I’m in LA. I’m British. I’m a tourist. I’m in Capitol A Studio, I’m singing on Nat King
Cole’s microphone – I’m on holiday!” And she looked at me and smiled. She went, “A
holiday.” So I think we all then went, “Great, OK, so let’s get that vibe.” And we did.
Whenever we were worried about something I’d go, “I don’t mind, I’m on holiday.”
So, coupled with the fact that we were not working from musical charts, and we were
really making it up, it ended up much more free and open and organic. It was quite a
voyage of discovery. There’s a very relaxed approach to it all.
One of the nice things that I realised afterwards, I thought, “You know what? That’s
exactly how we used to work with The Beatles.” John and I would come in on
Monday morning with a song, that George Martin hadn’t heard, George and Ringo
hadn’t heard. We’d play them the song and we’d all kick it around until we had an
arrangement that we were satisfied with. Then we’d record it, quite quickly, without
too much fuss. That was very much the way we did this, which was a great pleasure
What about the track, My Valentine? That’s one of your own, albeit in the same
I was in Morocco with Nancy, who’s now my wife, and we were having a nice holiday
but it was raining rather a lot. I said, “A pity it’s raining” and she said “It doesn’t
matter, we can still have a good time.” And I’m like that, too, I don’t mind at all.
So there was an old piano, slightly out of tune, in the foyer of the hotel. And there
was this lovely Irish guy who knew so much old stuff, really deep stuff like Beautiful
Dreamer, If You Were The Only Girl In The World... Again, stuff from my Dad’s era. I
used to enjoy listening to him in the evenings and he put me in mind of that genre.
So one afternoon, when it was raining, I was in that foyer, and without anyone noticing
except a couple of waiters who were clearing up, I sat at the piano and started
knocking around with this little tune, kind of in the style that I knew he played in:
“What if it rained? We didn’t care. She said that some day soon the sun was gonna
shine…” And there was my Irish buddy sitting behind me, he’d been listening to me
all the time: “Ah that’s great!” A nice little vote of confidence in the song. When I
played it to Tommy, he said “Yeah, I love it, great.” So we did that one and eventually
I had the pleasure of working with Eric (Clapton), who put a lovely acoustic guitar
part on. And by the way, I forgot the important ingredient, the day I wrote it was
Valentine’s Day, a fairly important fact! It was our first dance, very romantic.
The songs of that era were very often on the smoochy side.
Exactly, they’re pretty romantic. The way I figure it, a lot of it was post-War. My
parents’ generation were just recovering, when I grew up, from World War II. In
Liverpool they’d all been bombed. So they were now determined to have a good
time, and they latched on to these very positive songs. They didn’t have expensive
entertainment centres. Basically, many of the houses in those days, and I understand
it was the same in America, had a piano. No matter how poor you were, most people
managed to get a piano. It’s funny, the one we had in our house, my Dad later told
me he’d bought off Brian Epstein’s Dad, in NEMS. People wanted positive songs to
lose the memory of the War. And I grew up with that. I think it really gave me a deep
love of that kind of thing.
Did it shape you much? We think of The Beatles as springing up with rock’n’roll,
but you personally had been around for some years before Elvis came along.
Yes, we’d actually grown up with songs from that era. Two of John’s favourite songs,
when I met him, were Close Your Eyes (by Bernice Petkere, 1933), which is very much
of that era, and the other was Little White Lies (by Walter Donaldson, 1930). Those
were the kind of songs that we’d been listening to and that attracted me to him. I’d
say, Yeah, well I love that song and he’d say I love this one, or that one. And I do think
they did have quite an influence on us melodically. A lot of these old songs had what
they called a “verse”. Anyone else would call it an introduction. It’s always the bit that
you never knew.
You include one here on Bye Bye Blackbird.
Yeah. Then it goes, “Pack up all my cares and woe” and you go, “Oh, I know this
song!” You finally recognise it. John and I liked that. We used to talk about that as
one of things it would be good to do. We gave a kind of nod to it on Here, There
And Everywhere: “To lead a better life, I need my love to be here…” Whereas in the
old days they would have extended that: “She was here, and I was there, and I think
Another one might be Do You Want To Know A Secret? “You’ll never know how
much I really love you,” and all that.
That’s right. That was where all that came from. It’s in a lot of the songs that we were
trying to write, even though we were now living in the rock’n’roll era, and influenced
by it. But when you say rock’n’roll, there’s Elvis Presley doing Love Me Tender, which
is an old song, way older than Elvis. So these songs lived in the rock’n’roll era, as well
as the more hard-rocking things, and I think it was good to have that mix.
It’s an era you’ve often revisited, isn’t it? Honey Pie, You Gave Me The Answer,
It’s a style that appeals to me. People will often say “What songs do you like? Who
are your favourite composers?” And I say Cole Porter, the Gershwin brothers and
people like that, because the songs are very skilled. Cheek To Cheek was always one
of my favourite songs, I love the way it returns to its opening: “…carry me through,
to, Heaven, I’m in…” It’s a simple little trick, but as a writer I always loved that. And
someone pointed out to me that I kind of did that in Here There And Everywhere.
So all these influences have always been there. Unless you actually analyse the whole
thing you wouldn’t know it, but they were definitely in a lot of what we did in The
It’s good to hear Baby’s Request, a bonus track here, which you first did for the
Back To The Egg album in 1979.
Yeah, that was nice. Before we started the album I played Tommy a couple of songs
that were written in the style of the album that we were about to make. And he said
“Oh, we should try that.” That was originally written, very much in this style, for The
Mills Brothers. I was hoping they would do it. Something happened and they never
did. I’m not sure if they ever heard that I’d offered it to them.
And romance is not just for Valentine’s Day, is it?
I hope it goes beyond that. It works all the year round. To me, I’ve found I enjoy this
as an album to relax by. I can imagine you come home from work, kick your shoes off,
and have your favourite drink, whether it’s hot cocoa or wine or a cup of tea, and you
just sit back. It’s that kind of album. It’s a nice mood. Just let it flood over you.