“There’s no way round it, Anthology’s been good to us. I mean, shit! It’s thirty years later and we’re more successful than ever! And it means I can get back to just recording, playing without any pressure.” -Paul
On February 4th, 1997 Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono were among the 20 rock artists who contributed to Milestones, a London exhibition and auction being staged this month by the charity War Child.
The charity, which runs a music therapy center for children in Bosnia, was also responsible for the Come Together project in 1995, in which Paul also took part.
Milestones consisted of artworks by famous rock stars, each dedicated to musicians who have inspired their own work. Paul prepared a tribute to Buddy Holly, while unsurprisingly, Yoko Ono’s piece reflects the inspiration of John Lennon.
On February 14th, Valentines Day, George Martin was called in to add orchestration overdubs for the song, “Beautiful Night.” The album to be was then put to bed.
On February 26th The Beatles received “three” Grammy awards. For Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, for “Free As A Bird.” Best Music Video, Short Form for “Free as a Bird” and Best Music Video, Long Form – for The Beatles Anthology.
He returned to working on demo recordings for STANDING STONE on March 3rd and 4th, and the actual recording sessions for this next full classical release from April 30th thru May 2nd.
On March 11th Paul was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. The 54-year-old lad from Liverpool became Sir Paul in a centuries-old ceremony of pomp and solemnity at Buckingham Palace in central London. Fans waited outside in a scene reminiscent of Beatlemania of the 1960s. Crowds screamed as McCartney swept through the gates in his chauffeur-driven limousine and he answered with a thumbs-up.
Linda, who was fighting breast cancer, did not accompany him, but three of their four children were at the palace. “I would have loved the whole family to be here, but when we heard there were only three tickets, we had to draw straws,” McCartney said.
McCartney admitted he was very nervous before the ceremony but said it had been a great experience.
“Proud to be British, wonderful day and it’s a long way from a little terrace (street) in Liverpool,” he told reporters. Aides said he won’t be calling himself “Sir Paul,” the title conferred when the queen tapped him on each shoulder with a naked sword as he knelt on the investiture stool. McCartney’s knighthood was considered long overdue even by the conservative standards used in Britain, which sees most such honors going to judges, scientists and politicians.
Just prior to this the first single from his upcoming new album was released on April 28th. It was called “Young Boy.” It was released as two different colored CD singles, with bonus tracks on each. The single was taken from the album that would be called, FLAMING PIE.
“We had some funny moments during the making of the Anthology, when we remembered things differently. The biggest was “who thought of the name Beatles?”.
George and I both remember it the same way: John and Stu had come out of their flat in Gambier Terrace, Liverpool, and we were walking towards the Dingle, chatting, when they told us of their new name for the band. But, what with one thing and another, we didn’t exactly say this in the TV and video series.” -Paul
From an article in Mersey Beat July 6th, 1961, written by John Lennon.
Many people ask what are Beatles? Why Beatles? Ugh, Beatles, how did the name arrive? So we will tell you. It came in a vision – a man appeared on a flaming pie and said unto them ‘From this day on you are Beatles with an A’. Thank you, Mister Man, they said, thanking him.”
So Paul’s new album was released on May 5th, 1987 in the UK and on May 20th in the US (why the two week difference?).
I was so whipped up, after the documentary and the Beatles three double Anthology albums. I was also happy he had been working with Jeff Lynne (much like I was with Eric Stewart and Elvis Costello, But we know how quickly those working relationships ended). I bought the disc on the day it was released.
The cover is from a 1996 picture of Paul and then cropped to have only his head and run thru a filter that gave it a nostalgic sepia quality. The original photo was taken by Linda.
Inspired by his working on old and new Beatles music and with plenty of time to write and record with the outstanding Jeff Lynne producing and helping turn Pauls visualization into reality (albeit with his slightly heavy handed production style a-la ELO) I fully expected FLAMING PIE to be excellent.
He got tons of TV press via MTV. And TV had “The McCartney WEEK” on VH1 from May 12-17th. Included that week was the premiere of the documentary, “In The World Tonight.” His daughter Mary’s husband produced the music videos for the singles, “Young Boy” and “The World Tonight,” which got heavy airplay.
He launched a website for the album on April 2nd and soon followed with his official website. He even was one of the first people to do an online webcast (May 17th) and chat online with lucky questioning fans.
Fathers’ Day” was a comedy film directed by Ivan Reitman and starring Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Nastassja Kinski. Two tracks of the “Flaming Pie” album were included in the soundtrack. As the movie was released in theaters in the US on May 9, 1997, the US public discovered those tracks – “Young Boy” and “The World Tonight” – ahead of the official release of the album. Specific 5.1 mixes of the songs were built for the movie.
I placed the disc into my player and sat back and listened.
Unless noted on each track:
*Paul McCartney: Co-Producer, Acoustic and 12 String Acoustic Guitar, Bass Guitar, Double Bass, Electric Guitar, Spanish Guitar, Hammond Organ, Fender Rhodes, Mellotron, Harpsichord, Harmonium, Lead and Harmony Vocals, Drums, Piano, Percussion.
*Jeff Lynne: Producer, Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Harmony Vocals, Keyboard.
“The Song We Were Singing” “I was remembering the Sixties, sitting around late at night, dosing, smoking pipes, drinking wine…jawing, talking about the cosmic solution. It was what we were all doing…all that “What about…wow!” It’s that time in your life when you got a chance for all that. The song represents for me good memories of the Sixties. I think it works as an opening track – it creeps you into the album and sets it up nicely. I played Bill Black’s stand-up bass on the recording; it’s the wrong way around for me, being left-handed, but I have a go.” -Paul Rating -8.5
“The World Tonight” The second song from Paul’s initial session (there were four in all) with Jeff Lynne took what had been an acoustic, folk-tinged demo and imbued it with a progressively heavier treatment. ‘The World Tonight’ was written while on vacation in America in 1995 – of the 14 songs on Flaming Pie only the title track, ‘Somedays’ and ‘Great Day’ were composed in England, for the muse tends to strike Paul most often while he’s on holiday.
The lyrics were just gathering thoughts. Like ‘I go back so far, I’m in front of me’- I don’t know where that came from, but if I’d been writing with John he would have gone ‘OK, leave that one in; we don’t know what it means but we do know what it means’.- Paul
“The World Tonight” was one of those songs you just start with no particular inspiration. I didn’t have a title. I just had an idea for the opening verse, which just said “I saw you sitting at the center of the circle”. It’s just a stream-of-consciousness thing.” – Paul Rating -9
“If You Wanna” Features Steve Miller on Acoustic and Electric Guitar and Harmony Vocal.
“I wanted to write something that would reflect America, for when you’re driving across the desert on that big road with the flat horizon. I’ll take you for a ride in my Cadillac…I’ll take you to The Coast for a holiday…When they say The Coast, the don’t mean Blackpool. We had a day off in Minneapolis when we were on tour. Linda was going off to do something and I stayed behind in the room and wrote a song on guitar. Recording wise, I used the same process as the other songs I did with Steve Miller: me on drums, Steve on guitar, both playing acoustic guitars, I did the vocals and produced Steve’s guitar stuff. This is the kind of song you might hear when you’re driving across the desert in America, Easy Rider country.”-Paul Rating -8
“Somedays” Paul plays all instruments with George Martin scoring the Orchestration. “I’d driven Linda to a photo session for one of her cookery assignments. Knowing she’d be about two hours, I set myself a deadline to write a song in that time – so that when she’d finished and would say ‘Did you get bored? What did you do?’, I could say ‘Oh, I wrote this song. Wanna hear it?” -Paul
At first, one session was all it took to commit ‘Somedays’ on to tape, but Paul felt that it could be enhanced by an arrangement. At this time he was occasionally meeting with George Martin at Abbey Road, sifting through unissued archive Beatles recordings for the Anthology albums (and still nervous, 30 years on, that he would not be the cause of any musical breakdowns…), and Paul asked George if he would listen to ‘Somedays’ and consider scoring it for an orchestra. “I see you haven’t lost your touch!” was the considered response; a 14-piece ensemble overdubbed their contribution on 10 June, 1996. Rating -8
“Young Boy” Steve Miller on Electric and Rhythm guitar and Backing Vocals.
“This was another song written when I’d set myself an arbitrary deadline. We were in Long Island and Linda was cooking with Pierre Franey for a New York Times article. I had taken my guitar, and was sitting around in a nearby room when a song came up. It wrote itself: I was thinking about all the young people I know, and remembering my own early days. There’s a funny side story to this: I left the room after I finished writing the song and when I went back in there a few minutes later I got a shock because a girl was lying on the couch. She’d been there all the time, and I hadn’t seen her. It was great to renew my Sixties friendship with Steve Miller; working with Steve again was like falling back into the old habit.” -Paul Rating -8
“Calico Skies” Paul solo with production by George Martin. Recorded on September 3rd, 1992.
While it wreaked havoc in the north-east US, the category-three storm Hurricane Bob that made landfall in August 1991 prompted Paul (then staying in Long Island) to sit with an acoustic guitar and write what he describes as “a gentle love song that becomes a sixties protest song”. Paul invited George Martin to co-produce the piece, which-owing to it’s instrumental simplicity-was started, finished and mixed within a single session. The earliest recording on Flaming Pie.
(“Winedark Open Sea“, released on the 1993 “Off The Ground” album, was written during the same August 1991 holidays)
“Bob, the hurricane, knocked out all the power; it was all candle-light, cooking on a wood fire. Very primitive, but we like that enforced simplicity. I couldn’t play records, so I made up little acoustic pieces. This was one of them-it’s primitive little power cut memory.” -Paul Rating -8.5
“Flaming Pie” The “pie” lyric that had arrived unto Paul on horseback fitted perfectly with some funky riffs he and Jeff Lynne had evolved days earlier while waiting to overdub on to ‘Souvenir’. With lyric and music suddenly fashioned, “Flaming Pie” was recorded quickly. Paul suggested that the song be taped with the speed that the Beatles often worked, cutting three songs in a day. Setting themselves a four hour deadline, Paul singing live to his own piano accompaniment with Jeff on guitar before adding drums and bass, and then, guitars and harmony vocals.
“I was riding with my missus, thinking of lyrics, searching for a rhyme with ‘sky’… ‘bye’… ‘pie’. The story came back and I thought ‘Ooo, ‘flaming pie’.”-Paul Rating -8
“Heaven On A Sunday” Features Linda McCartney on Backing Vocals and James McCartney on Electric guitar solo. Paul was sailing his boat in America in August 1996 when ‘Heaven On A Sunday’ – the most recent composition on Flaming Pie – materialized. Enjoying the notion of the celestial city being busy in the week but peaceful on a Sunday, he developed the tune from there, its relaxed ambience reflecting his holiday mood.
The song was recorded on the McCartneys’ return to England, and the middle section was endowed with a bluesy feel on the spur of the moment. The guitar solos are shared by Paul and his 19 year old son James, making his first disc appearance with the instrument.
“I played the simpler stuff and left the Young Turk to play the hot electric stuff,” says Paul. James McCartney’s talent on the guitar is the result of some ten years’ practice and home-development while listening to the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd, rather than formal lessons. When his father suggested these, James’s response, “Well you didn’t, Dad”, echoed down the decades from 1950s Liverpool.
Like father, like son, indeed. Or, as Paul puts it, “The saga continues…”
“I was out sailing in a small boat; just me, the sail, the wind. Peaceful, like Heaven On A Sunday. That opening line led me through the song, I thought it’d be nice to play with James, so we traded phrases. Lovely to do.” -Paul Rating -8.5
“Used To Be Bad” Co written with Steve Miller. Miller is also on Electric Guitar and co-Lead Vocal.
Having enjoyed ‘Young Boy’ Miller was keen to extend the collaboration, wanting to get Paul singing some “Texas blues.”
As a consequence, he arrived at their second set of session with dozens of guitar riffs; this prompted Paul to climb behind the drum kit and the pair played away for some time, kicking around ideas, until Miller began adding words to the jam, utilizing blues lines line, “I used to be bad but I don’t have to be bad no more”. Once the piece had gelled Paul overdubbed bass and Steve added some solos before the traded vocal lines.
“This was just a jam, really. Steve whacked out these blues riffs, I got on the drums and we just went for it – a duet, sung on one mike. We did the vocal in one take.” -Paul
“Souvenir” Written during a relaxing holiday in Jamaica in January 1995, the later studio recording of ‘Souvenir’ saw Paul anxious to replicate the easy atmosphere of his original demo, which carried the additional sounds of a ringing telephone and tropical downpour. So the demo was laid into the multi-track tape as a guide for the studio recording and each element of the original was carefully listened to and replicated. The 78-rpm-like coda was added after Jeff and Paul saw co-engineer Jon Jacobs carrying a key-fob with a built-in sound sampler. The end vocal effect was added using this as the medium.
“I had a sort of Wilson Pickett, R&B number in mind with this. I could imagine some guy really getting to grips with it. It’s a favorite of mine and I’m looking forward, hopefully to some R&B singer doing it.”-Paul Rating -8.5
“Little Willow” “Little Willow” was written early 1995 as a tribute to Maureen Cox, the first wife of Ringo Starr, who passed away in December 1994. He created the song not only as an immediate personal response to the sadness but, hopefully, as a salve for his late friend’s children. The studio recording, begun ten months later (on the day the The Beatles Anthology 1, with “Free As A Bird” was released), is an eloquent combination of voice and instrumentation, Paul’s work being augmented by Jeff Lynne.
“I wanted to somehow convey how much I thought of her. For her and her kids. It certainly is heartfelt, and I hope it will help a bit. A good friend of mine died, someone we all loved, so I wrote a song that conveyed my mood. It’s heartfelt – instead of writing her kids a letter I wrote a song. It was a very sad day for all of us, and Jeff Lynne and I gave it our all in the studio.” Rating -8
“Really Love You” Co-written by Ringo (also on drums). The day after Ringo Starr had joined Paul to record ‘Beautiful Night’ the pair returned to the studio, where the instruments remained set up as before, and began a good old-fashioned jam session, Paul plucking his Hofner Violin bass, Ringo beating the drums and Jeff Lynne playing guitar. Three separate pieces evolved inside half an hour, one being ‘Looking For You‘ (issued on the B-side of first UK single ‘Young Boy’ and first US single ‘The World Tonight’), another ‘Really Love You’.
This latter track best charted the desired R&B groove, with Paul adding a live vocal. Forced to invent the lyric on the spot, he duly grabbed the words out of “left-field”. “There’s one verse that doesn’t make any sense,” Paul admits, “which goes ‘I need your heart hopping on a plate’. I remember thinking, ‘ What did I just say?’ But I just had to keep going.” -Paul Credited to McCartney/Starkey – even after all this time this is still a first-ever credit for a released tune – the jam was completed by some guitar overdubs and mixed after Ringo had returned home. Played to him over the telephone by Paul, his response – “It’s relentless!” – remains the best description of the finished result. Rating -7
“Beautiful Night” Features Ringo on percussion, drums and backing vocals. Linda McCartney is also on backing vocals. Working on the Anthology prompted Paul to suggest that he and Ringo renew a collaboration not experienced for ten years. “Beautiful Night” was a decade old itself, and a recording made in New York had been on the shelf, unused, since 1986. With Paul at the piano and Ringo on drums (playing, incidentally, a replica arrangement of his own kit, which Paul had bought and modeled on Ringo’s set up after the “Real Love” session) the song came together comfortably. Wanting to play some guitar on the end, Paul also introduced a new element to his composition, the uptempo finale. Finally, the recording was enhanced by an orchestral arrangement scored by George Martin and overdubbed at Abbey Road on St. Valentine’s Day 1997.
“I unearthed this old song for when Ringo was coming, changed a few lyrics and it was really like the old days, I realized that we hadn’t done this for so long, but it was very comfortable. And it was still there.”
“Great Day” Recorded on September 3rd, 1992. George Martin Produced, Linda on backing vocals. Paul also contributed legs slaps. Also recorded on this day was “When Winter Comes,” finally released in 2020.
“I didn’t want to end the album on a big note. It was a trick similar to what we did on the end of Abbey Road with Her Majesty, a surprise to deflate any pomposity.” -Paul
But ‘Great Day’ has even older roots. Seeking a short, simple song to close Flaming Pie, Paul McCartney has searched back 25 years to find “Great Day”, an acoustic number that he and Linda used to perform ‘sitting around the kitchen or when the children were dancing’.
The candlelit evenings in Long Island, enforced by Hurricane Bob in August 1991, not only led Paul to write “Calico Skies” but also found him plucking this one from the memory vault. So, a year later, in the same session that he recorded his new number with George Martin, Paul also committed “Great Day” to tape for the first time (despite it’s years), not changing a hair of the arrangement or lyric.
“It’s just a little upbeat song of hope to the point and in the spirit of the whole album.”- Paul Rating -7.5
Overall FLAMING PIE grades out as 8/10, an excellent score placing it #3 as of now…..
Next…Lots of things still to happen in 1997 after FLAMING PIE comes out of the oven.