EC writes about Paul McCartney in Mojo

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And No Coffee Table
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EC writes about Paul McCartney in Mojo

Postby And No Coffee Table » Fri Jul 01, 2011 10:12 am

http://www.mojo4music.com/blog/2011/07/ ... rtney.html

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"It's Like All The World Is In His Voice"
9:00 AM GMT 01/07/2011

The genius of MOJO cover star Paul McCartney. By Elvis Costello.

The Attractions played the last ever Wings show, at the Kampuchea benefit in 1979. I think that might have been the first time I met Paul. A couple of years later, I was making Imperial Bedroom at AIR [in London's Oxford Street, while he was making Pipes Of Peace. [Beatle engineer] Geoff Emerick was working on both and flitting between the two studios. I saw Paul occasionally, as you do in those multiple studio things, enough to get over the fact that he was Paul from the Beatles. It was friendly. It was just a guy going to work, doing his job.

It was his manager of the time who suggested we write together. I took a train down to his studio near Rye and we just went to work. We brought bits and pieces of songs we had been working on that weren't quite complete. He had one called Back On My Feet. That was pretty much written. I just sort of made a couple of suggestions, if that's not too absurd an idea! Truthfully, Veronica [1989 single] was the same. It was pretty much written, but there were a couple of key things that he suggested that made it better.

The next time we got together, to write the songs that ended up on Flowers In The Dirt, we just started with a blank page. We worked for maybe two days across a table in an office above his studio, with a notebook and a couple of guitars. They had a 24-track studio downstairs, with [Elvis Presley bassist] Bill Black's bass, an electric spinet, Fender Rhodes... all these fantastic instruments. It's hard not to be thrilled to see Bill Black's bass.

The last song we wrote was That Day Is Done. Again, I had a fair opening statement of it and had all these images. It was from a real thing. It was about my grandmother's funeral. It was sort of serious. He said, "Yes that's all good, all those images." But quite often when you're writing a song about something personal, what it means to you can sometimes get in the way of what it can possibly mean to somebody else. It needed a release. He said, "It needs something like this..." and he just sat down and played the chorus. It was sort of like a moment, like Let It Be, the creation of a semi-secular gospel song. It was quite shocking when he did that bit. Then you realise that's what he does. Then he sung the hell out of it. That's him, really.

I ended up doing That Day Is Done with the [venerable gospel vocal group] Fairfield Four. They could hear something in it. Because it had that great stirring chorus, they could get hold of that and kill it. It was thrilling to do it with them. And funnily enough, it was with Larry Knechtel on piano, who played on Bridge Over Troubled Water, another secular gospel song.

We wrote 12 songs in total, which is incredible to me. We wrote one called Tommy's Coming Home Again, which is a good song, and So Like Candy is pretty good. And I love You Want Her Too - a dialogue song. He said, "You get all the snarky lines and I get all the nice lines!" I go back and play some them occasionally. And we got together not so long ago, in the last six, seven years and said, We should do something with these. We had half an idea to write a few more or tidy them up in some way. Both of us were working on other records, but somewhere there's a piece of paper with it all written out, a plan. He wrote it out twice. He handed me a copy, put a copy in a book and put it back on a shelf, like a contract.

The real lost gem from that batch of songs - one of these days one of us should cut it - is The Lovers That Never Were. In its original condition, it's like something Dusty Springfield or Jackie DeShannon would have recorded. Paul straightened it out in the studio [for 1993's Off The Ground album] and wanted it to go a different way, but the demo is, I'd say, one of the great vocal performances of his solo career. He's standing up playing a twelve-string guitar and, weirdly enough, I'm playing piano, just thinking, "Don't fuck up! He's really singing this!" He's singing a ballad in the voice of I'm Down! He's right over my shoulder singing all this wild, distorted stuff! I had never heard him do that before.

He did a vocal on another song that we wrote called Don't Be Careless Love, which is the other end of his vocal dynamic range. Incredibly wired singing, half-falsetto. It's extraordinary singing - one take. We'd sort of had a bit of a disagreement about the way another track should go and he said, "Let's leave it for a minute and I'll just do some singing." He went in, put the headphones on and sang that. I was like, "Oh... I'll just shut up about what I think the other song should be like." I can't compete with that.

He's got a couple of voices. He's got that killer Little Richard-influenced voice, and very few people can sing like that. Then that very plaintive ballad delivery like Yesterday or For No One. When you think about it, what other people sound like that? Gene Kelly sounds like that. So does Jimmie Rodgers, except for the twang. It's like all the world is in his voice. When you get down to why people react to him, it's that.

I think that most people would say that he wears his fame and people's love for his music very well. It's a level of fame that can't be replicated in the internet age. Only Eric & Ernie and the astronauts have that kind of fame, with the whole country tuned in. But he's very good at putting people at ease. When we played the White House [when McCartney received The Library Of Congress Gershwin Prize For Popular Song, June 2010], he sat through the dress rehearsal in the front row, all afternoon. It cut the nerves and intimidation by half. As we were queuing up in the Blue Room to meet the president, we were in a line and Herbie Hancock is in front of me and the Jonas Brothers are behind me with Jack White and Karen Elson. I will love Karen Elson always for saying what we were all thinking: [adopts Mancunian burr] "Hey Jack, isn't this cool?!" We were all trying to be really matter-of-fact about it, but, yes, it was really fucking cool. We're playing the fucking White House with Paul McCartney. You're kidding me!

When you do things in other settings, people are always looking for the hubris in it. Like when he did the Oratorio, Standing Stone and the other [classical] pieces. The most recent, Ecce Cor Meum, I went to the premiere of. It has this beautiful soprano singing in the second movement, a melody that's honestly right in the top ten of the melodies he's ever written. You'd think that if you thought of a melody so beautiful, you'd think, "I'll keep that for a song." But there it is.

We sang together onstage at the Royal Academy [in 2008]. He was receiving a fellowship. It's the only time I've performed for royalty, and I would have only done it for him. We did Mistress And Maid, then he did Yesterday, For No One and Penny Lane and Lady Madonna back-to-back. I was watching through the curtain at the back. It's the audience's relationship to the material that really strikes you as unique, and I especially saw that at the Concert For Linda. It was obviously a very difficult, emotional thing for him. He asked me if I would sing the harmony on All My Loving: "Do you know it?" I thought, "Do I know it? I've only been practising it in my head for the last 35 years!" It's such a beautiful part. When we came to do it for the show and he sang 'Close your eyes', the audience went nuts. Scary nuts. How you cope with that, stay in control of your own songs in the live situation, like back in the day with people flat-out screaming, I can't imagine.

I'm not going to tell any secrets here because Paul hasn't spoken about it, but my wife [jazz chanteuse Diana Krall] is in the studio with him right now. He's cutting some of those songs he must have grown up with. I know he's making this record with Dave Grohl as well. There's so much openness and joy about what he's doing now. He's been in fantastic form. Open, really happy, joyful. In his music, he sticks to the 'love is the way' philosophy - not in a stupid way - and there is such a lot of love in his music for things I value. But the assumption that he's the lighter-hearted, less tortured kind of artist... I dispute that. There's plenty of sadness in that music. There's no shortage of emotion. On top of that, he's very experimental and very open about that. When you look back at what he's done, the big thing you realize is that he's never been afraid.

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Re: EC writes about Paul McCartney in Mojo

Postby Jack of All Parades » Fri Jul 01, 2011 1:47 pm

Truly enjoyed that; the naturalness of feeling and complete admiration which is not fawning is wonderful. He can be a most effective writer when he wants to be as I enjoy here the lack of 'archness' that too often spoils some of his album notes. Really liked the discussion of 'hubris'. This is most effecting and comes closest to equalling the conversational tone he perfected in his Spectacle shows. Love how he anchors the prose in concrete detail and stays away from the purple gushing that too often taints writing about a favorite artist. Well done!
"....there's a merry song that starts in 'I' and ends in 'You', as many famous pop songs do....'

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Re: EC writes about Paul McCartney in Mojo

Postby johnfoyle » Fri Jul 01, 2011 4:16 pm

We sang together onstage at the Royal Academy [in 2008)


Not 2008 but 1995 -

http://www.elviscostello.info/wiki/inde ... -23_London

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Re: EC writes about Paul McCartney in Mojo

Postby Neil. » Sat Jul 02, 2011 5:43 am

Aw, that's such a lovely article. I guess Macca's one of the few songwriters Elvis can look to as an equal, hence the awe!

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Re: EC writes about Paul McCartney in Mojo

Postby wardo68 » Sat Jul 02, 2011 6:10 am

Yes, a nice read. Thanks for typing ANCT!

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Re: EC writes about Paul McCartney in Mojo

Postby cwr » Sat Jul 02, 2011 9:10 am

Is the big news in this that they (relatively recently) got back together and considered writing some more songs and possibly doing something with the ones they've already written together?

I've always felt like this quite good songwriting partnership was a missed opportunity. The weakest of their co-writes are fun throwaways like "Playboy To A Man", "Shallow Grave" and "Twenty-five Fingers." Those aren't bad, and I have a special fondness for the much-maligned "Playboy", which I think is an underrated little monster of a song. As for the best of the songs they wrote together: they are pretty damn good. And if they wrote a few new ones, and if Paul would allow them to be recorded simply in a bare bones fashion, it would do two things:

It would give Paul an album that would probably be as rapturously received as most of the late period Dylan albums have been. He hasn't really had a critical smash in recent years, even his best-reviewed records are quickly forgotten by just about everyone. Now, this might be part of the reason he wouldn't wanna do it-- surely some of the narrative would make it seem like he needed Elvis to make a quality record. And there would be some truth to that. But still, it would undoubtedly feel good, even to Macca, to put out an album that really got people talking.

As for Elvis, well-- it would actually sell some copies. This is no small thing-- a Costello album with a Beatle on it outsells just about anything he does without a Beatle on it, one would imagine, right? And EC gets a kick out of any commercial success these days, he enjoys and appreciates it in a way he perhaps didn't when he was younger.

This is at least the second time Costello has written about Tommy's Coming Home Again and cited it as a good song. It's not like he hasn't had the chance to put it on a record or two! He must want to hear Paul on vocals whenever it comes out.

Please, someone get T Bone Burnett at the helm of a record with these two, ASAP. Either write some new songs or fill the rest of the album out with covers, or have Paul and Elvis each pick a few songs written by the other that they want to do their own "take" on.

There is no doubt in my mind that this is a record Elvis would probably love to make. I'd imagine the stumbling block is McCartney, who seemed hesitant to have it look like he needed someone in the "John" role. But the simple fact is that this would most likely be a really good record that people would enjoy. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

"Somewhere there's a piece of paper with it all written out, a plan. He wrote it out twice. He handed me a copy, put a copy in a book and put it back on a shelf, like a contract."

Implied but not stated by Elvis: "HINT, HINT, SIR PAUL. LET'S MAKE A RECORD. YOU PROMISED!"

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Re: EC writes about Paul McCartney in Mojo

Postby docinwestchester » Sat Jul 02, 2011 11:43 am

cwr wrote: Implied but not stated by Elvis: "HINT, HINT, SIR PAUL. LET'S MAKE A RECORD. YOU PROMISED!"


And the logical follow-up would be "And how 'bout a few concerts in some smaller venues to promote the album? We can use my band if it's okay with you. Of course we'll concentrate on the NYC area where I prefer to perform."

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Re: EC writes about Paul McCartney in Mojo

Postby Neil. » Sat Jul 02, 2011 7:35 pm

God, guys, you're so right.

Ignore most of the official releases of their stuff - it's the demos which show what their collaboration should've been - their voices so go soooo well together - it doesn't matter if it sells or not: certainly Macca doesn't need to make money, I have no idea what Elvis's situation is - but a superbly produced album with both these voices featured in most of the songs in harmony, or with a few solos, and a few 'I sing this section, you sing that section' songs, would be WONDERFUL.

Listening to the '89 demos, you can just imagine how good it would be. And they know each other a bit better by now - they could be really honest with one another and push through with some new songs which go beyond the largely 'fun', playful songs of their '89 collaboration.

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Re: EC writes about Paul McCartney in Mojo

Postby Man out of Time » Tue Jul 12, 2011 12:05 pm

Another opportunity for a McCartney/McManus collaboration?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2011/jul/12/paul-mccartney-ringo-london-2012-olympics

"McCartney suggests remaining Beatles could reunite for performance at opening ceremony of London 2012 Olympics"

Looks like Paul may be "putting the band back together". The other options for the Opening Ceremony, celebrating youth and athleticism are apparently Coldplay, the Spice Girls or er... The Rolling Stones! Charlie Watts was 70 last month.

MOOT

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Re: EC writes about Paul McCartney in Mojo

Postby Jeremy Dylan » Tue Jul 12, 2011 7:43 pm

Considering how good shape McCartney is for his age, I think he'd be perfect for the Olympics. Actually, Roger Daltrey would probably be even better. There's nothing like a muscle-bound 67 year old to make you feel insecure about your physicality.

Regardless, I'm just glad they're happening in London and they have to suffer through it like we did in 2000.

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Re: EC writes about Paul McCartney in Mojo

Postby johnfoyle » Wed Jul 20, 2011 5:02 pm

Elvis 'n Maccas ongoing relationship is illustrated by a moment in the Later with Jools Holland tv show they were both on in London last year. The shows structure has an act performing while other acts watch. Occasionally the camera shows these other acts reacting to performances. Also on the show that night was Neil Diamond. During one of his songs the camera viewed Neil from over the shoulders of Elvis 'n Macca....who were clearly , from their nodding heads, having a chat.


Image


That might seem like bad manners. I like to think a few of factors make that unlikely. Perhaps they had seen umpteen run throughs of the performance. Perhaps the angle is misleading and they were way across the studio floor and couldn't hear it. By far the most likely excuse was that this was the only time two busy people had to catch up.

A interesting, telling moment.

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Re: EC writes about Paul McCartney in Mojo

Postby docinwestchester » Wed Jul 20, 2011 5:41 pm

johnfoyle wrote: That might seem like bad manners. I like to think a few of factors make that unlikely. Perhaps they had seen umpteen run throughs of the performance. Perhaps the angle is misleading and they were way across the studio floor and couldn't hear it. By far the most likely excuse was that this was the only time two busy people had to catch up.

A interesting, telling moment.


That is one amazing pickup, John. Let's hope they were sowing the seeds...

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Re: EC writes about Paul McCartney in Mojo

Postby wordnat » Fri Sep 02, 2011 12:10 pm

I had forgotten about "The Lovers That Never Were" -- MONSTER song! :P

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Re: EC writes about Paul McCartney in Mojo

Postby wordnat » Sun Sep 04, 2011 10:50 pm

A Paul/EC long player will never happen due to Paul's baffling insecurity. He's still sore that John's universally considered the fab's resident "genius" -- why risk doing a fullblown project with another smartypants wordslinging "genius" this late in the game?

Isn't that pathetic?

But I think I'm right.... :roll:

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Re: EC writes about Paul McCartney in Mojo

Postby cwr » Mon Sep 05, 2011 1:26 pm

Sadly, I think you ARE right. It's the reason that, despite writing a pretty good batch of songs, the collaboration didn't become what it could have been, a real songwriting and performing partnership.

There's no question that EC would want it to happen-- can you IMAGINE what a tour that would be?? Just the two of them on guitars, with EC singing harmonies with Paul.

In an ideal world, this would be a thing that really happened. They would make a record together, do a TV special and play a few shows. It would be super exciting, everybody would love it and the worst thing for Paul would be that it would be his best-reviewed album in decades.


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