The Paul McCartney Project

The Lovers That Never Were

Album This song officially appears on the Off The Ground Official album.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1993
Sessions This song has been recorded during the following sessions

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Song facts

The Lovers That Never Were” was the first true collaboration between Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello, written in the Summer – Fall of 1987 along with eight other songs. Demos of those sessions leaked in very good quality, and here was Elvis Costello said of “The Lovers That Never Were” demo in an interview for Mojo, July 2011:

[…] The real lost gem from that batch of songs – one of these days one of us should cut it – is The Lovers That Never Were. In its original condition, it’s like something Dusty Springfield or Jackie DeShannon would have recorded. Paul straightened it out in the studio [for 1993’s Off The Ground album] and wanted it to go a different way, but the demo is, I’d say, one of the great vocal performances of his solo career. He’s standing up playing a twelve-string guitar and, weirdly enough, I’m playing piano, just thinking, “Don’t fuck up! He’s really singing this!” He’s singing a ballad in the voice of I’m Down! He’s right over my shoulder singing all this wild, distorted stuff! I had never heard him do that before. […]

In January – February 1988 during the sessions for Flowers In The Dirt, McCartney & Costello recorded it with an orchestral arrangement, but the song was finally rejected for this album.

It was then re-recorded during the Off The Ground sessions between November 1991 and October 1992, in the stripped-down version that appears on the album.

McCartney never performed it live, but Costello did it twice on his 1987 tour (on November 18th in Tokyo, and on December 12th in Adelaide, Australia).

 

From Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink by Elvis Costello:

One of the best songs that Paul and I wrote together was written at the piano. It was a sweeping, romantic tune that could almost have been an epic Bacharach ballad. In its first draft, it was a little reminiscent of “It’s for You,” a song that Paul had written for Cilla Black in 1964. I’d say the rough recording of “The Lovers That Never Were” is one of the great, unreleased performances of Paul McCartney’s solo career. I know you’ll just have to take my word for this, but I was playing the piano when Paul opened up behind me in a wild, distorted voice that was almost like the one he used on “I’m Down.”

I just kept staring down at my hands at the piano, saying to myself, Don’t mess this up, while trying to remember to chime in on the few lines that we’d agreed I’d sing.

Last updated on April 20, 2016

Lyrics

I have always needed somebody girl,
But I close the doors to keep out the world.
But for you, I would be here all alone,
Locked in a photograph.
All of the clocks have run down.
Lover beware.
We'll be the lovers that never were.

I hang patiently on every word you send.
Will we ever be much more than just friends?
As for you, you sit there playing this game.
You keep me waiting
When all of the clocks have run down,
All over the world.
We'll be the lovers that never were.

For as long as the sun shines in somebody's eyes,
I believe in you baby, so don't tell me lies.
For as long as the trees throw down blossoms and leaves,
I know there will be a parade of unpainted dreams.

And I know dear, how much it's going to hurt
If you still refuse to get your hands dirty.
So you, you must tell me something,...I love you,
Say goodbye or anything.
All of the clocks have run down.
Time's at an end.
If we can't be lovers we'll never be friends.

For as long as the sun shines in somebody's eyes,
I believe in you baby, so don't tell me lies.
For as long as the trees throw down blossoms and leaves,
I know there will be a parade of unpainted dreams.

Officially appears on


Off The Ground

Official album • Released in 1993

3:43 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocal, Bass, Lead vocal, Percussion, Producer
Linda McCartney:
Backing vocal, Percussion
Robbie McIntosh:
Acoustic guitar, Backing vocal, Mandolin, Percussion
Hamish Stuart:
Acoustic guitar, Backing vocal, Percussion
Paul Wickens:
Grand piano, Hammond organ, Percussion
Blair Cunningham:
Drums, Percussion
Julian Mendelsohn:
Producer
Bob Kraushaar:
Engineer

Session Recording:
December 1991 - July 1992
Studio:
Hog Hill Studio, Rye, UK

Session Mixing:
September - October 1992
Studio:
Hog Hill Studio, Rye, UK

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


Off the Ground - The Complete Works

Official album • Released in 1993

3:43 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocal, Bass, Lead vocal, Percussion, Producer
Linda McCartney:
Backing vocal, Percussion
Robbie McIntosh:
Acoustic guitar, Backing vocal, Mandolin, Percussion
Hamish Stuart:
Acoustic guitar, Backing vocal, Percussion
Paul Wickens:
Grand piano, Hammond organ, Percussion
Blair Cunningham:
Drums, Percussion
Julian Mendelsohn:
Producer
Bob Kraushaar:
Engineer

Session Recording:
December 1991 - July 1992
Studio:
Hog Hill Studio, Rye, UK

Session Mixing:
September - October 1992
Studio:
Hog Hill Studio, Rye, UK

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


Flowers In The Dirt (2017)

Official album • Released in 2017

3:58 • DemoB • Original Demo

Performed by:
Paul McCartneyElvis Costello
Paul McCartney:
Producer
Eddie Klein:
Recording engineer

Session Recording:
Sep 03, 1987
Studio:
Hog Hill Studio, Rye, UK


Flowers In The Dirt (2017)

Official album • Released in 2017

3:49 • DemoC • 1988 Demo

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Lead vocal, Producer
Hamish Stuart:
Guitar
Chris Whitten:
Drums
Elvis Costello:
Producer
Matt Butler:
Assistant recording engineer
Peter Henderson:
Recording engineer

Session Recording:
Feb 02, 1988
Studio:
Hog Hill Studio, Rye, UK

Bootlegs


MoMac's Hidden Tracks Vol.21

Unofficial album

3:58 • Studio version


Oobu Joobu Part 3

Unofficial album • Released in 1995

3:08 • Radio show


The McCartney - MacManus Collaboration

Unofficial album • Released in 1998

3:58 • Demo


Collaborators

Unofficial album • Released in 2004

4:00 • Demo • McCartney & Costello demo

Recording:
Spring-Summer '87


Off The Ground - Ultimate Archive Collection

Unofficial album • Released in 2015

3:43 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocal, Bass, Lead vocal, Percussion, Producer
Linda McCartney:
Backing vocal, Percussion
Robbie McIntosh:
Acoustic guitar, Backing vocal, Mandolin, Percussion
Hamish Stuart:
Acoustic guitar, Backing vocal, Percussion
Paul Wickens:
Grand piano, Hammond organ, Percussion
Blair Cunningham:
Drums, Percussion
Julian Mendelsohn:
Producer
Bob Kraushaar:
Engineer

Session Recording:
December 1991 - July 1992
Studio:
Hog Hill Studio, Rye, UK

Session Mixing:
September - October 1992
Studio:
Hog Hill Studio, Rye, UK

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


Live performances

Paul McCartney has never played this song in concert.


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Henry Myers 11 months ago

Elvis Costello performed this song in 2017. It was definitely played at Central Park Summerstage in June. I can confirm this as I was there.


The PaulMcCartney Project 11 months ago

Thanks Henry for this ! Doing a bit of research, it seems you've been pretty lucky, as Elvis Costello has only played it 5 times !!! http://www.elviscostello.info/wiki/index.php/Performances_of_The_Lovers_That_Never_Were