‘Baby Face’ was recorded by Paul McCartney for the One Hand Clapping film in 1974.
The song was published in 1926, with music by Harry Akst and lyrics by Benny Davis. It was first recorded by Jan Garber and his Orchestra, and was a number one hit in 1926.
‘Baby Face’ quickly became a standard, and was recorded by artists including Little Richard, Bobby Darin, and Al Jolson.
McCartney’s version was begun at Abbey Road in November 1974, during the making of One Hand Clapping. It originally featured just piano and vocals.
The song was completed at Allen Toussaint’s Sea Saint Studios in New Orleans in February 1975. It featured overdubs by the Young Tuxedo Brass Band.
We did this crazy thing with the Tuxedo Jazz Band in New Orleans. It’s a backing track of me playing ‘Baby Face’ on the piano, for a TV video tape. It should be ready in a couple of months. But when we were in New Orleans, I took the track and asked these fellows to overdub, and like these guys don’t know what earphones are, they’re a trad band right? A genuine, New Orleans brass band. They couldn’t get the tempo for a while, but then they started to get it. It’s a terrible sound if you’re looking at it critically, but it’s got a lovely joyousness about it. It’s great, it’s like they’re revving up all the time. They’re brilliant. The drummer plays bass drum with his … melon … and he has a coat hanger in his left hand, and the bottom half of a hi-hat, which he hits with his coat hanger. So, it’s boom, chick-a-boom, and his mate’s got the snare drum. They have this ethnic talent – it’s like a Morris dancing act. I’m not really a jazzer you know, I like it, but I’ve never been into it.
Melody Maker, 31 May 1975
Paul McCartney performed ‘Baby Face’ live a number of times. The first was on 2 December 1979 in Brighton, England, during Wings’s 1969 UK Tour.
It was next played on 1 October 2002 in Boston, and on 7 October in Raleigh, during the Back In The US Tour.
‘Baby Face’ returned briefly to McCartney’s set twice in 2003. He performed it on 29 March 2003 in Barcelona, and on 1 June in Liverpool, as part of his Back In The World Tour.
In 2004 McCartney played ‘Baby Face’ on 15 October at the Adopt-A-Minefield Gala benefit concert in Los Angeles, and on 23 October at the Bridge School Benefit Concert in Mountain View.
The song was performed during seven of McCartney’s US Tour shows in October and November 2006.
On 13 June 2007 McCartney played ‘Baby Face’ at New York’s Highline Ballroom, and on 27 June at the Amoeba Music record store in Hollywood, Los Angeles. The latter recording can be heard on the 2019 live album Amoeba Gig. He played it again at the iTunes Festival on 5 July, and on 25 October at the Electric Proms, both in London.
McCartney’s final live performance of ‘Baby Face’ was on 19 April 2009 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. He did, however, return to it on occasion during soundchecks.