English Tea

Written by Paul McCartney

Album This song officially appears on the Chaos and Creation in the Backyard Official album.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 2005

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Song facts

From an interview of Paul by Gary Crowley (2005 UK promotional only interview CD, recorded July 2005 at Air Studios in London ; full interview available on Chronicles in the Backyard Disc 1):

Track number 6 is English Tea, a song to make you smile…

It’s erm, the lyrics say ‘Very twee, very me’ and I think it is very me that stuff. The Beatles made a sort of Englishy sort of music, once they got past their American roots, American influences. You know a lot of our early stuff was ‘Some other guy now’ and you know pure soul R&B stuff that we loved (sings Twist and Shout) was directly taken from America. But then we started to sort of work in little things that were more us, and erm that kind of thing, that’s particularly me that kind of English Tea type of thing. Again it was this fascination with sort of how people speak, how some English people speak. But the idea started, I was on holiday, and if you want a cup of tea, you don’t do what you do in England, say ‘A cup of tea please’,  They always say ‘What kind of tea?’ You know like in England nobody would ever say ‘What kind of tea?’ Well they actually would these days, but in the old days it was never like ‘What kind of tea?’ It’d be like ‘What do you mean? Cuppa tea.’ So now they  say ‘What kind of tea?’ and you have to say ‘English Breakfast tea‘ and then they go ‘Oh OK’ and you get it you know  you get an ordinary cup of tea. So I just thought that’s amazing that calling it English tea, but I thought  it’s kind of original because we don’t call it that . So I just started playing with that idea, of English tea. And then as I say there’s one  particular older English person I’m thinking of who instead of saying ‘Do you want a cup of tea?’ might say ‘Would you care for a cup of tea?’ It’s just the way they say it, and I love that. ‘Would you care?’ and in this case ‘Would you care to sit with me, for a cup of English tea?’ And so I really went to town on that whole fruity way of talking, that whole fruity language that I like. It’s I think it’s very endearing, very English, and I even managed to work in the word ‘peradventure’ which I was very proud of. Cos that’s like, cos I read Dickens quite a bit, it came to me from…I thought there is a word ‘peradventure’ and I think as I say I read it in Dickens (you get these old usages of words in there). And I thought ‘I do hope I’m right cos I’ve put it in the song’.  ‘Do you know the game croquet … Per adventure we might play’ … You know I thought ‘Oh I hope this is right‘  I looked it up in the dictionary, : ‘peradventure – perhaps, maybe’ ‘Yes!

I thought ‘Oh great I’m sure not many people work that into a song.’ And then also, ‘Do you know the game croquet, peradventure we might play, Very gay Hip hooray’ you know in the old sense of the word ‘gay’ so it was nice, it was that croquet, very English, lawns, hollyhocks, roses, very Alice in Wonderland, that was also in the back of my mind, which influenced a lot of me and John’s writing. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, that’s Alice to us you know (Sings) Picture yourself…’  The whole idea of ‘picture yourself’ you know in a boat on a river very Alice very Lewis Carroll, it’s just the way I like to write that, so a fruity little song.

From an interview with Sean O’Hagan for the Guardian:

O’HAGAN: Can we talk about specific songs: ‘English Tea’?

PAUL: That’s about living in England and listening to the way some English people speak and parodying that. I love it but I also find it funny. I mean, I say, “Do you wanna cup of tea, la?” But somebody else will say, “Would you care to take tea?” or “As a rule, we take tea at three” or whatever.

O’HAGAN: So is that the scouser in you taking the piss out of poshies?

PAUL: Nah, it’s more an affectionate nod. I kind of like that language. I went to a grammar school, and had a really good English teacher, and I love to read Dickens, so I love the English language. I even worked in the word ‘peradventure’. (Sings in snooty voice) “Do you know the game croquet/Peradventure we might play.” (Laughs)In a way, I was playing Noel Coward. He could sing that straight.

O’HAGAN: Or the Bonzos?

PAUL: Yeah, The Bonzos! So, in that song, I reclaimed the word ‘gay’ and got ‘peradventure’ in. You know what ‘peradventure’ means?

O’HAGAN: Go on?

PAUL: I won’t go on, you tell me.

O’HAGAN: ‘Perhaps’?

PAUL: Correct! I’d sort of heard it and it had stuck in some little corner of my brain. It fell out of my head into the song then afterwards I had to go to the dictionary, and go, “Please, let there be a word ‘peradventure’!” And there it was. It’s just putting myself in a fruity voice. It’s a lady who lives in the town here, a classy dame, an old lady who speaks like that. It’s lovely. “Would you care for a cup of tea?” All that stuff. Plus tea and hollyhocks and roses and gardens and croquet and church bells chiming and nanny baking fairy cakes.

O’HAGAN: That English pop vernacular, Ray Davies?

PAUL: Yeah, yeah. It’s ‘Waterloo Sunset’ and Terry and Julie, and all that. It’s great, that. Spot on. And it resonates. The second song [‘How Kind Of You’] is also me being intrigued by that old, fading language… “How kind of you.” And, it sings well. It’s pretty elegant, genteel. Plus, what I really like is that if you don’t sing it posh, it becomes more ironic, more fun.

O’HAGAN: I took it as a very plaintive song, actually.

PAUL: I know, I know. Some people have said that. But I’d never say, “How kind of you to think of me when I was out of sorts.” That’s not an expression that I’d use. It gets more me later on. It is about thoughtfulness, though, and things that are fading. It’s got a phrase and a theme right there in the title. What more do you want?

O’HAGAN: What about the lines: “How kind of you to stick by me during the final bout/And listen to the referee when I was counted out”?

PAUL: Well, I know what that’s all about – tragedies, the Beatles break-up, things going wrong, people writing me off, and all of this. (Sings from the heart) “I thought my time was up.” So, there’s this sort of therapy aspect I find about songwriting that’s one of the other reasons I love it. If I’m feeling really low, I’ll take my guitar to the darkest corner I can find in the house, often a toilet – good echo – and go there and sit with it, and talk to your guitar, explain it all to your guitar. And you come out and it’s magical.

Last updated on July 9th, 2017

Lyrics

Would you care to sit with me
For a cup of English tea
Very twee
Very me
Any sunny morning

What a pleasure it would be
Chatting so delightfully
Nanny bakes
Fairy cakes
Every Sunday morning

Miles of miles of English garden
Stretching past the willow tree
Lines of hollyhocks and roses
Listen most attentively

Do you know the game croquet
Peradventure we might play
Very gay
Hip hooray
Any sunny morning

Miles of miles of English garden
Stretching past the willow tree
Lines of hollyhocks and roses
Listen most attentively

As a rule the church bells chime
When it's almost supper time
Nanny bakes
Fairy cakes
On a Sunday morning

Officially appears on


Chaos and Creation in the Backyard

Official album • Released in 2005

2:12 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Bosendorfer grand piano, Hofner bass, Ludwig bass drum, Recorders, Tubular bells, Vocals
Millennia Ensemble:
Strings and brass
Nigel Godrich:
Producer

Recording:
November 2004 and April 2005 (overdubs)
Studio:
Ocean Way Recording, Los Angeles ; AIR Studios, London (strings)


Pure McCartney (Deluxe)

Official album • Released in 2016

Studio version

Bootlegs


Live In Iowa 2005

Unofficial live

4:21 • Live

Concert From the concert in Des Moines, USA on Oct 27, 2005


All Access

Unofficial live

2:32 • Live

Concert From the concert in Miami, USA on Sep 16, 2005


Toronto A. C. C.

Unofficial live • Released in 2005

4:59 • Live

Concert From the concert in Toronto, Canada on Oct 10, 2005


Chronicles in the Backyard Disc 3

Unofficial album • Released in 2006

3:57 • Radio show

Recording:
Jul 28, 2005
Studio:
Abbey Road Studio 2


Chronicles in the Backyard Disc 7

Unofficial album • Released in 2006

2:23 • Web show

Concert From "AOL Music Sessions" in Miami, USA on Sep 15, 2005


Live performances

“English Tea” has been played in 31 concerts.

Latest concerts where “English Tea” has been played


Los Angeles • Staples Center

Nov 30, 2005 • Part of The US Tour


Los Angeles • Staples Center

Nov 29, 2005 • Part of The US Tour




Phoenix • Glendale Arena

Nov 23, 2005 • Part of The US Tour


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