The Paul McCartney Project

Tommy's Coming Home

Album This song officially appears on the Flowers In The Dirt - Archive Collection Official album.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 2017
Timeline This song has been written (or started being written) in 1987 (Paul McCartney was 45 years old)

Related sessions

This song has been recorded during the following studio sessions


Demo Sessions with Elvis Costello

September - October 1987


"Flowers In The Dirt" session #3

January - March 1988

Other McCartney / Costello songs released on 2017 Flowers In The Dirt



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Song facts

Tommy’s Coming Home” is one of the three songs (the other ones being “Twenty Fine Fingers” and “I Don’t Want To Confess“) written by McCartney and Costello that haven’t been officially released until 2017, and their appearance on the Flower In The Dirt reissue. The original demo first appeared in 1998 on the bootleg The McCartney – MacManus Collaboration. Elvis Costello performed the song live once, on June 25th, 2014 in New-York.

From Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink by Elvis Costello:

Tommy’s Coming Home Again” was an unsentimental little tale written about a soldier who is briefly mourned before his widow is seduced in a train compartment.

How could he know that only twelve months later
She would wear her skirt up over her knee
And in the very same carriage she ‘d be flattered with roses
And forget the tears of Picardy

That last line contained a deliberate Anglophone mishearing of the musical term tierce de Picardie, which is given to a cadence in which the melody unexpectedly resolves to a major chord in a minor key. It was also a reference to a beautiful popular song written in 1916.

At first glance, Fred Wetherley’s words seem like idealized Edwardian sentiments about lost love, but together with Haydn Wood’s melody, they came to convey the longing of separation and the despair at the losses.

And the roses will die With the summertime, and our roads may be far apart,
But there’s one rose that dies not in Picardy!

From Washington Post, March 16, 2017:

There was no great strategy as they wrote. It was organic. Costello points to “Tommy’s Coming Home,” a beautiful, poetic song about a war widow torn between mourning and temptation. (The demo is being released for the first time on the “Flowers” box set.)

Costello: Paul made the first musical statement. But if you listen to that song, who do you think wrote that? Probably me, less known as a melodist than him. But I think I was the one who suggested [hums the chorus]. Often we exchanged the role as we were doing it because it wasn’t considered. All these theories, they don’t exist because of who I am. They exist because of who he is and all these associations that people want to read into. None of that was any part of writing any of these songs. It was almost fun really. It was really seeing what we could get. . . . The image of the hawk hovering over the little animals in that song. I said, “How do we get that in the story?” And I had the idea of a war widow on a train, and somehow both of those images ended up in that song. That’s proper collaborating. It’s not theoretical. It’s actual practical work.

Last updated on January 31, 2020

Lyrics

She was counting out the window of the outbound train
All the poles of the telegraph
And the rock-a-bye rhythm in the song of the rails
Couldn’t make the sweeper laugh

Down down down so deep
Down down drowning in his sleep
Tommy’s coming home again

And a hawk hovered high above a skinny jackrabbit
Pursued by a hungry fox
And a broker awoke her from a fitful slumber
Then consulted his shares and his stocks

Down down down they go
Down down how he’ll never know
Tommy’s coming home again
And it’s almost April Fools’ Day

As he glanced on his paper looking through the veil (?)
He could see that she was really upset
As she tucked back the ribbon in a velvet box
As he offered her a cigarette

Down down down she took a drag
Now he’s covered in a flag
Tommy’s coming home again
And it’s almost April Fools’ Day

Almost April Fools’ Day
And the joke’s on everyone
He had that premonition
Only dead men dwell upon

But how could he know that only twelve months later
She would wear her skirt up over her knee
And in the very same carriage she’d be flattered with roses
And forget the tears of dignity (?)

Down down down they flow
Now now now it just don’t matter anymore
Tommy’s made it home again
When it was almost April Fools’ Day

Almost April Fools’ Day
And the joke’s on everyone
He had that premonition
Only dead men dwell upon

Tommy’s coming home again
Tommy’s coming home again
Tommy’s coming home

Officially appears on


Flowers In The Dirt - Archive Collection

Official album • Released in 2017

4:10 • DemoA • 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 - Archive Collection

Official album • Released in 2017

5:03 • DemoB • 1988 Demo

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

Session Recording:
Feb 26, 1988
Studio :
Hog Hill Studio, Rye, UK

Bootlegs


MoMac's Hidden Tracks Vol.21

Unofficial album

4:07 • Studio version


The McCartney - MacManus Collaboration

Unofficial album • Released in 1998

4:07 • Demo


Collaborators

Unofficial album • Released in 2004

4:10 • Demo • McCartney & Costello demo

Recording :
Spring-Summer '87


Flowers In The Dirt - Ultimate Archive Collection

Unofficial album • Released in 2015

4:09 • Studio version • [demo]

Live performances

Paul McCartney has never played this song in concert.


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