McCartney wrote the song for The Mills Brothers, the American jazz and pop vocal quartet who rose to fame in the 1930s.
That came about because we were on holiday in the south of France last summer, and we saw The Mills Brothers, the famous old Mills Brothers. Everyone thought that they were dead but they were in cabaret down there, and they were 73 years of age and rotund. They were great and sang exactly like they used to and they are still an amazing group. I went to see them backstage and one of them said, ‘Hey, Paul. How’s about writing The Mills Brothers a song?’ So I said, ‘Yeah, Herbie, OK.’
‘Baby’s Request’ was never originally intended to be recorded by McCartney or Wings. A demo was taped, but a misunderstanding with The Mills Brothers’ management meant it ended up being used on Back To The Egg.
I went back to the hotel and spent the next day writing a song for them and when we got back to London we demoed it, sent it out to them and, unfortunately, there was a slight cock up on the management front. For some reason, their manager got the idea that we were going to pay them to record it. So they ended up not doing it, and we ended up doing it ourselves.
The demo recording was made in October 1978 at EMI Studios, Abbey Road. It was a taped in just a few live takes, and was used on the album without being re-recorded properly.
Wings’ guitarist Laurence Juber had previously been a featured soloist of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra in England. On ‘Baby’s Request’ he applied some authentic jazz phrasing to what was otherwise mostly a rock album.
The demo of ‘Baby’s Request’ replaced a song called ‘Cage’ on Back To The Egg. ‘Cage’ had been recorded at Lympne Castle near Hythe in Kent during earlier sessions for the album.
George Harrison reportedly liked ‘Baby’s Request’, saying it was one of his favourite songs on Back To The Egg. McCartney explained this was “’cause he likes mellow stuff”.
McCartney was not normally in the habit of re-recording his earlier songs, with some exceptions including 1984’s Give My Regards To Broad Street. However, he made an exception for Kisses On The Bottom, his 2012 collection of American standards.
The basic edition of the album had 14 songs, two of which were new original compositions by McCartney. A deluxe edition, meanwhile, had two bonus tracks: ‘Baby’s Request’ and another cover version, ‘My One And Only Love’. The inclusion of ‘Baby’s Request’ brought the number of original compositions up to three.
Before we started the album I played Tommy [LiPuma] a couple of songs that were written in the style of the album that we were about to make. And he said, ‘Oh, we should try that.’ That was originally written, very much in this style, for The Mills Brothers. I was hoping they would do it. Something happened and they never did. I’m not sure if they ever heard that I’d offered it to them.
The Kisses On The Bottom version of Baby’s Request was recorded in March 2010 at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles. The rhythm arrangement was by Diana Krall.