Sunday, July 29, 2012

Picasso's Last Words (Drink to Me)

"Picasso's Last Words (Drink to Me)" is a classic album track off of "Band on the Run." It was one of those rare songs that resulted from a bit of a dare. Another famous example of this sort of "inspiration" was the 1968 song "Mony Mony" by Tommy James and the Shondells. The story with that one goes (there are several different versions of this story) is that someone dared Tommy James to write a song about the first thing that he saw after they left lunch. Well, he got out into the street and saw a sign for a bank, Mutual of New York. So, James wrote "Mony Mony," which became another in a string of hits for him. This probably an apocryphal story, at least in part - but it's a good story.

Anyway, the story behind "Picasso's Last Words" is something along those lines. Paul McCartney later recounted:
On one of our Jamaican holidays we had heard that Dustin Hoffman and Steve McQueen were around, shooting the film Papillon. We were invited to visit the set and Dustin asked us back to his house for dinner. He was asking me how I write songs; I explained that I just make them up. He said, Can you make up a song about anything?' I wasn't sure, but he pulled out a copy of Time, pointed to an article and said, 'Could you write a song about this? It was a quote from Picasso, from the last night of his life. Apparently, he had said to his friends, 'Drink to me, drink to my health, you know I can't drink anymore,' and then gone to bed and died in his sleep. So I picked up a guitar, started to strum and sing 'Drink to me, drink to my health...', and Dustin was shouting to his wife, 'He's doing it! He's doing it! Come and listen!' It's something that comes naturally to me but he was blown away by it. And that song became Picasso’s Last Words.
Dustin Hoffman himself has verified that this was the genesis of "Picasso's Last Words (Drink to Me)." However, the song is credited to Paul McCartney and Wings' sessions in Lagos, Nigeria, so exactly how much of the song came about in Jamaica and how much in Nigeria is a bit unclear. "Picasso's Last Words" itself was recorded at former Cream drummer Ginger Baker's home studio in Ikeja, Nigeria. You can hear Baker banging a tin can full of gravel in the background.


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