The song was written by McCartney and Elvis Costello. Although one of four songs co-written by the pair, it is their only duet on the album.
The song was supposed to be like one of those old Hollywood movie sequences in which the hero is tempted by a little devil on one shoulder and consoled by an angel on the other. I knew what people would say if Paul sang all the sweet lines and I had the sarcastic replies, but as Paul said later, ‘It was just hard to resist.’
Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink
McCartney and Costello recorded an acoustic demo of ‘You Want Her Too’ at Hog Hill Mill studio on 3 September 1987.
That was from the Elvis batch. He’s a great guy to work with, very focused. When you’re working with someone – instead of just sitting around and thinking, ‘Oh, what are we going to do?’ – it’s nice when someone comes up with something and you get a kickstart. Elvis was good at that. He would come up and we’d talk stories about his Auntie Irene and various relatives of his and mine growing up in Liverpool. This song came out of that. It’s got sort of a sea-shanty feel. We didn’t take long to write them, they just kind of fell out.
We both love the art of songwriting, we’re still intrigued by it. Little things like having a cynical answer to a line – that’s the kind of thing I did a long time ago, like in ‘Getting Better’ where I sing, ‘It’s getting better all the time,’ and John sings, ‘It couldn’t get much worse.’ Otherwise you’re just writing a song straightforward. That’s good too, but it’s kind of nice to have little things that bounce off each other, that yin-yang thing.
People, 24 March 2017
The album version was begun on 1 February 1988, with McCartney on vocals and bass guitar, Costello on vocals and keyboards, Hamish Stuart and Kevin Armstrong on guitars, and Chris Whitten on drums.
It was, however, mostly re-recorded on 31 October 1988, during McCartney’s recording sessions produced by Mitchell Froom and Neil Dorfsman. Only the introduction was retained from the first version.
Elvis Costello sang on it when they originally did it, but then came the notion of like ‘well, what if Paul does both parts, but we treat it in such a way where it’s like the voice in his head?’ But when we tried it, it didn’t sound as good, so I think he finally just said ‘Let’s just get Elvis to do it, it sounds better’.
Elvis wasn’t around at all [during my work on the album] except for that day he did the vocal on ‘You Want Her Too’. But it was very friendly. There was no strangeness. Elvis understands as well as anybody that you make your record, you want to be happy with what you do.
The little intro part of this was from the original session, we just re-cut the song, except for the intro part. So that was a really good idea, that intro part, and I didn’t have any desire to try to recreate it or redo it, so we just used it, which was fine. I just remember that that was the one moment where I felt like I was working with The Beatles. There is about a half hour where Paul’s voice … we were tracking it live, and there was about a half hour in which his voice just hit that incredible raspy state, you know? And he just sang his arse off for a half hour, it was just amazing. But [we didn’t get it], for whatever reason – it was one guy messing up, or another guy – and those weren’t the Pro Tools days, and I don’t think we were doing it to a click. So it’s like if someone messes up it has gone. And so eventually his voice just kind of blew out
I was getting pretty angry, because I was [thinking] this is a simple song and we have got this guy singing and playing like this, can’t we please get this song, you know? But he was really easy going, he was just like ‘okay, well we’ll just get it tomorrow’. What is amazing for somebody else, isn’t to him because he is himself. We got the track I think the next day, but I’ll never forget that half hour.
SuperDeluxeEdition, March 2017
‘You Want Her Too’ ends with the sound of a jazz band. The part was arranged by Richard Niles, whose full score was reduced to just 25 seconds in the final mix.
I wrote a piece of music, but I thought it was going to be something significant, to go on for a minute and a half. But in fact, they only used fifteen seconds of it. Paul was working with the producer Mitchell Froom and probably he changed his mind.
Paul McCartney: Music Is Ideas (1970-1989), Luca Perasi
McCartney never performed ‘You Want Her Too’ live in concert.