‘Dress Me Up As A Robber’ is the penultimate song on Tug Of War, Paul McCartney’s third solo album.
When you’re trying to write something, you’re often looking for a tag to get you started. I wrote this, I think, in the summer of 1980, possibly up in Scotland. And for some reason I just thought, ‘You could dress me up as a robber, but it’s not gonna change my feelings for you’; that was the basic thing. ‘You can dress me up as a soldier/But I wouldn’t know what for/I was the one that told you he loved you/Don’t wanna go to another war’. That was a little bit of the peacenik in there.
The basic track was recorded on 4 February 1981 at AIR Studios in Montserrat. It had McCartney on electric and acoustic guitars and bass, Denny Laine on electric guitar and synthesizer, George Martin on electric piano, and Dave Mattacks on drums.
When it came time to record the song at George Martin’s AIR Studios in Montserrat, we had Dave Mattacks play the drums. He’s a very fun drummer from England. When I first heard him play, I thought it was John Bonham of Led Zeppelin. I admired Bonham a lot, and I was a friend of his, but then when I inquired, I was told, ‘No, it’s Dave Mattacks.’ It was quite a surprise because Bonham kind of looked the part. He was like a great big farmer, and he bashed the hell out of the kit. He said he always wanted his drums to sound like ‘fucking cannons’. But Dave was more like a little primary school teacher, a slight guy. You wouldn’t have imagined this big drum sound coming from him. We worked together a little bit, and he was very good.
The song was completed with further overdubs on 23 March 1981, at AIR in London.
‘Dress Me Up As A Robber’ was one of the songs on the ‘Take It Away’ 12″ single, released on 5 July 1982.
On 25 September 2013 McCartney appeared in a charity reading of Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen Of Verona at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica, California. Tickets for the 23rd annual Simply Shakespeare benefit cost $1,500, with proceeds benefiting the centre’s youth employment programmes.
McCartney read the part of Eglamour, appearing alongside Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson, and William Shatner. He also performed 12 songs: ‘Live And Let Die’, ‘All My Loving’, ‘I Saw Her Standing There’, ‘Dress Me Up Like A Robber’, ‘Here, There And Everywhere’, ‘Yesterday’, ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’, ‘Good Day Sunshine’, ‘Let It Be’, ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)’, ‘The End’, and ‘And I Love Her’. It was the live debut of ‘Dress Me Up Like A Robber’.
‘Dress Me Up As A Robber’ is great to dance to, but it’s also a love song in disguise, a love song in a mask. I think it’s a song that should be used at a Venetian masked ball. With the way that 2020 is turning out, the masked ball may be making a bit of a comeback. It should be everywhere now, not just in Venice.