Demo Sessions with Elvis Costello

September - October 1987 • For Paul McCartney

Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the Flowers In The Dirt - Archive Collection Official album.
Studio:
Hog Hill Studio, Rye, UK

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From The Lovers That Never Were: The Paul McCartney & Elvis Costello Demos – Recliner Notes:

According to a 1988 story in Musician magazine, it was McCartney who initiated the idea that the two should work together according to Richard Ogden, McCartney’s personal manager at the time:

“A fair bit of thought went into Paul’s decision to approach Elvis Costello. Paul felt it was helpful that they had both an Irish heritage and Liverpool family roots in common. But one of the things Paul liked best about Elvis’ songwriting was his strength as a lyricist. Paul sensed his own melodies and ideas could be excitingly compatible with Costello’s literate style.”

Costello provides a bit of context for their working style in his 2015 memoir Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink:

“We worked in a room above Paul’s studio in East Sussex, sitting on two couches across a low table with a pen, a notepad, and a guitar apiece.”

McCartney later recalled the process of the duo writing together and extended praise towards Costello:

“It was like having two craftsmen sitting down. He is into that aspect of songwriting. He knows much more about music history than I do, and it was good.”

Costello writes in Unfaithful Music that he needed to rise above his personal history as a fan of McCartney and The Beatles to validate his presence:

“I was almost certain that I shouldn’t turn up in my short trousers with my Beatles Fan Club Card in the top pocket.”

Costello had even considered naming one of his earlier albums P.S. I Love You after the early Beatles tune. Costello writes in Unfaithful Music that he needed to rise above his personal history as a fan of McCartney and The Beatles to validate his presence:

“I was almost certain that I shouldn’t turn up in my short trousers with my Beatles Fan Club Card in the top pocket.”

Continuing on this theme, Costello commented:

“I’ve seen people, quite eminent people, completely lose their mind in his company. I didn’t want to turn up and be kind of bothersome in that way. I wanted to get something good done. Something that justified the invitation.”

Over the weeks they worked together, the pair’s approach emerged, as recalled by Costello in Unfaithful Music:

“Both of us seemed to like working fast, firing the ideas back and forth until a song took shape out of just one line of melody, a couple of unusual changes, or some lyrical cue….Whenever Paul and I completed a number, we’d go downstairs to the recording studio on the ground floor and cut a demo with just two guitars or the piano.”

From unknown “Flowers In The Dirt” session – Photo credit: 1988 © Paul McCartney / Photo by Linda McCartney.

I don’t have anything more against the major corporations than I do against people who are wilfully stealing other people’s work through the Internet. I mean, they’re all pirates and brigands to my way of thinking, y’know? Unless it’s a fair deal on both sides. And Paul and I, of course, discussed releasing those recordings at one point, but we’re both going forward with new work and the opportunity to do so hasn’t presented itself. On the other hand; recordings that were sketches for the writers that may have somehow slipped out and become available, I don’t think that there’s any obligation on our part to release them because somebody did steal ’em.

Elvis Costello, about the bootleg of the Flowers In The Dirt demos – From BigO

Last updated on July 29, 2022

Related sessions


Recording batch 2 of demos with Elvis Costello

Oct 23, 1987 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Flowers In The Dirt - Archive Collection


Recording batch 1 of demos with Elvis Costello

Sep 03, 1987 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Flowers In The Dirt - Archive Collection

Going further


Eight Arms to Hold You: The Solo Beatles Compendium

We owe a lot to Chip Madinger and Mark Easter for the creation of those session pages, but you really have to buy this book to get all the details!

Eight Arms To Hold You: The Solo Beatles Compendium is the ultimate look at the careers of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr beyond the Beatles. Every aspect of their professional careers as solo artists is explored, from recording sessions, record releases and tours, to television, film and music videos, including everything in between. From their early film soundtrack work to the officially released retrospectives, all solo efforts by the four men are exhaustively examined.

As the paperback version is out of print, you can buy a PDF version on the authors' website

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