Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Elvis Costello & Paul McCartney: The McCartney/MacManus Collaboration

Another of my favorite cd bootleg releases of all time, on the classic Vigotone label, this is an unparalleled look at the raw creative processes of two true geniuses of popular music. Listening to Elvis and Paul excitedly demo a skiffle-y track like "Twenty-Five Fingers", if you squint and tilt your head just right, it's almost like listening to a writing demo of John and Paul working out "One After 909"! There are so many amazing songs here, some of which came out in overproduced versions on McCartney albums, one of which was one of the best singles of his later career, one of which became Elvis' biggest hit ever, one of which was a highlight on a pretty dire Elvis album, but couldn't match the drama of this demo version, and a couple which have never emerged except on this boot. And this is some of my favorite McCartney singing EVER -- why? Because he doesn't care about how he sounds! This is just him throwing around some ideas with a mate, and showing off the rawer side of his personality at that, to impress Elvis. The voice is rough but beautiful. And they sound like they were born to harmonize with each other.

None of this is more true than on what I feel is the true undiscovered gem of this collection, track 3, "Tommy's Coming Home". This keening melody, haunting harmony, and obscure but brilliant lyric combine into a song whose brilliance I can't begin to describe. The meter and tone of the lyrics put me somewhat in mind of "Band on the Run" -- especially on the line, "And a hawk hovered high above a skinny jackrabbit/ Pursued by a hungry fox". But this song is so much deeper, though the story it tells eludes literal sense in the same way that the earlier song does. It concerns a soldier who returns home, but in a coffin, apparently accompanied by his sweetheart, who is then flirted with by a man on the train... the story shifts in and out of focus in a fascinating way. Here is a best guess at the lyrics. I love that "Down, down, down" motif. And ohhh the harmony on the last word of the phrase "and it's almost April Fools' Day."

To me and most, the real meat of this release is the first eight selections; the other eleven basically amount to bonus tracks -- some really good bonus tracks, but nothing matches the brilliance and fascination of those amazing duo demos. Here's a rundown of the album. Unfortunately, I can't find scans of the whole package including the 24-page booklet. This CD isn't totally unheard of elsewhere online, but seems pretty hard to find, so I think it qualifies for The Rare Stuff. It's certainly a rare pleasure!


  1. Just discovered your blog today and what a nice treat. I do not have the scans, but Vigotone.com has some of the scans and all of the booklet text. Here is the link;


  2. It's great to have access to this, thanks! I'm no great PM fan, in fact quite the opposite BUUT there was some sort of magic that happened when and EC decided to show of to & with the other. I WAS an EC completist until NORTH & the TV series: after that he seemed to forget some of what was important (to me).
    Great CD & BRILLIANT blog - thanks.

  3. I can't wait! I heard something a lot like this back around '89, on the radio, and as I'm downloading this I'm curious if it's the same thing. I liked that old radio piece so much I've kept in on cassette these 20+ years so that tells you something.

    Just found your blog today and sure am having fun in it -- I like how you really are living up to your name "The Rare Stuff" and giving access to stuff that others don't have and that only nurtures interest in these artists rather than taking away from them. I mean, the late 80s is not a period remembered fondly by most Elvis C or Paul M fans, but stuff like this makes one say, "Hm, there actually was some good stuff then..."

    Keep up the good work!
    - Greetings from Georgia

  4. Wonderful, wonderful! Such fun stuff!


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