‘Backwards Traveller’ is the fourth song on Wings’s penultimate album London Town.

At just 1:07, it is the shortest song on the album. ‘Backwards Traveller’ is sometimes presented as a medley with the following track, ‘Cuff Link’. That, however, was not Paul McCartney’s first intention.

I had the tune ‘Backwards Traveller’, and originally I was trying to use that going into the song ‘Name And Address’. And ‘Name And Address’ is like an old-fashioned rocker, sort of ‘after Elvis’, you know, it’s like people paint pictures after so-and-so. Well that’s kind of doing a thing based on the Elvis buzz, for me. And I was trying to get this song ‘Backwards Traveller’ to explain, on the album, why the album suddenly went to a kind of Fifties-type sound. I was hoping to do ‘Backwards Traveller’ and ‘Backwards Traveller’, set it up, and then go backwards into time with some of these… a couple of tracks that sound like the Fifties or Sixties, you know. ‘I’ve Had Enough’ sounds a bit sort of Sixties to me.

And I was hoping to do that, but in the end we couldn’t do it like that. So it ended up with the thing on its own. And I had to drum on that one. I drum on that track, which I like doing. Joe had left; he’d gone back to America to see his family, and we were stuck without a drummer, which is one of our recurring problems. [laughs] So anyway I always use that as an excuse, you know. The same thing happened on Band On The Run, I drummed on that in the end. So that ended up, we went into ‘Cuff Link’ which was a jam.

Paul McCartney
An Evening With Paul McCartney, Capitol Radio, 21 March 1978

Although McCartney intended ‘Backwards Traveller’ as a gateway to the throwback sound of ‘Name And Address’, it actually led into the album’s most contemporary track, a signpost to the sonic terrain he would explore more thoroughly the following year on McCartney II.

McCartney recorded a demo of ‘Backwards Traveller’ in 1977, with the working title ‘Back In Time’.

Wings – now a slimmed down to a trio – recorded the song at Rude Studio in Scotland on 9 October 1977. It was completed at Abbey Road in January 1978.

Most of the album was the line-up that was when we went to America, with Jimmy and Joe, but there’s a couple of the tracks on it that we did after they’d left, like ‘Backwards Traveller’ and ‘Cuff Link’ where, like, I drummed, for instance, and a couple of tracks I played guitar on, which I mightn’t have done if Jimmy had still been with us.
Paul McCartney
An Evening With Paul McCartney, Capitol Radio, 21 March 1978

The release

The single ‘With A Little Luck’, with ‘Backwards Traveller’/‘Cuff Link’ on the b-side, was released ahead of London Town in March 1978. It topped the US Billboard Hot 100, and peaked at number five in the UK.

London Town followed a week later. In the US it reached number two on the Billboard 200, on which it spent a total of 28 weeks. In the UK its highest position was number four, and it spent 23 weeks on the album chart.

The ‘With A Little Luck’ single was included in the 2022 box set The 7″ Singles Box. The artwork was for the 1978 German release.

Previous song: ‘I’m Carrying’
Next song: ‘Cuff Link’
Published: |