Welcome back to the Beatles Rarity of the Week. For our first BROW in the merry month of May I’m turning my attention to MTV’s Unplugged series which began in the 1989/90 television season. The idea, of course, was to feature performances by musical guests that would give acoustic versions of what would normally be done with amplified instruments. Microphones were okay, but electronic backing or amplification was discouraged. This kind of thing was right up Paul McCartney’s alley and he agreed to do a show early in it’s heyday. To be more specific, the show was filmed on January 25th, 1991 in the Wembley district of London’s Limehouse Studios, which was a place Paul had actually recorded television shows with The Beatles. The show premiered on MTV on April 3rd, 1991.
Paul was one of the first big names to appear on the show and was intrigued at the challenge of performing completely “unplugged.” While the rules were bent slightly for many of the guests as far as the use of electronic pick-ups or occasional amplified instruments, Robbie McIntosh, who played in Paul’s band at the time stated that “Paul decided this was cheating. We would do it absolutely ‘straight,’ which was very challenging. There were no pick-ups – meaning everything was done simply with microphones.”
Paul’s band at the time of the show included Hamish Stuart (acoustic bass, guitar, vocals and harmonies), Robbie McIntosh (lead guitar, 6 & 12-string acoustic guitars, steel guitar, bass guitar, dobro, piano and vocals), Paul ‘Wix’ Wickens (stand up piano, accordion, vocal harmonies, acoustic bass), Blair Cunningham (drums, triangle, percussion) and Linda McCartney (Indian harmonium, percussion, vocal harmonies). Paul played 6-string acoustic guitar, drums (on one track) and lead vocals.
Realizing that many of his songs would not be suitable for this type of show, Paul chose a few of his favorites by other artists, adding in just a few appropriate selections from his own compositions with The Beatles, as well as after and in the case of one song called “I Lost My Little Girl” – before The Beatles. Paul explains that this one was the first song he ever wrote.
Including a few repeat performances due to camera problems or a couple instances where Paul kept forgetting some lyrics on “We Can Work it Out” and starting over, there were 27 performances in all. The television broadcast only included 14 of these and a subsequent CD release covering the event simply titled Unplugged included 17 tracks (a track listing for the CD can be found here).
For this week’s BROW, I’m naturally offering up one of the “unchosen” performances that was excluded from both the television broadcast and CD. “Mean Woman Blues” is a 12-bar blues song recorded by Elvis Presley for the 1957 soundtrack to his movie Loving You. It’s possible that the reason this song was excluded was that it was considered a “warm-up” number – since it was actually the show opener. It did actually get a release though as a b-side to a 1993 promo-only CD single released in the U.K. for Paul’s Off The Ground number “Biker Like An Icon.” It’s never been released in the U.S. or commercially anywhere, but you can hear it now on BROW.
Paul McCartney - Mean Woman Blues
Extra info: Paul has a few other known performances of “Mean Woman Blues” from the early nineties. He included it in a show on May 10th, 1991 at “The Mean Fiddler” in Harlesden (a district of London), U.K. and also as part of his soundcheck for a gig in Winnipeg, Canada on May 21, 1993.
Here are some Amazon links to read more on, or purchase, some music related to this post:
1) Paul McCartney Unplugged – 1991 17-track CD account of Paul McCartney’s MTV Unplugged show.