A song about a person sitting at the centre of a circle, and everybody wants something from him? It could almost be me.
As young Beatles, once we got famous and our families and friends started seeing us on television, the first thing they said to us was, ‘Oh, you’ve changed.’ And we said, ‘We haven’t changed. Your perception of us has changed. We’re just the same four guys, going round the world, having a laugh, but you see us differently.’
McCartney wrote ‘The World Tonight’ on holiday in America in August 1995. The song deals with the price of fame; at the time McCartney had been world famous for three decades.
‘I saw you hiding from a flock of paparazzi’. That was truly becoming the way we lived, so I put it onto whoever this person is. ‘You were hoping that the/Ground would swallow you’ – that kind of sums it up. You just hope the ground will swallow you, or maybe swallow them. I like to use common phrases and put them in some kind of context where they sound uncommon. I think a lot of creative people do that.
‘The World Tonight’ was released as the second single from Flaming Pie, although in the USA it was the only one taken from the album.
In the UK it reached number 23 on the official charts, and but it fared less well in America, peaking at number 64 on the Billboard Hot 100.
This song has a line that’s one of my favourites of all the lines I’ve ever written: ‘I go back so far I’m in front of me’. It’s one of those lines where you don’t know what it means but you do know what it means. I have no idea where it came from, though!
In the UK the 7″ featured ‘Used To Be Bad’ on the b-side. The song was co-written and recorded with Steve Miller. There were also two CD editions: CD1 had ‘Used To Be Bad’ and ‘Oobu Joobu’ (Part 3), while CD2 contained ‘Really Love You’ and ‘Oobu Joobu’ (Part 4).
Oobu Joobu was the title of McCartney’s radio show, which aired in 1995 on Westwood One. The b-sides contained a mix of demos, interviews, and unreleased songs presented as one. Parts 1, 3, and 4 lasted 9:55, 9:48, and 7:06 respectively.
‘The World Tonight’ was included in the soundtrack of the 1997 film Fathers’ Day, starring Robin Williams and Billy Crystal. The soundtrack includes a mix of the song unavailable elsewhere.
Two promotional videos were made for ‘The World Tonight’. They were each directed by Alistair Donald, who in 1998 married Paul McCartney’s daughter Mary.
The first was filmed in February 1997, and the second a few months later during a family holiday in Mugello, Italy.
A film about the making of the Flaming Pie album, titled In The World Tonight, was also shown in the UK and US.