The Beatles

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My Carnival

I don’t know if other countries have something of a tradition of carnival music, but in the Netherlands we have though. It's not on a very high level; musically it’s close to German schlagers and the simplistic and merely comical lyrics are often a bit vulgar. It's music you especially like when you're drunk and dressed up so that no one will recognize you. And well, that is exactly how Carnival is celebrated in the Netherlands.

Therefore, it was quite a revelation when I discovered the song My Carnival in 1985, as a B-side of the single Spies Like Us: So there’s a way to make decent carnival music too. What also intrigued me were the credits on the single: Paul McCartney & Wings. Suddenly there was an echo of the past, because the band had been split up for years. Why it appeared as a B-side in 1985, always remained a mystery to me. The only explanation I could give back then, was a lack of recent other material. But with the knowledge now, that seems unlikely.

My Carnival dates back to February 1975, when Wings worked on their new album Venus and Mars. The band had settled down in New Orleans for recording and in between the sessions  they hang around  with local musicians. The 'grand old man' of the New Orleans music scene, Professor Longhair, paid a visit to the band in the recording studio and as a tribute to him Wings played his most famous song, Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

Video: Professor Longhair - Mardi Gras in New Orleans

The band is also in New Orleans when Mardi Gras is celebrated and disguised as clowns the band immerse into the festivities. These disguises proved to be particularly useful: McCartney ventured without once, which soon leads to chaos when he got recognized.

The famous festival is the inspiration for the song. And the day after Mardi Gras Wings returned to the studio to record My Carnival, along with the New Orleans-based band The Meters. McCartney uses the bluesy piano riff from 'Mardi Gras in New Orleans' as the basis of his own composition. When My Carnival is released as a single B-side in 1985, it is dedicated to the in 1980 deceased Professor Longhair.

My Carnival is a fairly simple song. It has only one verse which is repeated four times, and it does not really have a chorus. The sound is relaxed, loosely, like a jam session. It's a party song, unpretentious. And one of the nicer B-sides McCartney, with or without Wings, has ever released.

Video: My Carnival

André Homan

André Homan is a Dutch writer and journalist.

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