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My Valentine

It’s one of the better singles by McCartney in this century: the piano ballad My Valentine. Written on Valentines Day in 2011 and released a year later as the leading single of the jazz album Kisses On The Bottom.

My Valentine is one of the two new McCartney songs on Kisses On The Bottom, the 2012 album consisting mainly of covers from The American Songbook. It is therefore not surprising that My Valentine has the same jazz feel as the rest of the CD. McCartney didn’t write many jazzy songs, just a handful. Suicide is an early effort from his early years, once offered to Frank Sinatra, but it was never officially released. Then there's Distractions, from Flowers In The Dirt, and Baby's Request, from the last Wings album Back To The Egg. Baby's Request is the only private cover that also can be found on Kisses On The Bottom.

Macca wrote My Valentine, a straightforward love song, while on holiday with Nancy, his then fiancée. The title refers directly to the date on which it is written: Valentine's Day. The lyrics are inspired by a short conversation the couple had about the continuing bad weather:

We were having a nice holiday but it was raining rather a lot. I said, 'A pity it's raining' and she said 'It doesn't matter, we can still have a good time.' And I'm like that, too, I don't mind at all.
Video: My Valentine




Another source of inspiration was the Irish pianist at the hotel, who managed to entertain the guests with old songs from the time of Paul's father, the same genre that was the source for Kisses On The Bottom. He tried to capture the same mood when writing the song:

So there was an old piano, slightly out of tune, in the foyer of the hotel. And there was this lovely Irish guy who knew so much old stuff, really deep stuff like Beautiful Dreamer, If You Were The Only Girl In The World... Again, stuff from my Dad's era. I used to enjoy listening to him in the evenings and he put me in mind of that genre. One afternoon, when it was raining, I was in that foyer, and without anyone noticing except a couple of waiters who were cleaning up, I sat at the piano and started knocking around with this little tune, kind of in the style that I knew he played in: 'What if it rained? We didn't care. She said that some day soon the sun was gonna shine...' And there was my Irish buddy sitting behind me, he'd been listening to me all the time: 'Ah that's great!' A nice little vote of confidence in the song.”
The song is accompanied by a great music video, one of the better from McCartney's career and the first one he directed himself. In the stylish black and white video, the actors Natalie Portman and Johnny Depp portraying the lyrics in sign language. Although, they made a few mistakes. Deaf music fans noted that both actors made some unfortunate mistakes with their translations. Depp makes the gesture for the word "enemy" while attempting "valentine" and both he and Portman make the motion for the word "tampon" instead of the word "appear."
The idea for the video came from daughter Stella:
I wasn't sure that I wanted to do the big, million dollar music video thing,” McCartney explained about his hesitation to film a big-budget production. ”Stella suggested that I do something really simple. ‘You know Natalie,’ she said. ‘Ring Natalie up and just ask her if she will sign to your song.‘ She agreed and then I realized that I needed [another person] so I asked Johnny and he was kind enough to agree to do it. A week after Stella had mentioned the idea, I was back here in L.A. filming it with the great cinematographer Wally Pfister.
Video: Making of My Valentine




In the video Johnny Depp also plays the guitar solo. He did this so well during the filming sessions that McCartney decided to replace the original, so Depp can be heard as well.
The original solo was played by Eric Clapton. That marked the first collaboration between McCartney and Clapton in the studio since recording The Beatles' While My Guitar Gently Wheeps in 1968.

Later in 2012, with the release of the live version of Kisses On The Bottom, Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh takes the solo part on his behalf. And since its release My Valentine has become a permanent part of McCartney's live setlist, in a more ‘pop’ version. 

Video: My Valentine (Live Kisses)



André Homan

André Homan is a Dutch writer and journalist.

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