The Beatles changed so much, so quickly that it is often hard to reconcile just how different the 1950s were from even the early part of the ’60s. Alongside a handful of pioneering rock ‘n’ roll forces like Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Gene Vincent – The Beatles in their younger years were often tuning into jazzier lounge numbers.
One of the songs that charted on McCartney’s early radar was Fats Waller’s version of ‘My Very Good Friend The Milkman’ which was originally written by Johnny Burke and Harold Spina in 1934.
The Fats Waller & His Rhythm version that worked its way into McCartney’s childhood comes from 1935. American jazz at this time was all the rage in Britain as sanguine records made their way over the pond and filled drab living rooms with a sense of colour and vividity.
Fats Waller was one of the biggest names of the era. His innovative stride style proved monumental in crafting the jazz piano movement, thus it can be said his work is detectable in many more bands than simply The Beatles.
In an interview with NPR, he spoke about the records of his formative years stating: “When you’re a kid growing up in Liverpool — and I suspect anywhere ’round the world — you don’t necessarily get the record collection you want. Records just find their way to you. Someone might give you one. So I had a fairly wide-ranging record collection. I would have something like West Side Story and then Fats Waller and then Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley. It was just music I liked. And I loved Fats Waller. I love his instrumental abilities, his vocal abilities and his sense of humour.”
At an iTunes live event back in 2012 at Capitol Studios, McCartney decided to task his band with a version of the track. “When I was a little kid in Liverpool,” Macca recalls, “I had a record by Fats Waller that I used to play. I loved his sense of humour, and rhythm, and musicianship.”
He then charmingly proceeds to flunk the intro a few times, but after a couple of false starts the McCartney and his band craft a sumptuously nostalgic rendition of the age-old comedic swing tune. The song also features on McCartney’s album Kisses on the Bottom, but the live version below is a thing of simple beauty.
See the clip, below.