Paul McCartney’s first release since his wedding to Nancy Shevell was an album of standards from the pre-rock ‘n’ roll years, many of which his father had once performed at the piano.
It’s my dad’s style of music. I’ve wanted to do that kind of thing forever, since the Beatle days. But then Rod [Stewart] went mad on it. I thought, ‘I have to wait so it doesn’t look like I’m trying to do a Rod.’
Kisses On The Bottom contained songs McCartney grew up listening to, as well as two new songs. One original composition, ‘My Valentine’, was performed at McCartney’s wedding to Shevell on 9 October 2011. The other new song was ‘Only Our Hearts’.
Although the album was originally rumoured to be called My Valentine, the true title was announced in January 2012; it had been hinted at in an official Tweet from McCartney’s account on 17 December.
kisses on the bottom
— Paul McCartney (@PaulMcCartney) December 17, 2011
The title was taken from the lyrics to ‘I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter’, a hit for Fats Waller in 1935, and refers to Xs that lovers typically add to the ends of letters.
Lotta kisses on the bottom,
I’ll be glad I got ’em.
I’m gonna smile and say,
‘I hope you’re feeling better,’
And close with love, the way that you do.
Another song, ‘Home (When Shadows Fall)’, had been performed by The Quarrymen and The Beatles in their various incarnations between 1957 and 1960. It was written in the early 1930s by Peter Van Steeden, Harry Clarkson and Jeff Clarkson.
In the end it was ‘Look, if I don’t do it now, I’ll never do it. When I kind of got into songwriting, I realized how well structured these songs were and I think I took a lot of my lessons from them. I always thought artists like Fred Astaire were very cool. Writers like Harold Arlen, Cole Porter, all of those guys – I just thought the songs were magical. And then, as I got to be a songwriter I thought it’s beautiful, the way they made those songs.
In the studio
Paul McCartney he began recording Kisses On The Bottom in March 2010, working with an orchestra in Capitol Studios in Los Angeles.
It was very spontaneous, kind of organic, which then reminded me of the way we’d work with The Beatles. We’d bring a song in, kick it around, when we found a way to do it we’d say ‘Okay, let’s do a take now’ and by the time everyone kind of had an idea of what they were doing, we’d learnt the song. So that’s what we did, we did the take live in the studio.
It was important for me to keep away from the more obvious song choices so, many of the classic standards will be unfamiliar to some people. I hope they are in for a pleasant surprise.
Further sessions followed in New York and London. The basic tracks were all either recorded at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles or Avatar Studios in New York.
Overdubs were added at three other locations. Strings, guitar and extra piano were recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London, while further instrumentation and vocals were recorded at McCartney’s home studio at Hog Hill Mill in East Sussex, and ad Westlake Studios in Hollywood.
The orchestral arrangements were by Johnny Mandel or Alan Broadbent.
I’d say [to Tommy LiPuma], ‘It might be nice to have a little trombone solo,’ and he’d say, ‘OK’ and he’d get in Ira Nepus. And for arrangements he would say, ‘Well, I think Johnny Mandel would be great.’ I must admit, I wanted to work with Johnny, ’cause he’s one of the classics. But then, Tommy knew other arrangers, a guy like Alan Broadbent who’s brilliant. So he could bring that to it.