‘Nothing Too Much Just Out Of Sight’ is the opening track on The Fireman’s third album Electric Arguments.
The bluesy song is based around a loop of a bar of 3/4 and one of 4/4. McCartney deploys some of his dirtiest rock ‘n’ roll vocals, a style rarely heard on record in his later years.
The album’s opener Nothing Too Much Just Out Of Sight is classic rock and an instant attention grabber. A heavy guitar riff with loud drums and souring vocals, it’s like nothing The Fireman have ever done before.
Upon the album’s release there was much speculation in the media that the lyrics were a thinly-veiled attack on McCartney’s ex-wife, Heather Mills. They include the repeated line: “The last thing to do was to try to betray me”. McCartney and Mills’ divorce was granted in May 2008, shortly before Electric Arguments was completed.
Youth said to me, ‘Well, Paul, why don’t you sing some words?’ I said, ‘Well I’ve got no words,’ and he gave me a knowing look, meaning, ‘Come on! You can do it.’ And I thought, ‘Oh, damn you, alright,’ so I went out on the mic, and I said to everyone in the room – just the engineer and the roadies and the guys – ‘Okay, disclaimer: I have no idea what’s gonna come out here, so this could be like a real embarrassment. Probably the most embarrassing moment in my recording career.’
I had the idea of using ‘nothing too much, just outta sight’ – my friend Jimmy Scott’s expression – and we agreed that was a good starting point. Then I would just go out on the microphone, and we’d have some kind of backing before I did the vocal – the pretty insistent drums and the distorted slide guitar on this one – and then I knew I was going to scream a bit.
Normally, I’ve got some idea what I”m going to sing, but I didn’t on these things. Maybe I’d scribble something down on a piece of paper and then just sing that and see whether something came off the back of it. In my usual way of songwriting, I’ve got to conform to a rhythm and the metres that I set myself, but the stream of consciousness is obviously less constricted, so you get something like this, which reads like a sort of beat poem. I think I just went through it a couple of times and screamed at it, just freewheeling and trying to grab rhymes. When you’re sitting down writing, you can think, ‘Well, I can do better than that,’ but here it has everything to do with free association, so there’s no time for any preparation. You’re just grabbing the first rhymes.
The Lyrics: 1956 To The Present
The title was a phrase McCartney had heard in the 1960s from a friend, Jimmy Anonmuogharan Scott Emuakpor (known as Jimmy Scott), whom he met in the Bag O’Nails club in Soho, London. Scott also gave McCartney the phrase ‘Ob-la-di, ob-la-da’.
‘Nothing too much, just out of sight’ was an expression that a Nigerian friend of mine called Jimmy Scott taught me. We used to meet in the London clubs in the 1960s, and he had some great expressions. Jimmy was the guy who taught me ‘Ob-La-Di’, so you can kind of say that he had a legendary status. This – ‘Nothing too much, just out of sight’ – was another expression he had. In those days, expressions were like fashion. I guess it’s the same for every generation, but I think it was during the sixties when language started to become a little less formal, especially in song lyrics. We had expressions like ‘far out’, and another one was ‘too much’. I remember saying, ‘Oof, too much.’ And Jimmy would say, ‘Nothing too much, just out of sight.’ I thought, ‘I like that; it’s very good.’
This song is from a side project called The Fireman. I have a producer friend who goes by the name ‘Youth’ – real name Martin Glover – and he was in a group called Killing Joke. He did a remix for me years ago. I used to take a song and give it to someone, so they’d have a fresh view of it. I became friendly with Youth, so I said, ‘Come down to my studio. We’ll do something.’
The Lyrics: 1956 To The Present
“Nothing Too Much Just Out Of Sight” was reportedly Scott’s response when people would describe something as “too much”.
You’d say to him, ‘Too much, man’ and he’d say, ‘No, nothing too much just out of sight.’ So I grabbed that and suddenly you could see where it was heading and I followed that trail.
paulmccartney.com, October 2008
BBC Radio 1 had the world debut play of ‘Nothing Too Much Just Out Of Sight’ on 29 September 2008, with Zane Lowe making it his ‘Hottest Record In The World Right Now’.
On 9 October 2008, ahead of the release of Electric Arguments, the song was made available as a free download on nme.com.
A reworking of the song, retitled ‘Out Of Sight’, by The Bloody Beetroots featuring McCartney and Youth, was released in 2013.