‘Spies Like Us’ was a standalone single released by Paul McCartney as the title track of the film of the same name.
The 1985 spy comedy was directed by John Landis and starred Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd. The song appears briefly at the end of the credit sequence.
John Landis rang me and said he wanted an uptempo rock ‘n’ rolly thing. I thought I might have done a Bondy type song — the 75-piece orchestra, more melodic, with maybe an Eastern touch, the known ingredients for a ‘spy’ type of song. I think one of the fun things about what I’m doing now is varying those things a bit.
Spies Like Us press release
In the studio
McCartney recorded ‘Spies Like Us’ in September 1985, during a break in the Press To Play sessions, at his Hog Hill Mill studio.
He played all the instruments, apart from a synth part by Split Enz’s Eddie Rayner. Backing vocals were by Linda McCartney, Eric Stewart, Ruby James, and McCartney’s cousin Kate Robbins
‘Spies Like Us’ was released on 18 November 1985, three weeks before the film opened.
The single reached number 7 on the US Billboard Hot 100, making it McCartney’s last top 10 hit until 2015’s ‘FourFiveSeconds’. In the UK it peaked at number 13.
A 12″ single was also released, which contained ‘Spies Like Us’ (Party Mix) by John Potoker; ‘Spies Like Us’ (Alternaive Mix – Known To His Friends As ‘Tom’) by Art Of Noise; ‘Spies Like Us’ (DJ Version); and ‘My Carnival’ (Party Mix) by Gary Langan.
John Landis directed a video for ‘Spies Like Us’, which featured Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd at Abbey Road. McCartney played guitar, bass, and drums, Chase mimed playing a synthesizer, while the film’s Donna Dixon and Vanessa Angel played the backing vocalists. Aykroyd played the part of of the song’s producer.
The BBC initially chose not to air the video due to labour laws that prevented non-musicians from performing in videos. An edited version was later screened on Top Of The Pops, however, with the offending shots replaced by scenes from the film.
‘Spies Like Us’ was not included in the film’s soundtrack album, which contained Elmer Bernstein’s original score.
The song was first released on compact disc in 1993 as a bonus track on a Press To Play reissue.
The single, with its original US artwork, was included in the 2022 box set The 7″ Singles Box.