The song had one of the longest gestation periods in McCartney’s recording history. He first recorded the song on 21 August 1986. The producer was Phil Ramone, and accompanying McCartney were David Brown on electric guitar, David Lebolt on synthesizer, Neil Jason on bass guitar, and Liberty Devitto on drums. McCartney played piano and sang, although at that stage the lyrics remained incomplete.
In July 1987 McCartney returned to ‘Beautiful Night’, with George Martin writing an orchestral score, but again McCartney was dissatisfied with the results. He attempted it once again in November 1990, recording a third unreleased version.
McCartney finally recorded it to his satisfaction during the Flaming Pie sessions. The basic track was recorded at Hog Hill Mill studio on 13 May 1996, with Jeff Lynne on guitar and Ringo Starr on drums.
I wrote ‘Beautiful Night’ quite a few years ago, and I’ve always liked it, and people who heard an early recording that I made in New York, with some of Billy Joel’s players, have said that they liked it too. But I always felt that we hadn’t quite ‘pulled it off’ – you know? We had a good evening and a great time but I just didn’t feel that it was the one. Also, I was still changing a few lyrics. So I did it with Ringo instead – I’ve been saying to him for years that we should do some more work together. He’s great.
I sat at the piano and Ringo sat at the drums. It was so comfortable and lovely to work with him again. Jeff Lynne and I produced. Ringo was very happy with it and we tagged on the fast bit at the end, which wasn’t on the original recording.
Ringo came here, to the studio, to do ‘Free As A Bird’ and ‘Real Love’, and brought his kit with him. It sounds great when it’s recorded, the snare, the bass. He then left his kit here, in storage, so I phoned up and ordered exactly the same pieces, and set up my new kit in exactly the same way. In fact, Ringo used my model of his kit for ‘Beautiful Night’.
Club Sandwich, Summer 1997
The orchestral arrangement was again scored by George Martin. It was recorded at Abbey Road’s Studio One on 14 February 1997, with David Snell conducting. It was the final overdub for the Flaming Pie album.
I think everyone who makes a record has that option, to leave the daft stuff on at the end. You nearly always fade it out but at the end of ‘Beautiful Night’, it had been such a good take that Ringo started having fun, acting like he was a doorman, throwing people out. I love that so much. It’s very Beatley. It’s a very Beatley idea to do that, because we did a bit of that in the group… In fact, I swear that at the end of ‘Beautiful Night’, you can almost hear a sort of very John Lennony voice in there. Listen to it. Check it out.
Beatles Book Monthly, January 1998
‘Beautiful Night’ was the third single released from the album, following ‘Young Boy’ and ‘The World Tonight’.
The single was released on 15 December 1997. The 7″ picture disc had ‘Love Come Tumbling Down’ on the b-side.
There were also two CD singles. The first had ‘Beautiful Night’, ‘Love Come Tumbling Down’, and ‘Oobu Joobu’ (Part 5), while the second had ‘Beautiful Night’, ‘Same Love’, and ‘Oobu Joobu’ (Part 6). The ‘Oobu Joobu’ tracks contained a mix of demos, interviews, and unreleased song snippets, and shared a title with McCartney’s 1995 radio show on Westwood One.
‘Beautiful Love’ was not a commercial success, peaking at 25 on the UK singles chart.
The video, directed by Julien Temple, had to be edited due to full-frontal shots of a woman, Emma Moore, skinny dipping in the River Mersey.
Also in the clip were Ringo Starr and Linda McCartney, the latter in her final appearance in a music video. The band Spud are shown miming to the song, although they are not on the studio recording.
The video for the ‘Beautiful Night’ single was filmed by Absolute Beginners director Julien Temple and, according to MPL, is the most lavish Paul has made in recent years. The original version of the video contains a love scene between a young couple swimming naked in the River Mersey. This will stay in the video to sustain the plot, said a McCartney spokesman, but other scenes might have to be edited in order to meet broadcast regulations. ‘Unfortunately, some of the full-frontal sequences in ‘Beautiful Night’ will have to be cut out, or the video will never be seen, unless it’s on the Playboy channel,’ quipped the spokesman. ‘The actress, Emma Moore, is a beautiful sight, but we’d have a beautiful fight getting these scenes onto MTV.’
The five-minute video was filmed in Liverpool and London, and included a day’s performance at the Nightingale Estate in Hackney, during which Paul played ‘Beautiful Night’ with Spud, an Ealing-based band of 16-year-olds, currently studying for their A-levels at Drayton Manor High School. In the video, Paul stands in the forecourt of a tower block as 40 TV sets are thrown from windows on the 18th floor and crash land with spectacular results around him. ‘We had to be very careful this bombing run,’ added the spokesman. ‘Fortunately, Paul was unscarred. The Beautiful Knight was unharmed!’
Despite the fact that nudity and rock ‘n’ roll-type destruction are untypical of a McCartney video, the spokesman stressed that ‘Beautiful Night’ is indeed a Christmas single. ‘The video depicts one of Paul’s unwavering themes,’ he said. ‘Basically, the message is to turn off the telly and turn on to love this Christmas’.
Beatles Book Monthly, December 1997
Paul McCartney performed ‘Beautiful Night’ live on just one occasion, for the Flaming Pie Radio Special in May 1997.
‘Beautiful Night’ was included on the 2016 compilation Pure McCartney, along with seven other songs from Flaming Pie: ‘The Song We Were Singing’, ‘The World Tonight’, ‘Calico Skies’, ‘Flaming Pie’, ‘Souvenir’, ‘Little Willow’, and ‘Great Day’.