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Released in 1989

Don't Be Careless Love

Written by Paul McCartneyDeclan MacManus / Elvis Costello

Last updated on April 29, 2021

Album This song officially appears on the Flowers In The Dirt Official album.

Timeline This song was officially released in 1989

Timeline This song was written, or began to be written, in 1987, when Paul McCartney was 45 years old)

Master album

Related sessions

This song was recorded during the following studio sessions:

Some other McCartney / Costello songs appearing on Flowers In The Dirt

Don’t Be Careless Love” is one of the four songs co-written by Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello, and released on Paul McCartney’s 1989 album “Flowers In The Dirt(the other ones being “My Brave Face“, “You Want Her Too” and “That Day Is Done“).

Paul McCartney in “Club Sandwich 52, Summer 1989“:

We have stuff that I wrote with Elvis, and we recorded it ourselves, to see if we could just get a kind of energy in there and stuff…They were nice tapes, but they weren’t making it. So I re-recorded them with Mitchell Froom, who’s the American guy who did Crowded House…we kind of fixed one of the recordings Elvis and I had done (‘Careless’), because we liked the vocal and we just needed to fix it up a little bit.

From Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink by Elvis Costello:

[…] When I returned, Paul had moved on to “Don’t Be Careless Love,” one of the most beautiful melodies that he had brought to our writing sessions and into which we had inserted the horrifying images of a nightmare. It was probably the weirdest song we’d written together. Paul was already at the microphone, delivering a perfect vocal performance in one take. The anger of ten minutes earlier completely evaporated in the face of such a beautiful piece of singing.

Elvis Costello, in a MOJO interview in 2011:

[Paul ] did a vocal on another song that we wrote called Don’t Be Careless Love, which is the other end of his vocal dynamic range. Incredibly wired singing, half-falsetto. It’s extraordinary singing – one take. […]

From “In Their Own Words: The Producers discuss McCartney’s Flowers in the Dirt“, by Super Deluxe Edition blog:

It’s an incredible vocal. The same with That Day is Done. There is a big reason why I didn’t want to even think about redoing those, because they were so good, those vocals. But yes, it’s a really quirky song, and I was surprised he ended up using it, but I liked it, for whatever reason.

I added drums to it, and don’t think this is credited correctly, but that actually was Jerry Marotta that played drums on that [credited to Chris Whitten]. I played keyboards; the Wurlitzer piano and organ. And I think we just worked on it, just added some extra guitar. It’s more like fleshing them out so that they fit in with everything else.

Mitchell Froom – Producer


Burn the midnight lamp

Down until the dawn,

I'll keep watch until I'm sure your coming home.

Shadows play and flicker on the bedroom wall

They turn into a bad dream overnight,

Something could be terribly wrong.

Don't be careless love,

Don't be careless love,

Don't be, don't be careless.

In my dream you're running nowhere

Every step you've taken turns to glue.

Walking down a spiral staircase

Falling through, falling through,

Don't be careless love,

Be careless love.

The lamp burns down and out

I'm getting pretty tired of this,

I feel so bad something might be going amiss,

I won't be there so look out for yourself

You're getting in deep whatever you do,

Don't let me go back to sleep,

Don't be careless love,

Don't be careless love,

Don't be, don't be careless.

Saw your face in the morning paper,

Saw your body rolled up in a rug

Chopped up into two little pieces

By some thug,

Don't be careless love,

Be careless love.

But in the morning light

When I wake up again

You're by my side and that's the way it's always been,

But in the dark your mind plays funny tricks on you,

Your mind plays funny tricks on you,

Your mind plays funny tricks on you,

Don't be careless love.

Officially appears on


Live performances

Paul McCartney has never played this song in concert.

Going further

Paul McCartney: Music Is Ideas. The Stories Behind the Songs (Vol. 1) 1970-1989

With 25 albums of pop music, 5 of classical – a total of around 500 songs – released over the course of more than half a century, Paul McCartney's career, on his own and with Wings, boasts an incredible catalogue that's always striving to free itself from the shadow of The Beatles. The stories behind the songs, demos and studio recordings, unreleased tracks, recording dates, musicians, live performances and tours, covers, events: Music Is Ideas Volume 1 traces McCartney's post-Beatles output from 1970 to 1989 in the form of 346 song sheets, filled with details of the recordings and stories behind the sessions. Accompanied by photos, and drawing on interviews and contemporary reviews, this reference book draws the portrait of a musical craftsman who has elevated popular song to an art-form.

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