Throughout most of his solo career, Paul McCartney made an explicit attempt to avoid sounding like his iconic former band, The Beatles. Partly out of self-preservation and partly out of wanting to keep moving forward artistically, McCartney approached his solo albums and his tenure in Wings as being pointedly against his tenure within The Beatles, to the extent that Wings’ first few tours featured no Beatles songs at all.
It took McCartney a long time to reconcile with his past, but by the time the 1990s rolled around, he had mostly softened on his former band. The bassist agreed to take part in the Anthology multimedia project, and through his experiences going back to his old playing, McCartney remembered the looseness that came with the band’s early career.
“I came off the back of The Beatles Anthology with an urge to do some new music,” McCartney explained to Guitar World magazine. “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.”
Adding: “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.”
The resulting album was Flaming Pie, a versatile collection of songs that harkened back to McCartney’s classical style of songwriting that had been put on the backburner for albums like Flowers in the Dirt and Off the Ground. Tracks like ‘Calico Skies’ and ‘Beautiful Night’ found McCartney able to integrate the signature styles of his past with a clear look towards the future.
“I was checking the songs in my own mind against some of the early Beatles stuff, because I had just been doing the Anthology and it surprised me how simple, and yet complete, some of the early Beatles work was,” he added. “I didn’t see any reason why my new stuff shouldn’t be just as simple and complete. So whereas I might have been a little bit lazy in the past, and just thought, ‘Ah, near enough,’ which is very tempting to do, I made it a point to go in and sharpen the chisel and get it a bit tighter.”