The comedy song written by Elvis Costello and Paul McCartney

The English singer and songwriter Elvis Costello was born in 1954. Gaining cognition at such a point in history, Costello was well-placed to become a Beatlemaniac. When he rose to prominence in his own right with his new wave band, The Attractions, in the late 1970s, Costello frequently cited The Beatles as his most significant influence.

Of course, strains of folk, punk, soul, and jazz can be heard throughout Costello’s catalog, but, as he says, The Beatles’ impact spread far beyond rock ‘n’ roll. In 2020, Costello wrote a short piece for Rolling Stone wherein he discussed the Fab Four’s unparalleled influence on the pop music playing field.

“The word ‘Beatlesque’ has been in the dictionary for quite a while now,” he wrote. “You hear them in Harry Nilsson’s melodies, in Prince’s Around the World in a Day, in the hits of ELO and Crowded House, and in Ron Sexsmith’s ballads. You can hear that Kurt Cobain listened to The Beatles and mixed their ideas with punk and metal.”

“They can be heard in all sorts of one-off wonders from The Knickerbockers’ ‘Lies’ and The Flamin’ Groovies’ ‘Shake Some Action,’” he continued. “The scope and license of The White Album has permitted everyone from Outkast to Radiohead to Green Day to Joanna Newsom to roll their picture out on a broader, bolder canvas.”

Later, Costello admitted to borrowing from the Beatles’ vast discography while creating masterpieces of his own. “Now, I’ll admit that I’ve stolen my share of Beatles licks, but around the turn of the ’90s, I got to co-write 12 songs with Paul McCartney and even dared to propose that he, too, reference some of The Beatles’ harmonic signatures,” he pointed out.

Indeed, following Costello’s rise to global stardom, he partnered up with McCartney to collaborate on their respective 1989 albums, Spike and Flowers in the Dirt. At the time, the former Beatles bassist was in a solo career nadir following the disappointing 1986 album Press to Play.

“I know some people have very bad preconceptions about Paul McCartney, but I’m involved to the extent that I’ve written a bunch of songs with him as well,” Costello noted at the time. “I know he’s a really good bass player, so I’m not too bothered about what anyone thinks about him playing on my record. I don’t think it reflects at all on my perception of myself as a songwriter.”

“When I’d got the call to say Paul wanted me to write some songs with him for his next record, I didn’t know what to expect, but as his last co-written hit had been with Michael Jackson, I wondered whether I should be taking some dancing lessons,” Costello wrote in his autobiography Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink. “I’d brought an early draft of ‘Veronica’ that you would have recognized, but we immediately got to work putting a better flow into the chorus and shifting the bridge into making that part of the song seem more like a dream.”

Among the songs McCartney co-wrote for Costello’s Spike was the quirky comedy song, ‘Pads, Paws and Claws’. Discussing the song’s conception, Costello remembered that, while writing with McCartney at a countryside studio, he stayed in a “nice feather bed in the Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor Suite of a quaint local inn.”

“On my first night there, I walked into the bar for a glass of tonic and bitters. A sightless, slumbering dog, wheezing by the fire, caught the scent of my wretched soul and began barking and snarling at me. It then hauled itself up on all fours with considerable effort.”

“‘Don’t worry about him, he wouldn’t hurt a fly,’ said the landlord. ‘He’s as blind as a bat.’ At which the Pew-like Alsatian reared up on its hind legs, pinning me against the flocked wallpaper with its forepaws. The grey film of cataracts obscured its eyes, but its slobbering muzzle seemed to be working fine, and the dog seemed determined to locate my neck in order to sink in a fang,” Costello continued, recalling the unfortunate, if slightly comical, turn of events.

“Ah, he’s just playing with you, the silly old sod,” he remembered the barman uttering with nonchalance.

On the following day, Costello and McCartney wrote ‘Pads, Paws and Claws’, partly inspired by the altercation. Costello noted that the track “took its title from a children’s book about big cats that I’d found in a junk shop, rather than immortalising my encounter with the hellhound of Rye.”

Listen to Elvis Costello’s ‘Pads, Paws and Claws’ below.

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