In the 1980s, Paul found himself working on solo music as the Wings band members went their separate ways. Paul's second self-titled solo album McCartney II was released, bringing a new electronic style to his repertoire, and he had successful collaborations with Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson in the years that followed. If there was one music event to summarise the 1980s, it would be Live Aid. Paul's performance at the concert in 1985 reignited his love of live music and touring, and he ended the decade setting out on the biggest tour of his career.
'Coming Up' was the lead single from Paul's second self-titled solo album, McCartney II. Inspired by the fact that Paul played every instrument on the song, the video for ‘Coming Up’ famously features him dressed up as various characters from the made-up group The Plastic Macs, a play on John Lennon’s and Yoko Ono’s Plastic Ono Band. Directed by Keith McMillan, Paul shot for 25 hours over the space of two days.
McCartney II was Paul’s first solo album since the formation of Wings in 1971. While its highly electronic style was certainly innovative, its cosily domestic origins were reminiscent of 1970’s McCartney album. Recorded in the summer of 1979, when the future of Wings remained uncertain, the album was conceived at home on Paul's farm in Scotland.
I made a couple of albums, the normal way you make albums, and I felt like doing it the homemade way again because I quite like recording like that – where I play all the instruments. It’s almost like a hobby to do it that way.
Paul made his debut appearance on Saturday Night Live to premiere the 'Coming Up' music video. The iconic video features Paul dressed up as different members of The Plastic Macs in a nod to the fact he played all the instruments on the song. The live version of the song reached #1 on the US singles chart
'Waterfalls' was the second single released from McCartney II, but Paul started working on the song while he was still in Wings. With its stripped-back production, Paul described it as one of his favourite songs at the time.
'Temporary Secretary' was released as a 12" single, limited to 25,000 copies. A 7" version of the single was created and released in 2022 as part of The 7" Singles Box.
Published in 1981, Composer / Artist gave an extra-special glimpse into Paul's creative mind, revealing sketches and never-before published drawings paired with his songs.
The remarkable Wings Over America tour was brought to life with this memorable concert film. Famed for the precision and quality of its sound (the amplification system used was the first of its kind, capable of 15,000 watts, compared with previous systems of only 1,000 watts) and spectacular light show, Rockshow is regarded by many as one of the best live films of all time.
‘Ebony and Ivory’ was Paul's first duet with a major artist, and reached Number One in both the US and UK, spending seven weeks at the top of the US charts. It was also ranked as the 69th biggest hit of all time by Billboard and became Paul’s most successful single since The Beatles.
Tug Of War was Paul's first solo album after Wings’ split was confirmed, and followed the death of John Lennon, whose memory is poignantly evoked on the track ‘Here Today’. The album saw Paul reunite with producer George Martin and included two duets with Stevie Wonder, one of which, ‘Ebony And Ivory’, was Number 1 on both sides of the Atlantic. Upon its release, Tug Of War was nominated for the 1983 Grammy for Album of the Year.
I wanted to start ‘Tug Of War’ (the song) with sound effects, to help set the scene. Then by serendipity, I heard about a national indoor tug of war contest taking place nearby. I sent Eddie, my engineer, who always has a twinkling sense of humour, to record it, and the grunting you hear on the opening of the track - that sound collage- is the sound of a real tug of war.
'Take It Away' features two of Paul's former Beatles associates, with Ringo Starr on drums and George Martin on electric piano.
'Tug of War' is the title track from Paul's 1982 album. The phrase 'tug of war' has a double meaning, as it refers to both the game involving two teams pulling a rope across a marker and an emotional tug of trying to see both sides of a situation.
Paul worked with Micheal Jackson on a number of tracks in the early eighties, but the first to be released was 'The Girl is Mine' from Jackson's Thriller album.
Not long after Paul's collaboration with Michael Jackson on 'The Girl is Mine', they teamed up again for 'Say, Say, Say', this time released on Paul's album Pipes of Peace. Although it came out in October 1983, the track was actually recorded a whole year before 'The Girl is Mine', during the production for Paul's 1982 album Tug of War.
Featuring songs initially recorded during sessions for the Tug Of War album, Pipes Of Peace continued Paul's rich vein of song-writing form and included two massive hits, the Michael Jackson duet ‘Say Say Say’ and the title track. The collaboration with Jackson extended to another track, the breezy ‘The Man’. Lyrically, the album features Paul’s thoughts on love, peace and the future, centred around the symbol of the pipes of peace.
‘Pipes of Peace’ stayed in the UK charts for 12 weeks peaking at Number One in time for Christmas. The festive season also became the theme for the music video recreating the Christmas truce of 1914 during the First World War.
Taken from Give My Regards to Broad Street, 'No More Lonely Nights' was originally released on 7" and 12" singles, along with a 12" picture disc. The song broke into the Top 10 in both the US and UK charts, reaching Number Six in the US and Number Two in the UK.
Give My Regards To Broad Street is the soundtrack album to the feature film of the same name, released in 1984 and based on a script written by Paul himself. The album was preceded by a new composition, ‘No More Lonely Nights’, a global smash that was nominated for both a Golden Globe and a BAFTA for Best Original Song. Once again, the soundtrack peaked at Number 1 in the UK and was certified platinum for sales of over 300,000 copies.
Released in 1984, the story of Give My Regards to Broad Street centred around a stolen master tape of new Paul McCartney songs, a race against time to save them from the clutches of the sinister Mr Rath and a litany of Beatles and Wings classics. Not only that, it also featured the BAFTA and Golden Globe nominated ‘No More Lonely Nights’, one of three brand new songs.
The film's title was a play on the old show tune ‘Give My Regards to Broadway’. We made it around the same time as my solo album Pipes of Peace and I think, I wrote some of the screenplay on the train between Sussex and London.
Featuring The King's Singers and the choir of St Paul's Cathedral on backing vocals, 'We All Stand Together' was taken from the animated film Rupert and the Frog Song. A shaped picture disc was released at the time, and remastered and re-released in 2020.
Rupert and The Frog Song began in 1981 with animator Geoff Dunbar and Paul, and was eventually released in 1984. The film saw Paul voice the character of Rupert and featured the voices of the beloved British TV icons June Whitfield (as Rupert’s mother) and Windsor Davies (Father Frog). Released simultaneously with 'We All Stand Together' the film went on to become the biggest selling video of 1985 in the UK, earning Paul a Grammy nomination, a revered Ivor Novello Award for Best Film Soundtrack and a BAFTA for Best Animated Short Film.
Musicians from around the globe were brought together by Bob Geldolf and Midge Ure to help raise relief funds for the devastating famine taking place in Ethiopia. The concerts were a roaring success with over 70,000 people attending at Wembley Stadium in London and 100,000 at the John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia; with satellite link ups it is estimated a further 1.9 billion watched the broadcasts across 150 countries! Paul headlined the Wembley concert with a rousing rendition of ‘Let It Be’. It was his first live performance since Wings’ 1979 tour of the UK.
'Spies Like Us' was Paul's only single in 1985, created for the movie of the same name. The music video was also directed by John Landis, the film's director, and features the 'Spies Like Us' stars Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase. The song was added to streaming platforms for the 2022 release of The 7" Singles Box.
Held at Wembley Arena on 20th June 1986 to mark the first ten years of the Prince's Trust, this event saw performances from a who's who of music, including George Michael, Tina Turner, Elton John and Rod Stewart. Paul closed the show with a rousing version of ‘Get Back’, as well as performing ‘Long Tall Sally’ and ‘I Saw Her Standing There’.
'Press' was the lead single from Paul's 1986 album Press to Play. The music video was shot on the London Underground.
Released in 1986 and featuring collaborations with 10cc's Eric Stewart, Pete Townshend and Phil Collins, Press To Play was produced with Hugh Padgham, known for his work with The Police and Genesis. The album cover was taken by famed Hollywood photographer, George Hurrell, who took the sepia image of Paul and Linda using the same box camera he had used 40 years earlier.
Some of the tracks are completely live – with real people! But the bass on ‘Press’ for example, that’s a machine playing it.
'Pretty Little Head' was co-written by Paul and 10cc guitarist Eric Stewart. The single was released as a 7", a 12", and on cassette - a first for Paul.
Like the single 'Pretty Little Head', 'Stranglehold' was also a collaboration between Paul and Eric Stewart from 10cc. It was only released as a single in the US until the 7" was reissued in 2022 for The 7" Singles Box.
'Only Love Remains' is a ballad, released as the fourth single from Paul's 1986 album Press to Play.
All The Best! was the second official collection of Paul's greatest hits after 1978's Wings Greatest. The album was preceded in the UK by a new song, ‘Once Upon A Long Ago’, Paul's fortieth single, produced by Phil Ramone and mixed by George Martin, and featuring violin by Nigel Kennedy.
'Once Upon a Long Ago' was released in 1987 as a promotional single from Paul's first solo compilation album, All the Best! Also released on 12" and 7" vinyl, it was Paul's first single to be released as a CD. Paul described his songwriting process for the track as similar to William S. Burroughs' 'cut-up technique', where he picks up nonsensical words and phrases and sees where they fall.
This short video collection featured music videos for ‘Once Upon A Long Ago’, ‘Stranglehold’, ‘Pretty Little Head’ and the beautifully animated promo for ‘We All Stand Together’.
CHOBA B CCCP, the Russian translation of “Back In The USSR”, was released in the Soviet Union in 1988, making Paul the first artist from the West to issue an album exclusively for that market. (It was released in the rest of the world following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.) Paul decided he wanted to get back to his roots and spent just two days covering his favourite hits from the 1950s. The recording sessions produced 22 songs in total, 13 of them ending up on the final album.
So, with this album I thought, ‘What if we got it manufactured in Russia?' I thought that would just be the funniest thing because naturally you’d just expect it to get released in the UK, America, Europe and the Russian fans might have to import it, as they had to with all of The Beatles stuff. So, I thought it would be great to sort of switch it round and, well, just get Melodiya, the state owned record label, to manufacture it.
Co-written with Elvis Costello, 'My Brave Face' was taken from Paul's 1989 album Flowers in the Dirt. Elvis Costello didn't play on the track, but Linda McCartney provided backing vocals.
Mixing technology with traditional instruments such as brass, strings and organ, Flowers In The Dirt featured several tracks composed with fellow musician Elvis Costello. The album topped the UK charts at Number 1 in June 1989 and spent nearly a year in the US charts. Specifically recorded with a view to live performance (the huge Paul McCartney World Tour started in September of that year), the album has a strongly cohesive feel to it.
I was working with Elvis Costello, he told me about a funeral of a favourite relative of his and it became the inspiration for this song. It really was Elvis’ story that I empathised with and we eventually took the lyric, ‘flowers in the dirt’ for the title of the album.
In 1989 'This One' was released as a single from Paul's UK Number One album Flowers in the Dirt.
Released in 1989, this documentary gave a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Paul's Flowers in the Dirt album.
Incredibly, the Paul McCartney Tour of 1989-90 was his first tour since 1979. Travelling 100,331 miles across the globe, Paul played to a total of 2,843,297 fans over 102 gigs. At the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on April 21st 1990, Paul even set a new world record, performing to the largest stadium crowd ever with 184, 368 fans attending the show.
'Figure of Eight' was released as the third single from Flowers in the Dirt. The single edit of the song differed from the album version - unusually, the single edit is almost two minutes longer.