The Paul McCartney Project

Too Many People

Written by Paul McCartney

Album This song officially appears on the Ram Official album.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1971
Sessions This song has been recorded during the following sessions

Other message songs to John Lennon

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Song facts

Too Many People” is the opening song of Paul and Linda McCartney’s 1971 album “Ram“. The lyrics were interpreted as targeting John Lennon and Yoko Ono, which Paul acknowledged years later.

I was looking at my second solo album, Ram, the other day and I remember there was one tiny little reference to John in the whole thing. He’d been doing a lot of preaching, and it got up my nose a little bit. In one song, I wrote, “Too many people preaching practices,” I think is the line. I mean, that was a little dig at John and Yoko. There wasn’t anything else on it that was about them. Oh, there was “Yoko took your lucky break and broke it in two.

Paul McCartney, Playboy, 1984

At the time it was surely an under-statement to say that there was “one tiny little reference” to John Lennon in this song. “Too Many People” opens with the words “Piss off,” which McCartney eventually admitted was a direct attack on Lennon.

Piss off, cake. Like, a piece of cake becomes piss off cake, And it’s nothing, it’s so harmless really, just little digs. But the first line is about “too many people preaching practices.” I felt John and Yoko were telling everyone what to do. And I felt we didn’t need to be told what to do. The whole tenor of the Beatles thing had been, like, each to his own. Freedom. Suddenly it was “You should do this.” It was just a bit the wagging finger, and I was pissed off with it. So that one got to be a thing about them.

Paul McCartney, Mojo, 2001

“Too Many People” was really a message to John across the airwaves. I did feel like he was, you know, preaching a little bit about what everyone should do, how they should live their lives, and I felt – at the time – that some of it was a bit hypocritical. So in the song “Too Many People”, I started off “Too many people preaching practices”. And it was directly aimed at John, but it was about our relationship at that time, and me feeling that I didn’t need to be preached at.

Paul McCartney, RAM Archive Collection 2012

I think the only [song] really where I kind of criticised him – and it was in my usual kind of quite veiled manner – was in ‘Too Many People’

Paul McCartney, RAM Archive Collection 2012

Following the release of Ram, John Lennon pointed out several songs that he claimed were attacks at him, among them being “Too Many People“:

There were all the bits at the beginning of Ram like ‘Too many people going underground’. Well that was us, Yoko Ono and me. And ‘You took your lucky break’, that was considering we had a lucky break to be with him.

John Lennon

From Wikipedia:

In response, Lennon wrote “How Do You Sleep?” for his album Imagine, an attack at McCartney featuring musical contributions from George Harrison. McCartney later wrote “Dear Friend”, a truce offering to Lennon, and released it on the album Wild Life with his band, Wings.

McCartney sang falsetto during parts of the bridge. The guitar solo between the second bridge and third stanza is played by Hugh McCracken. The second solo after the final bridge is accompanied by a drum stick on the side of a floor tom.

“Too Many People”, I think, is one of his best songs. That was a drum part where I couldn’t just play a straight beat – you had to think of some ways to make it a little bit more Beatle-esque, shall I say.

Denny Seiwell, RAM Archive Collection 2012

Paul didn’t play the song live during the 1972 Wings tours, but decided to play it during his 2005 US tour.

Last updated on November 20, 2018

Lyrics

Too many people going underground,
Too many reaching for a piece of cake,
Too many people pulled and pushed around,
Too many waiting for that lucky break.

That was your first mistake,
You took your lucky break and broke it in two,
Now what can be done for you?
You broke it in two.

Too many people sharing party lines,

Too many people ever sleeping late,
Too many people paying parking fines,
Too many hungry people losing weight.

That was your first mistake,
You took your lucky break and broke it in two,
Now what can be done for you?
You broke it in two.

Too many people preaching practices,

Don't let ‘em tell you what you wanna be,
Too many people holding back,
This is crazy, baby, it's not like me.

That was your last mistake,
I find my love awake and waiting to be,
Now what can be done for you?
She's waiting for me.

Officially appears on


Ram

Official album • Released in 1971

4:15 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Acoustic guitar, Backing vocals, Bass, Electric guitar, Producer, Vocals
Linda McCartney:
Backing vocals, Producer
Denny Seiwell:
Cow bell, Drums, Percussion, Shaker
Hugh McCracken:
Acoustic guitar, Electric guitar
Eirik Wangberg:
Mix engineer

Session Recording:
Nov 10, 1970
Studio:
CBS Studios, New York City

Overdubs:
January 1971
Studio:
A&R Studios, New York City

Overdubs:
March, 1971
Studio:
Sound Recorders Studio, Los Angeles

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


Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey

7" Single • Released in 1971

Studio versionA


Thrillington

Official album • Released in 1977

4:32 • Studio versionC • Instrumental version

Percy "Thrills" Thrillington:
Producer
Richard Hewson:
Arrangements, Orchestration
Tony Clark:
Mixing, Recording
Vic Flick:
Guitar
Clem Cattini:
Drums
Herbie Flowers:
Bass
Steve Gray:
Piano
Jim Lawless:
Percussion
Alan Parsons:
Second engineer
The Swingle Singers:
Vocals
?:
Alto saxophone, Trumpet
The Mike Sammes Singers:
Vocals (?)

Session Recording:
Jun 15, 1971
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Jun 16, 1971
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Jun 17, 1971
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio One, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Jun 18, 1971
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road


Ram (1993)

Official album • Released in 1993

4:15 • Studio versionA

Recording:
Nov 10, 1970
Studio:
CBS Studios, New York City

Overdubs:
January 1971
Studio:
A&R Studios, New York City

Overdubs:
March, 1971
Studio:
Sound Recorders Studio, Los Angeles

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


Wingspan Hits And History

Official album • Released in 2001

4:13 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Acoustic guitar, Backing vocals, Bass, Electric guitar, Producer, Vocals
Linda McCartney:
Backing vocals, Producer
Denny Seiwell:
Cow bell, Drums, Percussion, Shaker
Hugh McCracken:
Acoustic guitar, Electric guitar
Eirik Wangberg:
Mix engineer

Recording:
Nov 10, 1970
Studio:
CBS Studios, New York City

Recording:
January 1971
Studio:
A&R Studios, New York City

Recording:
March, 1971
Studio:
Sound Recorders Studio, Los Angeles


Ram - Archive Collection

Official album • Released in 2012

4:11 • Studio versionA • Stereo version

Paul McCartney:
Acoustic guitar, Backing vocals, Bass, Electric guitar, Producer, Vocals
Linda McCartney:
Backing vocals, Producer
Denny Seiwell:
Cow bell, Drums, Percussion, Shaker
Hugh McCracken:
Acoustic guitar, Electric guitar
Eirik Wangberg:
Mix engineer

Session Recording:
Nov 10, 1970
Studio:
CBS Studios, New York City

Recording:
January 1971
Studio:
A&R Studios, New York City

Recording:
March, 1971
Studio:
Sound Recorders Studio, Los Angeles


Ram - Archive Collection

Official album • Released in 2012

4:17 • Studio versionB • Mono • Mono album: 2012 remaster


Ram - Archive Collection

Official album • Released in 2012

4:32 • Studio versionC2012 • Thrillington: 2012 remaster

Percy "Thrills" Thrillington:
Producer
Richard Hewson:
Arrangements, Orchestration
Tony Clark:
Mixing, Recording
Vic Flick:
Guitar
Clem Cattini:
Drums
Herbie Flowers:
Bass
Steve Gray:
Piano
Jim Lawless:
Percussion
Alan Parsons:
Second engineer
The Swingle Singers:
Vocals
?:
Alto saxophone, Trumpet
The Mike Sammes Singers:
Vocals (?)

Session Recording:
Jun 15, 1971
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Jun 16, 1971
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Jun 17, 1971
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio One, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Jun 18, 1971
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road


Pure McCartney (Deluxe)

Official album • Released in 2016

Studio version

Bootlegs


Live In Iowa 2005

Unofficial live

3:31 • Live

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


The Alternate Ram

Unofficial album • Released in 2004

4:14 • Alternate take • Original mono promo LP, especially made for the American AM stations. All the songs have different mixes.


Toronto A. C. C.

Unofficial live • Released in 2005

3:30 • Live

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


Chronicles in the Backyard Disc 11

Unofficial album • Released in 2006

Live


All Access Program

Unofficial live • Released in 2006

3:28 • Live

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


Live performances

“Too Many People” has been played in 30 concerts.

Latest concerts where “Too Many People” has been played


400e Anniversaire De Quebec

Jul 20, 2008 • Canada • Quebec City • Plains Of Abraham


Los Angeles • Staples Center

Nov 30, 2005 • Part of The US Tour


Los Angeles • Staples Center

Nov 29, 2005 • Part of The US Tour





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Mona 3 years ago

Pretty sure Paul played the solos on Too Many People. There was an interview with McCracken himself, unfortunately I can't find the website anymore as I read it quite some time ago, where he talks about Paul doing it in one take.


The PaulMcCartney Project 3 years ago

Thanks Mona. You're right! Reading Luca Perasi on "Paul McCartney - Recording Sessions (1969-2013)":

"McCracken recalled that McCartney had recorded the blistering central solo in a single take. A funny cacophonic of many overdubbed acoustic guitars ends the track"