The Paul McCartney Project

Backwards Traveller

Written by Paul McCartney

Album This song officially appears on the London Town Official album.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1978

Related sessions

This song has been recorded during the following studio sessions


"London Town" sessions #4

October 25 to December 1, 1977

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Song facts

From Wikipedia:

“Backwards Traveller”/”Cuff Link” is a medley of two short songs written by Paul McCartney that was first released on Wings’ 1978 album London Town. The medley was also released as the B-side of Wings’ No. 1 single “With a Little Luck“. Both “Backwards Traveller” and “Cuff Link” were recorded in October 1977 and completed in January 1978. By this point in the London Town recording sessions, guitarist Jimmy McCulloch and drummer Joe English had left the band, so the songs were recorded by only McCartney, Linda McCartney and Denny Laine.

Backwards Traveller

“Backwards Traveller” is only a little more than a minute long. It is a “mid-tempo rocker” in the key of C major. The song consists of a verse followed by two repetitions of the refrain. The lyrics are about the singer going back in time while “sailing songs” and “wailing on the moon.” Paul McCartney plays drums, bass guitar, acoustic guitar and keyboards. According to music professor Vincent Benitez, the organ arrangement with its repeating chords gives the song a “retrospective, 1960s-style sound”.

Rolling Stone Magazine critic Janet Maslin praises the beginning of “Backwards Traveller” as “brilliant, jolting hard-rock” but laments that it ends quickly as if no one could be bothered to complete it. Author Howard Sounes also complains that the song sounds “half-finished”. Chip Madinger and Mark Easter likewise believe that the song had more potential than its ultimate fate as the prelude to “Cuff Link”. Author John Blaney describes “Backwards Traveller” as “a typical McCartney pot-boiler”. Music critic Tom Waseleski describes it as “a swinging little rocker.”

A demo version of “Backwards Traveler” featuring drums, drum machine, keyboard and vocals has been released on several bootleg albums. Neil Hamburger covered “Backwards Traveler” on his 2019 Drag City album Still Dwelling, in an ambitious version with a more expansive arrangement by Erik Paparozzi, current bass player in Denny Laine’s band.

Cuff Link

“Cuff Link” is an instrumental in the key of D minor. Its original title was “Off the Cuff Link”. Perhaps the most interesting feature of “Cuff Link” is the use of a Moog synthesizer to sound like a sitar. Blaney describes the song as “uninspired”. Benitez considers it “unimaginative”. But author Mark Bowen regards it as a predecessor to McCartney’s experiments with electro-pop on the 1980 album McCartney II. Music journalist Ian Peel also notes its electronic pop elements, which are also present in parts of “With a Little Luck”. In 2013 Classic Rock Review described it as a “synth-driven funk instrumental” which “may have sounded hip in 1978 but sounds dated today.”

References

External links

Last updated on February 4, 2020

Lyrics

Hey, did you know that I'm
Always going back in time
Rhyming slang, auld lang syne my dears
Through the years

I am the backwards traveller
Ancient wool unraveller
Sailing songs, wailing on the moon

And we were sailing songs, wailing on the moon
Wailing on the moon

Officially appears on


London Town

Official album • Released in 1978

1:09 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney :
Acoustic guitar, Bass, Drums, Electric guitar, Producer, Synthesizer, Vocals
Linda McCartney :
Backing vocals, Keyboards
Denny Laine :
Acoustic guitar, Backing vocals, Electric guitar
Geoff Emerick :
Engineer
Mark Vigars :
Assistant engineer
Pete Henderson :
Assistant engineer
Steve Churchyard :
Assistant engineer

Session Recording:
October 25 - December 1, 1977
Studio :
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Credits & recording details courtesy of Luca Perasi • Buy Paul McCartney: Recording Sessions (1969-2013) on Amazon


With A Little Luck / Backwards Traveller

7" Single • Released in 1978

Studio version


London Town (1993)

Official album • Released in 1993

1:09 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney :
Acoustic guitar, Bass, Drums, Electric guitar, Producer, Synthesizer, Vocals
Linda McCartney :
Backing vocals, Keyboards
Denny Laine :
Acoustic guitar, Backing vocals, Electric guitar
Geoff Emerick :
Engineer
Mark Vigars :
Assistant engineer
Pete Henderson :
Assistant engineer
Steve Churchyard :
Assistant engineer

Session Recording:
October 25 - December 1, 1977
Studio :
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Credits & recording details courtesy of Luca Perasi • Buy Paul McCartney: Recording Sessions (1969-2013) on Amazon


Motor Of Love

Official album • Released in 2005

1:08 • Studio version

Bootlegs


MoMac's Hidden Tracks Vol.10

Unofficial album

3:49 • Studio version


London Town Roughs And Demos

Unofficial album • Released in 1991

3:39 • Studio version


Water Wings

Unofficial album • Released in 1999

1:15 • Rough mix • From Stereo 1978 Test Pressing Acetate - With Rough Different Mix


Water Wings

Unofficial album • Released in 1999

3:41 • Demo • Demo recordings in Rude Studio - Campbeltown, Scotland.


Water Wings

Unofficial album • Released in 1999

3:53 • Demo • Demo recordings in Rude Studio - Campbeltown, Scotland.


Live performances

Paul McCartney has never played this song in concert.


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