Flaming Pie was McCartney’s first solo project after working on The Beatles’ Anthology, and he attempted to revive the playful spirit and swift working practices of his former band.
We had some funny moments during the making of the Anthology, when we remembered things differently. The biggest was ‘who thought of the name Beatles?’. George and I both remember it the same way: John and Stu had come out of their flat in Gambier Terrace, Liverpool, and we were walking towards the Dingle, chatting, when they told us of their new name for the band. But, what with one thing and another, we didn’t exactly say this in the TV and video series.
I was working with Jeff Lynne on ‘Souvenir’ when we decided that we wanted to add some raw, heavy-ish guitars. We had the amps belting in the studio, playing the guitars in the control room with long leads, and while the engineers were getting the sound we started vamping and found a few chords and some funky riffs. I started shouting a little bit of a melody and so I asked the engineer to stick on a DAT tape. We just jammed, but then I suggested we turn it into a song. The words came to me a few days later when I was out horse riding with Linda, going through some birch woods. I was musing and dreaming about the lyrics, looking for a rhyme for ‘sky’, going through the alphabet, when I got to ‘pie’. The words ‘flaming pie’ fitted and I got quite excited about it. ‘Making love underneath the moon’ became ‘Making love underneath the bed’ – it was great fun to write.
Club Sandwich, Summer 1997
The phrase ‘flaming pie’ first appeared in a piece by John Lennon which was published in Mersey Beat in July 1961. Titled ‘Being a short diversion on the dubious origins of Beatles’, the second paragraph read:
Suddenly, in Scotland, touring with Johnny Gentle, the group (called the Beatles called) discovered they had not a very nice sound – because they had no amplifiers. They got some. Many people ask what are Beatles? Why Beatles? Ugh, Beatles, how did the name arrive? So we will tell you. It came in a vision – a man appeared on a flaming pie and said unto them, ‘From this day on you are Beatles with an A’. Thank you, Mister Man, they said, thanking him.
Mersey Beat, 6-20 July 1961
‘Flaming Pie’ was recorded at McCartney’s Hog Hill Mill studio on 27 February. He played the majority of instruments, with additional vocal harmonies and electric guitar from co-producer Jeff Lynne.
McCartney first performed ‘Flaming Pie’ live during an appearance on TFI Friday on UK TV on 27 June 1997. McCartney and his band performed the song and lead single ‘Young Boy’.
The second performance was for The Oprah Winfrey Show on 20 November, which was broadcast four days later. McCartney played ‘Young Boy’, ‘Flaming Pie’, and ‘Lady Madonna’.
It was played throughout McCartney’s Summer Tour in 2004 and the following year’s US Tour, during a handful of shows in 2007 and 2008, and was revived during his Summer Live ’09 tour in 2009.
‘Flaming Pie’ remained in McCartney’s live set during 2009’s Good Evening Europe Tour, and was played during soundchecks for his Up And Coming Tour (2010), On The Run Tour (2011/12), Out There Tour (2014/15), One On One Tour (2016/17), Freshen Up Tour (2018), and Got Back Tour (2022).
A recording from July 2009 can be heard on the live album Good Evening New York City.
The song 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’, ‘Souvenir’, ‘Little Willow’, ‘Beautiful Night’, and ‘Great Day’.