|Chaos and Creation in the Backyard Interview Transcript (Thanks to Bob Gannon) #1816|
So, Paul, another new album. After all this time, do you still get the buzz, the same excitement on releasing an new CD?
Paul McCartney: Releasing isn’t my favourite bit because you’re letting your baby go. Making it is, that’s great, you know, the whole creative process. Releasing it’s a bit more difficult, you’ve got to sort of think about promoting it and doing this that and the other and it’s not necessarily what you got into it for and also then you’re letting it go and people have all these opinions that you don’t necessarily agree with, you know, someone just said to me the other day, ‘One of these tracks this is about this, so and so, isn’t it?’ I went, ‘No.’ It was like Oh Dear this is going to start happening now but I’ve enjoyed making the album and the idea of releasing it is great because people will get it, mah people will get it, you know, but all the chat that goes on outside it, you know, that’s not my favourite bit.
If each album you make presents a new and different challenge, what was the challenge that this album presented? (NB ‘Nigel’ = Producer Nigel Godrich).
Yeah, you know, it’s the strangest thing even with The Beatles you thought, ‘O.K., we’ve made a big album’, let’s say like Revolver or something, and we thought, ‘Now we know how to make albums. This is going to be easy.’ You go back in to make the next one and you go, ‘How do we do this? And you’ve really got to get up to speed again and so I always used to play the last album just to see where we were up to, you know. It is different every time and it’s, you know, I just realized every time, I don’t know how to do this but I’m glad. I wouldn’t want to know how to do it, you know. And this time the challenge was to do something good. I actually said to myself, ‘I’m going to make a good album.’ Normally you say, ‘I hope I’ll make a good one,’ or ‘I’d like to make a good ‘un.’ I just actually really put my foot in it this time to myself and said, ‘I’m going to make a really good album’ because I knew there was some prospect of me going out on tour and I thought, ‘I’m going to go out with a really good album that I’m very pleased with so I met up with Nigel and he agreed that that was sort of what he wanted to do as well so we set about it.
Are you any clearer, after all these years of writing great popular music, where the songs actually come from? And do you wonder?
Erm, yeah, you always do, you know, and I don’t wanna know. That’s the nice thing about it. I actually don’t wanna know because that’s what makes it always fascinating, to just have nothing, be sitting here, pick up your guitar and then after an hour or two you suddenly have like got a song and, if it works, some people are going to go, ‘I love that one.’ Or whatever and it’s like, ‘Wow, yes’, it’s like baking a great cake or something, you know, so yeah, I’ve no idea where it comes from. It comes from my love of music, I think that’s the starting point. I was talking to Keith Richards not so long ago and he was saying, ‘You know, man,’ he was saying, ‘we started off listening to music. None of this writing it and singing it. What we used to do was listen to it.’ And he was very right, you know, then we started playing it and singing it and then eventually writing it. I think it comes from this love of listening to what you think is great music so it just gets a beautiful sort of feeling going in you. Everyone loves music, feels that feeling and that’s what’s special about it. It’s kind of mystical. Why do these combinations of vibrations, why do they affect us so much? How do they really affect our emotions? I mean, I can’t hear God Only Knows without welling up, you know. It’s just one of those songs for me. It’s just so special, you know, and it’s something to do with the words, something to do with the chord changes, something to do with the record, but it’s mystical, you know, so I love that, I really love that about what I do and when people say, ‘Why do you still do it, man?’ and, you know, ‘Aren’t you jaded ? Aren’t you fed up?’ I go, ‘No.’ Sometimes I wish I was. I could go on holiday. But I love it. I really love it. I’m really looking forward to going on tour, America, because then you get the feedback from your audience as well as all this stuff but, yeah, I don’t know how it happens, I don’t know how it works, and I think a lot of people if you talk to them about how they make their music there’s a kind of mystical element in it which I think is , great. I mean, how lucky to be in a job where there’s that kind of an element, you know, rather than just boring, very mundane and I do feel it’s hugely lucky, you know. .
How if at all have your vocal delivery and range changed over the years?
It has changed, yeah. I listen to old records and my voice is different but the funny thing is, you know, when I come to do some of those old songs live I still do them in the same key. When I did Live8 someone said, ‘Is Helter Skelter still in the same key?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ I have a very innocent way of thinking about singing because a lot of people don’t and will talk about ways to sing and from your diaphragm and I kind of do that naturally, I think, the diaphragm bit so I think that is true but I have a very simple view of singing. It’s like, ‘Just do it. Don’t think about it too much and just sort of…’ so I just get on with it and it’s always been like that. I remember doing, recording er, I think it was Kansas City with The Beatles and I was, (Clears throat) I’m gonnaand it was like, you’ve gotta kind of get out of this person who’s talking quite sensibly and you’ve gotta go, (Shouts) ‘Well I Well!’ and you’ve gotta like go somewhere and I always used to say, ‘It comes out of the top of your head and talking to John about it and (sings) I don’t know, it just comes out of the top of my head. I remember I was having trouble with it (sings) ‘Kansas City’ and I couldn’t let go, you know and he came down in Abbey Road and said, ‘It comes out of the top of your head, right?’ ‘Yeah.’ (sings) ‘Well I’ and that’s all I know, sort of it’s stupid stuff like that comes out of the top of your head which I’m sure isn’t true but that’s enough for me and I went up to my old school which is now a performing arts centre in Liverpool, LIPA, a school I have a lot to do with and I was helping some of the kids there, some of the songwriting kids, and we were in the vocal room and they had a big chart up there showing what goes on here, like the larynx and all the names for it, and I said, ‘I think you’d better get that down, because if I knew all of that went on in there, there’s so much to go wrong. I mean, I just think of it like a tube and it goes out the top of your head.’ So what was the original question? Has my voice changed? Yeah, I think so just with maturity, I think it must change but the stuff’s still in the same key and I still think the same way about doing it, that you just get up and you just do it. And, you know, it’s stood me in good stead, many a year.
Where was Chaos and Creation in the Backyard recorded?
We started off, basically we recorded the album in Nigel’s favourite studios really because I’m not a sound guy. I’m just the other side of the mike so it’s important for him to be listening in conditions he’s either used to or happy with, so I said, ‘Well, where do you want to work?’ kind of thing and he said, ‘Well, Rak in London, the old Mickey Most studio.’ I said, ‘That’s great. I’ve worked there. I like that’ and then Ocean Way in Los Angeles which is a big favourite studio of his that I hadn’t worked in but he said, ‘Oh, it’s a great room. I really love the sound in that room. Something magic happens in that room.’ So I said, ‘Fair enough.’ Great excuse to go to L.A. So, and then here, Air Lyndhurst, Air Studios. Again, I have worked here but it really was, the reason was ‘cos they’re studios that Nigel likes and as he’s the sound man, I bow to that.
Was the album recorded in one go, or over a period of time?
It was stop and start. At Rak I just wanted to do a couple of weeks to see if we got on, me and Nigel, because, you know, we might not have got on and after a couple of weeks it was like, Pull the plug, I don’t want to do this,’ but in fact it went the other way. I really enjoyed working with him and we put together a couple of nice little tracks that are still on the album but then we had some time off while we each considered when we might do the next bit and then I think we did a month and then had some more time off, then another month, had some more time off so I think it was over the period of a couple of years but I’m not sure. Probably all in all it, it was four or five months the whole process but over a long period of time.
Whose music were you listening to in the run up to making the album?
I had been listening to various things. A friend of mine, Nitin Sawnhey, who I like and stuff and I’d been to a few concerts and I listened to a bit of his stuff and I sent that to Nigel and said, ‘Maybe this is the sort of little direction I’d like to play around in,’ and he promptly said, ‘No. I don’t think so.’ ‘Oh, all right.’ He said, ‘No, I want it to be you. You can forget everyone else. I want it to be you.’ He said, ‘That’s what I think people want to hear. Let’s just concentrate on what you do and get it right. I’d been listening to a couple of other people and there were pointers but it wasn’t their music. I mean for instance, somebody like Nat King Cole where his voice is just so there; so a couple of things like that we might have talked about and just have the voice really there, you know, if you’re going to buy someone’s record I like to be able to hear them, you know, really hear every little syllable and luckily that’s the way Nigel wanted to go, but yeah, Nitin, I sent him Nitin but he said, ‘No, that’s Nitin, it’s great, lovely stuff, but we don’t want to go there, you know, it’s gotta be you.’
Do you listen to other people’s music while actually involved in the recording process?
I listen to stuff all the time, you know, but it’s not necessarily with a view to informing what I’m going to do. Some of it does. You just can’t help it, you know. If I was listening to people like Neil Young and stuff then I might be thinking, ‘Oh, yeah, I’d like to do an acoustic track,’ but that’s as far as it goes really. I don’t think I want it to be Canadian and Neil-ish. It’ll just be a vague ball park or something, but I listen to a lot of stuff and it’s all so varied that you couldn’t make an album with that as your influence.
Nigel Godrich (Radiohead etc) is the producer. Is it correct that Sir George Martin (Beatles’ producer) recommended that you should work with him?
Yeah. I didn’t know who would produce the album but I knew I wanted the very best and I wasn’t sure who that was so I thought, ‘Well, I’d like George Martin really,’ but he doesn’t produce any more, his son Giles does and George kind of oversees projects but he doesn’t produce, so I rang him and I said, ‘I’m thinking of doing a new album. I’ve got some songs together. Who would you recommend? Who do you think’s the best person around?’ And he got back to me a week or so later and he said, ‘Well, you know, I’ve had a talk with Giles and a few people and the name that seems to be coming up is Nigel Godrich. And I knew Radiohead stuff and I liked particularly the sounds on it and I think it’s a great sound he gets and that’s particularly important for me and Travis, I knew he’d done that album, The ‘Invisible Band’ album, and so I liked what he did and I say particularly the sound so we met up just to see if we had the same kind of thing in mind and he did. I think maybe he went a bit further than I did in as much as he said, ‘I want it to be a great album as well but we’ve got to focus on you, you know, so I’ve been thinking about it, I’ve been talking to people. What would you want in a Paul McCartney album? Would you want it to sound like him and a good one sort of of that?’ So yeah, it all came through George.
How did Nigel Godrich’s approach to making a record differ from yours?
Basically it was quite similar really except the key thing, I think, was when I started to do the album that two weeks in Rak. I came in and I said to him, ‘You know, I’d like to work with my live band, because they’re my guys and the last tour we’d been doing we’d been talking about, ‘You know, I can’t wait to go into the next batch of songs, new album.’ Nigel said, ‘You know,’ he said, ‘I’ve been thinking about that. I’d like to take you out of your safety zone,’ he said. ‘That’s your safety zone. You know these guys and you know what you’re doing with them,’ he said. ‘ I’d like to kind of get you out of that zone.’ And so it turned out that that basically meant that he’d like me to have a go at drumming for instance whereas Abe, my drummer is a much better drummer than I am but Nigel wanted this sort of English feel, which I’ve got and I’m not a great drummer but I’ve got a feel, so I hear, you know. I enjoy drumming but it’s the feel that I’ve got. So he said, ‘I want to try that, you know,’ he said. ‘Try it,’ so we just tried it on one of the tracks that we’d made with the band and he said, ‘This is what I meant, yeah, you know, this is what I’m looking for’ so gradually I had to really, you know, very embarrassing, I had to say to the guys, ‘Look, he wants to go in this other direction and he’s the producer so I can’t really say, No, you’ve got to work with my band.’ I said, ‘How do you feel about it?’ and they were really cool. They just said, ‘Look whatever it takes to make a good record. We’re coming out on tour. We’ll be playing it but whatever it takes to make it, you go and make it,’ so that’s what we did and that I think was the big difference that Nigel brought to it, to how I might have done it with the band, I think, but it did make quite a bit of difference, you know, it’s changed the feel of the album and did mean I was out of my safety zone a bit. It was like, ‘Oh God, I’ve got to play drums. Oh God, I’ve got to do this. Got to think it all up,’ instead of just, ‘Well, you do that bit,’ so it did make it, it was a lot more work for me but, I think he was right to do that.
Did you have any major differences or fallouts with Nigel Godrich?
I think so. You know it’s, that was the thing. I brought in some songs and Nigel would just sort of say, ‘Well, I don’t really like that.’ And, you know, it was like, I thought, ‘Well, you know, had it been in another situation I might have got away with that, thought, well, I’m going to do it, simple as that,’ but with him it was like, ‘Why don’t you like it?’ He said, ‘Well, look, that seems a bit corny, you’ve done better than that.’ And it was really quite cool, you know, and there was none of the sort of yes-man bit which is very easy in my position. People can sort of say, ‘Well, you’re the one who knows,’ but to be working with a good producer, you know, they’ll say as Nigel did, ‘I’m not really keen on that song. Let’s not do that one,’ so he’d knock out those songs and then other things, he said, you know, ‘I like the opening line,’ and I said, ‘O.K.’ We nearly came to, you know, it got a bit fraught because I got a bit fed up with it. I said, ‘Look, tell me what you don’t like. Don’t just say you don’t like it. Get very specific. Let’s go down the lyrics.’ He said, ‘All right, well, I like that opening line. I said ‘O.K., tick.’ He said, ‘But I don’t like those next. That’s boring.’ I said, ‘O.K., cross.’ We did that, went all the way down, and I said, ‘What kind of thing are you looking for?’ He said, ‘Well, it’s boring. It’s been said before.’ ‘O.K. Mmm.’ You know, we had a couple of moments. Probably the best moment stroke worst moment was I was sitting down to do a bass piece, stick bass on a track and I was feeling great, (Sings) and I was really, ‘O.K. Let’s go.’ And just before I sat down, got the sound, got everything out, knew roughly what I was going to do on the part and then Nigel with the greatest timing ever says, ‘You know that song we were doing the other day, I think it’s crap.’ I went, ‘Oh, yeah. O.K. Fine, anyway. Let’s just get on with the bass,’ but of course I’m going, (Whistles) ‘Plungerino, Well, O.K.’ (Sings). ‘ What do you mean you don’t like it?’ ‘I don’t really like it. It’s crap.’ I said, ‘Well, you know what, Nigel, that was not the greatest timing. I was just about, you could have waited till I’d done the thing,’ and it was one of them, I just, I lost it, I mean, I didn’t get angry, but I just lost all confidence. I just thought, ‘Oh, the song was crap, was it? Great, you know.’ He said, ‘ I didn’t think you’d take it like that, didn’t think it’d affect you.’ I said, ‘Well, think again, you know, because it did’ and we had, that was our moment, like pivotal moment on the album and I said, ‘O.K. Fair enough.’ Next day, ‘Let’s get that bass. Came in, nailed it somewhat angrily and then when we started putting it back together and I said, ‘Look, that was really bad timing and, you know, I’m used to George Martin, the ultimate diplomat, ‘Paul, do you think, perhaps…?’ I said, ‘No, I don’t think.’ He said, ‘ Well, can we give it a try. And we possibly might…?’ George is that. Fabulous. So I think Nigel learned a lot of stuff. We both learned on the album and then we put the whole thing back together. Now we knew where we stood and it was like, ‘O.K. if you don’t like it just tell me but not just before I’m going to do a take. And let’s be very specific. What don’t you like?’ And so we did that with all the stuff and there was one song that we totally re-made, it was a song that’s called Riding to Vanity Fair. It’s on the album and we went through it, he said, ‘I don’t like that, don’t like the melody, don’t like blah, blah, blah,’ and so I just got in the studio and said, ‘Right, O.K., how about this?’ ‘Wow, much better,’ So I kind of re-wrote the whole thing and it wasn’t going to make it to the album and it has now and a lot of people are kind of noticing that track, so what he did was definitely right but caused a couple of tense moments along the way, but it was good we did it. I’m much more pleased with the track than when I brought it in.
OK, now you’ve got on to specific tracks, let’s run through the album one track a t a time. First up Fine Line. What’s the inspiration behind this song?
It was just the opening line, ‘There’s a fine line between recklessness and courage.’ You know, you’ll see some people just go, (sings) ‘Waaah’ and you’ll think, ‘that’s the way you do it and sometimes it is just foolish and just reckless but they think they’re being courageous so that thought really was what started me off and I just kind of followed on from that idea that you’ve got to choose which of the two you’re going to do, you know, be reckless or courageous so that was lyrically based on that. And then I just sat down at the piano and started that kind of chuggy thing, keeping it very simple and then the little hook, (sings) ‘Fine line, it’s a fine line’ came so I brought it into the studio in Los Angeles and I was working it out and on that little bit there’s a little riff that goes around the (sings) Fine line bit and when I was playing that I made a mistake and I went to a wrong bass note and Nigel goes, ‘That’s great. That’s it.’ I went, ‘Actually it’s a wrong note.’ He said, ‘No, no, check it out. Listen to it.’ ‘Ooh, I see what you mean.’ It just didn’t go where you expected it. It was supposed to be like an F# and it went to an F and so that became a really interesting little thing then. It was like, ‘Ah, O.K. that’s good. That’s got a little signature originality to it so that and the words and the tune then we just put that all together.
Track 2 is How Kind of You. Interesting choice of words….
It’s something I’ve done for a long time but recently I’ve started to notice more perhaps, like how some people talk, what phrases they use and I’ve got a couple of sort of older posh English friends who instead of saying, ‘That’s very nice of you,’ or ‘Thanks a lot,’ where I come from - they might say, ‘How kind of you,’ and, you know, so I just started with that phrase and this whole idea, ‘How kind of you to think of me when I was out of sorts,’ instead of, ‘Thanks very much for thinking of me when I wasn’t feeling too good,’ which is just an ordinary way of saying it. I just liked this slightly sort of elegant language; so I was just imagining it from the point of view of somebody like that, writing a thank you letter, ‘How kind of you to think of me. It was very nice…’ and so and so, and so and so. It wasn’t particularly about anything, just playing with that language thing and then trying to put the tune a bit more rock and roll, pop, to set it against it, so it kind of wrote itself that one, coming off the phrase, ‘How kind of you.’
Was How Kind of You fully ready when you started recording, or did it develop in the studio?
It did develop in the studio. That was one that I brought in as a kind of, I can’t remember what key it’s in, (sings) ‘How kind of you to think of me, when I was out of sorts,’ but then what we did it was just like a drone and a sort of harmonium thing (sings) ‘how kind of you to think of me.’ Just put it in a kind of limbo land, like an Indian piece, (sings) ‘When I was out of sorts,’ so that changed its nature putting like a harmonium thing in there with it so it became like an Indian continent and then this pop song sitting on the top of it and then brought in some drums about half way and bass on a kind of Sixties kind of vibe, almost reminds me of The Doors or somebody this funny little, kind of two beat funny little thing on the drums, but, yeah, that changed quite a bit in the studio.
Jenny Wren is next: how did that song get written?
With Jenny Wren it’s one of those things. I love to play acoustic guitar so I’ve done things like Blackbird, Mother Nature’s Son, - Calico Skies more recently just because I love playing acoustic guitar. It’s just a nice thing. Me and millions of other people love to do that. And I was in Los Angeles and I was in one of those moods. ‘I want to go and play my guitar in the great outdoors’ so I went into a spot in one of the canyons there, lovely nature spot, getting away from all the traffic and everything, and just found a little spot and just sat down and started playing guitar and I was, so when you get Blackbird it’s a kind of two part thing, Blackbird, instead of just (plays) a strumming thing it’s a little picking thing, (plays) so you’ve got the two notes so I was trying to do something similar so this was like (plays) so it’s always got the two, it’s got like a bass line and a little melody (plays) and when I got to there, that was cool because that sort of should have gone (plays) major, because it’s all been in the major till there but (plays) I found that was really nice and the cool thing about it was as I did it there’s another note comes out (plays) that little note just comes out by mistake (sings) so I just got a bit fascinated. ‘O.K. right.’ (Sings) ‘Like most other girls, Jenny Wren could sing, but a broken heart took her song away…’ So it’s just that kind of genre that I love and I just had a lot of fun, wrote the basis of it there outdoors in the canyon, lovely day, went back home that night to where we were staying and sat around while dinner was getting made and just sat around with the girls and sang it and made it up.
And who actually is Jenny Wren?
You know it was, it isn’t anyone. It’s like a lot of my things, it’s just a made up thing,. But it’s funny actually I was talking to someone yesterday, and I was talking about how much I love Dickens, and I read a lot of Dickens. She was talking about it for different reasons. And this person said ‘Ah Jenny Wren, Our Mutual Friend’ which is this character in the Dickens book Our Mutual Friend; and she is a really cool little girl who’s sort of magical, who sees the good in things and I think subconsciously that reminded me that’s where I got it from, I think, but to me it was just something to do with Blackbird, a wren: a wren is one of my favourite birds, little English bird, it’s the smallest English bird and I always feel very privileged to see a wren because they’re very shy and it’s just ‘Ah!’ So a combination of all of that. It’s a favourite bird for me, and then instead of making it a bird, again like Blackbird, only more definitely this time I made it a woman, you know, a girl. So it was good fun doing it.
The next track is called At The Mercy.
At the Mercy was one that I wrote on a day off in LA. Sometimes when you get into recording an album, you start to sort of get a feel of what you and the producer are going for and what kind of a new song might fit with what you’ve already recorded. So this one was just made up like on the Sunday when I was having the weekend off. We’d worked all week. So on the Sunday I just sort of thought ‘Oh I’d like to take this in tomorrow’ and have a new completely new thing that he hadn’t heard that I hadn’t heard. Just very, very fresh. So I was just sort of messing around on the piano and I just got a couple of chords that I liked, slightly darker chords than I might normally have. And this phrase just kept sort of coming. A lot of people do this , when they’re writing, they just let anything happen, so that it can be “Scrambled Eggs, Baby o var, Baby’s legs Oh no ver, Man of here, Man of Fire” and you just suddenly go ‘Ooh Man of Fire that could be a direction you know’ and with me it just came ‘At the Mercy, At the Mercy ‘ At the Mercy of what? At the mercy of a busy road. At the mercy of a busy road and I didn’t really attach any significance to it but one of the things that I like about my songs when I’ve written them is you can attach very specific significances to them. I was talking to Heather about that particular one and she said ‘Whoa! For me at the mercy of a busy road.’ Remember she lost her leg in an accident. You know that’s very appropriate. So that’s the kind of thing I was thinking of that how life can throw you a curve ball, suddenly you’re going along and then suddenly ‘Oh no!’ and it’s a similar scene to Maxwell’s Silver Hammer. Only that was like a comedy dark black comedy based on that idea: you never know what’s round the corner kind of thing. So At The Mercy was that and I took it in to Nigel next day and said ‘What do you think of this?’ And he said ‘Oh great, great.’ It became his favourite, you know. So we just worked on it and that was it and I erm, It was basically that it was finding a couple of chords that were kind of dark enough to get this sort of message that life can throw you curve balls and what do we do about it? Oh well I don’t know just keep on resolute, whatever you do.
What’s the inspiration behind the next track, Friends to Go?
Funny thing about some songs is when you’re writing them you can think you’re someone else. (Picks up gtr). I mean when I was doing Long and Winding Road I thought I was Ray Charles. (Sings title). In actual fact my record of it the Beatles record of it is nothing like Ray Charles at all. But in my mind I was being him. I was playing Ray. And on Friends to Go I realised I was playing George Harrison. So to me it just started dot sound like a George Harrison song. So I was writing with that in the back of my mind, so it was kind of like (sings) ‘I’ve been waiting on the other side for your friends to leave so I don’t have to hide’
You know that whole sequence (plays) I can see George doing it (Sings) I’ve been waiting on the other side for your friends to go.’ So that was it. You know I was just sat down to write and the feeling of George came over me and I just kept writing it thinking ‘George could have written this’ it was nice. It was like a sort of friendly song to write. And I just kept imagining I was just over by some sort of housing estate, where these people lived, in a sort of block of flats and I was like over the other side over here just watching them and waiting for them to go so I could go in. I don’t know why, a psychiatrist could probably again have a whale of a time with that one
Track number 6 is English Tea, a song to make you smile…
It’s erm, the lyrics say ‘Very twee, very me’ and I think it is very me that stuff. The Beatles made a sort of English y sort of music, once they got past their American roots, American influences. You know a lot of our early stuff was ‘Some other guy now’ and you know pure soul RnB stuff that we loved (sings Twist and Shout) was directly taken from America. But then we started to sort of work in little things that were more us, and erm that kind of thing, that’s particularly me that kind of English Tea type of thing. Again it was this fascination with sort of how people speak, how some English people speak. But the idea started, I was on holiday, and if you want a cup of tea, you don’t do what you do in England, say ‘A cup of tea please’, They always say ‘What kind of tea?’ You know like in England nobody would ever say ‘What kind of tea?’ Well they actually would these days, but in the old days it was never like ‘What kind of tea?’ It’d be like ‘What do you mean? Cuppa tea.’ So now they say ‘What kind of tea?’ and you have to say ‘English Breakfast tea ‘ and then they go ‘Oh OK’ and you get it you know you get an ordinary cup of tea. So I just thought that’s amazing that calling it English tea’, but I thought it’s kind of original because we don’t call it that . So I just started playing with that idea, of English tea. And then as I say there’s one particular older English person I’m thinking of who instead of saying ‘Do you want a cup of tea?’ might say ‘Would you care for a cup of tea?’ It’s just the way they say it, and I love that. ‘Would you care?’ and in this case ‘Would you care to sit with me, for a cup of English tea?’ And so I really went to town on that whole fruity way of talking, that whole fruity language that I like. It’s I think it’s very endearing, very English, and I even managed to work in the word ‘peradventure’ which I was very proud of. Cos that’s like, cos I read Dickens quite a bit, it came to me from…I thought there is a word ‘peradventure’ and I think as I say I read it in Dickens (you get these old usages of words in there). And I thought ‘I do hope I’m right cos I’ve put it in the song’. ‘Do you know the game croquet … Per adventure we might play’ … You know I thought ‘Oh I hope this is right ‘ I looked it up in the dictionary, : ‘peradventure – perhaps, maybe’ ‘Yes!’
I thought ‘Oh great I’m sure not many people work that into a song.’ And then also, ‘Do you know the game croquet, peradventure we might play, Very gay Hip hooray’ you know in the old sense of the word ‘gay’ so it was nice, it was that croquet, very English, lawns, hollyhocks, roses, very Alice in Wonderland, that was also in the back of my mind, which influenced a lot of me and John’s writing. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, that’s Alice to us you know (Sings) Picture yourself…’ The whole idea of ‘picture yourself’ you know in a boat on a river very Alice very Lewis Carroll, it’s just the way I like to write that, so a fruity little song.
Too Much Rain comes next. Where did this song come from?
The actual inspiration for Too Much Rain is Charlie Chaplin’s song Smile. Which he wrote: not many people know he wrote it, you normally think of him as a comedian, but I was always amazed to hear he’d written that you know, beautiful song. Good old Charlie wrote it. I think it was for a film, you know Modern Times, or something was it? It’s a great song and the idea of Smile (sings) Smile even though your heart is breaking Smile when your heart is breaking do do. That’s a nick, a direct pinch from that so it’s ‘Laugh when your eyes are burning Smile when you’re doing this and Sigh when you’re that’.. So it was really that it was Hints for feeling horrible, you know when you’re really down this song could get you up. You know remind you as the Smile song does to just sort of push through it, feel good cos it’ll be alright. So that was that. And er I think also in some way I know I was thinking of my missus Heather who’s had lots of rough times in her life, and the chorus just sort of says ‘It’s not right in one life, Too much rain’ . So that was kind of inspiration and you know I’m never that specific I would never say that’s exactly what its about and it then widens out and its for everyone who’s had just too much in their lives to cope with. And that applies to an awful lot of people. But that was it, it was really just a sort of helpful song.
Next on the list, Certain Softness.
Certain Softness is just a straightforward love song, to me. I like things like Brazilian music, I like that sort of rhythmic, Latin y kind of thing. I think it’s sexy, very romantic, and I was actually on a holiday, where I do a lot of writing because it’s where I’ve got a lot of time. Here’s me, I go on holiday to work! I don’t think of it as work, it’s more, I just enjoy just sitting around. And I was in Greece, actually, on a boat trip, and this sort of Latin y moment came upon me. I just found some nice chords and this idea of a certain softness in her eyes and a certain sadness haunts me. It’s just sort of all the love songs that I’ve heard and the ones I love, cos I love a lot of old fashioned stuff, it’s just so well crated. I have v lot of influences from before my time, before my dad’s time even you know, people like Fred Astaire, people like that I listen to and love really. The craft behind it all. So sometimes all that just floods in and becomes a new song. If I’m lucky. And that was one of them and I like very much the way we recorded it, which was very simple. It was just me playing guitar, and we just decided to have a go at it. And this was in LA and the bongo player, Joey, was just sitting on the floor, and the guitar player was just sort of sitting there, and I had a guitar, so it was just 2 guitars and bongos, so it was very informal. But we just got a good little take on it, you know and so then we built it up from there, and its got a very intimate sound on the record. I like particularly the sound on that record.
How did track 9, Vanity Fair, develop in the studio?
Vanity Fair I originally had as quite an up tempo sort of thing, I had it as quite Plays (Sings) I bit my tongue . It was like (plays and sings) It was all kind of staccato and very fast and, came in one evening where things had all kind of laid back a bit more like, and we said, O.K. let’s just (plays and sings) ‘I bit my tongue.’ I sort of swamped it right out (plays) just took it right down which changed the mood completely but this was particularly the one that Nigel didn’t like that, (sings) ‘I bit my tongue…’ It was all these little short phrases so he encouraged me to try and go somewhere else so I ended up with keeping the first line which was what he liked so it was, (sings) ‘I bit my tongue. I never talked too much….’ And got those run much more smooth. Those next couple of lines and knocked out the ‘Where did it get me? Where did it get me?’ I just knocked that out. Kept the kind of meaning about you’re approaching someone for friendship and they just kind of don’t want to know. They’re just kind of rejecting you and it’s not about any particular person, it’s about anybody who’s like that which I think we all meet in life, you know, you’re in a great mood with somebody and, ‘Well, I bit my tongue. I didn’t talk too much,’ and it’s one of those songs where you get your own back on those people by writing a song about them and whoever it applies to, people who are just generally a bit sort of you know a bit yuck and so that was it yeah, and we’d done the backing track but we didn’t like the basic song. We liked the track. It was nice and dark and quite moody. Nigel had messed around with some sort of echoey things, got kind of quite spooky but yeah, we re-worked it here, right here in the studio and kept working at it till we liked all the words and all the tune and finally I said, ‘O.K. Wait a minute. This is an O.K. song now’. Because it was getting blown off the album. It wasn’t going to be on and by the time we’d finished working with it it was like , ‘O.K. we like this one now,’ and it made its way back onto the album so it was worth all that work.
And next is Follow Me.
Follow Me was one of those songs that kind of almost wrote itself. You know, sometimes you’re feeling great about your life, not always but you’ve been lucky. You’re feeling great (plays) and, erm, I actually had done something where I had sung Let It Be and I was thinking, ‘It’s kind of nice having a song like that because it’s kind of quasi religious but it’s very uplifting, you know’. ‘There will be an answer, let it be,’ and stuff, you know. (Plays) It’s in C, a very sort of open key. (Sings) ‘When I find myself, in times of trouble,’ so I was sort of messing around in that region and thinking of the same sort of thing, you know. What is it? It’s just somebody very important in your life or is it spirits of goodness or whatever it is, something kind of great so it was just like, (sings) ‘You lift up my spirits, you shine on my song, whenever I’m empty, you make me feel whole, I can rely on you to guide me through any situation, hold up the sign that reads, Follow Me.’ Come on, boys, everybody in. It was one of those that just kind of wrote itself once you got there. It was like you do this, you’re great, you just give me direction, it just inspired.
How did Promise to you Girl develop?
It started as a piano thing. You know, I just wanted to … It’s a little two part piano thing. The right hand is doing the melody a bit and then the bass has got a definite part instead of just vamping away so it was just like a little mathematical problem trying to work out how I could do this and I just started singing it, (sings) ‘Gave my promise to you, girl. I don’t wanna take it back.’ And then it kind of went like a Motown thing, for me, started to go like a, I could hear tambourines and Chooka, chooka, chooka, chooka, I could hear the Motown guys, the Funk Brothers putting a backing track to that. ‘You and me, side by side, we know how to save the world.’ Actually, originally, it wasn’t, that was slightly less positive. I can’t remember what it was, but it wasn’t, ‘we know how to save the world.’ Anyway, so it just developed, went through that little Motowny thing. (Sings) ‘That is why I gave my promise to you girl,’ second verse, diddly, diddly der. Then I had this other little bit that is on the front of it, (sings) ‘Looking through the backyard of my life, Time to sweep the fallen leaves away, Gave my promise to you girl.’ And that ends it as well. It’s really two little songs put together and then when we came to do it in the studio it was multi-layered because it was just me so I think I started off with the piano and then put a bass on it, put a bit of drums on it and then Nigel started encouraging me to play some guitar licks and things so that was quite complicated, all a lot of little bits, but I think it sounds like a band in the end, you know.
Track 12 is This Never Happened Before. Tell us about this track.
Again that was, It’s Never Happened Before is a straight love song and, you know, I’m a lover not a fighter as they say. I think that’s such an important thing in the world and it gets spoken of, sung about a lot but I, certainly you know Silly Love Songs, what’s wrong with the message of that? I love that, I love to do that so this one was really exactly that. It just kind of wrote itself a bit, you know, it just (sings) ‘I’m very sure it’s never happened to me before.’ The chords, it’s always a big help if you get a nice little chord sequence and the opening chords to the verse of that go a nice place so they settle you down with your melody and you feel like you’re going somewhere, so that was what was happening and wrote it and recorded it, one of our very first things we did with Nigel at Rak, that was one of the things to see if we could sort of get it on and I thought, ‘This is good. We’re going to go somewhere with this’. That and Follow Me were really the first two that Nigel and I did together and nice little story about it was, I was in America and I was actually getting a massage and I happened to play it and the girl who was doing the massage said, ‘Oh, I love that song, it’s magnificent,’ and she happened to tell me she was getting married so very quietly I just sort of sent her, a few weeks later, she told me when she was getting married and you know where it would be so I got her number off her, sent her a little letter saying, ‘Look, if you love it that much, why don’t you play this at your wedding?’ so I said, ‘but this is highly bootleggable,’ I said, ‘so just play it and send it me back. You can’t keep it, but,’ I said, ‘I’ll send you the proper record when we’re done with it,’ and it was great, really lovely. They did do that. They got married to it and it was like their first dance. Highly romantic stuff this and, but it was very nice because she just wrote me a letter, thanks and all that and told me about the wedding and all that, about her husband but she just put this one little line, she said, ‘You know we had a great time. We laughed. We cried,’ and I thought that sums up that song for me.
The ‘last’ track is Anyway.
(Sings) ‘Anyway, anyway,’ yeah, it started off as the (sings) ‘If you need me,’ the little verse thing, (sings) ‘won’t you call me?’ which is just about, ‘If you love me will you call me?’ And then, you know, it was going quite straightforward and for some reason I was getting this feeling, again, why do you get these feelings? I don’t know, but I was getting this feeling as if it was the deep south of America, like Charlestown, Savannah, something about the chords, I think. There was just something reminding me, almost sort of Randy Newman kind of thing, I thought I was doing. As always it turns out nothing like him but at the time I think I’m doing this thing, so that was going on. Then I got these other chords that sort of happen half way through the verse which were Oooh, really sort of started to inspire me then. (Sings) ‘Only love is strong enough to take it on the chin,’ and that started to move it into a slightly other area which then led up to this, (sings) ‘Anyway, anyway, you can make that call.’ So then it was written and took it, recorded it in Los Angeles and then got our string arranger out there, we use two string people, one’s David Campbell, happens to be Beck’s dad, or Beck happens to be his son, and then we use a guy, Joby Talbot, over here who’s very good too, he’s our English guy, and took it to David and we did a little string arrangement on it and so that kind of sewed it all up, you know, and it was sort of a ballad Anyway.
So, Anyway wasn’t actually the very last track. There’s a hidden 3 part instrumental that ends the album…
We’d done a lot of the album. We were almost finished and we just thought, you know, ‘How about opening the album with just something for nothing, not like a song? Let’s just open it with like a little jam thing, a noise, just something to get your attention, then we’ll go into the first song,’ so we said, ‘O.K. great,’ and I always like that where you sort of throw away the rule book and you go, ‘O.K. let’s just do something completely different’. It’s not a song, it’s not a thing, you just go and play a bit and Nigel said, ‘Why don’t you just have a couple of ideas, songs, and we’ll make them. They don’t need to be long. We’ll just see which one works,’ so he said, ‘Just go and do two things. While you’re doing one, do two,’ so I thought, ‘O.K. I’ll do three just to show him,’ so I came out here. The piano was set up here and just sort of started doing the first little vibe, second little vibe and I said, ‘O.K. I’ve got a couple of ideas here,’ so he said, ‘That’ll do,’ so we recorded the piano bit first. (Sings) just really nothing, just in your face, sticking your tongue out and erm, we were joking. It was like as if the grown-ups had gone away, you know, they’d left us the studios, so ‘O.K. come on, then,’ and I just got on the drumkit, just thrashed that out and we recorded in the space of like about ten minutes, well, maybe an hour, but we just did all three of them and in the end instead of choosing one of them for the beginning we stuck three of them all together and put them at the end.
What’s the story behind the title of the album?
You know, you’re always looking for a title when you’ve finished an album. The Beatles album Abbey Road was going to be called Everest and suddenly it didn’t seem like a very good idea and we all came up with Abbey Road and hey, once you’ve got it, you sort of feel good so I was looking around and once we’d finished the album and Promise To You Girl says, (sings) ‘Looking through the backyard of my life,’ so I thought, ‘Backyard’. That might be kind of good for an album, just Backyard. Rang Nigel up and said, ‘What do you think about that, Backyard?’ and he said, ‘It’s O.K., just not very intriguing. It’s kind of catchy and all, it’s just not very intriguing. Why? What’s it mean? You know.’ So, ‘O.K.’ So I rang him back the next day and I’d had a thought of maybe then calling it, ‘Looking in the Lyrics’. In Fine Line it says there’s a long way between chaos and creation so I thought, ‘O.K. maybe chaos and creation could be a good title but it sounded a little too monumental, Chaos and Creation, the Book of Ecclesiastes, you know, it was a little bit too sort of posh, so then I thought, ‘In the Backyard’ and that kind of stuck so, and that’s from Promise To You Girl so I just stuck those two little quotes together and that kind of put the tongue in cheek and stopped it being too sort of pretentious and then we were talking about it and he texted me back and said, ‘You know, great, it fits because that’s sort of what this album’s been about, chaos, creation and it’s also home-made, it’s a bit in your backyard, you know,’ so he said, ‘Yeah, that’ll do it then.’ He just texted, ‘Yes, I love it, yes it fits, yes.’ And all that so that was it.
In conclusion, Paul, what have you got from the making of this record?
You know, from making this record I’ve got a record I like and that’s what I set out to do. I wanted to be able to have a record that I wanted to play and then if other people liked it that was a bonus, so, yeah, I’ve got a record that I like.
And what, do you think, will the listener get from it?
I never really think about what I want people to get from a record because that’s very difficult. You start to want them to give you things they’re not going to give you. So a long time ago I just learned, make it something that I like and then people put their own interpretations on it and that’s fine by me. As long as I like it that’s the main thing, and I like this one.