In the studio
The oldest Flowers In The Dirt song, We Got Married, had been recorded back in September and October 1984. McCartney undertook some aborted sessions with American producer David Foster, from which three songs were recorded: We Got Married, I Love This House and Lindiana.
We Got Married was given further overdubs in 1988. I Love This House was included on the UK CD single Young Boy in 1997, while Lindiana remains unreleased.
With the Costello demos under his belt, McCartney set about assembling musicians and production staff for the new album. With his core band of guitarist Hamish Stuart and drummer Chris Whitten, the intention was to make a record that could be toured easily.
I really wanted an album I could go out on tour with, and album people could relate to. I just didn’t want some crummy album dogging the tour.
Work began in December 1987, when he invited producers Trevor Horn and Steve Lipson to record a song, with the proviso that they do it in a mere two days. The duo were used to spending up to three painstaking months on a single song.
Rough Ride, an unfinished song fragment based on a 12-bar blues structure, was chosen by Horn. True to their promise, the track was recorded and mixed by the end of the second day. Horn and Lipson later remixed the song in their conventional style, although this was eventually discarded in favour of the original version.
The trio then recorded a version My Brave Face, again in two days, followed by How Many People and Oe Est Le Soleil. The latter song was a bonus track on the original CD and cassette editions, and later the b-side of the Figure Of Eight single.
In January and February 1988 McCartney and Costello again united, co-producing at least five songs: My Brave Face, You Want Her Too, Don’t Be Careless Love, That Day Is Done and The Lovers That Never Were. The latter song was later re-recorded for McCartney’s 1993 album Off The Ground.
Neither this nor the Horn/Lipson version of My Brave Face was used on the album; a third version was recorded towards the end of the year by Mitchell Froom.
Between April and July 1988 McCartney produced a number of songs on his own. Geoff Emerick engineered the sessions, which took place at McCartney’s Hog Hill Mill studio in Icklesham, East Sussex.
The songs included Put It There, Distractions, This One, Flying To My Home, The First Stone, The White Coated Man, Cow, New Moon Over Jamaica, Same Love, Don’t Break The Promises and Good Sign. The first three songs eventually made it onto Flowers In The Dirt.
Two new producers were brought in from September to November 1988 to work on the Costello recordings. Mitchell Froom had previously worked on Costello’s King Of America album, and McCartney liked his work with Crowded House. He sent Froom four of the earlier recordings, although My Brave Face was completely re-recorded at this time, and a new song, Motor Of Love, was begun.
These sessions took place at Olympic Sound Studios in London, and later at Sunset Sound Factory and Mad Hatter Studios in Los Angeles. The recordings were eventually completed by Neil Dofsman, as Froom had other commitments.
The final sessions for Flowers In The Dirt were produced in early 1989 by Chris Hughes and Ross Cullum. They re-recorded Motor Of Love and reworked Figure Of Eight for release as a single.
The single My Brave Face was the first of the songs to be released. It did not enjoy great chart success, reaching number 18 in the UK and 25 in the US.
The working titles for Flowers In The Dirt included Lumpy Trousers, Bucket Of Water and My Brave Face. The eventual title was taken from the lyrics to the McCartney-MacManus collaboration That Day Is Done:
She sprinkles flowers in the dirt
That’s when a thrill becomes a hurt.
I know I’ll never see her face
She walks away from my resting place.
McCartney undertook an extensive media campaign to support the album’s release, and with his new band – which included McCartney’s wife Linda, guitarists Hamish Stuart and Robbie McIntosh, drummer Chris Whitten and keyboard player Paul ‘Wix’ Wickens – began rehearsals for an extensive world tour which began in September 1989.
Flowers In The Dirt was released worldwide in June 1989, and became McCartney’s most successful album in several years. It topped the charts in the UK and Norway, sold more than a million copies in Europe, and reached the top 10 in Japan.
It performed less well in the US, peaking at 21, although it did remain on the charts for a year, sold 600,000 copies in the first six months of release, and was certified gold.
Follow up singles were This One, Figure Of Eight and Put It There, each of which were minor hits for McCartney.
A limited edition World Tour Pack of Flowers In The Dirt was released in the UK in October 1989, and in the US in January the following year. It included a bonus single Party Party, a poster of the band, a family tree by Pete Frame detailing McCartney’s various groups, tour itinerary, six postcards and a bumper sticker which proclaimed: “I’d rather be listening to McCartney.”
Another limited edition of the album was released in Japan in March 1990. It contained a bonus disc which began with an environmental message by McCartney, followed by a re-recording of ‘The Long And Winding Road’, Loveliest Thing, Rough Ride, Ou Est Le Soleil (7″ Mix), Mama’s Little Girl, Same Time Next Year, Party Party, and PS Love Me Do – a studio reworking of two of The Beatles’ earliest songs.