McCartney’s demo had an irregular meter, with occasional bars that strayed outside the 4/4 time signature. The changes were retained in the final version.
They [the lyrics] are kind of quite simple; there’s nothing deeply deep. I’m not trying too hard, I’m just spinning them out, not worried if I’ve heard a phrase before and just gone for it. There’s a couple of songs on this where I’ve just put two songs, or fragments of songs, together. I just thought, that will go with that. It meant at times that instead of getting a 4:4, four beats to the bar, in slamming them together you’d get a 5:4, but I thought that’s OK, I’d fix it later. But when I played it to the band and to the producer, they loved those little odd-bars. That’s on a song called ‘From A Lover To A Friend.’ I did the demo for that one late night, a bit tired and bluesy. But I liked that late-night feeling to it so much that I tried to keep to that when we recorded it, even though we did it mid-afternoon. It’s a strange hybrid, that song, bits from various songs that I liked all glued together like an odd collage…
‘From A Lover To A Friend’ was a patchwork of a couple of bits I’d had, which I liked but I didn’t think I’d finished up the songs. That turned out to be a good thing because I got together with my man Eddie at my studio in England and we were going through these demos; I’d liked this bit and liked that bit and we just stitched together a couple of bits that weren’t meant to go together but they just felt like they would go together. Interestingly for me, just to make one or two cuts work for the edit and not chop into the vocal, I had to add a strange extra bar in, so the collage had some odd bars – instead of it all being 4:4, it was like 5:4 in places or 2:4, which was something I like. And when I played the demo to the guys everyone was all very keen on faithfully following all those little 5:4 bars, just to give it a different musical structure. The other thing about the demo was that part of it was a rather, shall we say tired late-night demo, a bit out-of-it demo, but it had a very intimate quality in the voice and so I tried to keep that and not clean up the record so much that I’d lose that lazy late-nightness.
paulmccartney.com, November 2001
‘From A Lover To A Friend’ was recorded by McCartney at Henson Studios in Los Angeles in February 2001, during a three-week block of sessions.
Recorded on 20th February 2001 onto 16-track analogue tape then loaded into Logic Audio for overdubs. Paul played piano then overdubbed Hofner bass and the vocal. Abe played drums. Rusty played 12-string electric guitar with a capo on the 1st fret. Gabe played piano.
The really cool thing I like about this lyric is there’s some bits on the demo that I really didn’t find words for. So I had to try really hard to hear what I’d been singing on this late-night demo; and a couple of bits didn’t make sense – ‘despite too easy ride to see’ was one of them. But it’s starting to make sense to me now. The other thing that sort of encouraged me to do this was that me and Heather and George and Olivia (Harrison) had been to see the Cirque du Soleil and the music there was quite cool. Obviously the show is just stunning and the music fits well with it. I met the girl who was singing and I was puzzling what language it was. They’re based in Montreal, so I figured it was maybe French, but it didn’t sound like French to me. And this girl’s Romanian or something, so I was wondering what she was singing in. Afterwards she said ‘It isn’t any language, because we want like everyone to get it – so it’s no language’. But I thought that is a cool idea; that intrigues me, doing a song in no language but it sounds like a language that everyone can get a feel and a meaning off of it. So that encouraged me to do these few lyrics like that. Listen for them on the track. The only thing is, and I’ve just thought this, people say to me that they teach English to their kids in school with my songs, like with Beatles songs in Russia. They’d better beware that on this song, it had better be the advanced poetry class on this one. It is English, but it’s not standard.
paulmccartney.com, November 2001
‘From A Lover To A Friend’ was released on 29 October 2001, two weeks ahead of Driving Rain, as the lead single. The 7″ vinyl version had ‘Riding Into Jaipur’ on the b-side.
The CD single had three versions of the title track: the album version, David Kahne Remix 1, and David Kahne Remix 2. A cassette single was also released with ‘From A Lover To A Friend’, ‘Riding Into Jaipur’, and Remix 2.
All proceeds from the sales of the new single were donated to New York’s fire and police departments, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the city.
‘From A Lover To A Friend’ was not a commercial success. It peaked at 24 on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, and 45 on the UK singles chart.
The single was included in the 2022 box set The 7″ Singles Box.
McCartney’s follow-up single, ‘Freedom’, had ‘From A Lover To A Friend’ on the b-side. The CD single added Remix 2 as the third track.
In 2007 Driving Rain was released on the iTunes store, with Remix 2 as a bonus track.
McCartney performed ‘From A Lover To A Friend’ live on just one occasion, during the Concert For New York City at Madison Square Garden on 20 October 2001.