In January 2012 Paul decided to audition some young producers for his next album of all original material.
To start with, there was no particular plan for Paul’s sixteenth studio album. He had a batch of songs that needed to be put down, and the idea of doing it with a new producer, with someone who could bring something different from him.
The initial intention was to go in and work with a handful of big-but-youthful names, and see which turned out the best.
First, there was Paul Epworth, co-writer and architect of Adele’s monstrously successful ‘21’, and innumerable cool indie records.
And there was Mark Ronson, the man perhaps most notable for making Amy Winehouse’s classic recordings but, even putting that to one side, also with a jaw-dropping impressive collection of credits.
Also, with strong links to Paul’s past but also focused firmly on the future, there were Giles Martin and Ethan Johns.
First up for a dose of fun was Paul Epworth, who did what anyone presented with 20 new Paul McCartney songs to record would do, and decided put them to one side and jam something more.
“Save Us” was the first song to be recorded.
“I feel like I thrive as a producer from getting in a room with somebody, and making music from scratch,” says Epworth.
“He came down for a meeting, to sit down and have a chat, and within an hour we were in the live room with him on bass and me on drums – that was definitely a pinch yourself moment! – and within 20 minutes we had this riff together, which became the first song on the record.” “Save Us” was that song.
McCartney arrived empty-handed. “I was like, ‘OK, what am I going to do here?‘” he recalls. “I’m very open – I just don’t wanna bore myself.”
Epworth was assertive. He mouthed a muscular, hurtling rock beat, telling McCartney that this was the tempo and energy he should hit. “I said, ‘That’s a good idea, let’s get lively, let’s not get all deep and serious,‘” McCartney says. “So he jumped on the drum kit, I jumped on the piano, we multilayered it, I put chords in, structured it a bit, and started blocking out the words.
Normally with me it’s melody and lyric at the same time – I’ll follow the train of thought, and the lyrics and melody all come at once. But when you’re improvising, you don’t have words, you don’t know what the song’s about. You just know how it feels and how a vocal might sound, so you go ‘wada bada bada wado biddo woo’ in order to get the melody, then you find words that fit the blocking.
It’s hard not to get caught up in that kind of excitement. It’s similar to my Fireman project and I like working like that. It’s always a motivating thing for me, having to clear the backlog before I can write more, to realize you suddenly have enough for an album.
But Paul (Epworth) had an idea for us to write something new.
So even though I had 20 songs, the first one we put down, the opening track, we wrote in the studio just off the back of Paul’s (Epworth) enthusiasm.”
Second, he hooked up with Ethan Johns. They spent a day working together at AIR Studios, London, before moving to Abbey Road for two extra days. During that time, they focused on one track, “Hosanna“.
“I hooked up with Ethan Johns, the son of my friend Glyn Johns, who I had worked with on Beatles and Wings recordings. Ethan, a full bearded Glastonbury man was easy to get along with and I got a feeling that his style suited my more acoustic songs.
He’d done Kings of Leon records, so I knew there was an authenticity and a realness about what he did. I brought him ‘Hosanna’” – a tender, tentative acoustic ballad – “and I said, ‘I wrote this song.’ He said, ‘Why don’t you go in and sing it?’ So I did that and said, ‘Should I do it again? Should we fix it up?’
He said, ‘No, that’s beautiful the way you did it. I think that’s enough.’ I thought, ‘OK, this is the way he works: He’s gonna be very raw, he’s gonna want it to spill out, don’t think about it too much, just say it.”
Johns said, “I got a call saying, Would you like to go into the studio with Paul? And of course I said, ‘I would love to! It was very low-key. Let’s just go and hang out for a few days, play some music, have a bit of fun and see what we come up with.”
“The first day we had was remarkable. He walked in with this incredible song “Hosanna,” we threw up a couple of microphones and within four hours we had this great track. I think we did an edit between the first two takes. It had an incredible feel – a really evocative piece of music. A very interesting lyric, and the performance was great.
Then we started to experiment with it, and I put a bunch of psychedelic strangeness on it. You have fun. ‘Oh, try this! Do that!’ It’s just very inspiring to be around.
The first thing he said was, ‘What do you feel like doing?’ I could have said, ‘Let’s spend the day making percussion loops with drum machines,’ and he would have been, ‘Great! Let’s do that!’ I don’t think he ever said ‘No,’ which is kind of the mark of who he is as an artist, really. He’s always up for trying something new.”
“It was revelatory for me, recording Paul in that space having listened to the sound of those Beatles records. He plugged in his bass, I put a microphone in front of it, walked upstairs into the control room, pushed the fader up, and that sound came out of the speakers immediately.”
“I didn’t have to do anything! It was a pretty major light bulb for me. People get so fixated on the equipment and the gear, and those things are important – but ultimately, the bass sound on Revolver is Paul. Paul could be playing anything and he will get that sound.”
McCartney and Johns got together for a second time (finishing a second song) before Paul moved onto producer number three, Mark Ronson.
On March 6th Paul released a nine track live album, recorded at Capitol Records Studio called
iTunes LIVE from Capitol Studios.
Recorded and filmed on February 9th, 2012 at the legendary Capitol Studios. This performance was streamed live on iTunes, to celebrate McCartney’s new studio album Kisses on the Bottom.
The complete video performance aired on PBS as a special film, with surrounding interview clips, on September 7th and was later released on DVD and Blu-ray on November 13th as “Live Kisses.”
The complete version of the live from Capitol Studios performance was later included on Kisses on the Bottom – Complete Kisses.
On February 9th Paul capped a day in which he received his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame by singing in the legendary Capitol Studios. He revisited a majority of Kisses on the Bottom in the same historic setting where he had recorded half of it. This album of standards had been released two days earlier, and guests who’d played on it—including guitarists John Pizzarelli and Anthony Wilson, pianist/vocalist Diana Krall, and vibraphonist Mike Mainieri—returned for the live festivities.
It was McCartney as strictly vocalist as he put his distinct spin on the string-backed “Home (When Shadows Fall)” and the gently swinging “We Three (My Echo, My Shadow and Me).” He also gave the performance debut of his new song “My Valentine,” with Joe Walsh of Eagles fame on acoustic guitar.
The album of this live in the studio release came out on March 6th.
On February 10th Paul was named MusicCares Person of the Year.
Proceeds from the dinner and concert will provide essential support for MusiCares, which ensures that music people have a place to turn in times of financial, medical and personal need.
To cap off an incredible week, Paul appeared at the 54th annual Grammy Awards on February 12th.
Paul received the Award for Best Historical Album, for the re-edition of “Band On The Run“ and performed twice on the show.
The first performance was ‘My Valentine’ along with Diana Krall, with Joe Walsh on guitar. Then Paul closed the prestigious ceremony with ‘Golden Slumbers’, which ended with an onstage jam with Rusty, Brian, Joe Walsh, Dave Grohl and Bruce Springsteen! A true one-off moment.
Dave Grohl, of Nirvana fame, had the idea of creating a documentary about the history of the Sound City recording studio in Los Angeles (where Nirvana recorded its album NEVERMIND in 1991). He invited various artists to record the soundtrack, including Paul in early April.
“I just knew Dave. He stood in for our drummer one day as he couldn’t play. It was a couple of years ago. Dave is a very likable guy, super enthusiastic, he’s really on the ball. And he just bought this desk from Sound City and was making a documentary.
He said what I want to do is have a couple of mates to come over to my studio – where he now installed his famous recording desk – and jam. And I’m gonna film it and make a documentary on the board. So I said “l don’t know about the board (from Sound City), but I’m happy to come over and jam”. So he said “Right, what are we going to do?”.
He said, “Maybe we should do Long Tall Sally”. And I said, “Well I’ve done that, I don’t want to recreate something I have already done. Let’s just make something up.”
So I showed up there with this crazy guitar a friend of mine has given me. It’s a cigar box guitar, but it sounds like the hottest piece of kit on earth. You plug it in and it’s just fabulous… it just takes over, it’s amazing, it’s like it’s alive. And there was a little amp that came with it. Actually, Johnny Depp gave it to me.
I was so excited by it, I took it over and I think Dave was a bit surprised. I think he thought I might play bass. He said I’ve got a couple of friends here. So I said, Okay let’s make something up.’ I started playing this guitar and Dave joined in and Krist and Pat joined in and we made the track, we made it up,
I started screaming “Mama” and just ad-libbed it like a jam and then I sat down with them and said “What do think about structure?” and Krist said “Structure is good!”. “Okay let’s just structure it”, so we said “This should be the verse, this should be the middle eight”. Then we did it again, but this time not as a jam but a little bit more structured. And it turned into “Cut Me Some Slack”.
And then I heard these guys talking “It’s been like 20 years since we last played together” and it turned out to be the Nirvana guys and I must say that I didn’t realize that I was there in the middle of this Nirvana reunion. The organic aspect of just showing up for a jam and then we made this track it’s something a major label should have spent six months planning, but it just came out of the blue and I love that.”
Around this same time Paul got the band together and spent a few days rehearsing his his “On The Run” tour.
The tour (which began July 15th, 2011) restarted again on March 24th and continued until November 29th, 2012. Overall, he performed 40 concerts in 18 countries.
In May, Paul recorded the soundtrack from the video game, “Destiny.”
On May 21st RAM was released as the third archive collection.
It was available in the following formats.
Standard Edition: 1 CD digipak Single disc, digitally remastered 12- track standard edition
Special Edition: 2 CD digipak Remastered album and 8-track bonus audio CD including rarities, b-sides and the hit single, ‘Another Day’.
Deluxe Edition Box Set: 4 CD/1 DVD box set & download Remastered album, bonus audio CD, remastered Mono album, Thrillington CD, bonus film DVD, 112 page book, 5 prints in vintage style photographic wallet, 8 full size facsimiles of Paul’s original handwritten lyric sheets and mini photographic book of outtakes from the original album cover photo shoot.
Hi-Res: 24bit 96kHz files of the remastered and bonus audio CD, accessed via a download code inserted on a card within the deluxe edition package
Vinyl: 2LP 180gm, gatefold vinyl with download. Remastered album, bonus audio disc plus digital download of all 20 tracks
Limited Edition Mono Vinyl: 1LP, Remastered mono album
- Digital: RAM was available for download across a variation of digital configurations including Mastered for iTunes and High Resolution.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is an album from a long, long time ago, when the world was different. This is an album that is part of my history – it goes back to the wee hills of Scotland where it was formed. It’s an album called RAM. It reminds me of my hippie days and the free attitude with which was created. I hope you’re going to like it, because I do!”
To pre-promote the release, Paul re-released the single “Another Day/Oh Woman, Oh Why” on April 21st.
The “On The Run” tour (which began July 15th, 2011) restarted again on March 24th and continued until November 29th, 2012. Overall, he and his band performed 40 concerts in 18 countries.
July saw Paul reunite with producer Mark Ronson to do more new recording.
On June 4th he performed as part of The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Concert, outside Buckingham Palace on The Mall, London.
“It was so special in so many ways. You’re only doing 15 minutes, which makes it different from all the other gigs so you’ve just got to concentrate all your energy into that 15 minutes and make it tell. The fact we’re playing for the Queen was very special. Seeing all the people stretching down Pall Mall was great, as was meeting members of the Royal Family afterwards. It was a great weekend to be British.”
June 25th saw Paul appear on “The Ronnie Wood Radio Show.”
The guys reminisce and chat about Paul’s songs and the songs that have influenced him. The show featured intimate performances by Paul. The show, Ronnie and guests in a studio, listening to great music, swapping rock ‘n’ roll stories and jamming along to records.
On July 14th, Paul joined Bruce Springsteen and his E Street band on stage at the Hard Rock Calling music festival following a performance by the American rock star that had lasted more than three hours.
Bruce greeted Paul by saying “I’ve been waiting for this for 50 years”.
Springsteen, known for his long performances, had exceeded the curfew by half an hour.
He welcomed McCartney to the stage to sing Beatles hits I Saw Her Standing There and Twist and Shout. But after singing two Beatles hits both performers were forced to leave the stage in silence after their sound equipment was turned off – meaning they were unable to thank the audience.
The band had stood for some minutes, bemused and bowing, before speaking their thanks into switched-off microphones to growing jeers.
July 24th and 26th saw Paul and his band rehearse for the upcoming Olympic Games opening ceremony, which was just a week away.
July 27th saw Paul perform at the opening of the 2012 summer olympics, held in London, at London stadium. Over 27 million people tuned in to watch the opening ceremony in the UK alone, with Paul providing a thrilling and fitting finale.
The universally acclaimed event pulled in the highest viewing figures in the UK in almost 15 years.
After midnight Paul took to the stage to perform ‘The End’ and a euphoric ‘Hey Jude’ that had all the stadium on their feet and singing along.
Speaking directly after his performance Paul said, “Thanks for the great response guys. Tonight was terrific, great, really cool. There was some talk of maybe being to playback but we decided against it and went live, live, live! It was a trip and very exciting. It was a great opening ceremony”.
August 11th saw Paul lending his talent for the 3rd “Apollo in the Hamptons” benefit. At $5000 a ticket as a fundraiser for Harlem’s legendary theater, McCartney was a surprise addition to a lineup of entertainers that included Bon Jovi, Usher, Pharell Williams and Jennifer Hudson. He joined the Isley Brothers on stage for a once-in-a-lifetime rendition of ‘Twist and Shout,’ the classic that the Isley’s turned into a hit in 1962. The Beatles, of course, followed suit with their own hit cover in 1964.
While onstage, McCartney acknowledged the Apollo’s influence on the Beatles, asking the audience, “Where would we have been without you? In Liverpool. We would have stayed there.”
Paul reunited with Diana Krall in early September. They may have recorded new versions of “It’s For You” (the McCartney song given away to Cilla Black in the 60s) and “Tomorrow” (the 1971 Wings track from “Wild Life“), as well as two unknown original songs.
It is unclear what the motivation could have been for those sessions. It is also possible that the cover of “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)” had also been recorded or completed during that session.
Mid September had Paul back with Mark Ronson for their third recording session.
September 8th Paul made a surprise performance at the Concert with Africa Express in London. After a morning in Paris where he was awarded with the French Legion of Honor, he rushed back to King’s Cross to perform with the Africa Express collective.
Before the show Paul said, “I’ve loved African music for years. I went to Lagos in the 70s and came back friends with with Fela Kuti. I’ve always wanted to do an Africa Express show.”
Paul’s first appearance on stage was with Rokia Traore. Later in the evening Paul returned to the stage to perform his tracks ‘Coming Up’ and ‘Goodnight Tonight’.
He was joined on stage by musicians including Albarn, drummer Tony Allen, Gruff Rhys of the Super Furry Animals, ngoni player Bassekou Kouyate, former Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, the singers Rokia Traore, Terri Walker, Fatoumata Diawara, Martina Topley-Bird, Shinghai Shoniwa and Seye. The collective played two Wings songs from 1979, Coming Up and Goodnight Tonight.
After the show Diawara told The Guardian, “It was like a dream come true.”
September 18th had Paul in New York City at the Steinway Hall to perform in Project: Harmony.
One of Motown’s prized musical instruments, a nine-foot 1877 STEINWAY grand piano, made its debut at a charitable event to benefit Motown Museum where Motown founder Berry Gordy and Paul McCartney played it for the first time following its extensive restoration.
With 100 patrons of Motown Museum in attendance, guests had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear Paul McCartney share with the audience why he was moved to support the restoration of this piano—one of the many instruments that helped create the legendary Motown Sound—following a visit to Motown Museum in July 2011.
“We were wandering around Studio A inside Motown Museum, when I saw this piano I thought, I can’t come to Motown and not tinker on it. Once I realized it was unplayable, I called STEINWAY & SONS and they also realized…this piano was part of a major moment in history. And, now people in the future will record on it and keep the legacy of Motown alive.”
September 20th had Paul in Avatar studios to record “Hope For The Future” for the video game “Destiny” soundtrack. It would also be released as a single on a digital EP.
More recording took place in later November.
November also saw Paul in the studio recording “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” as part of a charity project for the victims of the Hillsborough Disaster.
After a few days of rehearsals Paul and his band performed at MSG in New York on 12/12/12’s The Concert For Sandy Relief. Paul, with his band, solo (“Blackbird”), with Diana Krall (“My Valentine”) and with the surviving members of Nirvana played seven songs.
The fundraising concert is thought to have been the biggest music broadcast event in history having potentially reached an estimated two billion people.
Dave, Krist and Pat – performing live for the first time in nearly 20 years – premiered a new track with Paul titled ‘Cut Me Some Slack’. All proceeds from the benefit went to the Robin Hood Foundation who distributed the funds to those in need after the devastating November storm.
Finally, (whew) Paul rehearsed on my birthday again on December 13th and then appeared again on episode #10 of Season 38’s SNL.
He appeared in sketches with host Martin Short, played “My Valentine,” joined by the Nirvana band on, “Cut Me Some Slack.”
He closed the show with a children’s choir and sang “Wonderful Christmastime.”