.
Numbers rehearsed by the band but not performed at all include: “Mother Nature’s Son“, “Figure of Eight“, “Cut Across Shorty“, “Heartbreak Hotel“, “Heart of the Country“, “She’s My Baby“, and “Mrs Vandebilt”.
“Things We Said Today” and “Midnight Special” would see official release two years later in 1993 as B-sides to the “Biker Like An Icon” single.
With McCartney in a loose and carefree context, critical response to Unplugged (The Official Bootleg) was very warm. Initially released in a limited edition, individually numbered run in 1991, Unplugged (The Official Bootleg)—with artwork that recalls Снова в СССР‘s—was reissued in a more permanent fashion in the late 1990s.
Upon its original issue, it reached number 7 in the UK and became McCartney’s highest-peaking US album in almost ten years, reaching number 14.
“I like any excuse to loosen up, and one of the attractions of Unplugged was that it was so loose. A lot of people liked the very informal, intimate atmosphere. I did – in fact, I was a bit surprised at how intimate and how informal it was. It was fairly nerve-wracking, though, not plugging into amps after all those years, using mikes for the guitars. It’s a completely different discipline. If you turn around to look at the drummer, the guitar sound goes.
We may well put some acoustic stuff into the next tour. A lot of people said that their favorite bit of the 1976 Wings tour was when we all sat down for the acoustic set.
For Unplugged we stood up, because we had sat down in 1976. Next time, we’ll be hovering above the audience.
To me, the Unplugged set was the nearest thing I’ve done to a pub gig for a long time. And in my particular case, as I’m not a black blues singer from the ’50s, my stuff tends to have more humor when it gets like that. But I feel more comfortable not being serious. The breakdown at the front of ‘We Can Work It Out’ was hilarious. It’s like something from a blooper tape. The album has that element to it, and I’m really glad we did it.” -Paul
Throughout the early part of 1991 Paul composed and worked with Carl Davis on Paul’s “Liverpool Oratorio.”
“For years I have been flirting with classical music. On “Yesterday” I had a string quartet and on “Eleanor Rigby” we had used string players so I always enjoyed the experience. And, in the back of my mind, there was always this thought that if I ever get a great offer to do something big in the classical world, I’d leap at it.
So, the Liverpool people rang up and asked me to do this for their 150th anniversary. So it was my hometown orchestra, it was to be performed in the cathedral, which is right next door to the school where I did all my schooling and it was in an area of a million great memories for me.
I always had the idea that I might do this one day so I just leapt at the offer and said, ‘OK, in two years’ time we’ll deliver. Carl Davis and myself will deliver something that you can celebrate your 150th anniversary with.” -Paul
Paul McCartney’s Liverpool Oratorio is a live album and his first major foray into classical music.
This recording was captured at the oratorio’s dress rehearsal and premiere at Liverpool Cathedral with McCartney in attendance and features noted professional classical singers Kiri Te Kanawa, Jerry Hadley, Sally Burgess and Willard White re-enacting the roles in the oratorio.
Consisting of eight movements, the story of the oratorio loosely follows McCartney’s own lifeline, with the main character, Shanty, who is born in 1942 in Liverpool, raised to believe that “being born where you are born carries with it certain responsibilities”.
After his school days where he often “sagged off” (Liverpool slang for skipping class), Shanty began working and meets his future bride, Mary Dee. Following the death of his father, Shanty and Mary Dee are married and are forced to deal with the rigors of balancing a happy marriage and their careers.
Amid a quarrel, Mary Dee reveals that she is pregnant and after surviving a nearly fatal accident, gives birth to their son. Thus, the cycle of life in Liverpool carries on.
The commercial reaction for the work was strong, with the oratorio spending many weeks atop the classical charts worldwide, and even charting at number 177 in regular album chart in the US.
Critical reaction was less positive, the virtually unanimous verdict being that the work, while attractive, was simplistic, overlong and, given its aspirations, insubstantial.
“It’s loosely based on my upbringing in Liverpool. So it starts in the wartime with two parents in an air-raid shelter, and they’re gonna have a baby — quite dramatic, having a baby in war. It’s dramatic anyway, having a baby. But in wartime in Liverpool, that was definitely one of the places that got done in. My dad was like a fireman, trying to put out all these incendiary bombs.
So the first movement is very chaotic, it’s weird, almost avant-garde. Then in the middle there’s a little ray of hope, a sort of a burst, this hope for the future. It’s a moving idea that with all this shit gong on they still dare to hope for the future.
The next movement is school days, and after that it gets to teenage years. We’re not going to do heavily the Beatles thing; it’s overdone, that segment of my life. The other segments are just as interesting, particularly to me. Particularly Liverpool, it’s so rich.
School was some nuthouse, that was. Really. Throwing piss bombs. You get kids, “Yeah! We throw water bombs, fill a balloon with water”.
I hate to tell you what we filled it with, lads. I told Carl a few of these experiences. We used to ‘sag off’. He said “What do you mean?” He’s American. It’s playing hooky, playing truant. We used to go in the cathedral graveyard, because our school was there. Very irreligious, we’d take our shirts off and sunbathe on the gravestones. Not much respect for the dead, I must say, but it didn’t occur to us.
But Carl likes that, particularly as it’s going to be performed in the cathedral. My own special slant on this whole affair was to have tried to learn musical notation at particular intervals in my life but never to have lasted the course. At some point the marks on the page failed to match up to what I was hearing, so eventually I made the music and someone else wrote it down.
Since jumping aboard the music caravan as a teenager at the end of the fifties my journey has been, to say the least, an interesting one.
Different musical styles, always emerging, are not what seem to last, but more an overall feeling of “good music”. Beatles, Beethoven, Beach Boys, Bach, Hendrix, Handel, Tchaikovsky, The Who: the list is endless and all of them have something in common.
Further down this long and musical road I am excited to have been asked by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, with Carl Davis, to write something for their celebrations. It’s a perfect excuse for me to expand my previous flirtatious excursions into the orchestral and choral works into a full-blown work.” – Paul
The album for the oratorio was released worldwide on October 20th, 1991
Just ten days later on October 30th, 1991, the previously only released in Russia, CHOBA B CCCP was released internationally.
Choba B CCCP (also known as The Russian Album) is the seventh solo studio album by Paul McCartney, originally released in 1988 exclusively in the Soviet Union.
With the addition of an extra track, the album was released internationally in 1991 following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Finally in 1991 was the writing and making a demo tape for “Angel in Disguise.”
“Angel in Disguise” is a song co-written by Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr that was never released.
The song was intended for Ringo’s 1992 Time Takes Time album. However it did not make it on the album, and therefore remains an intriguing, never to be heard, piece of Beatles history.
Had it been released in 1992 it would have been the first-ever McCartney-Starkey composition on record, although there were Beatles songs that were credited to Lennon–McCartney–Starkey and Lennon–McCartney–Harrison–Starkey.
McCartney sent Starr an unfinished demo of the song, to which Starr added an extra verse. Backing tracks for the song were recorded on 9 September 1991 at Conway Studios, in Los Angeles, produced by Peter Asher.
In May 2020, a cassette tape with two versions of “Angel In Disguise” was auctioned.
One of the versions is a rough demo with vocals sung by McCartney; the other one is a mixed version featuring other musicians & backing vocals, and Ringo Starr’s vocals.
In Late November of 1991, Paul reunited with his band and began rehearsals and started the recording process of what would become his next studio album. so, next… 1992.