Flaming Pie was Paul McCartney’s tenth solo studio album, and his first in four years to be released.

McCartney spent much of the mid 1990s working on The Beatles’ Anthology project. When he returned to his own music, he attempted to bring to the studio many of the spontaneous working practices his former band had deployed in the 1960s.

I came off the back of The Beatles Anthology with an urge to do some new music. The Anthology was very good for me because it reminded me of the Beatles standards and the standards that we reached with the songs. So in a way it was a refresher course that set the framework for this album.

Watching the Anthology also reminded me of the time that we didn’t take to make an album and of the fun we had when we did one. The Beatles were not a serious group …

So I wanted to try get back into some of that, to have some fun and not sweat it. That’s been the spirit of making this album. You’ve got to have a laugh, because it’s just an album. So I called up a bunch of friends and family and we just got on and did it.

And we had fun making it. Hopefully you’ll hear that in the songs.

Paul McCartney

Flaming Pie was McCartney’s first solo studio album since 1993’s Off The Ground, although later that year he also put out Paul Is Live and the first Fireman album Strawberries Oceans Ships Forest. Nevertheless, touring and the Anthology project created a lengthy break in his own releases, although he remained active behind the scenes.

EMI had told McCartney that they didn’t want another album from him for two years, during the release period for the three Anthology collections. That gave him the freedom to write and record at his own leisure. He began to stockpile songs with no album project in mind, and when he began recording it was with a new set of musicians.

You do get a feeling that something is working, though you can always be wrong. I’ve thought I was working on something good and then it turned out that people thought it was average. I don’t know if I was right or they were right. Time will tell.

I was checking the songs in my own mind against some of the early Beatles stuff, because I had just been doing the Anthology and it surprised me how simple, and yet complete, some of the early Beatles work was. I didn’t see any reason why my new stuff shouldn’t be just as simple and complete. So whereas I might have been a little bit lazy in the past, and just thought, ‘Ah, near enough,’ which is very tempting to do, I made it a point to go in and sharpen the chisel and get it a bit tighter.

Paul McCartney
Guitar World magazine

Several of the songs had a wistful, nostalgic air about them. ‘The Song We Were Singing’ was about the heady 1960s, when “For a while, we could sit, smoke a pipe/And discuss all the vast intricacies of life/We could jaw through the night”. ‘Little Willow’ was written for the children of Ringo Starr’s first wife Maureen, who had recently died of cancer.

‘Souvenir’ includes the sound of a 78 rpm record towards the end of the track. The title track, meanwhile, features a piano part which recalls The Beatles’ 1968 hit ‘Lady Madonna’, which itself referenced Humphrey Lyttelton’s 1956 jazz recording ‘Bad Penny Blues’.

The oldest song on the album was ‘Great Day’, which had been written in early 1970. During a summer 1991 holiday in Long Island, McCartney remembered the song, which he and Linda had once performed while “sitting around the kitchen or when the children were dancing”. McCartney also wrote ‘Calico Skies’ during the Long Island holiday, which was affected by the passing of Hurricane Bob.

They had finally started giving boys’ names to hurricanes, and a powerful one they called Bob had caused a power cut on Long Island, and everything was out. Now that’s a nice opportunity, when the world shuts off, for you to create. I’m always looking for that, anyway. If I’m writing a song in a house, I will try to get as far away from the action as possible, which often means a cupboard, a closet, or a bathroom. Somewhere that I can be the hermit in the cave. So, when these power cuts happen, suddenly you don’t have to secrete yourself here or there, but you can go down to the basement and just totally be at one with the song.

Cover artwork

The sleeve design for Flaming Pie was credited to The Team, and all photography was by Linda McCartney.

The vinyl inner sleeve and CD booklet contained the album’s lyrics, plus notes by Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn and McCartney’s publicist Geoff Baker, detailing the recording sessions and musicians that appeared on the songs.

Published: |