Sunday, April 12, 2020

The surprising Paul McCartney smash that got John Lennon recording again

Paul McCartney : Coming Up

On April 13, 1980 Paul McCartney's UK#2 hit "Coming Up" debuted on the charts at #62. Recorded during the Summer of '79 at High Park Farm in Scotland, the song was part of a session that was never intended to be released commercially.

I originally cut it on my farm in Scotland. I went into the studio each day and just started with a drum track. Then I built it up bit by bit without any idea of how the song was going to turn out. After laying down the drum track, I added guitars and bass, building up the backing track. I did a little version with just me as the nutty professor, doing everything and getting into my own world like a laboratory. The absent-minded professor is what I go like when I’m doing those; you get so into yourself it’s weird, crazy. But I liked it. 

Then I thought, ‘Well, OK, what am I going to do for the voice?’ I was working with a vari-speed machine with which you can speed up your voice, or take it down a little bit. That’s how the voice sound came about. It’s been speeded up slightly and put through an echo machine I was playing around with. I got into all sorts of tricks, and I can’t remember how I did half of them, because I was just throwing them all in and anything that sounded good, I kept. And anything I didn’t like, I just wiped.

In the memorable video for the songs McCartney plays dual roles impersonating Ron Mael of Sparks, Hank Marvin of The Shadows, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, and his own self as a young Beatle playing a Hofner bass. 

American DJs preferred playing the B side, a live version recorded on the last night of a 1979 tour in Glasgow. In the US the song topped the charts at the end of June, for two weeks.

The song is believed to have inspired John Lennon to get back in the studio, as McCartney relates:

I heard a story from a guy who recorded with John in New York, and he said that John would sometimes get lazy. But then he’d hear a song of mine where he thought, ‘Oh, shit, Paul’s putting it in, Paul’s working!’ Apparently Coming Up was the one song that got John recording again. I think John just thought, ‘Uh oh, I had better get working, too.’ I thought that was a nice story.

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