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Paul McCartney Calls Elvis Costello Demos ‘Hidden Treasures’

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Paul McCartney says he doesn’t regret issuing his late-’80s co-writes with Elvis Costello as a full album back in the day. McCartney has just issued a massive deluxe edition of his 1989 Flowers In The Dirt collection, which was seen by many to be his best album since his 1982 chart-topper, Tug Of War. McCartney and Costello — who used his given name, Declan MacManus, on all the songwriting credits with the former Beatle — have been chatting with the press regarding their brief, but critically acclaimed partnership. “Macca” was asked by The Washington Post if he regretted not turning the pair’s tunes into a joint album at the time: “Man, are you kidding? It’s being reissued like a gazillion years afterward, and people are loving it. And the great thing is that we can now release these hidden treasures. It’s actually worked out really well.”

When asked why he didn’t take use all the songs demoed for Flowers In The Dirt — as opposed to only four: “Thinking back to the time, I didn’t just want to just make an Elvis Costello album. There were other things I was interested in. I also wanted to work with this fabulous arranger, Clare Fischer (on ‘Distractions’), which may not have happened if I had been working with Elvis. I think I wanted to work with (producers) Trevor Horn and Steve Lipson, and things like ‘Rough Ride’ and ‘Figure Of Eight’ wouldn’t have been there. I wanted some variety, and that led to the decision of writing some stuff with Elvis. And things like ‘Put It There,’ I think those were pretty successful.”

McCartney spoke candidly about his collaboration with Costello, telling Rolling Stone, “It moved me forward and it moved him forward. That’s the best you could hope for. I don’t think either of us thought we were gonna become ‘Lennon/McCartney Part Two.'”

Elvis Costello recalled their now historic 1987 demo of “The Lovers That Never Were,” which is included on the new set, featuring McCartney on guitar and Costello on piano: “That was one where I was aware that it was good while we were doing it. You’d have to go some way to beat that performance. . . There was sort of a plan to work on the sessions together, to co-produce the sessions.”

Costello, who remains close with McCartney, went on to joke: “In the continuity of Paul McCartney collaborators, I’m the person that stands between Michael Jackson and Kanye West and Rihanna. You just don’t know that much about me. And that’s a pop fact with which you can probably win a bet.”

For many, the allure of Elvis Costello working with Paul McCartney meant that, arguably, for the first time since he wrote with John Lennon, McCartney would have an equal serving as a sounding board. McCartney was asked if he felt it was tough over the years to have people feel comfortable critiquing his works in progress: “I’ve never thought about it, to tell you the truth, till people started to point it out; that with the reputation that I’ve got of having kind of done a lot, that anyone that hasn’t quite done as much will be a bit, ‘Oh my God — I’m not gonna tell him — you tell him it’s rubbish!’ I mean, obviously, when you’ve played stuff to people when you were at the height of the Beatles, it was fairly difficult for them to tell you it wasn’t any good.

Y’know, it’s not a new thing. And so, I normally would kind of say to people, ‘No, go on, I encourage you to tell me if it’s rubbish,’ y’know?”

Paul McCartney next performs on April 25th, 27th, 29th, and 30th in Tokyo.

Photo Courtesy of 1988 © Paul McCartney / Photo by Linda McCartney

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