In the studio

Electric Arguments was recorded at Hog Hill Mill, Paul McCartney’s Sussex home studio, between December 2007 and June 2008.

I would just come in every morning and have a groove cooking, like a cup of coffee. And then Youth and I would talk about it a little bit, or we’d talk about something else, we’d talk about, say, Andy Warhol, just to get us in the mood. And then I’d sort of wander around and say, “How about a bit of guitar, a bit of bass, a bit of drums,” so you’d have a backing track.

And then, inevitably, came the words-ideas-talking-literate thing. It was fascinating to try. And one of the things I liked about it, aside from the pure excitement, was realizing that I’d been writing songs for so long that if I was going to improvise, I probably, instinctively, was going to put a slight amount of form on it. And Youth is very good, I trust him, and he’d say, “Yeah, that’s it,” and so I knew we’d found a chorus and then we could mold around that. And suddenly I’d have a page full of lyrics, stealing three words from a poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and then dipping into some poetry anthology that was lying about – Youth’s a groovy guy and he’s always got a few books in his rucksack, and I’ve got a few knocking around – just finding an image like “white sails” and using it as an inspirational thing.

Paul McCartney
Rolling Stone

Each of the songs was written and recorded in a single day, although McCartney stressed that this was not intended as a firm rule from the outset.

It wasn’t a strict rule, it was just that we were working so fast that things only seemed to need a day to get done. It did mean that it was exciting coming in the next day and looking at what we had done the previous day. Then we just spun off that.
Paul McCartney

Some additional mixes were made of the album tracks. Remixes of ‘Lifelong Passion’ were titled ‘Sawain Ambient Acapella’ and ‘Sawain Instrumental Dub’. Instrumental versions of ‘Sun Is Shining’ (‘Equinox Instrumental’), ‘Travelling Light’ (‘Travelling Light Instrumental’), ‘Sing The Changes’ (‘Morning Mist Instrumental Dub’), and ‘Don’t Stop Running’ (‘Wickerman Ambient Dub’) were also made.

The release

The first release from Electric Arguments was ‘Lifelong Passion’, from 5-12 June, in aid of the Adopt-A-Minefield charity.

On 5 June, McCartney ‘hosted’ a virtual event, Night of a Thousand Dinners. Registered guests who donated a minimum of $25 received a special note of thanks from McCartney, and a one-time download of the song.

Unlike the first two Fireman releases, Electric Arguments was not issued by EMI. It was released by two independent labels, One Little Indian in the UK and ATO/Red in the US.

I’m interested in anything that keeps the process fresh, so to work with new people means that I’ll be exposed to new ideas and this keeps the excitement alive for me.
Paul McCartney

BBC Radio 1 had the world debut play of ‘Nothing Too Much Just Out Of Sight’ on 29 September 2008, with Zane Lowe making it his ‘Hottest Record In The World Right Now’.

The standard 13 tracks on Electric Arguments were streamed in full from 11 November 2008 on

‘Sing The Changes’ was made available as a download single on 17 November 2008.

Electric Arguments was released in the UK on 24 November 2008. It peaked at number 79 in the album chart, which nonetheless marked the first chart appearance for The Fireman.

In the US it was issued on 25 November, and peaked at number 67 on the Billboard 200.

The compact disc edition came in a digipak with a 50-page booklet containing photographs of McCartney and Youth painting. No credits or sleeve notes were included.

A double-disc vinyl edition of Electric Arguments was released on 15 December 2008, and also contained the CD in a clear wallet, as well as a code for the digital download.

A deluxe edition followed on 31 January 2009, and contained the standard CD, double vinyl, digital download code, seven-track bonus CD, DVD with hi-definition audio and three videos, another DVD with multi-track session files for several of the songs, art prints, and an extensive booklet.

The tracks on the bonus CD were: ‘Solstice Ambient Acapella’, ‘Travelling Light Instrumental’, ‘Wickerman Ambient Dub’, ‘Morning Mist Instrumental Dub’, ‘Equinox Instrumental’, ‘Sawain Ambient Acapella’, and ‘Sawain Instrumental Dub’.

The videos on the first DVD were of ‘Sing The Changes’ and ‘Dance ’Til We’re High’, plus a making-of feature titled ‘In the Studio’.

‘Sawain Ambient Acapella’ was also included as a bonus track on the iTunes Store.

Press launch

A press launch for the album was held on 24 November at, appropriately, the Fire Station restaurant in Waterloo, London.

It’s quite weird for me, because I’m from the times when you went to the record shop to buy a 45. That’s how I understand it. We’ve come through vinyl, tape cassettes, CDs and now downloads, and to me it’s all the same. Now, there’s this weird thing where people don’t pay for music, which is a bit of a surprise but it doesn’t bother me too much actually. It all worked out, the Radiohead [In Rainbows] thing, where people paid what they thought it was worth. That’s a funny idea, and a new idea. I must say I thought about downloading the Radiohead album for a penny and telling my friends I’d paid ten quid for it. I think a lot of people did that, too. But downloading – it’s part of life now, and I kind of embrace it.
Paul McCartney, 24 November 2008