‘Don’t Be Careless Love’ is the ninth song on Paul McCartney’s eighth solo album Flowers In The Dirt.

The song was written by McCartney and Elvis Costello, one of four such collaborations on the album.

The pair worked on ‘Don’t Be Careless Love’ shortly after coming to a disagreement on the arrangement for ‘That Day Is Done’.

I was hearing a sound in my head [for ‘That Day Is Done’] that was very close to the one I later sought for ‘Deep Dark Truthful Mirror’ – a piano-playing gospel changes and the mournful brass sound that I would soon find in the Dirty Dozen Brass Band – so it was pretty shocking to me when Paul began citing some strange, synthetic sound from a recent Human League record that he wanted to incorporate into the recording.

I just had to leave the studio for a while and walk around in the country air before I said something I might regret.

When I returned, Paul had moved on to ‘Don’t Be Careless Love’, one of the most beautiful melodies that he had brought to our writing sessions and into which we had inserted the horrifying images of a nightmare. It was probably the weirdest song we’d written together.

Paul was already at the microphone, delivering a perfect vocal performance in one take. The anger of ten minutes earlier completely evaporated in the face of such a beautiful piece of singing.

Elvis Costello
Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink

McCartney and Costello recorded an acoustic demo of ‘Don’t Be Careless Love’ at Hog Hill Mill studio on 23 October 1987.

The album version was begun on 1 February 1988. It featured backing vocals from Costello, Hamish Stuart, and Chris Whitten.

We have stuff that I wrote with Elvis, and we recorded it ourselves, to see if we could just get a kind of energy in there and stuff. They were nice tapes, but they weren’t making it. So I re-recorded them with Mitchell Froom, who’s the American guy who did Crowded House. We kind of fixed one of the recordings Elvis and I had done (‘Careless’), because we liked the vocal and we just needed to fix it up a little bit.
Paul McCartney
Club Sandwich, Summer 1989

The drums were re-recorded by Jerry Marotta during an overdub session in Los Angeles on 27 October 1988.

It’s an incredible vocal. The same with ‘That Day is Done’. There is a big reason why I didn’t want to even think about redoing those, because they were so good, those vocals. But yes, it’s a really quirky song, and I was surprised he ended up using it, but I liked it, for whatever reason.

I added drums to it, and don’t think this is credited correctly, but that actually was Jerry Marotta that played drums on that [credited to Chris Whitten]. I played keyboards; the Wurlitzer piano and organ. And I think we just worked on it, just added some extra guitar. It’s more like fleshing them out so that they fit in with everything else.

Mitchell Froom
SuperDeluxeEdition, March 2017

McCartney never performed ‘Don’t Be Careless Love’ live in concert.

Previous song: ‘This One’
Next song: ‘That Day Is Done’
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