The producer of Kisses On The Bottom was Tommy LiPuma, and the musicians included Diana Krall and her band.
I talked to a lady in our New York office called Nancy Jeffries who knows all about all the publishing side of the business, and I said, ‘If I was gonna do it, who might I work with? Who might produce? What songs do you think I might do? I’ve got my own selection, what do you think?’ And she said, ‘I think Tommy LiPuma would be great, you should meet him, and I’ll think of some songs to suggest.
So I met with Tommy and we hung out, talking about the songs, the old sing-songs, and we found we had a lot in common. But we tried to work out a slightly different approach, and used a selection of songs that wouldn’t be the absolute obvious ones, like The Way You Look Tonight, songs that everyone tends to cover. We looked for songs that were a little more unusual, that sometimes people might never have heard. So that’s what happened. We found a bunch of things. It’s a good idea to go slightly off-piste. Even to the extent where I didn’t know some of them. And he suggested Diana Krall, who he knew very well. We ran through a couple of my selections, a couple of Tommy’s, a couple of Diana’s, and we just threw a lot of songs into a pool, and eventually I’d say, ‘I like that one, I’m not too keen on that one…’ So we had a bunch of things and we were ready to record.
In a first for an entire album, McCartney restricted himself solely to the vocal booth, with no instruments performed. Eager to recapture the sounds of past times, he sang into a microphone previously used by Nat ‘King’ Cole.
We ended up at Capitol A Studio, in that very iconic building where Nat ‘King’ Cole, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, even Gene Vincent recorded. I was thrown in the deep end, because I’m not a jazz player. I didn’t have a guitar or a piano to hide behind. I was just put on what the engineers told me was Nat ‘King’ Cole’s mic, which was amazingly intimidating! In front of jazz musicians, which again was pretty intimidating. I just had to find my way through this. I tried this, I tried that, and I eventually found the kind of zone that I’d be comfortable with. And once I’d got over the intimidated feeling, it became a very pleasurable way to work.
Although the cover versions were all by American composers, this wasn’t necessarily the intention during the selection process.
The thing is, from that era, we just chose what we thought were good songs, so the nationality of the song didn’t matter. It just happened that there was a lot of good American music coming out of the States at that time, it was a very rich period. We didn’t choose on songwriters, we chose on whether we fancied the song or not, at that moment. So there wasn’t any great head-banging or heavy breathing went into the choices. It was more, ‘This feels right, let’s do this one.’ So we just did it, a bit in the manner of the sing-song: ‘Let’s do this one! Yeah!’
The recording process was mostly relaxed, mirroring the style of music performed.
The players did all the hard work, and I was just in the booth, singing. There was one moment when we were having a puzzle over some slight problem, and Diana turned to me and said, ‘Paul, what are you going to do here?’ I said, ‘I don’t mind. 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.
The cover of Kisses On The Bottom features photographs taken by McCartney’s daughter Mary.
The artwork concept was created by Jonathan Schofield, the visual director at the Stella McCartney fashion company. It was designed by Matthew Cooper, who had previously worked with acts including Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand.
Issued by Concord/Hear Music, Kisses On The Bottom was McCartney’s 15th solo album, not including collaborations, classical or experimental releases. It was his first album since the previous year’s Ocean’s Kingdom ballet soundtrack, and his first studio vocal release since 2007’s Memory Almost Full.
‘My Valentine’ was streamed on the official Paul McCartney website for 24 hours from Monday 19 December 2011. The whole album leaked later that month as promotional copies circulated.
A deluxe CD version included two extra tracks – ‘Baby’s Request’ and ‘My One And Only Love’ – plus a download card for an exclusive live show available through McCartney’s official website. It also featured longer liner notes, three postcards and expanded packaging. There was additionally a 180 gramme vinyl edition with a download card.