‘Big Boys Bickering’ was a b-side of Paul McCartney’s 1992 single ‘Hope Of Deliverance’.

The song contains a rare expletive from McCartney:

Big boys bickering
That’s what they’re doing everyday
Big boys bickering
Fucking it up for everyone, everyone
‘Big Boys Bickering’

It was written in Japan in March 1990, during McCartney’s World Tour. It was his first visit to the country since his 1980 arrest for drug possession.

It was hard re-visiting Tokyo after my drugs bust. It was some kind of exorcism. We knew that we had to go there on the tour. The first few nights we had strange dreams and screaming headaches. But while I was there I wrote ‘Big Boys Bickering’ and for the first time in a song, I used the word ‘fucking’ which I knew would upset some people.

I think it was my first protest song since ‘Give Ireland Back To The Irish’. I’ve avoided them, thinking, This is for the politicians, or sometimes, I can say it in interviews. You have to be very incensed to find the inspiration to do it right. I think there’s a bit of John Lennon inspiration in this one. It’s Lennonesque to my mind anyway. John wouldn’t have thought twice about saying ‘fuck’ in a song.

But when you think of the ozone layer being depleted, a 50-mile hole over the world that’s going to kill us if we don’t do something, and then you think of what happened at the Rio summit, do you think of that as a ‘flipping hole’ or a ‘fucking hole’?

I’m proud of it. I’m not a teenybopper. I’m an artist. I’ve written serious stuff before and I’m writing it now. You don’t like it, don’t buy it.

Paul McCartney
New World Tour programme

The release

The ‘Hope Of Deliverance’ single was released on 28 December 1992 in the UK and 12 January 1993 in the US. The Off The Ground album followed in February.

The single came out in three formats, each containing non-album tracks. The 7″ vinyl and cassette versions contained ‘Long Leather Coat’, while the CD single contained that song, ‘Big Boys Bickering’, and ‘Kicked Around No More’.

‘Hope Of Deliverance’ was a top 10 hit in Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Mexico, and Switzerland. It peaked at 18 on the UK singles chart, and fared less well in the USA, reaching 83 on the Billboard Hot 100.

I don’t usually use swear words in a song because it can sometimes seem a bit gratuitous, like you’re just trying to shock, but then again I don’t normally go for songs about animal experimentation and when you’re in that hard area these words start to creep in. I’m certainly not a great user of swear words in front of the kids but occasionally – like in ‘Looking For Changes’ – it’s essential to the plot.

The only strange thing is that I haven’t done it before. I mean, I played ‘Big Boys Bickering’, with the ‘f’ word, to Paul Simon and he said ‘Have you ever used that word before?’ and I said no. But that doesn’t matter – I think I’m allowed to use it once in every 50 years, don’t you? Once in every 50 years I’ll use that word – stick around for the next time.

Paul McCartney
Club Sandwich, Spring 1993

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