- EMI Studios, Abbey Road
More from year 1974
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From Club Sandwich N°61, Spring 1992:
Anyone who makes a lot of films is bound to have the occasional unreleased project, just like prolific writers have unpublished articles, prolific recording artists unissued music and prolific artists unseen canvases. It’s only natural and is most usually by design or the result of a change of mind rather than a reflection on the quality /unsuitability of the material.
Paul has a few unissued film and video projects. Not many, but a few, and one is called The Backyard. Made in 1974, the public knew nothing of this until an excerpt went out on primetime BBC television in 1986 in a McCartney retrospective to promote Press To Play, later released on video. Since when, The Backyard has assumed a level of intrigue to match a Len Deighton novel.
But what is The Backyard? In short (and that’s very much what it is), The Backyard is a modest film of Paul sitting on a chair in a garden, singing five songs to his own upside-down acoustic guitar accompaniment. It starts fairly abruptly (an animated roller-blind squeaks upwards, revealing a window), he performs, it ends fairly abruptly nine minutes later and the budget must have run easily into doubles figures. But it’s good.
The Backyard was originally a self-contained section within another production which sits unseen in the MPL vault, called One Hand Clapping. This featured Wings as it then was (late-summer 1974), with new drummer Geoff Britton and new guitarist Jimmy McCulloch, inside the hallowed number two studio at EMI Abbey Road, running through a ream of songs old and new before cameras directed by David Litchfield, with trusted friend and engineer Geoff Emerick manning the control room.
One fine day Paul suggested that it would be fun to work outside and scouted around for a local location. The area he chose was the grubby yard behind the echo chamber at the studios, clogged with rusting bits and pieces save for a tiny patch of unfettered grass. This was it -Paul grabbed a chair from the studio, slung his jacket across the back and plonked himself down. There was no room for anyone else so it became a solo spot. Litchfield – he later launched the hip newspaper Ritz and designed two special editions of Club Sandwich – set up his U-Matic video camera and two mikes and yelled “action”.
To the occasional ovcrdubbed accompaniment of a milk-float delivering pintas to the local residents, The Backyard features Paul performing five songs, one from his own fertile mind and four covers of classic rock and roll numbers. The McCartney number opens the film and straightaway it’s something unusual: a madrigal of the unreleased variety called ‘Blackpool’, celebrating saucy postcard images of curvaceous seaside women in that and also another fine upstanding northern resort, Southport. Thinking back to it now, two decades on, Paul remarks, “When Linda and I first got together we used to groove around a lot and I had a number of songs which I would just sing but not really record. They were mess-around songs, and this was one of them.”
Four fine, niftily-busked rock standards follow. In the never less than invigorating ‘Twenty Flight Rock’ Paul drops into a scat imitation of the lead guitar solo, joyously chips in a “Take it, Eddie!” call to the late Mr Cochran and then, underlining the impromptu nature of the filming, makes light of a loud and clear emergency-vehicle siren that sounds a few yards away in Abbey Road. (Issuing from an ambulance probably, rushing to administer help to a bare-tooted Beatles tan in distress on the zebra crossing…)
After ‘Twenty Flight Rock’ come two great numbers from, as the singer proudly announces, “The late, great Buddy Holly, ladies and gentlemen, no-one like him” -‘Peggy Sue’ and a briefish ‘I’m Gonna Love You Too’ – in which, for once, Mr McCartney manages to mess-up the words. Nicely so, though, with fluffs happily preserved.
After one more, ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’ – its rare to hear Paul doing this immortal Chuck Berry number – The Backyard comes to a sudden conclusion when the animated roller-blind comes down, bringing the viewer back inside from the garden, closing the window (shades of Andy Pandy here) and the film. Cue minimalist credits and fade to black.
Speculation about why The Backyard was hived off from One Hand Clapping only to itself remain unissued is a fairly pointless exercise. As Paul elucidates, “It’s a fun film but you don’t necessarily do everything for release. Some things you do, some things you don’t. We’ve got a few little items like this and the nice thing is that they start to look even better with time. We still haven’t thought of doing anything particular with it – yet.”
And so, for the moment, where The Backyard is concerned, that’s all folks. Back onto the shelf she goes.Mark Lewisohn
Last updated on April 3, 2021
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