‘Ballroom Dancing’ is the sixth song on Tug Of War, Paul McCartney’s third solo album.

Like most people, I’ve got memories that go back to when I was a teenager, like when George Harrison and I used to go to the local dance and neither of us would ever dare to ask a girl to dance until the last waltz. It was then that we thought, ‘Oh God, we’ve wasted all our money when all we came here for was to touch a girl. We’ve got to do it. Okay, let’s waltz, come on.’ We were always too shy but we’d always try and grab someone for that last dance. But most times we’d get refused. We never really got into ballroom dancing but that was where you went if you wanted to dance. We’d go to The Locarno or The Grafton, all the big ballrooms. And with The Beatles, the ballroom circuit was a big circuit. We did a lot of ballrooms in our early career before we gravitated to the theatres. The song ‘Ballroom Dancing’ was just little images you have as a kid, flying carpets, playing Davy Crockett, going down the Nile in a china cup, all these childhood images mixed up with this ballroom. It’s a lot of little images involved in growing up.
Paul McCartney
The Beatles – The Dream Is Over: Off The Record 2, Keith Badman

‘Ballroom Dancing’ was rehearsed by Wings in July 1980, and McCartney recorded a demo in August that year.

The song was properly recorded on 7 and 8 December at AIR Studios in London, and finished during an overdub session on the 14th.

There’s a clarinet kind of glissando which is a bit like Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody In Blue;’ and the clarinet swoops up from its bottom chalumeau register. It’s much wider than the Gershwin one going to two octaves and in fact it’s almost impossible to do. Jack Brymer played it, but at the very top it isn’t a clarinet anymore, it’s a trumpet which finishes its phrase. It was difficult to get the crossover point so that you couldn’t really hear the join, although we did manage.
George Martin
Sound Pictures, Kenneth Womack

At the 1:52 mark a sample from the BBC’s Come Dancing can be heard. Presenter Peter Marshall says: ‘Well, I can tell you the band is ready. We’re starting with the first of five dances in this competition: that’s the cha-cha-cha!’

McCartney re-recorded ‘Ballroom Dancing’ for the soundtrack of his 1984 film Give My Regards To Broad Street.

I wrote the song about my own childhood memories of sailing down the Nile in a china cup, or any other similar game we might play. ‘I’ll be Rommel and you can play Tom Mix, the cowboy’. It could be anything. I chose going down the Nile in a china cup because it sums it all up. China and Nile are fantasy words to kids. It could have been Alexandria, Cairo or Singapore – they were magic exotic places.

The first verse is very young childish games, the second verse is slightly growing up and on to the flying carpet stage and Davy Crockett hats and stuff, and it keeps coming back to ‘We used to fight like cats and dogs’, and that’s just the idea that childhood wasn’t all glorious wonderful summer days.

Basically it’s all my childhood memories distilled into one song, which develops into memories of being a teenager going to dance halls and ballrooms – only they’re called discos now.

Paul McCartney
Give My Regards To Broad Street book, 1984

Paul McCartney’s handwritten lyrics for Ballroom Dancing

Previous song: ‘Here Today’
Next song: ‘The Pound Is Sinking’
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