Paul McCartney – Picasso’s Last Words (Drink to Me)

The Spanish artist Pablo Picasso died at the age of 91 on April 8, 1973. News of his passing reached Paul McCartney, when he was in Jamaica.

Paul and Linda were in Jamaica on vacation. They were staying at the same hotel as Dustin Hoffman, who was there filming the movie Papillon with Steve McQueen. The trio had dinner together one evening. Hoffman asked Paul, “How do you write songs?” Paul told him they just come out.  Hoffman went on to ask if Paul could write about anything and Paul said yes.

While having dinner there with Paul McCartney, Dustin Hoffman told the story of the death of Pablo Picasso and his famous last words, “Drink to me, drink to my health. You know I can’t drink anymore.” Picasso then went to bed and died in his sleep.

Paul had a guitar with him and immediately played an impromptu chord progression while singing the quote. Thus, “Picasso’s Last Words” was born, later recorded and added to the album Band On The Run in 1973. Hoffman later said said of Paul writing the song in front of him, the experience was “right under childbirth in terms of great events of my life.”

When Paul started to sing it Dustin got excited and said: After a moment he started singing it. Hoffman jumped up, shouting, “Look, he’s doing it! Go*damn it! Holy sh–!”

Paul agreed to do “Picasso’s Last Words” at Ginger Baker’s studio. Baker and some additional people from the studio filled some cans with gravel and shook them for percussion.

From Songfacts

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) was one of the most inventive and prolific talents in 20th-century art. In his life he created over 20,000 artistic works, including his famous painting, Guernica, a commentary on the bombing of civilians in the Spanish Civil War. Picasso died in Mougins, France, while he and his wife Jacqueline were entertaining friends for dinner. His final words were “Drink to me, drink to my health, you know I can’t drink any more.” Sadly, Picasso’s passing left a legacy of bitterness and confusion as the artist died without leaving a will and his family ended up fighting amongst themselves for control of his billion dollar estate.

Picasso’s Last Words (Drink to Me)

A grand old painter died last night
His paintings on the wall
Before he went, he bade us well
And said goodnight to us all

Drink to me, drink to my health
You know I can’t drink any more
Drink to me, drink to my health
You know I can’t drink any more

Three o’clock in the morning
I’m getting ready for bed
It came without a warning
But I’ll be waiting for you baby
I’ll be waiting for you there

So drink to me drink to my health
You know I can’t drink any more
Drink to me drink to my health
You know I can’t drink any more

Jet, ooo, ooo, ooo
Jet, ooo, ooo, ooo
Jet, ooo, ooo, ooo
Jet, ooo, ooo, ooo

Drink to me, drink to my health
You know I can’t drink any more
Drink to me, drink to my health
You know I can’t drink any more

I’ll be waiting for your baby, yeah yeh

Drink to me, drink to my health
You know I can’t drink any more
Drink to me, drink to my health
You know I can’t drink any more

Drink to me, drink to my health
You know I, hey ho, ho hey ho
Ho hey ho, ho hey ho
Ho hey ho, ho hey ho
Ho hey ho, ho hey ho
Ho hey ho, ho hey ho

Paul McCartney – Band On The Run

Paul is great at combining songs together. These three different songs blended together.

The song was recorded in two parts, in different sessions. The first two were taped in Lagos while the third section was recorded in October 1973 at AIR Studios in London. Paul was robbed at knife point in Lagos, Nigeria and they took the tapes that he had at the time. They were never recovered and Paul figured they recorded over them.

The song was off the album Band On The Run which was I think Paul’s best solo album. The album peaked at #1 in the Billboard 100, Canada, and the UK in 1974.

McCartney drew inspiration out of something George Harrison said in a lengthy Apple Board meeting “If we ever get out of this house” which Paul changed to “here” and put it in the song.

The song peaked at #1 in the Billboard 100, #1 in Canada, and the #3 in the UK.

I’ve read about other possible inspirations for the song other than the George Harrison line.

One source said it was about a metaphorical prison we all find ourselves in at times.

The other was bands like the Wings were running trying to escape the law because of pot convictions. Paul said: “We were being outlawed for pot … And our argument on [‘Band on the Run’] was ‘Don’t put us on the wrong side … We’re not criminals, we don’t want to be. So I just made up a story about people breaking out of prison.’

Paul McCartney: It was symbolic: “If we ever get out of here … All I need is a pint a day” … [In the Beatles] we’d started off as just kids really, who loved our music and wanted to earn a bob or two so we could get a guitar and get a nice car. It was very simple ambitions at first. But then, you know, as it went on it became business meetings and all of that … So there was a feeling of “if we ever get out of here”, yeah. And I did

From Songfacts

Shortly after the Band On The Run album was released, McCartney told Melody Maker: “The basic idea about the band on the run is a kind of prison escape. At the beginning of the album the guy is stuck inside four walls, and eventually breaks out. There is a thread, but it’s not a concept album.”

McCartney recorded the album in Lagos, Nigeria along with his wife Linda and guitarist Denny Laine. The other Wings decided not to make the trip, which worked out fine in the end: McCartney considers the album his best post-Beatles work. He told Word in 2005: “I was on drums and guitar a lot, mainly because the drummer decided to leave the group the night before and one of the guitar players decided not to come! So we got that solo element into an otherwise ‘produced’ album.”

Paul was asked if this was a reference to Wings escaping from the shadow of The Beatles…he replied “Sort of – yeah. I think most bands on tour are on the run.”

This song was used to nice effect in the movie The Killing Fields, where a young woman with a transistor radio listens to this in the wake of a brutal US bombing of a Cambodian village when suspected rebels are being rounded up and shot. The song exemplified the contrast between the sort of druggy, frivolous Pop culture of the 1970s West and the stark realities of the Third World at the same time. 

Paul McCartney explained the song’s meaning to The Mail on Sunday’s Event magazine: “I wrote it as a story to sum up the transition from captivity to freedom. When the tempo changes at (sings), ‘The rain exploded with a mighty crash,’ I do that in my concert and that always feels like a freeing moment.”

Band on the Run

Songs That Would Be Pointless to Remake.

Some songs are so ingrained in our psyche that a cover version would not make us forget the original or improve it. Covering them in concert is one thing but remaking them is another. When you compete against a memory…the memory wins.  I know some will disagree but there are songs that in my opinion that are untouchable. That doesn’t mean I want to hear these songs over and over…some are worn out. I’m not saying the cover version would be bad…but it would not replace the original.

These are in no order. There are many more…any suggestions?

  1. Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen – I can’t even imagine someone seriously trying to pull this off…
  2. I Am The Walrus – Beatles -This bizarre piece of music would be hard to duplicate.
  3. Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin – It’s been tried…even by Pat Boone…Mr Soul Sucker who can take the soul out of a room by simply walking in. Dolly Parton even took a stab at it.
  4. Freebird – Lynyrd Skynryd – I don’t think anyone would want to try.
  5. Won’t Get Fooled Again – How would you match the intensity and power of this recording?
  6. Good Vibrations – Beach Boys – Todd Rundgren remade this and copied it almost exactly…but what was the point? He did a fine job of copying it.
  7. Sympathy for the Devil – Rolling Stones – I don’t see anyone matching the Stones version.
  8. Born To Run – Bruce Springsteen – Bruce layered so many guitars (I’ve read up to 24) to make his own wall of sound…I don’t see this being topped.
  9. Band On The Run – This is basically three songs into one with McCartney’s style
  10. Like A Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan – Maybe the best single ever released. Bob is one of the most covered artists but his voice just stings on this recording and it would be hard to match.

A few more I thought of… American Pie, A Day In The Life, Sounds of Silence