‘San Ferry Anne’ is the penultimate song on Wings’ fifth album Wings At The Speed Of Sound.

The title is a pun on the French phrase ‘ça ne fait rien’, which translates as ‘it doesn’t matter’.

I didn’t study French in school. Most British kids did. John did; he wasn’t very good at it, mind you. I chose Spanish, German and Latin, but because of the big hits that came over from France, almost any kid of my generation – including me – knew certain phrases, and in saying those words and in hearing them, my imagination almost unconsciously played with them. In this regard, ‘San Ferry Anne’ was a pun on ça ne fait rien (‘it doesn’t matter’). ‘San Ferry Anne’ was an instance of my trying to write a French song, as I had done with ‘Michelle’. So here’s San Ferry Anne, and she’s a doll. She looks good, she’s got a sugar daddy, a ‘little man’, who’s buying her trinkets and things, but inside her shiny shell it seems like all’s not right. Ça ne fait rien.

I have another one that I haven’t written yet: ‘Sausage on Show’, or saucisson chaud. It would be a sausage in a theatre, a sausage wearing a boater. Come on, roll up, and see the sausage on show. We may have to wait a while for that one!

There was also a British comedy film titled San Ferry Ann. Released in 1965, it starred Wilfrid Brambell, who had appeared alongside McCartney the previous year in A Hard Day’s Night.

‘San Ferry Anne’ was recorded on 30 January 1976 at Abbey Road Studios, with overdubs added in the following weeks.

The overdubs included brass and woodwind by Howie Casey, Steve Howard, Thaddeus Richard, and Tony Dorsey.

I played on: ‘Let ’Em In’ and I played on another tune called ‘San Ferry Anne’ which just wound up being an album track that never really got much air play or anything I don’t think! That was probably my favourite because it had a pretty little melody and I got to play a flugelhorn solo in there. It kind of featured the horn section more and in rock and pop music, there’s not a lot of space for horn solos unless you’re a saxophone player. So it was nice to get a little spot there on the recording.
Steve Howard, 2013

Paul McCartney’s handwritten lyrics for San Ferry Anne

Previous song: ‘Must Do Something About It’
Next song: ‘Warm And Beautiful’
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