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Flaming Pie, a Masterpiece of an Album
A few months ago I was looking at album reviews on Youtube and I discovered a few gems. One was Ram by Paul McCartney and the other album was Flaming Pie.
I didn’t pay much attention to it when it was first released in 1997 and I regret it. The album was Paul’s tenth solo album and it reached number two on the charts in both the UK and the United States. The album is simply a masterpiece.
Paul got inspired to create this album after doing The Beatle’s Anthology. He stated in the linear notes
I came off the back of The Beatles Anthology with an urge to do some new music. The Anthology was very good for me because it reminded me of the Beatles’ standards and the standards that we reached with the songs. So in a way it was a refresher course that set the framework for this album. Watching the Anthology also reminded me of the time that we didn’t take to make an album and of the fun we had when we did one. The Beatles were not a serious group…So I wanted to try to get back into some of that; to have some fun and not sweat it. That’s been the spirit of making this album. You’ve got to have a laugh, because it’s just an album. So I called up a bunch of friends and family and we just got on and did it. And we had fun making it. Hopefully you’ll hear that in the songs.
You can hear the joy in this album. Paul got Jeff Lynne to produce the record and that was a great decision because Jeff is a huge Beatles fan and he and Paul had the same vision for the album. George Martin also produced the record. Paul also got his son to play electric guitar, Ringo to play drums, Linda McCartney to do the background vocals, and even Steve Miller to sing on one of the tracks. Looking in the linear notes I didn’t realize how musical Paul is, on this record he did Lead Vocal, Harmony Vocal, Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, 12 String Acoustic Guitar, Spanish Guitar, Fender Rhodes, Bass Guitar, Double Bass, Harmonium, Piano, Hammond Organ, Harpsichord, Vibraphone, Mellotron, Wurlitzer Piano, Drums, Percussion, Percussion Effects, Leg Slap. That is quite a list of musical instruments.
The songs on the album are:
The Song We Were Singing this is a song about Paul’s days with the Beatles. It is a nostalgic look back no doubt inspired by the Beatle’s Anthology which must have brought back a flood of memories for him. It is a mellow song with sparse arrangement of a guitar taking prominence along with Paul. In this song you can picture all the Beatles just jamming and having fun.
The World Tonight this song rocks with the electric guitars and a steady drumming beat. The lyrics are clever and I can imagine John Lennon would have loved Paul’s line “I go back so far I’m in front of me.” On the website Songfacts here is the story of what John felt about the song Paul had written called “Hey Jude” for John’s son Julian. Paul McCartney on his songwriting partnership with John Lennon in Observer Music Monthly October 2007: "I have fond flashbacks of John writing - he'd scribble it down real quick, desperate to get back to the guitar. But I knew at that moment that this was going to be a good collaboration. Like when I did 'Hey Jude.' I was going through it for him and Yoko when I was living in London. I had a music room at the top of the house and I was playing 'Hey Jude' when I got to the line 'The movement you need is on your shoulder' and I turned round to John and said: 'I'll fix that if you want.' And he said: 'You won't, you know, that's a great line, that's the best line in it.' Now that's the other side of a great collaborator - don't touch it, man, that's OK."
If You Wanna this song grooves from the start with a rocking guitar and drums. Paul is playing the host and asks if you wanna he will go with his guest any time they are ready. He will make all the arrangements and all the lady has to do is say when. Paul sounds like the master travel agent in this song.
Some days is a song with great emotion. The song has Paul looking over his time with Linda and enjoying every moment of their time together. Paul stated that Linda was doing a photo assignment and was going to be there a couple of hours. He thought he would write a song to show her when she asked him what he was up to while she was gone. Paul did the song on one take, but he felt like it could use an arrangement so he asked George Martin if he could add an orchestra to the song and the results bring memories of some of the Beatles greatest music songs that come to mind are “Yesterday” and “Eleanor Rigby”. The song is a poignant one. Paul had to be thinking of Linda who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1995 and it had spread to her liver. She was battling cancer and died in 1998 a year after Flaming Pie was released.
Young Boy is a song that sounds like it could be Beatles song. It may be a bit autobiographical with Paul thinking back being a young boy looking for that special someone. It was said in the book The Love You Make by Peter Gaines and Stephen Gaines that Paul wasn’t one that ever wanted to be alone. He always needed a female by his side.
Calico Skies was written when Paul McCartney was in Long Island and there was a hurricane that knocked out all the power. He said it forced him to write a song with his acoustic guitar and it was at first a love song and then a gentle protest song. It has a Renaissance sound to it and is very soothing to listen to.
Flaming Pie according to Songfacts website originated in this way. The Beatles were known for having fun with journalists, rarely giving a straight answer at their early press conferences. The title of this song (and the album) comes from something John Lennon used to say in response to the constant question, "How did the band get its name?" Lennon's reply: "I had a vision that a man came unto us on a flaming pie, and he said, 'You are Beatles with an A.' And so we were." I love the piano parts in this song they will make you bob your head along with the tune. The lyrics are crazy but in essence the song states be yourself and do what inspires you. Have a vision and be the man on the Flaming Pie.
Heaven On a Sunday this song has a soft rock and blues sound to it. The title sounds peaceful and the song certainly is. This song also sounds like it was written for Linda. One of the lyrics states, “if I only had one love yours would be the one I choose.”
Used To Be Bad is a duet with Steve Miller. This is a fun jam and according to the linear notes Having enjoyed ‘Young Boy’ Steve Miller was keen to extend the collaboration, wanting to get Paul singing some “Texas blues.” As a consequence, he arrived at their second set of session with dozens of guitar riffs; this prompted Paul to climb behind the drum kit and the pair played away for some time, kicking around ideas, until Miller began adding words to the jam, utilizing blues lines line, “I used to be bad but I don’t have to be bad no more”. Once the piece had gelled Paul overdubbed bass and Steve added some solos before the traded vocal lines. “This was just a jam, really. Steve whacked out these blues riffs, I got on the drums and we just went for it – a duet, sung on one mike. We did the vocal in one take.”
Souvenir was written in Jamaica. Paul was thinking of a rhythm and blues artist like Wilson Pickett when he wrote it. He said it was a favorite song of his and that maybe an R&B artist will record it one day.
Little Willow is a tribute song for Ringo Starrs' ex-wife Maureen. She died from leukemia December 1992. The song sounds a bit like a lullaby and gives encouragement for the future. He considered Maureen a dear friend. This song was written for her and her children. Paul said in the linear notes for Flaming Pie “I wanted to somehow convey how much I thought of her. For her and her kids. It certainly is heartfelt, and I hope it will help a bit.”
Really Love You is a funky song with a bass line that goes on and on. Paul sounds gritty and keeps the song in that bluesy feel. It is a song written by Paul and Ringo Starr. It is first time they had a song together and this is a good one. In the linear notes for the album Paul, Ringo and Jeff Lynne the producer went into the studio and just started doing a jam session. Paul got on his Hoffner bass, Ringo on drums and Jeff on guitar. Paul added the lyrics later and played the song to Ringo over the phone. He said the song was relentless a perfect adjective for the song.
A Beautiful Night is a song that gets into your head and stays there the hook is so beautiful you won’t mind hearing the song in your mind long after you have heard the song. Linda does the background vocals, and Ringo Starr is the drummer for the song. The song was first written in 1986, Paul put an upbeat finale to it and got George Martin to put orchestra music to it. It is a beautiful song.
A Great Day Paul wanted an uplifting song to end the album with and he chose this song. It was written in 1972 a song that his wife Linda and him would sing in the kitchen or when the kids were dancing. Paul said, “It’s just a little upbeat song of hope – to the point and in the spirit of the whole album.”
Inspiration can be found in different ways. Flaming Pie was inspired by the dvd and cd of The Beatles Anthology. Reliving the Beatle days inspired Paul to create his best work ever in the album Flaming Pie. I am glad I learned about this album. It is an album to be enjoyed on your drive to work, at home relaxing, or even at work itself. Flaming Pie shows that Paul has not lost his creativity, and has gotten better with time. Sir Paul we salute you.