In this case, I came across the chords and I just felt optimistic, and I liked the idea of a song saying that help is coming and there’s a bright light on the horizon. I’ve got absolutely no evidence for this, but I like to believe it. It helps to lift my spirits, to move me forward, and hopefully it might help other people move forward too.
One of the strengths of songs is that, if you’re really lucky, they reach people. And I’m often conscious that there might be a lot of people out there who aren’t having a great time, or are just worried, and could really use some good luck. And so, if I can be a reassuring voice, then I think that’s very important. I think a lot of music I listened to as a kid, or even the music of my dad’s generation, was uplifting. A song could make you feel better. Uplifting music is very valuable, so I like the idea of creating that, and I think that’s been a lot of what I do. But this song was just very simple, almost like a nursery rhyme: ‘When you’re wide awake/Say it for goodness sake/It’s gonna be a great day.
The fact that the lyrics are very close to the Beatles song ‘It Won’t Be Long’ has been pointed out, but I remember once talking to John about something we were writing, and there was a situation like that. I can’t remember what the line was, but let’s say it was from a Dylan song, and I was pretty much stealing it for my song. John said, ‘Well, no, it’s not stealing. It’s a quote.’ And that made me feel better.
The Lyrics: 1956 To The Present
According to McCartney, he and Linda sang ‘Great Day’ to their young children in the early Seventies.
Club Sandwich 82, Summer 1997
The lyrics bear a resemblance to the 1929 song ‘Great Day’, written by Vincent Youmans with lyrics by William Rose and Edward Eliscu. It was composed for the Broadway musical Great Day, and was recorded by a number of people including Judy Garland, Sarah Vaughan, and Tony Bennett.
‘Great Day’ was recorded at Hog Hill Mill, McCartney’s studio in East Sussex, England, on 3 September 1992, with George Martin producing. Also taped on that day was ‘Calico Skies’, and ‘When Winter Comes’, which would remain unreleased until 2020’s McCartney III.
I’ve always liked the song but never really had an opportunity to record it, so during the ‘Calico Skies’ session with George Martin, since it had been so easy to record that one little acoustic thing, I told George that I had this song too. The song is identical to how we used to do it 25 years ago.
Club Sandwich #82, Summer 1997
McCartney performed ‘Great Day’ live on just one occasion, on 23 September 2003 at the third annual Adopt-A-Minefield Gala at LA’s Beverly Hilton Hotel.
‘Great Day’ was included on the 2016 compilation Pure McCartney.