The song was written by McCartney and Elvis Costello, one of four such collaborations on the album. The album’s title comes from the song’s final verse: “She sprinkles flowers in the dirt/That’s when a thrill becomes a hurt/I know I’ll never see her face/She walks away from my resting place”.
The single moment of real tension between us came when we were cutting the track for ‘That Day Is Done’, but, then, it was a song about which I was almost too possessive. It was the unhappy sequel to ‘Veronica’. Over the time that Paul and I had been working together, my Nana’s condition had become fairly wretched. There was little more to do than anticipate the end. I thought a lot about the pageant of her farewell, wondering if I would find myself on the other side of the world when that time came. It was a fear better sung out than held inside, but it became so vivid to me that I wrote a verse in which I imagined myself as the deceased, unable to raise a voice above the mourner’s footfall.
I was hearing a sound in my head that was very close to the one I later sought for ‘Deep Dark Truthful Mirror’ – a piano-playing gospel changes and the mournful brass sound that I would soon find in the Dirty Dozen Brass Band – so it was pretty shocking to me when Paul began citing some strange, synthetic sound from a recent Human League record that he wanted to incorporate into the recording.
I just had to leave the studio for a while and walk around in the country air before I said something I might regret.
When I returned, Paul had moved on to ‘Don’t Be Careless Love’, one of the most beautiful melodies that he had brought to our writing sessions and into which we had inserted the horrifying images of a nightmare. It was probably the weirdest song we’d written together.
Paul was already at the microphone, delivering a perfect vocal performance in one take. The anger of ten minutes earlier completely evaporated in the face of such a beautiful piece of singing.
It might have been in that moment that I accepted we would not make this record together with the same ease and pleasure with which we’d written our songs. I wasn’t even sure if any of them were going to figure into Paul’s final plans for his album, so I took ‘That Day Is Done’ with me on my final tour with the Confederates, and most nights we played the song in the finale of the show.
Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink
McCartney and Costello recorded an acoustic demo of ‘That Day Is Done’ at Hog Hill Mill studio on 23 October 1987.
The basic track for the album version was recorded on 3 March 1988. It had McCartney on vocals and bass, Nicky Hopkins on piano, Hamish Stuart on guitar, and Chris Whitten on drums and tambourine.
Nicky Hopkins had famously performed electric piano on The Beatles’ ‘Revolution’, and appeared on solo records by all four members of the band. His only collaboration with McCartney was on Flowers In The Dirt.
We kept the piano (Nicky Hopkins) and vocal and added some Hovis brass to give it a silver band/New Orleans marching band feel. I said to Elvis, ‘Oh yeah, I get it, New Orleans funeral music. House is finished, right?’ It’s turned out a nice track set against everything else on the album.
Club Sandwich, Summer 1989
‘That Day Is Done’ was completed in October 1988, with the addition of backing vocals by McCartney, Stuart, and Costello, plus a brass section.
I did a horn arrangement on on ‘That Day Is Done’, but Paul had already sung it, the drums were done, I think the backing vocals were done, some guitar – yes, we just fleshed it out a little more. I had this idea of doing kind of a silver band, a factory band English horn arrangement, and he just let me do it, you know? He had a few comments while we were doing it, but he said, ‘go ahead try it’. He is very open, and it was part of the thing, he already knew how to do all the stuff he had done before, and it was a different time. He is open for input and he just sees if he likes it, it’s that simple.
SuperDeluxeEdition, March 2017
McCartney never performed ‘That Day Is Done’ live in concert.