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Macca's gems: Calico Skies

On almost every McCartney album you’ll find so-called hidden gems; beautiful songs, but unknown to the general public because it was never released as a single. Not really hidden anymore, but certainly a gem is Calico Skies, from the album Flaming Pie 1997.

The story behind Calico Skies begins in August 1991: McCartney resides with his family on Long Island as category-3 storm Hurricane Bob makes landfall. Bob was a big one. Within a few days, the storm had ripped up the east coast of the United States, killing 15 people and causing $1.5 billion in damage. More than 2 million people were left without power. Among them is the McCartney family:

Bob, the hurricane, knocked out all the power; it was all candle-light, cooking on a wood fire. Very primitive, but we like that enforced simplicity. I couldn't play records, so I made up little acoustic pieces. This was one of them - it's a primitive little power cut memory.
Paul McCartney 
Video: Callico Skies




Calico Skies is a typical McCartney solo on acoustic guitar song. It's a waltz, with a somewhat unusual backbeat. The melody sits near the top of his vocal range, forcing him to strain just slightly to hit the higher notes. McCartney describes it as “a gentle love song that becomes a 1960s protest song.” 
The unmistakable suggestion of early music is quite deliberate: when he was composing it, McCartney recalled the image of a medieval musician banging away on a tabor.
In 1999, the track is arranged for a string quartet, a version that appears on the album Working Classical

Video: Calico Skies Working Classical-version

When McCartney starts touring again in 2002, Calico Skies is an integral part of the setlist. The live version is slightly different than the original. On Flaming Pie it is McCartney solo on guitar, live the whole band is playing along. Especially Paul 'Wix' Wickens’ accordion gives the song an extra melancholic feel.

Video: Calico Skies, live, Kiev, 2008

The song is recorded in 1992, with George Martin as producer. It turned out to be the oldest recording appearing on Flaming Pie.

Related Posts:
McCartney's 90's classic Flaming Pie
Flaming Pie Quiz
McCartney in the Nineties Quiz
André Homan

André Homan is a Dutch writer and journalist.

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