‘If I Were Not Upon The Stage’ is a 1947 music hall song written by Thomas Sutton, Stan Bowsher, and Bill Turner.
Paul McCartney and his live band performed ‘If I Were Not Upon The Stage’ during his 1989-90 world tour. The 30-second song was performed as a false beginning to ‘Hey Jude’ during the shows.
A recording can be heard on the album Tripping The Live Fantastic. The recording was made at Cincinnatti’s Riverfront Coliseum on 12 February 1990, although the album’s liner notes incorrectly state the recording date as 26 September 1989.
When I was growing up, there was a tradition in the music hall to have a stage act with a song that involved various people. ‘If I Were Not Upon The Stage’, I think it’s called. It appealed to me as a kid. ‘If I were not upon the stage, someone else I’d like to be/If I were not upon the stage, a window cleaner me/You’d see me all day long singing out this song/Running up ladders, running up ladders…’ And that’d be one person’s song.
Then another person would come on. ‘If I were not upon the stage, someone else I’d like to be/If I were not upon the stage, a midwife I would be/Delivering babies, delivering babies…’ And that ‘delivering babies’ fitted with the first guy’s ‘running up ladders’. It was a craft song, which is what ‘Average Person’ is supposed to be. It was like a music hall thing. In the end, you’ve got five people all doing mimes and bits of songs, and it all fitted. Then at the end, as everyone was so busy, there’d just be someone, ‘If I were not upon the stage/An opera singer me/La la la la’, so that fitted with ‘running up ladders’, Musically, it all fitted.
Uncut, October 2015