‘Back On My Feet’ was the b-side of Paul McCartney’s 1987 single ‘Once Upon A Long Ago’.

It was the first co-written song by McCartney and Elvis Costello. More from their songwriting collaborations emerged on Flowers In The Dirt, Off The Ground, and Costello’s own albums.

The Attractions played the last ever Wings show, at the Kampuchea benefit in 1979. I think that might have been the first time I met Paul. A couple of years later, I was making Imperial Bedroom at AIR in London’s Oxford Street, while he was making Pipes Of Peace. Geoff Emerick was working on both and flitting between the two studios. I saw Paul occasionally, as you do in those multiple studio things, enough to get over the fact that he was Paul from the Beatles. It was friendly. It was just a guy going to work, doing his job.

It was his manager of the time who suggested we write together. I took a train down to his studio near Rye and we just went to work. We brought bits and pieces of songs we had been working on that weren’t quite complete. He had one called ‘Back On My Feet’. That was pretty much written. I just sort of made a couple of suggestions, if that’s not too absurd an idea! Truthfully, ‘Veronica’ [1989 single] was the same. It was pretty much written, but there were a couple of key things that he suggested that made it better.

Elvis Costello
Mojo, August 2011

‘Back On My Feet’ was recorded at McCartney’s Hog Hill Mill studio on 9 March 1987, with Phil Ramone producing.

We then worked on a beautiful melody that Paul had brought in to our first writing session. ‘Back On My Feet’ developed into a song about a holy fool or hapless vagabond whom people either pity or pass by. I added just a few details to the lyrics, mostly cinematic directions to change the point of view, and a countermelody, in which the words of an unsympathetic chorus of onlookers could be heard:

Well there you go, though we tried hard to know him
It’s there on his face
He’s a case where there’s clearly no hope

It was the first of our cowritten songs to make it onto a record, and even though it was just the B-side of Paul’s ‘Once Upon A Long Ago’ single, I remember getting a copy in the mail and staring at the writing credit on the label with something like disbelief.

Elvis Costello
Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink

The release

Four different versions of ‘Once Upon A Long Ago’ were released. One 12″ vinyl single contained ‘Once Upon A Long Ago’ (Long Version), mixed by George George Martin, with the additional tracks ‘Back On My Feet’, ‘Midnight Special’, and ‘Don’t Get Around Much Anymore’.

A second 12″ contained ‘Once Upon A Long Ago’ (Extended Version), a mix by Peter Henderson lasting 6:06. The other songs were ‘Back On My Feet’, ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’, and ‘Kansas City’.

The 7″ contained an edit of ‘Once Upon A Long Ago’ (Long Version) lasting 4:12, plus ‘Back On My Feet’. A CD single contained both songs plus ‘Don’t Get Around Much Anymore’ and ‘Kansas City’.

The single, with ‘Back On My Feet’ on the b-side, was included in the 2022 box set The 7″ Singles Box.

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